A Sacred Journey-Part Two from the Pilgrim in Residence

It has been a joyful opportunity to share with the Sacred Journey community a bit about my pilgrimages to Iona, Scotland and further reflections on the Arrival stage of pilgrimage.  It always blesses and challenges me to see not just these trips as sacred, but every day of our life.  Click on the image below to read further about what you can do to create an intention around your life’s journey and preparing for the place of your heart’s arrival!



You are invited: Pentecost Pilgrimage 2013-Iona, Scotland

You are invited to participate in this transformative journey to Iona, Scotland for Pentecost 2013.  Allow the winds of the Spirit to breath new life into you and inspire your way forward!

Please also consider this pilgrimage opportunity for small groups, women’s ministries or individuals you may know who might be interested and benefit from this experience.

Applications are being accepted now.

I’m local to Seattle and would be happy to correspond and/or meet with anyone who has questions of interest.


Mary A. DeJong


You ride on the wings of the wind,
You make the winds your messenger.
-Psalm 104:3-4


Celebrate the Spirit and seek solace in its movements in your life in Iona, Scotland for Pentecost 2013.

Your heart has longed for something unnamed and now the Call is before you: Make pilgrimage to Iona, Scotland with the intention of opening yourself to the Spirit’s wind, who flows in directions we cannot predict.

This is a time that calls you to intentionally focus on creating space and opening up time to the radical posture of surrender; in this position you will release the questions and perceptions of your life’s journey and make room for God to blow fresh in the most life-giving directions.
This is a place where, in the strong and gentle company of women only, we can respond to the Spirit’s invitation to relinquish control of our lives and be carried to a place of growth and newness. During this week of retreat, we will take time and space to listen and respond to God through the element of wind.

Our days together will be marked with rhythmic movements of sharing meals and stories, time set apart for quiet reflection and prayer, corporate worship at the Abbey, and of course, plenty of time to hike through heathered hills to legendary green stoned beaches.

This significant season marks the 1450th anniversary of St. Columba’s arrival to this sacred isle. Historic Scotland and the Iona Community are committed to creating special events and services to honor the rich legacy of this Celtic saint. You won’t want to miss out on being on Iona during this special time.

Take some time now to pray and think about applying for this once-in-a-lifetime journey!  Please visit waymarkers.net for more registration information as well as additional resources on the Sacred Isle of Iona.

COST: $1200.00 (This fee includes the full retreat offerings, lodging, meals, materials and programming; travel to/from Iona is not included)


Pilgrimage Convener

Mary DeJong lives in Seattle, Washington (USA) and has traveled to Iona many times, both on personal pilgrimage and as a retreat leader for vocational discernment pilgrimages and retreats. Her personal studies of Celtic Christianity have led her to pursue graduate studies in theology with an ecological focus, with the hopeful vision of sharing with urban communities about our inherent need for Creation and how to live forward in such a way that honors Other and the Future.  Mary’s first published title, Waymarkers, is a unique pilgrimage journal specific to the journey to Iona; it has been received with excitement by pilgrims the world over and has been endorsed by many Iona Community associates.

Mary and her husband Joel, with their three children, live in Seattle’s Columbia City neighborhood. She is a long-time member of Seattle’s Madrona Grace Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) where she is involved in tending the church garden with the children and  youth as a means of faith formation. Mary is also the Forest Steward of SE Seattle’s Cheasty Greenspace, and has been leading the neighborhood in reclaiming, restoring and re-imaging this urban forest.  In her spare time, Mary enjoys knitting, bicycling with her children, drinking coffee and taking long walks at Lincoln Park.

Arrival: Holy Week

We ride into our beloved Jerusalem, the sacred destination of our wanderings these past many weeks.  Here we will shout our hopeful hosannas, weep with unexpected sorrow, and celebrate our ultimate Answer.  As we look about this place of our arrival, do we feel compelled to echo the behaviors of Jesus as he walked through the expectant streets towards Calvary?  What do you feel when you look across your living landscapes, when you touch your city’s wealthy and impoverished walls, when you are carried away in the lofty cathedrals?  Do you feel joy? Do you pray?  Do you weep?

Jesus, you wept for the city you loved – in your words and actions the oppressed found justice and the angry found release…. (prayer heading used on Iona)

The traveler has important tasks upon arriving to their final destination.  Because the entire journey has been intentionally marked and prayerfully pondered, so must the arrival.  This is the time to surround yourself with prayers, poems and hymns that anchor your place and provide the touchstone for this final experience.  Phil Cousineau speaks to the essential task of “feeling the thrill of completing your pilgrimage…If we remember that the word thrill originally referred to the vibrations the arrow made when it hits the target, than the pleasure is compounded.  There is joy in having arrived, moment by moment.”  We have come far on this Lenten pilgrimage; we have sacrificed, we have given, we have changed.

There is deep value in going through this seasonal process for what began in our winter, has now come to completion in our spring.  With fresh, vibrant colors surrounding us, we too see the contexts of our lives with fresh new eyes.  We hear with a new kind of clarity.  With this sense of lucidity, comes both gratitude and responsibility.  The appreciation for the lessons learned on the long journey translates to a new sense of obligation, a fresh response of advocacy.  We have come to love more deeply in this season and like Jesus, we weep with the depth of this love for Others and we know we cannot return to pre-pilgrimage ways.  We have been changed by the wintery road, and subsequently, so will be our home-lives.  New growth has sprung from the soil of the sojourn. How to respond to our changedness may seem overwhelming; in these moments we must pray and pray according to the lessons learned.

Today I share with you a beautiful Holy Week prayer written by the Iona Community’s Neil Paynter.  These beseeching words seem a fitting response to the Lenten Labyrinth where we have seen and witnessed the pain and suffering of our deepest selves, which is the pain of so many others.  May this prayer be yours today as you anchor into the ancient and present meanings of these most holy days.


Visionary God, architect
of heaven and earth,
unless we build in partnership with you we labor in vain

Help us work to create cities
modeled more faithfully
on the plan of your Kingdom –

Communities where children are respected and encouraged
where young people can express themselves creatively
where the experience of old people is called on
where the insights and gifts of all God’s people are fully realized
where shared gardens and plots bloom in once derelict places
where all cultures and traditions are honored and celebrated
on soulful, carnival streets
where gay couples can dance to the beat of their hearts
homeless people are received with loving arms and open borders
news vendors cry Hosanna!
All are fed and loved and set free…

O God, our maker, open our eyes to new possibilities and perspectives,
organizations and projects, structures and outlooks…

Help us to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem:

to break down the barriers in ourselves that
prevent us from reaching out to neighbors and making peace;
to rebuild communities based on understanding and justice,
illuminated with the true light of Christ.


-Neil Paynter

Quietly Waiting (Advent)

I anticipated having a lot more creative inspiration during these early Advent days. I assumed that because of both the personal challenge to write reflections and the richness of this season that epiphanies would be snowballing me. This has not been so. In fact, it has been uncharacteristically quiet.

This isn’t to say that my daily activities have been still. My interior home-life has all the markings of December; my children and I have been enjoying creating in the kitchen, and our freezer full of Christmas delights speaks to this. My knitting needles are keeping up pace with the envisioned gifts I have still yet to make. Christmas canticles have been sweetly singing and candles are aglow throughout our days and evenings, and indeed, we are all very much aware of the deepening darkness in these weeks leading up to the Winter Solstice and the celebration of the Christ child. Try as I might to center in on all the rich symbolism of the season and capture an essence of the deep truths that annually call us out to celebrate, squeals of boy-children laughter, running-on-hard-wood-feet, and sibling drum circles (six hands chaotically attempting to play along with The Little Drummer Boy) dissipate the reverie and my inner-writing-voice is, again, quiet.

Beyond our doors the urban streets surrounding our home in Southeast Seattle are far from quiet; they are full of life and noise. Our city’s light rail train runs just one block from our front door and our home resides directly underneath SeaTac International’s most popular flight path. The road in front of our home is a main arterial to Seattle’s interstate highway and hospital; the wailing sirens of ambulances, police cars and fire engines charge this street at all hours of the day, in every season of the year. Christmastide doesn’t lessen these lights of pain and sorrow; if anything, the blinking rainbow Christmas strands alighting these city-homes seem an ironic backdrop to the grand-scope reality of urban life. It is a practice to offer up a murmured prayer for the ones impacted by the siren’s story; but the high-pitched decibel of these warnings leaves me aching for peace and silence.

But just behind our house is a small parcel of forested land. When the banter of the children grows too big for the confines of our home, or when we are needed to exchange the concrete under our feet for the soft, spongy feel of the earth, we dress for the weather and go into the woods. And it is most often here, in this green space that is adjacent—and under! —all the aforementioned urban realties, that we find a deep sense of quiet and Nature silently offers up testimonies affirming this Advent season.

This past weekend, while giving a tour of our recent trail work to a volunteer, we were discussing the mutual frustration at the lack of creative writing during this wintertime. During our walk through the woods, I observed how quickly the forest had quieted into its dormant stage—it was just a few weeks ago that these self same woods were vibrant with the flaming colors of autumn. Heedful of a surfacing truth, I felt a message from the woods settling into a deep place in my heart: it is this time of year when the earth goes quiet. It is in this season that all of creation huddles inward; drawing its energy to its core as it awaits the time to unfold again into new life. This isn’t the time of creative displays of springtime colors or the heady scents of sultry summers. This is the month of darkness; this is the month of quiet dormancy. This is the tide of wordless waiting. I felt a comforting invitation from the trees: “Wait with us”, they seemed to say, “as we do not wait passively in vein!”

A popular prayer poem that comes by way of the Iona Community in Scotland begins:

When the world was dark and the city was quiet, You came. You crept in
     beside us. And no one knew. 

It is easy to expect much from this time of year (and so we should!); the lights, the music, the bows—all seem to loudly proclaim the Life that is to come. These merry seasonal accoutrements, while certainly pointing to the day when the Ultimate Gift was given, can also be that which confuses the energy with which we move through these Advent days. With every Christmas light, tree or gift we see, we find the anticipation growing, the excitement mounting, the frenzy swelling, until—just like the energy of our home with three small children drumming along to carols—we have an emotional spiral in complete contradiction to the season of Christmas. I expected that all of the preparations and plans would inspire and nurture creativity; that the cookies and canticles would give me a fresh perspective on Christ.

Yet this prayer poem, with great simplicity, describes the ideal context for the Christ child to come: “When the world was dark and the city was quiet You came.” Our greatest Gift, our deepest Inspiration, the seat of our conceiving comes to us not because of the fanfare of Christmas, but out of the quiet, expectant, hope-filled waiting to which we are called. The One for whom we wait WILL come…will we know? Will we allow ourselves to be still enough to sense Christ’s presence? Perhaps if we accept the invitation to dark quiet from the trees, we will be among those who know of The Arrival.