Al and I are on our 7-days off from camp hosting here in northern New Mexico. That means we pack up the picnic stuff, camera, dog-treats for Moose, and head somewhere in the mountains. We chose the destination of Chimayo, a lovely Pueblo in the Sangre de Christo mountains. We haven’t been there yet and with all the wonderful recommendations from our staff and the campers who come here, Chimayo was on our radar for Wednesday.

I had my GPS set up on my phone but did I mention mountains? They don’t care about your phone or any directions, they just stand tall, blow the winds around and for those of us relying on our GPS, forget it. So yes, you can assume we missed some exits and our lovely ‘Bernice’ – she is the lady that lives in our phone and tells us where to go, had vacated her job for the day.

Getting lost in these areas up here is common. You could make novels out of people who never made it to the destination they wanted—but often found something else that was just as interesting. And this was our day for just that. We did finally find Chimayo—a narrow street goes into the little Pueblo and it is more like an alley than a street. In a Suburban, not so good. With Moose along and tons of roving dogs which is common in Pueblos, not so good. We decided to come back another day sans dog, and enjoy these friendly folks. Here’s why!

Chimayó is famous for the weavings of the Ortega and Trujillo families and one of the oldest churches in North America. Its name is from the Tewá Indian language meaning ‘superior red flaking stone’ which is obvious everywhere. What draw people to this little town? Here is some history: Nestled in the village of Chimayo along the High Road to Taos, sits a national historic landmark, El Santuario de Chimayo. The sanctuary is well known for the unusual legend of its creation and as a present-day pilgrimage site. It receives almost 300,000 visitors per year and has been called “no doubt the most important Catholic pilgrimage center in the United States.” It is also often called the “Lourdes of America” for it’s magical healing soil. In the small prayer room next to the sanctuary is a round hole filled with this soil. In fact, many come to the church in pursuit of this soil, hoping to find a cure.”

We did stop at the shrine but it was so busy (a holy day for several saints). So on we went to places unseen to us and it was awesome. However, the ‘holy dirt’ idea had already captured my mind and swirled in my dreams. ‘Holy dirt?’ Really—who believes in such things. What off-road-religious idea did these people still believe in? So, this morning I had to read up on this story and that is when I realized that God can take care of his people through dirt—or anything else for that matter.

I found that this ‘holy dirt’ was one of the finest red flaked stones ever seen. They provided the Pueblo with a source of living. The Santa Cruz River and its craggy mountains distribute this precious stone throughout the area. They build with it, sell it, and they are artisans that use it for unbelievable pottery, sand-casting, and incredible red color for dyes, paint, etc. And the miraculous part? There is natural healing in the ground dirt of these stones so they have continued for centuries making healing poultices! But there’s more so read on.

These stones saved their lives from the Spaniards who wanted it all and wanted them gone. The winds would flare up and the stone flakes became flying razor-blades! The Spaniard’s horses and riders had serious cuts. After many tries to tame the Chimayo,  the Spaniards gave up and left them alone. No wonder their red flake stones and its ‘holy dirt’ had become a precious reminder of God’s healing.

Back to my question about “who believes in such stuff?” These people have deep faith and a constant prayer life; for centuries they have heard the voice of God and listened. By doing so, they have had sustenance for living, natural healing, and the protection of the God they adore. How about us? If we miss our turn or our ‘Bernice’ is quiet, we turn down the wrong road, we miss our exit. When we listen to the voices of our society our ‘GPS’ fails, and we are going down rabbit holes and coming out at dead-ends.

In Isaiah 30, we read: “Oh, people of Zion, citizens of Jerusalem, you will not cry anymore. God hears the sound of your weeping, and He will answer with grace. Even though the Lord has fed you the bitter food of adversity and offered you the water of oppression, your great Teacher will reveal Himself to you; your eyes will see Him. Your ears will hear sweet words behind you: “Go this way. There is your path; this is how you should go” whenever you must decide whether to turn to the right or the left.” [Isaiah 30:19-21 Voice]

What a blessing it is to have the Holy Spirit dwelling in our hearts. Like our personal GPS, the Spirit says, “This is the way; walk in it.” But we have to tune in. We have to make sure we are connected to the Spirit of God. We have to intentionally seek out her voice and presence. I find these blessings in worship. The peace of God rests over my spirit and reminds me of God’s forgiveness for all the mistakes and wrong turns that I’ve made. And yes, even if I know I’ve “missed an exit” by trying to follow my own route for my life, I have the full assurance that there is grace for course correcting. I suspect the Chimayo have known that for centuries, AMEN!