Give me my scallop-shell of quiet,
My staff of faith to walk upon,
My script of joy, immortal diet,
y bottle of salvation.
My gown of glory, hopes true gauge,
And thus I'll take my pilgrimage.

~Sir Walter Raleigh

A hiker, walking for pleasure, likes to choose between several alluring trails.
The pilgrim desires only the road that leads home.

~Frank W. Boreham

Saturday, January 18, 2014

For I will pour water upon him who is thirsty,
and floods upon the dry ground.

I will pour My spirit upon your offspring,
and My blessings upon your descendants.

And they shall spring up among the grass like willows or poplars by the watercourses.

So He promised.

He has done it.

Praise God from Whom all blessings flow...!


Isaiah 44.3,4 Amplified translation

Friday, January 17, 2014

A Love Letter

It doesn't always happen but it does happen often enough to confirm the relevancy and immediacy of Scriptural inspiration!  Just in the course of daily reading on the day and at the time a special word is needed, it happens. 

On this day comes the awesome - and I use the word in the true sense, not in today's common, much too common way - comes the reminder of who and Whose I am.

Isaiah chapter 43 is one of those tender love letters from the Father to put focus and sense back into my life and thoughts. 

Thus says the Lord, He Who created you..and formed you..Fear not, for I have redeemed you.  I have called you by your name; you are Mine. 

I do know that these words were written to the nation of Israel, and yet through Grace they can be mine as well and truly are in fact.

Created - formed - redeemed - called.  That is splendid as is.  But to be called 'by my name' in this day and age when in every other situation I am but a number on a file folder, part of the mob and collective humanity.  Here is personal attention from a Personal God.  

That is good. Selah.  Pause and calmly think of that!

The passage also states that come flood or fire He is with me.

And there is a because following.  It's not just these stone-strong promises that are given, no.  It is because He is the Holy one, the I AM of Israel and my Savior and "because you are precious in My sight and I love you."  

It matters not if I am precious to anyone else I am to my Creator-Redeemer.  I am loved.  This is not common every-day sort of love, this is "the delight .. the ardent fullness of affection and tender mercies of God to His people."*

Still there is more.  He makes paths through the seas, a way through the waters, provides streams in the desert places.  O yes, and He is the one Who blots out and cancels my sins -for His own sake- and remembers them no more!

Can Love be more complete, more beautiful than this?
I am His..  He is with me..   I am called by my name as well as by His..  I am created for His glory..  He makes paths and provides streams..  and my sins are blotted, canceled and forgotten.

I am reminded that I am to be His witness, His servant as He has chosen me that I might Know Him, believe Him and remain steadfast to Him because He is the Only One.  There is no other.

Love is reciprocal or should be.  But my Faithful God, the God of my entire history was and is the First Mover when it comes to Love.  I fall on my face before such Love.

Love is the final word.  Nothing remains but to praise Him!

Amplified translation used
* Wilson's Word Studies of the Old Testament

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Golden Days

These were the farm years, the Mennonite years, the years of the children.  
These were years of friendships, of family and of growing and establishing foundations for future days.

They were also years of stability, the stability that can only come from supportive blood family and from supportive family "under the Blood".

Looking back down the years, even the woes and travails add to the balance of the whole, giving their own special color to the threads of the tapestry then woven.

The country school the children attended, while a public school, was greatly influenced by the Mennonite community in which it was located as well as the Mennonite teachers and administration that directed the days and ways of it.

Work and play together made up the farm life.  Country ways and the seasons determined the tasks and pleasures.

Then came an abrupt leaving, a new road was taken, a new and different journey begun. Yet even now, we each look back to those day grateful for what was given, received and learned.  Those years remain near to the heart.

And then, recently this golden time was revisited.  Yes, you can go home again, said the Daughter.

We returned on a Sunday to hear the preaching of one of the scruffy lads that often visited our home in those early years.  Now he is "fully growed", a man of great insight and wisdom, a man after God's own heart.  What is more, he is a man who has chosen Joy for his journey.  

The countryside was virtually unchanged.  Names on mailboxes much the same as remembered.  Mennonites are 'root' people, not driven to change.  It was unspeakably comforting to know that such a place remains to this day.

Entering the church, a familiar landmark, to be greeted warmly, well, it felt like coming home even though it was not the specific home church of our past.  Still, Mennonites are Mennonites regardless of how conservative or progressive.  They still worship with order and stillness.  To this day the old hymns of the church are sung in full voice and complete harmony.  And Oh! how they sing!  It surrounds you, washes over you and provides the choice to stand in silence and weep, or join in the chorus.  We did a little of each.

After the glory of the worship service and the brilliance of the preaching, -(yes, the preaching was brilliant and after divorcing from my mind the images of a wild lad climbing out an upstairs window and walking along the roof of the farm house, greatly enjoyed and appreciated)- we were treated to a good old Mennonite meal around a family table.  Oh yes, the Mennonites cook as well as they sing!

This was a family who were choice and dear friends of ours in those past days.  We had not seen some of the children, now parents and grand parents for many years. Yet, as it always is with true friendship, we picked up where we left off so long ago. There was a delighting in shared memories, good, sad and silly.  There were minutes of outrageous  laughter and moments of misty reflection.

After warm hugs and kisses, we drove away with grateful hearts freshly aware of 'all the ways the Savior leads', of how He restores the years the locusts have eaten. We were reminded too, of the dynamics and blessing of true friendship, and the fact that we do and are affected by those who are placed in our lives and who remain in our hearts.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

This Time Of Year

Once January comes, it is time to await the arrival of favorite seed catalogs, to see if there are any new garden magazines on the news stands and dream of Spring.

Walking through the garden in the frosty morning, I noticed that there were already rows of daffodil noses sticking up here and there.  Last fall I planted a great lot of them in the raised bed where my St. Francis statue (Frank, to the family) stands in his scarf and stocking cap. (One cannot be too careful in winter when one's tonsure is exposed.)  It is going to be a happy bloomin' place in the weeks to come when our corner of the world warms up and Frank's wraps come off.

And about those magazines, the newest issue of Country Gardens is on the stands here in the West.  One of the features was that of a garden in Minnesota.  The gardener, Stacey Weichert and her husband have created an outdoor space that is what garden dreams are made of.  The structures are all charm itself. If that was not enough, she gives practical gardening tips as well. Stacey's blog is a visual treat that makes me long for dirt under the fingernails once more.

Her blog address now appears on my blog list.  If you are needing a quick reminder of of why one gardens I suggest you drop by her place.

In the meantime, where did I stack those seed catalogs?

Friday, January 3, 2014

A New Year, An Old Comfort

At the beginning of a new year the mind goes off looking for some absolute, some word to claim for the journey ahead.

This is just what we do.  We review the year just past, in spite of or because we desire to carry on, to go forward, to claim new territory in a spiritual sense.  We know we need provisions as for any trip.  Many ideas come and just as many are discarded. Then comes a surprise, from the least expected source taking us back to the True Source while directing us to our goal.

This year its about sheep and shepherds.  We love sheep.  We have raised sheep. We have cared for them in their foolish choices, illnesses and foot rot.  We have even delivered their lambs at times.  Following our farm years, we were under-shepherds for the Good Shepherd's flock.  Here again, we cared for His sheep in their foolish choices, their illnesses and foot rot.  We loved tended their lambs.

Then too, I have been so often brought to the startling awareness of my own sheep-hood.  Time and again I have been made to acknowledge that as a sheep I'm one of the dumbest in the flock, one of the silliest who makes repeated foolish choices.  Yes, there have even been times of foot rot from getting out of the proper pasture and spending too much time loitering in boggy areas and just not paying attention to the Shepherd  and taking care.

Yesterday I discovered a new periodical, a magazine, beautifully British that claims "Life at natures pace".  How can one go wrong with such as that?

This lovely magazine contained an article (yes, I am getting to my point!) about a young woman, a shepherdess in the Lake District of England.  She was relating her life with her sheep, yet the spiritual truths known my life long lept from the page. The very best was concerning "hefting".

"Hefting is the ancient practice in moorland shepherding and eliminates the need for fences or enclosures, helping the shepherd keep the flock close.  To heft the flock can take years; the shepherd must be with the sheep every day, guiding and herding them to graze only within their boundaries...Once a sheep has established its territory it will graze there for life, passing on the knowledge to its lambs, who will do the same through subsequent generations."

Is this not a beautiful picture of the loving intent of the Shepherd of our souls? Knowing the Shepherd, being with Him every day keeps me in the proper pasture and within the boundaries that are safe.  And finally, as I/the sheep learn this, it is only natural that the knowledge is passed on to 'the lambs' and they then, in turn, to their own lambs.  " the thousandth generations"  of those that follow, keeping close to the Shepherd.

Herein is the reminding of the old comforts, the truths known.  

In green pastures by cool waters, guided and protected by His rod and staff, where I know of a certainly from life long experience that His goodness and mercy are part of His following love for all of my days,  this is where I desire to be found.  

It comes to mind that the familiar King James word for hefting might be 'abide'.  

Whether hefted or abiding, that is the thought for the year ahead ~ staying put in good pasture close to the Shepherd ~ taking care so that the generations to come will also find the pasture good and remain in it.

Blessings on your own journey ahead, Dear Reader.
May all your pastures be green, your streams abundant.

Landscape, Issue 12, Christmas 2013;  
Sheep on the Fells, Helen McLaughlin

Alison O'Neill,

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Although it looks nice on a Christmas card,
it is not really much fun to put your baby to sleep in an animal's feeding trough because there is nowhere else except the dirty floor.

It is a dreadful thing for a mother to feel that the world has no room for her baby.

How it must have cheered Mary when the rough shepherds came bursting in,
all breathless and excited saying that they had a vision of angels up there on the hillside and had been told beyond all doubt that this little fellow was really God.

Might they please kneel and give him their worship and honor?

How the people snoring comfortably in the inn next door would have laughed to have seen the sight of the shepherds kneeling on that stable floor!

But that is how God made His entrance...

What we are celebrating is not the feast of jolly old Father Christmas or good King Wenceslas, or a beautiful scenario of wishful thinking or fantasy.

We are celebrating the visit of God.

How Marvelous!

I wish you joy this Christmastide, Dear Reader.
May you gain a fresh glimpse of His glory and a true sense of His divine presence.

Italicized thoughts taken from the writings of J. B. Phillips, 1906-1982

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Old, Old Story

This season is truly one of the most sacred and blessed of all.  Or should be.  It seems that Christmas time is becoming less sacred and important, and that no less in the Christian community than in the world outside.  And shame on us.

We have lost sight of the important, the central Truth somehow.  It seems we have become so 'pressed into the world's mold' and mindset that we no longer even notice.

Fret not, Dear Reader, this is not about consumerism, lights in the garden and house decor, nor is it going to be Santa bashing.  

My grief is principally News Letters, so called. 

This season truly is about News - the Good News.  We have those best news letters in the New Testament Gospel accounts.  From this we should take our cue for our own.

So Dear Reader, you may rest easy.  I will not be writing missives about the wonderful accomplishments of my brilliant children this year.  (There have been and they are)  Nor will you receive an organ recital listing all aches, pains and procedures of mine or of Husband Dearest. I could. I won't because frankly, I find them a colossal bore. This will not be about searing loss or other countless woes.  These happened, they are personal and they are common to man.

No.  This season is all about Him, the Incarnate, Risen and Living Lord, the Christ the Son of God with whom we have to do.  It is about the fact that He emptied Himself of His divine attributes and by deliberate act plunged into the storm and stress of our pitiful human life.  "The King of the ages came beyond the stars to dwell with us as our blood-relative."*

The Incarnation, that astonishing mystery as well as historical fact, that God became man like us, that we may become His children resembling Him our Father.  This is the news to be rehearsed and reported.

That is why we should be more like those first shepherds who heard, came, worshiped and adored, who then went away rejoicing and telling others the wonders made known to them.  

It was and is His news, His Story, which He allowed to become our own through His simple life of obedience,  His unspeakably horrible death and His glorious, victorious resurrection. Its all about Life and Light, Grace, Love and Mercy and oh, so much more.

May we like those simple shepherds go on our way rejoicing.
The old, old story is still the best.

~ Quote from J. Sidlow Baxter 1903-1999