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

Thursday, December 31, 2009

A New Page, A New Beginning

"I said to the Man who stood at the gate of the year;
'Give me light that I may tread safely into the unknown.'
He replied:
'Go out into the darkness
and put your hand into the hand of God,
That shall be better than light
and safer than a known way.'"
~ King George VI, 1939
Wishing you, Dear Reader, untold blessings in the coming days.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

This Day

The Creator of time and space has fixed our mileage
to just one day at a time.
Surely we can be entrusted with duty and honor
for just one day.
`Virginia Cary Hudson
Be of Good cheer; I have overcome the world. John 16.33
"The faith that overcomes is the living faith in a living Conqueror.
I place my hand in His.
I cry,
"and repeat on the battlefield of my heart Thine ancient and glorious triumphs!
By Thy Almighty power -
the Power by which the worlds were made;
the Power of Thy Resurrection -
secure in me the victory over every thing that impedes my spiritual pilgrimage,
over everything that obscures my vision of Life's real issues
and of life's true goal!"
And He does it!
He conquers the world all over again!
For this is the victory that overcomes the world,
even our faith.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

We Journey On

" I have seen Jacob's Ladder,
and found the way of my feet ordered
by the Sovereignty of Him that sits on the Throne
and the Angels of the Throne still minister.
Age sees farther back than youth,
and has many proofs of the Lord's leading.
The end and the beginning belong to the same road."
~Samuel Chadwick
The untrodden road of the New Year runs through unpossessed and holding yet unknown treasures. Go in and possess them. Like the Israelites of old, we must go in and 'take the land'.
Wherever the untrodden road may lead,
two things to the pilgrim are sure:
the Presence of our Lord
and the sufficiency of His grace.
Whether it be through the plain of the wilderness,
the deeps of the valley,
or over the mountain top,
He will lead, sustain, and cheer.
So onward Pilgrims! May we be heard only by our singing!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Best News

While shepherds adored Him
and stars shone above,
Creator Incarnate touched earth with His love.
Revealed in that Baby a glow in His face
Was Heaven's own glory,
God's truth and God's Grace.
Hosanna, hosanna to God up on high;
Sing praise to the Lord and His name magnify,
For He has come near us and dwelt on this sod,
To give us the right to be Children of God.
~Jeffrey B. Davis

"O the Magnitude of Meekness."

"Spinks and ouzles sing sublimely,
'We too have a Saviour born,'
Whiter blossoms burst untimely
On the blest Mosaic thorn.
God all-bounteous, all-creative,
Whom no ills from good dissuade,
Is incarnate, and a native
Of the very world He made.
~Christopher Smart

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Glorious Unspeakable

"And Mary was keeping within herself all these things
and pondering them in her heart."
Miracles, mysteries and faith: the fabric with which the gospel account is woven.
Re-reading the familiar this year, I have been struck by an illuminated fact. All who were called to participate in the glorious event, the incarnation and birth of our Lord, had a remarkable, unwavering, cast iron faith.
This faith resulted in an absolute obedience, a Now sort of obedience, a complete abandonment to the messages given to them. This, in light of the fact that all that was spoken to each was nothing but the Unbelievable, the Miraculous, carefully wrapped up in Mystery. (Other than Zachariah, of course,who paused and questioned. He was dealt with. He of all people - a priest - should have known better.)
For Elizabeth and Mary, they received not only words to act upon, these marvels, these mysteries took place in their bodies. With the motion of the Spirit of God within their hearts came a clarity, a knowing that seemed to escape the men. The evidence, of course, is in their 'songs' as Luke records. They understood and where they didn't understand, they trusted. Courageously. Completely.
For all, two couples, the shepherds and the Magi,
they heard the Word of the Lord because of their faith.
Because that faith was securely founded on the God of that Word,
they obeyed.
After the events came Mary's ponderings. Pondering (and this is the only place in the King James text it occurs,) means to "converse with oneself, to consult, dispute and consider to aid personally". This implies it is for the purpose of gaining a mental balance. She had to sort through all these wondrous happenings which surrounded her!
In the Hebrew scriptures, Proverbs 5.21, declares that the Lord 'ponders' and weighs the hearts of man in order to 'make them straight, smooth and even. Its for evaluation and correction.
In addition to being of God, this is a mom thing, this pondering. So many are the times when words, actions, events are so filled with meaning that they must be tucked securely and deeply in the heart. They are sorted and sifted through, rehearsed and edited until all can safely be stored.
Must not then a mother's ponderings be a form of prayer? If these treasured thoughts are sorted before the eyes of our God who makes all straight and orderly, it must be.
Faith and obedience, pondering the unspeakable before the Lord, these are just some of the riches gleaned from The Story we are celebrating this season.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Ode to Joy

Across our street stands a humble bramble hedge. It rims the embankment that drops to the valley below.

From the valley floor, rising far above the brambles, is an ancient holly and a stand of venerable oaks. At this season of the year the holly is crimson with berries, the oaks, barren of summer leaf trace the sky with patterns resembling Nottingham lace.

Recently, the air was filled with bird song. It was such that gave new meaning to the term fortissimo. The power lines above, the holly and the oaks were bare. Where was this great choir hiding? The knots and snarls of the hedge were a wave of motion. The singers themselves were humble dappled-brown house wrens, not considered the greatest songsters of the bird world. Yet all together their song filled the air and lifted the spirits on a Northwest-gray winter's day.

Is it a stretch to call this a "figure of the True"? An echo of the past?

This season reminds us of the angel's sky-song to lowly shepherds in the field. I know the gospel account reads that the angels "said" rather than "sang". But really, wouldn't such amazing praise sayings from such a multitude have formed song?

It pleases me to think so.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Another Lady, Another Birthday

She was born by the sea, and the sea etched its song on her soul, and the Lord God placed His imprint on her Spirit.

She was a cheerful child who found delight in the world around her. She noticed the quirky, the whimsy, the fun of things in the world around her. She was always setting things in order, not in a freaky-compulsive way, just putting things to rights when she saw the need. She loved doing, experimenting, drawing (very early she taught her older siblings the fine art of wall writing with crayon), of gluing and creating.

From earliest childhood her heart was turned to things spiritual. In a gentle way through her growing years, she learned the way of her Heavenly Father and His leading in her life.

As a young woman, once again by the sea, He began teaching her how to trust Him with the whys and unexplained things of her life. She learned to lean on Him, to know and accept Him as her Rock, not just of her Salvation, but of safety and confidence. She set her face 'like a flint' toward the uncertainty and unknown of her future. Then as was her way, she followed on, shoulders back, face forward.

The years passed in the usual way of things, a husband and home, babies and all the ups and downs, the travelings about that come to a life. There were seasons where much was required of her. There were good times and difficult, yet her faith never wavered. Often tested, it was found to be Rock solid. In all the times, in each situation she was making do and making beauty, creating Home where hospitality was a central activity. All was carried out with quiet grace and seeming ease.

In time she returned to the sea, near the place of her beginning. It was a time of contentment and joy, of fulfillment and ministry. It happened to be a season where stability and a measure of ease was given and enjoyed as never before.

It was here that her Rock required of her the dearest treasure of her heart. And here she accepted from the Father's hand His good will for her, for him, for them.

Once again she faces the Uncertainty and Unknown yet she follows on her pilgrim way. Once again she has, out of bits and pieces set things in order, created beauty, made a Home. Once again, shoulders back, face forward she goes.

Those of us privilieged to be among her 'great cloud of witnesses' stand in wonder, love and praise. We are blessed to know her as daughter, mother, Nana, sister, auntie, friend.

Those of us who love her dearly wish her a most blessed Day of Days in the midst of her precious family circle, the reward of her years of faithful tending, guiding, loving. We pray blessing and joy on this day and unmeasurable blessings in her days ahead.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


From Common Prayer on this day:

Give ear, Lord, to my prayer,
and ponder the voice of my humble desires...
Among the gods there is none like unto Thee, O Lord;
there is not one that can do as Thou doest...
For Thou art great, and doest wondrous things:
Thou art God alone...
O knit my heart unto Thee, that I may fear Thy name...
All my fresh springs are in Thee.

How I love the ancient wordings;
How I love the God of Promise behind the Words.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Happy Thought Indeed!

Today we honor Jane Austen. Happy Birthday, Jane darling!

Has any literary lady given us such happiness?

So many rich and delightful story lines, love stories and characters have been crafted by her pen.
Certainly the women in this clan are grateful for her genius, for the actual literary works, but also for the movie adaptations made from these books. (with the possible exception of the Pride and Prejudice version set in the Antebellum South.)

Who else has given us the equal of Mr. Darcy?
Who, at the same time, has given our menfolk the likes of Mr. Collins to imitate and mock?

Jane has graced our lives, has she not?

So, Gentle Reader, on this day of days, celebrate in some small way .. even if you haven't been invited to the ball at Netherfield.

Friday, December 11, 2009

An Uncompromising Life

"I find a strange inability to grasp the transitory nature of our present life

and the breath-taking magnificence of the life which is to come...

we are living this painful and difficult life against a background

of unimaginable splendor."

J. B. Phillips

He bounced into our lives, a Tigger with a G. I. haircut. An eager, fresh faced lad with an accent dripping Southern honey.

It began simply enough, a meal with a family from church, our family. It then became a once-a-week event which, quite frankly, we all enjoyed. There was always bright conversation about all manner of things, more often than not turning to things Spiritual before the evening was over.

Of this time, there is a faint memory of a rainbow image. Was it just the spirit of the lad or did he wear rainbow shoe laces? Odd how disconnected snippets of memory surface years later.

In time, a rather short time at that, there was the honorable request to correspond with The Daughter. That was followed by the expressed desire to seriously court Her. It is remembered how many an evening was spent in the parlor, these two, a Bible open between them, he stating this or that belief and conviction and than asking "What do you believe about this?" Or "Do you agree?"

A friendship became established and love took root. A summer wedding took place, a marriage of like-minds was established. Soon following, the announcement of a child of their love on the way. So the saga continued.

An honorable military discharge, a precious daughter born, college years begun, moves, another daughter. From this beginning ministries were begun. Later on one more baby, making three adorable daughters.

This is such a limited, pitiful fragment of a useful, abundant life. I'll not tell of the times of great hardship, times of personal loss, times of the rough and hurtful treatment that can only come from the thoughtless sheep in The Shepherd's fold. All were taken to heart, examined thoroughly, prayerfully and submitted to the Heavenly Father for His corrections and additions. Then there was a moving on.

Always in evidence was a sincere heart after God, a passion for His Word, a devotion to his calling, a cherishing of his wife and evident delight in his daughters.

There is much that could be stated, many stories told. Suffice to say that in his life he, by example taught how the Righteous are to live. And with his characteristic honor and integrity he also show us how the Righteous are to die.

The remarkable thing, following the doctor's pronouncement, there was never anything but acceptance of his situation and an eagerness to see his Lord face to face.

For myself, he entered my life, then my heart. My present world will never be the same since he was moved from it. Yet the World to come is ever more eagerly anticipated and precious.

He was a gift to us all. We remain blessed because of him.

So this day we remember, not so much for our loss but his gain and that, in time, it will be ours as well when we move from this Shadowland to shining splendor and Reality.

In The Bleak Mid-winter~

Those words have such a haunting sound. They are words not well understood in the past.

Then came this present winter weather.

A week ago the garden stood green. This week all is bleak, truly, scorched and very sad indeed.

Evergreens, so called, either curl their leaves or drop their branches. All looks grey or brown and quite lifeless.

All this comes along with the winter dark. The dawn does not "come up like thunder" as in summer. Rather it seems to creep in, unsure of itself. And evening dark comes so soon, not in the evening, really but in the afternoon.

It is a good thing then, I think, that this should be the time of year for us to focus on the coming of Light, the Light of Life. The contrast of that fact shines through these dark and bleak days of the year. It encourages, too, remembering that there are seasons and this present bleakness will not remain.

"There, in the manger on the wall

Slept the Summer of us all,

And in a Maid's caress.

O Summer in a Winter sun!

O Son, made flesh for everyone

To worship and confess."

Thanks, George

George Whitefield. The name doesn't just spring to mind when one thinks of party people. The man who preached to thousands, chums with the Wesley Brothers (when they weren't disagreeing) wrote that we should celebrated Christmas. We should do so better than any. Our joy should be in our activities and our conversation.

In George's day, as in our own, there would have been those in the Christian community that took a dim view of it all. Every age has had it's Scrooges.

So here from George's faithful pen is the heart of the matter:

"It was love, mere love; it was free love that brought the Lord Jesus Christ into our world.
What, shall we not remember the birth of our Jesus?
Shall we yearly celebrate the birth of our temporal king, and shall that of the King of kings be quite forgotten? Shall that only, which ought to be had chiefly in remembrance be quite forgotten? God forbid!

No, my dear brethren,
let us celebrate and keep this festival of our church with joy in our hearts;
let the birth of a always remembered;
may this Savior's love never be forgotten."

George does go on to caution us to simplicity in our giving, in our eating (O dear!), our celebrating. And that we should do.

So, to all those nay-sayers, take a lesson from George, bless him.
May we follow in his footsteps here too.
May our joy be evidenced to all, in all, through all.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Now In Flesh Appearing

Words so familiar they can be sung without thought. Yet they embody the vital Truth of the universe.

O come all ye faithful,
Joyful and triumphant,
Here is the call to us and the way we are to stand, or perhaps in this case, kneel.
The second verse of this ancient hymn is left out of hymnals now days, to our hurt.
It says it all:
God of God,
Light of Light,
Lo! He abhors not the Virgin's womb;
Very God,
Begotten, not created;
O come let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.
The scope of the daring love of our God - a womb, a birth.
While miracles, births are messy and bloody. Yet through this means Love chose to enter our sinful sphere in order to identify with us, to truly know what life in the flesh from day one, is all about. Our life.
Through this He learned obedience in the every day events of a boy in a family, to the obedience of a Cross to come.
Through that cross and His resurrection, He became in reality our High Priest who knows all our struggles, fears, pains and sorrows. He knows about those trusted who fail and disappoint. He knows about the death of ones much loved. He knows the reason for tears and how to shed them along with us. He knew hardship, hunger, temptation. He experienced friendships, laughter and joy giving us permission to laugh out loud and rejoice in the good things of this life.
He lived through all, endured all keeping His eyes on the Joy Beyond, to the Throne and Glory.
Amazing, heart-stopping Grace! So we follow in His footprints.
As one of our young men prayed recently "Lord, we know You are the 'reason for the season'; and I know You are the only reason to get up in the morning."
So, we Faithful, come - joyful and triumphant as we delight in this blessed season remembering in our Eternal Now the first coming in Eternity Past and the glorious one yet ahead in Eternity Future.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Good News

The sun is shining oh so brightly on my world today. That's always good news in the Northwest.

But here's the best news ever as written by J. B. Phillips (yes, the same who translated the New Testament into Modern English)

"Each Advent season the original, quiet, and simple Christmas story takes our breath away.
For human beings no long exist in insignificance and fear on a lonely, whirling planet floating in terrifying space...God has become Man!

God has not only made His personal visit,
not only given us the pattern of true and happy living,
not only died to reconcile us to Himself,'
not only is risen again both to shatter the fear of death and prove His own claims,
but there is no barrier now between him and us.
God in Christ is our contemporary.

If that is not Good News, it would be difficult to know what is!"

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Thank you, Thomas Cranmer

Advent season is here. This is my favorite season of the church calendar. It seems easier to ponder the Wonders of it all than during the Lenten time. That too is filled with breath stopping, heart filling wonders. Perhaps the darker, slower days make contemplation easier. But, for me it is all directed by the dear saint afore mentioned.

So here's your lesson ( :) on Archbishop Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556). His genius, it has been said, "consisted of that rare and mysterious virtue, humility." This made him wise which enabled him to survive the treacherous political waters of Henry VIII's court. It was during these years that he - Thomas - began the editorial work that led to the Book of Common Prayer. He was not always in the king's favor, and Henry made the task difficult, but Thomas survived and his work continued because he submitted himself to his king.
When Henry went to his reward (and we'll not take time to consider what that may be, just to say he is fortunate its not my call. I still find it hard to forgive him for his dissolution of monastaries and wife ill-treatment) , Edward VI came to the throne.

In 1548, during his short reign Common Prayer was introduced. It was abolished during the reign of Mary (Cranmer went to the stake under that bloody woman) . Elizabeth I restored the prayer book. It was opposed by the Puritans. Restored. Revived. Not until recent centuries has it been tampered with, watered down in an effort to make the language 'user friendly'. (hateful term which only serves to diminish meaning and richness of language) It is amazing to me that through the centuries Cranmer's work still stands. His prayers and collects still retain the cast iron of truth and language.

There are many fine sources for Advent devotions. Yet, for me, the prayer book with its reminder that this present season is not all glimmer and glitz but rather a time of heart preparation as we glory in the First Advent of our Lord and anticipate the one yet to come.

For each Sunday of Advent there is a collect or prayer but the first is to be included each week of the month. And so I end with this:

Almighty God,
Give us grace,
that we may cast away the works of darkness,
and put upon us the armor of light,
now in the time of this mortal life,
(in the which thy son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility;)
that in the last day
when he shall come again in his glorious majesty
to judge both the quick and the dead,
we may rise to the life immortal,
through him who liveth and reigneth with thee
and the Holy Ghost
now and ever. Amen
Selah. Pause and calmly think of that!