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

Monday, January 18, 2010


At least This Day seemed to be a harbinger of future warm.
The day was bright and sunny, and I found a great gardening skirt at my favorite charity shop.
That should be happiness enough on any Monday.

Yet, here in this little pocket of the Northwest when the Winter sun comes out it follows that the night will be cold.

A stroll in the garden revealed, in addition to all the darling little green bulb noses upping,
the helebores are not only up but blooming! Wish I had looked out the window and noticed them earlier. They are joy bringers this time of year.

There is new growth beginning on the roses, so there is a hoping they don't have frost bite in the morning.

Winter gardens can appear so sad, yet there is always the promise:

"While the earth remains,
seedtime and harvest,
cold and heat,
summer and winter,
and day and night shall not cease...
I shall remember the everlasting covenant
between Me and the earth."
Oh, I do like those promises.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Surprises and Songs

Sometimes a light surprises the Christian while he sings;
It is the Lord, who rises with healing in His wings;
When comforts are declining, He grants the soul again
A season of clear shining, to cheer it after rain.
In holy contemplation we sweetly then pursue
The theme of God's salvation, and find it ever new.
Set free from present sorrow, we cheerfully can say,
Let the unknown tomorrow bring with it what it may.
It can bring with it nothing but He will bear us through;
Who gives the lilies clothing will clothe His people, too;
Beneath the spreading heavens, no creature but is fed;
And He Who feeds the ravens will give His children bread.
Though vine nor fig tree neither their wonted fruit should bear,
Though all the field should wither, nor flocks nor herd be there;
Yet God the same abiding, His praise shall tune my voice,
For while in Him confiding, I cannot but rejoice.
~William Cowper, 1731-1800
I'm always moved by the words of William Cowper knowing he struggled with mental imbalance his entire adult life. From earliest years he and his writings have been friends. To have walked through his garden in Olney, England was one of life's choice moments; to worship in the church where he worshiped and pastored by his friend John Newton was an unspeakable joy.
The words of this wonderful hymn include a favorite portion of scripture from Habakkuk. The "yet I will rejoice" phrase always seems a challenge, especially when there is "no fruit on the vine" etc. This "Eternal, defiant nevertheless" (Karl Barth) in seasons of doubt and struggle, always encourages me to follow Samuel's example and raise my Ebenezer.
And then sing!
Cowper and Habakkuk always remind me of the over-arching Truth of God's sovereignty - His care and provision - in the past, the Eternal Now and in the future. Being outside of Time He awaits us in that future.
If that isn't reason to sing, what is?
So many of the ancients encourage us to sing during turmoil, griefs, bafflements. Singing always requires something of us at such times, but if we yield to the prompting, we always feel the better for it. In fact the Septuagint rendering of Habakkuk's words that end the passage are:
"He mounts me on high places
that I may conquer by His song."
So we end where we began, with Cowper reminding us that the Song we sing is His healing, conquering song after all.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Days of Overwhelm

We are midst a world of hurt these days. The world at large is hurting, of course. That goes without saying. But stormy seas with increasingly high waves bounce my little scallop-shell about. Some griefs are attached to ministry connections, but others are very personally, painfully connected.

The thoughts turn to all the scriptural "Rock" and "hiding place" verses. Yet the one specifically that keeps breaking in is Psalm 61.2

"...when my heart is overwhelmed and fainting,
lead me to the Rock that is higher than I...."
Why "lead me" when other scriptures speak of running? Checking the trusty Hebrew dictionary clears it up with the definition of the word 'lead' but also the overwhelmed part. It is all about the Father "kindly, gently leading" because the rock cannot be climbed without His help!
So that's where this pilgrim is today, willing to be led because the rocks in the way are daunting and to climb The Rock for refuge requires assistance of Someone of far greater strength.
Today I am exceedingly grateful for my personal Guide.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Starting Fresh

New beginnings, whether books, garden projects or years are always exciting. Reviewing last year found lapses in all things begun. Granted, it was a different sort of year with many challenges and changes, but perhaps that is not a good enough excuse. There were not enough books read, the garden was left a bit tatty around the edges, and projects just were not put in final and proper order.

Now we can begin again.

As for books, two Christmas ones are coming. (Gotta love Amazon 1-click) One title is a new, well, new-ish, biography of John Newton. The other, also a newer biography of Beatrix Potter.

Concerning the garden, this begins that blessed season known for its showering forth of beautifully illustrated seed catalogs. O the Bliss! Suddenly the garden, rather than looking like pitiful rags and stumps has a bit of glowing hope hovering over.

This new year also begins new family joys: another grand daughter is blinding eyes with a sparkling new engagement ring, while she beams from the arms of a most handsome and fine young prince. There is a November wedding being planned for these darlings.

And for me there are new awesome responsibilities. Serious ones. Today began the challenge of an adult class to lead. In all the years of teaching, I've never worked so long and hard putting all together. Always with teaching, I've learned new and wondrous things for myself to apply to my own pilgrim walk, profound and exciting findings from scripture itself and from godly pens of the past. Lord granting, these can be passed on in such a way as to excite others and help them in their own journey.

With all this, there is the great need for greater grace. Today I came across a prayer of Thomas Aquinas in my commonplace book. It seems the perfect way to end this post and begin this year with all it will hold of known and unknown, of expected or surprise from the Father's Hand.

"Give me, O Lord, a steadfast heart,
which no unworthy affection may drag downwards.
Give me an unconquered heart,
which no tribulation can wear out.
Give me an upright heart,
which no unworthy purpose may tempt aside.
She can only add "amen".