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, April 29, 2010

Truth Weaving

There are times when different pens, each with a different voice state the same Truth or connecting truths. These come together in the mind each reinforcing the other.

After their glorious adventure on the ship The Dawn Treader, Lucy and Edmund come face to face once again with Aslan in the form of the Lamb. The children want to continue on from this thrilling adventure to the next. But Aslan, while assuring them that He will continue showing them Himself, sends them back to their own country, not even Narnia, but where their real home is.

Little Much Afraid, in Hinds Feet in High Places, after traveling with The Shepherd to the High Places must return to the Valley of sadness where real life is lived. Like the Pevensie children, she does have her pocket of pebbles turned jewels, i.e. memories of experienced blessed and redeemed by Aslan/The Shepherd.

After His resurrection, we find as reported by Luke in the book of Acts, the Lord appearing and then disappearing over a period of six weeks. During this time He is teaching his disciples and helping them to grow accustomed to the idea that He is with them, and will be with them whether visible or not.

Then these same men witness from a hill 'a cloud receiving Him out of their sight'.

They saw, and with the seeing came the knowing with certainty that death had been conquered.
They knew beyond doubt that their beloved Jesus [Aslan, Shepherd] was truly the Son of God.

And it was for them to return to their 'real world' with what they had witnessed. Luke states very clearly that they "returned to Jerusalem with great joy", not sadness at the let-down, but JOY.

There was no date given when they could follow and so be once again in His presence. But as Aslan told Lucy "..I will not tell you how long or short the way will be; only that it lies across a river. But do not fear that, for I am the great Bridge Builder...."

Thomas Cranmer sums it up nicely in his collect for Ascension Day:

Grant we beseech thee, almighty God,
that like as we do believe thy only begotten son our Lord
ascended into the heavens;
so we may also in heart and mind thither ascend,
and with Him continually dwell,
who liveth and reigneth with thee
and the Holy Ghost, one world without end.

Christ's absence is connected with our present. We may dwell with Him in heart and mind in our Now until such a time as we are brought from our country into His Country.
Like the disciples of old, may we tread the tedious streets of our present Jerusalem -this day- with Joy.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Neighbors, Old And New

Life has taught me that neighbors come in many forms. There are noisy neighbors, slovenly neighbors, rude and grumpy neighbors and those you never see from one week to the next.

Once in a great while a neighbor moves in that turns out to be the sort of which story books tell. For two years or so we have been blessed with this later sort.

In fact, this neighbor exceeds all the rules of goodness. This kindly person is youngish, having been retired from the work force through a cruel on-the-job accident. This event left him limited and in constant pain. However, one would never guess. He is always full of good cheer.
He is always active keeping his side of the fence tidy, with fishing and assorted projects.

When out in the garden he, just like the stories run, comes to the fence for a chat about the day. He has handed over the fence gifts from tools to make gardening on my side easier, to bread fresh from the oven and fish freshly caught.

Most recently he presented me with a charming bird house of his own crafting. I come from a long line of bird watchers. The Folks in their declining years not only had feeders, all sorts, but kept a daily journal of visitors to these. Yet, I've never had a bird house of my own.

Delighted, the house was hung high, hopefully out of harms way. Enter: New Neighbors.

There is much excitement in the garden as Spring renters have arrived! First time, Mister sat in the nearby apple tree chirping warnings. The expectant Mother entered the 'door', took measurements and considered furnishing choices I think. As of yesterday, setting up housekeeping has begun. The caution that is taken is quite amazing. These are savvy birds. They must know there is a cat presence in this garden. Yet the little mother arrived with the first bit of fluff in her beak, sat on the clothes line looking around then darted in.

All this may seem uncommonly dull to you, Dear Reader, but I am thrilled to have my own resident birds in my very own bird house with the heart on its door.

Such additions to the neighborhood are delightful indeed. The new neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Bird, remind me that we have a common Heavenly Father Who watches over all our comings and goings. Perhaps in time we can convince the lovely Giving Neighbor of this fact.

Friday, April 23, 2010

April = Garden = England

"O to be in England now that April's there" was Mr. Browning's sentiment. The month wouldn't really matter to me. Gardens and England go together at all times in my mind. Some of my favorite authors are or were English gardeners. Among these, Beverly Nichols who was journalist and humorist as well as a sensible gardener. In more recent years, the late Rosemary Verey left a delightful written record. Prince Charles and his writings of his gardens at Highgrove are not only beautiful but inspiring. A "friendly" writer, a good-humored and practical man, one who has been on the cutting edge of the ecological greening movement. He may be royal but he is one fine plantsman and gardener as well.

As for the gardens themselves, don't offer me the formality of Blenheim and those formal parterres of the other grand estates. They are impressive to be sure with their tidy lines and sweeping designs. But they are cold. They have no soul. Give me the blowzy cottage gardens with no purpose other than to delight these senses.

Every Englishman is a gardener it seems. Even when there is but a wee strip of space between sidewalk and front door there is something potted or planted. Many stories up there are window boxes with bright blooms. And if possible, hollyhocks, always hollyhocks.

But today? I should enjoy strolling through William Cowper's gardens at Orchard Side, Olney. There is order in layout, yet fragrance and color are masters. The first garden is all flowers. The smaller one behind the fence is where herbs and vegetables grow. And the centerpiece of this is his charming little writing shed. It is white stucco, one door and 2 windows, one on each side directly opposite. Inside are two built-in benches facing each other. In the mind's eye you can see him, tablet and pen in hand, perhaps accompanied by one of his pet hares as lavender fragrances the air.

Another garden favorite is that of a friend, Lorna. Her front strip is all boisterous color of penstemons, lavender and such like. This is for the world to see as they walk by. But her private garden in back of the house is subtle. It seems at first look to be all greens. That is because of her love for tiny alpine varieties. Walking slowly and looking carefully is needful to catch the little color pops. Here food crops are grown as well. It is sanctuary, soothing and peaceful, much like the gardener herself.

My own garden spaces are a blend of these two, hopefully, though I have no charming writing shed or pet rabbits, alas. Also in my own there is a little bit of actual England. When the seeds were collected and pocketed I did not know it was illegal and vandalism of a most serious nature. Nor will there be an admitting from which gardens the seeds were collected lest the International Seed Police hunt me down. Yet the plants that grow from the ill-gotten gain delight me each year when they show off their colors. They are ever reminders of a trip of a lifetime. Perhaps by the time they bloom this year, I will have figured out how to photo and post.

In the meantime, it's into the Farmer Brown overalls and clogs. The weather is perfect for gardening this April day. Stop by later for tea, if you're in the neighborhood.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Imagery and St. Terese

Terese of Avila was born as Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the cathedral door. He of Germany, she of Spain. The Spanish inquisition occurred during her lifetime. That fact and the general tone of her country made her mystic faith a dangerous faith.

Terese was an influential, wise and no-nonsense woman. She has long been a personal favorite. So, Dear Reader you will kindly indulge me. Having returned to her writings as to a dear friend, I share some of her thoughts this day.

Terese saw things through imagery, in the same way our Lord taught. It has been stated that literary images affect us as they are the language of the soul.

The first image is that of The Journey, The Pilgrimage of the soul, remembering "we have here no continuing city." The purpose of all pilgrimage is the destination. In spiritual terms to come home to where we are intended to live, namely with God.

She speaks of the 'mansion' of the soul - the interior castle where His Majesty lives. 'His Majesty' is the title she most often gives to her Lord, which to me has such power, such reverence. (Contrast this image to today's "Jesus, my buddy" familiarity)

This interior castle of ours where the King lives is why we are called, yea verily, expected to learn, to adopt the manners and protocol of that court. This is godliness.

This is why Terese refers to disobedience as "plotting treason against the King"!

From the court we move into a closer relationship with His Majesty as we learn more of His ways and follow obediently. We move from the nearness of His presence to His friendship, then in time to betrothal and union with Him as his bride.

These concepts are somewhat startling to us as we plod along kicking the "world's toys and comforts from our pathway, or from our soul's living room floor". Yet there is nothing new here. We have heard these phrases our lifelong. Intimacy. The Bride of Christ. Certainly they present a shift of focus.

For Terese all was gained through prayer. To her it was not a duty, but a delight and indulgence. Prayer to her, was seen as water, the vital life in the physical life so in the spiritual. In the beginning of our pilgrimage we draw as with buckets from the well of water by meditation. Then it seen as receiving water direct from the spring or fountain via aqueduct or channel. Finally, it comes from the refreshing rains that saturate the soil of our entire being as we are one with His Majesty, our God and King.

Terese was a nun of the Carmelite Discalced. That means she walked barefoot. I love that image as well. Walking our pilgrimage barefoot seems most appropriate. What better way to feel the pain of toe stubbing when we walk carelessly? What better way to notice the condition of our heart's soil?

Joy to you this day, Fellow Pilgrim. Walk carefully.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Again, Mother 'Visits'

" I am convinced that I am greedy for too many books and that I already have all the books I can read and re-read with profit to last me the rest of my life.

In fact, I can never digest all the fine study books we already have .

So this a.m. I threw away an enticing invitation to join a book club.

I hope I will content myself with such books as I have and dig into them."

So my mum wrote in her eighty-first year. She was given 11 more years and followed her own advice.

And to the end there were books on shelves by her bed.

For myself, I am trying valiantly to follow her example. There is an on-going effort to reduce the number of books about, to remove from shelves the unneeded, unwanted, the duplicates. But O the pain..a wrenching really. There are the doubts that come concerning 'what if' I should want/need its printed gold in future days? Then when the deed is done, there is the missing as of absent friends.

But head up, shoulders squared, I shall march onward in the task.

Thanks once again, Mama for you words and your example.

Now if I can only keep that finger from the 1-click on the Amazon book page.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Simplify, Simplify, Simplify

So goes the mantra of our lives.
How we desire simplicity in each area of our lives.
How we continually collect, add, complicate.

Perhaps this is why the Psalter reading for today blazed across my sight.

In the center of Psalm 86 it states:

"...You alone are God.
Teach me your way, O Lord;
I will walk in your truth;
Unite my heart to fear Your name.
I will praise you O Lord my God,
with all my Heart,
and I will glorify Your name for evermore."

So here is the simple recipe for ease in our spiritual pilgrimage, which - yes- we also complicate.
Reading this definitely provided a 'selah' moment for me this morning.

Psalm 27.11 compliments this by stating:

"Teach me Your way, O Lord,
and lead me in a plain path...." [KJV]

A plain path is a clear path, a path distinct.

O Dear Reader, may we unclutter our lives, hearts and paths.
May we stop piling up our own notions.
May we allow our faithful God to lead rather than us setting the criteria with our expectations.

May we not forget to praise, to fear, to glorify.
And so walk..not run ahead, but walk as He clears the path before us.

"Lead me Lord,
Lead me in Thy righteousness;
May Thy way plain
before my face.
For it is Thou Lord,
Thou Lord only,
that makes me to dwell in safety."
Samuel S. Welsey, 1810-1876

Friday, April 16, 2010

Miss Austen's Needle

Anyone who knows our family knows that we are three generations of Janeites. It matters not if it is her writings or movies made from those writings, we enjoy them. We talk about them. We debate them. Even the menfolk, if not entering in, at least accept the fact that we women take delight in these. If nothing else, they make happy sport of Mr. Collins.

So it is when something new is discovered there is excitement.

We have all read the prayers Jane left behind and have found them lovely and profound. In fact so much so as to wonder why with all the books and articles written about Jane there is yet to be something on the faith of the woman.

But back to the new discovery. This time it is a sampler stitched by Jane dated 1797. As pictured, it is stitched on linen in greens and deep reds with a touch of yellow gold for accent. The piece is bordered in geometric design in flower pots with vines and stylized flowers evenly distributed. At the bottom of the centerpiece are trees, large flowering ones, and smaller fir shaped. On the center one of these sits a charming long-tailed bird.

All is stitched in the tiniest of even cross stitching.

But it is the words that are of greatest interest. These are phrases taken from the Psalter of the Book of Common Prayer. The spelling is of course of that time with 'f's put for 's's.
Changing these only, it reads as follows:

"Praise the Lord o my Soul and all that is within me
Praise his holy Name as long as I live will I praise
The Lord I will give thanks unto God while I have
My Being sing unto the Lord o ye Kingdoms of the
Earth o sing praise unto the Lord Give the Lord the
Honour doe unto his Name worship the Lord with holy
Worship in the Time of trouble I will call upon the
Lord and he will hear me Turn thy Face from
my Sins and put out all my Misdeeds."
These choices seem to frame a faith balanced and sincere. Because of the random-ness of their selection, it makes me wonder if she chose them herself. They do not fit the usual sampler selections of the time.
Oh yes. She was age 10 when she worked this sampler.
My hope is Dear Reader, that the words of this sampler, worked so long ago by a 'friend' will encourage your heart this day.
[Psalm. 103.1; 104.33; 68.32; 29.2; 86.7]

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Caked Over Vision

Sometimes Truths collide in a most unsettling way.
Or so it seemed this morning.

The Psalter reading from Common Prayer included Psalm 39.
Speaking of the measure of my days:

they are but a span,
a hand-breadth,
- 5 1/2 - 9 inches compared to Eternity!

At my age I'm well aware at the shortness of ones life regardless of the number of years piled up. But the psalmist goes on to speak of it all as vapor, i.e. rising morning mists. And of the treasures we cling to and pile up as vanity, vain shadows "heaped up riches and we cannot tell who will gather them."

Is that all, isn't that rebuke enough? No. I am also frail, transitory.

Bernard of Clairvaux then pointed out that "the soul's vision is caked over by our focus" of our earth toys, our treasures, seeing as we will the gifts and not the Giver.

These thoughts combined paint a grim and unattractive picture of my failed vision and my foolish clingings.

Back to the Psalm we go. From my caked over vision, my pile of toys and treasures that unknown others will enjoy, the disappearing vapor that is life, a proper focus is offered.

"And now Lord, what is my hope?
Truly my hope is even in Thee."

After the tears, the prayer and heart's cry, the writer gives this reminder:

"for I am Your passing guest,
a temporary resident,
as all my fathers were."

Nevertheless, over all is hope, hope that clears , uncluttering, uncaking the eyes of the soul.

Lord this day,
give me clear eyes,
Your eyes to see the measure of my life and its focus,

"looking away from all that distracts to Jesus,
the Author and Finisher of [my] faith."

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Post Easter Thoughts

In the Northwest, the day was cold and bleak weather-wise. The message of the services was totally other, Praise God.

"It all started in the dark despair of a dead and mangled body, mourned by a few brave souls and hastily planted in a borrowed tomb..women perfumed oils in hand came to that tomb with heavy hearts; they left with hearts on Fire. They came slowly, cautiously; they left running...They came in search of Jesus of Nazareth; they ran from the tomb with news of Christ the Lord...." So, in part, preached Father Ryan of St. James Cathedral, Seattle.

In our own humble fellowship the young teacher of the adult class, brilliantly presented a composite of the scriptural account of our Lord's last days, burial and resurrection as given in the Gospels. Being overcome by the emotion of it all he could not complete his closing prayer. After a time as his tearful pause continued, others collectively said "Amen".

That's the beauty and power of the Easter Message. Gloomy weather outside mattered not.
Hearts provided the true reflection.


Following services, the family gathered in part - (we are always sad that there are those far away with other responsibilities) at the cottage home of Daughter # 2. As a family, we are so very blessed. Speaking with the Patriarch on the way home it was concluded that if all members were stirred together and boiled down, there would not be enough cranky distilled to form a single mean-spirited person.

Perfect? Hardly! Diverse? Totally. There is high decibel noise, tides of laughter, all manner of teasing and craziness. But the over arching banner is Love. There is the common love of the Heavenly Father yes, but there is family love also spread on very thickly indeed.

While we are all together there is so much to delight in. Yet, when the festivities wind down and leave taking begins, there is a feeling of loss, of wishing somehow for continuance.

Perhaps that is why Eternity is such a lovely word.

"If 'everlasting' were not written over the joys of Heaven, we would be trembling lest the banquet should have an end, lest the day should have an evening."

That is why the longings, I think. We are still 'missing' while here in the Shadowlands as here we have no continuing city. But by the longings, the missing, we are being prepared for the Glorious Unendings to come.

This mom is so very grateful that in That Day, all her chicks will be gathered with her There!

There can be no greater comfort.

Such a great Hope sustains while on pilgrimage.

All Glory to God!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Blessings This Day

It was given to a fisherman to first preach the scientific explanation of our Lord's Resurrection from the dead.

And it was also given to him to explain the character of that death.

Men had slain Him, but it was by the "determined counsel and fore-knowledge of God...." He was delivered up to die. That death which seemed nothing but a brutal murder, was in truth, a divinely appointed sacrifice.

And He rose again because nothing else was possible seeing Who He was!

"...God raised Him up,
liberating Him from the pangs of death,
seeing that it was not possible
for Him to be controlled by it."
Acts 2.24
The amazing truth of it all is summed up for us by a church historian:
"If Christ is risen -
then nothing else matter.
And if Christ is not risen -
then nothing else matters."
Jeroslov Pelikan
May the joy of the Resurrection be yours this day,
Dear Reader.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Gleaned Thoughts

During this season of the church year, this Holy season of our Lord's passion, thoughts form, spin and brew. Then they develop and always ending the same, at the point of awe. Awe .. wonder .. awe from the awfulness of all that was experienced; awe from the immensity of his love.

The Lamb on the Throne to come was the Lamb on the Cross from before the world began .. the Father's plan, the Son's obedience, the need and reason for all to come.

Walking through the meditations of Common Prayer this week, there have been phrases which seemed highlighted. That becomes thrilling especially as there is such familiarity with the "story".

"Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end...."

"Oh merciful God...Have mercy upon all who know thee not as thou art revealed in the Gospel of thy Son. Take from them all ignorance, hardness of heart, and contempt of thy Word; and so fetch them home, blessed Lord, to thy fold, that they may be made one flock under one Shepherd."

"Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way...let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; for he is faithful that promised...."

"...and he bearing his cross went forth...."

"...what I have written I have written."

Finally, the thoughts expressed by Amy Charmichael:

"Home of our hearts, lest we forget

What our redemption meant for Thee,

Let our most reverent thought be set

Upon Thy Calvary.

We, when we suffer, turn and toss

And seek for ease, and seek again;

But Thou, upon Thy bitter Cross,

Wast firmly fixed in pain.


Love immeasurable.

And free.

Just because .. not of my sweetness and worth, there was and is none;

but because He chose,

He willed it in Love.

How can we possibly own such a love?