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

Friday, July 30, 2010

Bittersweet Isn't Only Chocolate

"Of all horrid things,
leave taking is the worst."
~Mr. Woodhouse

Of all literary characters, Mr. Woodhouse is undoubtedly among the whiniest. Yet in this instance, he states the truth from my perspective as well as his own.

It seems like yesterday when my youngest chick left home. For those last few years just prior, she had been an 'only child'. She was a young woman then and my companion, confidant and encourager, she was my comfort and my joy.

She left in the arms of the best of men, to establish their home together. The courtship was sweet, the marriage a thing of beauty, the home established, God centered and so it remains to this day. Their lives have continue to only bless.

But the leaving!

How well I remember the desolation felt, the immensity of the hole in the heart, the certainty that my life was over and would serve no purpose from that time forward.

And she was going and they were settling only a few miles out of town.

All these thoughts were quite irrational of course, but such are the emotions of a mother's heart. All I had ever wanted was to be a mother and mothering was my joy from the beginning.

Now This Day, another daughter of mine is in a similar place. She too has only wifed and mothered. That was all she desired. It has been her joy. Her youngest has also been 'an only child' for some time, has been a friend, a rock, a joy and delight to her mum.

But this last chick has met the man of her dreams, the very best of young men. Their courtship has been a wonder, their wedding a thing of beauty. And off they go to lands further than the edge of town, to begin their life together.

It is hard especially knowing that the hole in the heart and the bittersweet pain that will echo through it, my daughter now faces. Hers is a greater desolation than my own.

But off they will go, these darlings of ours, and not without their own heart pain at the leaving.

Our Lord goes before to 'seek out a place for them to pitch their tent'.
That has always been His way.
Our prayers will follow them all their days which is our way.

May they go out with joy,
and be led forth with Peace,

may the mountains break forth before them with singing,
and all the trees of the field clap their hands.

For the ones remaining behind the Lord "will restore the years...."

He has.

He will.

He promised.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Happy Birthday Dear Beatrix

My Dear Miss Potter,

Thank you for all the joy you have brought through the years to us, our children, and children's children.

Thank you for all your "little bunny books" with their wit, wisdom, charm and beauty.

Thank you for your genius, for carrying on when the world doubted you, for making your mark, not just in art but in science.

Thank you for thinking ahead, for sharing your wealth and saving the beautiful countryside which you loved and so preserving it for the coming generations.

What a legacy you bequeathed us.
All our lives are richer because of you, dear lady.

Ponderings: Sweet Peas, Pearls, A Wedding

Pondering is a needful process and always has been for me. Particularly where major events are concerned. I know no other way to put snippets in order for making sense. It always takes time. Perhaps its a bit like a gold miner, filling the pan, swirling, adding water, swirling again until the nuggets of gold are clearly discerned.

So it is with heart-related things like weddings.

Now weddings are not a new thing in our family, not even weddings of grand daughters. One thing already learned is that weddings take on the personality of the featured couple.

Too, a wedding's style is influenced by that of the bride and groom, and shaped by the circumstances that formed them and their love.

So we come to our most recent celebration.

The Bride and Groom are quite young by today's standards. Yet, the circumstances that have shaped their love have also matured them beyond their years.

So young, yet Old Souls enabled to savor The Moment, evidencing a gratitude of spirit, awareness of the blessedness of the day and of those whose gift of effort brought it about. They, who in their maturity demonstrated such gentle calm, such purity of love for each other and the God that brought them together and guided each step of their way. Theirs was an assured ease and confidence by which they set the tone for the day. All who witnessed were carried along in like manner.

And concerning witnesses, not only were the couple surrounded by a physical crowd, well-wishers all. There was another, the presence of the Dear One, that in a perfect world, would have been there too. He was not 'present' as a spectre but rather I think, one front and center in that "great cloud of witnesses" providing a lifting transcendence to the ceremony while also offering his blessing. This also sweetened the spirit of the day.

How intrinsically woven are the dark threads in our little tapestries. Light and dark, gain and loss, life and death. It seems to me like that of an Amish quilt. It is the black that gives clarity to the colored patches and makes them sing.

The Bride chose black for the dresses of her attendants. The quintessentially classic 'little black dress', its smart sophistication softened and purified, gentled, if you will, by necklaces and bracelets of simple pearl strands. The shoes too were pearl in color. And each carried a simple bouquet of sweet peas, the Bride's favorite flower. The contrast was both startling and poetic!

Among the 5 attendants were the Bride's two sisters, both equally 'great with child'. Yet, theirs was not a pregnant appearance, as much as that of approving Madonnas, in their glowing adoration of their little sister as well as their own sweetness of character.

There was another of the attendants that carried her own private grief, yet with all grace and beauty rose above it with joy in loving support of the Bride, her friend.

The serene beauty and grace of the Mother of The Bride, her lack of fluster, her spirit of thanksgiving and loving wonder - all these added the spirit of the day , bringing out the best in all present. This spirit carried on through the reception and throughout the long day. It was felt. It was noted by many. It was uncommon. It was most beautiful.

Many small individual moments added up to a glorious whole. And the Bride and Groom? Their appearance was perfection itself. The groom, so tall and handsome in his Naval uniform, the Bride a breath-taking image in her retro gown, models for wedding cake toppers in complete form to be sure, yet completely real and vibrant.

Many sweet snippets for memory to record and protect. These lay close to the heart. These will be taken out, savored and cherished in days and years to come. These are mine alone. Others too have their casket of treasured jewels and gold nuggets.

Why? you might ask, is this such a serious piece on a most joyful, truly glorious day? The truth is, Dear Reader, in our clan, the wedding is The Party. The marriage that follows is The Gift, something we do take seriously indeed. For this new Union, we have the utmost confidence for a Life-lasting love, for years of gifted service, for all that is praise worthy. All this because their love is deeply rooted in their trustworthy God of Everlasting Love.

It was a joyful, glorious day for our family. It was a day of grace and beauty both seen and felt. We can only close with our family anthem: (join in - in harmony, please:)

"Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
Praise Him all creatures here below;
Praise Him above Ye Heavenly hosts,
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

Selah - pause and calmly think of that!

Friday, July 23, 2010

And They Who Observe, Rejoice Exceedingly

With this ring I thee wed, and with my body I thee worship,
and with all my worldly goods I thee endow;
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

Oh, Eternal God, Creator and Preserver of all mankind,
Giver of all spiritual grace, the Author of everlasting life;
Send Thy blessing upon these thy servants,
this man and this woman whom we bless in your name;
that as Isaac and Rebecca lived faithfully together,
so these persons may surely perform and keep the vow and covenant betwixt them made, and may ever remain in perfect love and peace together, and live according to thy laws;
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

[then shall the Priest join their right hands together, and say]

Those whom God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.

(so reads the Book of Common Prayer)

(and so we repeat in our hearts)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Thougths This Day

Oh thou, by long experience tried,
Near whom no grief can long abide
My Love! how full of sweet content
I pass my years of banishment.

All scenes alike engaging prove
To souls impressed with sacred love,
Where 'er they dwell they dwell in thee,
In heav'n, in earth or on the sea.

To me remains nor place nor time,
My country is in every clime,
I can be calm and free from care
On any shore, since God is there.

Could I be cast where thou art not,
that were indeed a dreadful lot,
But regions none remote I call,
Secure of finding God in all.

My country, Lord, art thou alone,
Nor other can I claim or own,
The point where all my wishes meet,
My law, my love, Life's only sweet.

~Mdm. Jeanne Marie Bouvier Guyon

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Skip Down Memory Lane

Today my 'Tuesday Friend' brought me a treat - peas from her garden. Fresh, succulent, shiny. Yum.

As I stood at the kitchen counter shelling these lovelies, a rhythm developed.
Three pods for the pan, one for the mouth, three, one, three, one....

Oh yes, to be sure, I heard past voices, echos of Momma and Grandma saying "the pan, Ruthie, put them in the pan". Those were the days when the garden bounty was family fare and therefore to be shared, not selfishly consumed.

Today was different.
I heard the voices, but I just smiled and kept the rhythm of bliss going:
three for the pan, one for the mouth.

No sharing was required.

How good it all was.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Small Thoughts from Psalm 103

Psalm 103 is part of today's Psalter reading from the Book of Common Prayer. Psalm 103 has special meaning for me. It was the one scripture portion my father requested at each visit during the months of his long dying.

This morning I was struck especially by the wording of verses 11 and 12. And of course it is necessary to begin with verse 10:

"He hath not dealt with us according to our sins, nor deals with us as our guilt deserves.."

"For look how high the heaven is in comparison of the earth so great is his mercy also toward them that fear him.

Look how wide also the east is from the west; so far has he set our sins from us.

"But the merciful goodness of the Lord endures for ever and ever upon them that fear him; and his righteousness upon children's children." (v.17)

So great.

So far.

Merciful goodness and blessings to the grand children.

Small thoughts perhaps, but mighty in scope that is beyond grasp.

Undeserved and unlimited Grace.
Immeasurable Mercy that travels through the generations.

What remains to be said but an awed "Praise Him from whom all blessings flow".

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Calling In Memories

Evenings at our house run something like this:

"Are you ready to start a movie?"
"Yes, just about."
"All right, what will it be?"
"You choose, you do that so well"
[interpret here: I really don't want to make a decision, just pick something.]
"At least name the genre."
"O.K. Something light."
"No. Musical? Comedy? Musical comedy?"

So dutifully I make my way to the cupboard and start reading titles as going along the shelf.
Tonight, when I came to Mary Poppins, Himself said "That's it. Haven't watched that in a long time. [like 20 years perhaps?]

Mary Poppins it was.

This is where the memories come in.

Years long past, the Saturday cleaning routine began with putting a musical sound track on the phono, and we five, the children and I, marched up the stairs and began our tidying tasks of the day. Mary Poppins was one of the favorites - we all knew all the lyrics, singing lustily along. Sometimes the Music Man took precedence. Which ever one of the current offerings provided, the necessary inspiration and momentum was achieved.

So that's where my mind was this night during movie time.

"Uncle Clives" says about memories that they are:

"entirely nourishing, wholesome, and enchanting if we are content to accept them for what they are, for memories. Properly bedded down in a past which we do not miserably try to conjure back, they send up exquisite growths."

There's a sort of sickness that sets in when we try to build monuments to memories. Alas, this is an easy thing to do as the years accumulate and it is something to avoid at all cost.

So I'm quite content to be 'enchanted and nourished' this night with the flowers produced by seeds of the past.

["Kick your knees up ... flap like a birdie ... round the chimney ... step in time...."]

So Dear Reader, that is tonight's spoonful of sugar.
It is offered lovingly to one and all.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Some Good Days Are Made Better

Today the post brought a letter. Remember those? With a stamp in the corner? That is always a treat.

This one brought with it an amazing piece of church history. An ancient hymn written by a saint and martyr of the 5Th Century was enclosed.

Aside from the theology it contains, it is a glorious picture of the Faith Walk, the journey in every age by every pilgrim who seeks to please his or her Captain.

A Hymn of Praise is the superscript, written on the First Commandment.

If all you want, Lord,
is my heart,
my heart is yours alone-
Providing I may set apart my mind
to be my own.

If all you want, Lord, is my mind,
my mind belongs to you,
But let my heart remain inclined
to do what it would do.

If heart and mind would both suffice,
while I keep strength and soul,
At least I would not sacrifice
completely my control.

But since, O God, you want them all
to shape with your own hand,
I pray for grace to heed your call
to live your first command.

~St. Flavian, died 449

These words are so 'contemporary' one must "touch them to see if the ink is dry."

Thank you, Dear Daughter for the reminder that the call on our lives, by our Faithful God remains the same from age to age.

Friday, July 9, 2010

A Boy, Bliss and C. S. Lewis

Little lads are so very deft at finding bliss in the ordinary. Nothing is common to them, only adventure and delight.

So it was in the garden yesterday. It was the (almost) weekly gathering of the Thursday Havarti Club. (Confession here, cheese, alas was missing from yesterday's sandwiches. Apologies to Aunt Mimi.)

The day was hot.

As is always his M.O., Little Lad went exploring. Finding the garden scooter he was pleased. Having lovely big wheels and sized just right for the boy in question to push or pull with ease, it was perfect. Then came the next thrill of discovery. It has a lid which opens revealing a fine empty inside. Empty inside? Add water. Now we are getting somewhere.

That object and that lad pretty much spent the afternoon together. To watch him in the initial discovery of the endless possibilities once there was water was amazing. At first it was just sticking one foot in and taking it out. Squeals of delight followed each 'sticking'. There was the endless rhythm of standing outside and splashing, cupping the hands and tossing droplets about. More squeals. When Aunt Mimi joined in the fun it became even better. Shared fun is always the best fun.

When momentary weariness came, sitting in the cool wet soothed the spirit.

For the watcher, the experience of the moment, the simplicity of the event, the immensity of the pleasure caught the spirit up in thought. The Moment. The Bliss. There were no thoughts of the pollution of the water, of the fragility of the world's ecosystem. There were no thoughts of wars and rumors of wars. It was all about Now, about cool, wet wonder. The glorious sight of sun reflected in the tossed about drops, the sensation on the skin when they fell back to earth.

"These pure and spontaneous pleasures are patches of Godlight...adoration in infinitesimals."
These pleasures are, after all, "shafts of the Glory".

All this is the stuff of praise!

(Phabulous Photo courtesy of the Lad's amazing Nana; quotations, as noted, courtesy of Dr. Lewis)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Following the Badger

Of late I have become very painfully aware of the hyphenated sins in my life.

These are the 'little' sins that plague, are subdued, then without warning rear up their ugly heads yet once again. Granted, these are part and parcel of the human spirit and we spot them readily in others. Yet when confronted personally, after the initial humiliation, it is time to take action.

We desire victory over self-sins: self-indulgence, self-pity, self-absorption and such like.

These are my personal 'pets'.

Self-sufficiency has seldom been a problem as I am a chronic under-achiever living too often in the Land of Overwhelm. But this is good as it is here that all is learned about the One who is sufficient in all things, who is our sufficiency.

As for the rest, well, there is the battle ground.

In the midst of these days, reading brought one of my Ancient Dead Friends to my rescue.

Bernard of Clarivaux wrote the following during a parallel time in his life:

"...Then I return to the Rock that is refuge for badgers like me, furry with sin."

This from Psalm 104.18 (KJ) Badgers, cranky, skitterish, hoarders. The Septuagint, rather than badger, translates it rabbits. Here too is a great illustration as they so readily get off the path, hopping along in random fashion. Yet again, another translation says it is the hedgehog. Well, they roll themselves into balls, hiding from supposed dangers and fears, trusting their prickles to protect.

I find myself pictured with these creatures. I long for their good sense in 'returning to the Rock' with speed.

Furry with sin or not, that is the one, true place of refuge.


Sunday, July 4, 2010

He also wrote~

Certainly we owe a debt of gratitude to Francis Scott Key. We sing the anthem he gave us with lumps in throat, with tears in eyes. At least that is always my response.

This man, a lawyer by profession was also a poet. He was a man of God who promoted all things that furthered the Word of God being in the hands of the people.

Among his many fine writings is, in part, the following. (This hymn was recently introduced to me by my leading music mentor, favorite worship leader and brilliant hymn writer in his own right, JBD.)

To heav'n's high King,
The nation Thou hast blest
May well Thy love declare,
From foes and fears at rest,
Protected by Thy care.
For this fair land,
For this bright day,
Our thanks we pay..

A grateful song!
Earth, hear thy Maker's voice,
Thy great Redeemer own;
Believe, obey, rejoice,
And worship Him along.
Cast down thy pride,
Thy sin deplore,
And bow before
The Crucified.

And when in power He comes,
Oh, may our native land
From all its rending tombs
Send forth a glorious band,
A countless throng,
For aye to sing
To heaven's high King
Salvation's song!

At present this fine hymn is no longer found in our hymnals.
Nor is its truth found in force across our land.

May it be a 'call to arms' to we who follow such a King as known and presented here.

Best wishes to all for a blessed Independence Day.
May we ever remember the cost at which our liberty has been won as well as preserved.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Moving Right Along

It is startling to think that with the first of July comes the half-way mile post of the year.

We begin a year with much anticipation concerning what might be ahead, while at the same time making lists of what we plan. At years' end there is often the rehearsal of failed attempts with its litany of what-ifs and if-onlys. Perhaps, and best of all should be the rehearsal of the Lord's continued blessing, all the times His hand has guided, protected, kept.

But at the middle point of the year, what should be our thoughts? Much is still undecided, undeclared, unproduced. There have already been the accomplishments and failings, but there are also anticipated happenings yet to come about. For our family, for this year, happenings of wonder and grace among the known things!

So what are our thoughts? Perhaps we can follow the prophet of old who prayed:

"Oh Lord, revive Your work
in the midst of the years,
In the midst of the years make Yourself known!

So at the half way mark of the year, we can "shake off dull sloth" or whatever other "sin that so easily besets us" and travel forward.

We must, we shall travel with a refreshed, revived spirit ready to take on what is yet ahead.. to embrace either sorrow or joy, challenge or ease. All this because we know of a certainty our God is with us in the midst of the year/years.

As the prophet continues: "His ways are everlasting and His goings are of old."