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, October 30, 2010

A Monk, A Passion and a Hammer

He's always been a favorite of mine, the good Doctor Luther. The record of his life never ceases to thrill me.

He was only a man who wanted, when nailing up his theses, to bring about a lively discussion with fellow scholars and theologians concerning the disturbing wrongs going on in his beloved church. He never intended to light the fires that turned the world on its head, that changed the church forever.

He was only a man with a passion for God and His truth. He was only a man in the right place at the right time, willing to be used by his God to do what needed doing.

His thought was:

to affirm that penance implies repentance,
that mortification of the flesh is useless accompanied with inner repentance,
that the merits of Christ alone bring forgiveness of sins,
that the real treasure of the church is the gospel of the Grace of God in Jesus Christ.

This date was the day Martin pounded his thesis on the Wittenberg door.
What a shame that we as the church (other than the High church, perhaps) have over looked this date.

God has always told his people to
remember and
to tell the Children".

I wonder if through the years we had taught the heroism of this man who gave his health and life through striving to preserve God's word and God's church,
who protected the scripture and preached God Truth in the face of persecution,
would we feel the need to work so hard putting together 'harvest parties' in an effort to counteract the Halloween hoopla which grows bigger every year? Wouldn't our own great celebration be in place? Perhaps then the children would have no desire, or at least less desire to follow the world on this date.

But back to Martin. I leave you with his oft quoted statement of defence before his accusers.
May it be the standard we hold high and follow, and may we teach the children.

"Since your majesty and your lordships desire a simple reply,
I will answer without horns and without teeth.
Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason-
I do not accept the authority of popes and councils,
for they have contradicted each other-
my conscience is captive to the Word of God.
I cannot and I will not recant anything,
for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe.
Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise.
God help me. Amen."

Friday, October 29, 2010

J. B. For The Day

We pray that you will be strengthened
by God's glorious power,
So that you may be able to pass through any experience
and endure it with joy.

You will be able to thank the Father
because you are privileged to share the lot
of the saints who are living in the light.
Colossians 1.11,12, Phillips

Today I'm thinking of a young man in our local fellowship.

His was a very rough early life. There were years in prison.
He married, had children.

At present his is the sole parenting responsibility for these still very young children.
He works all day, cares for his little one by evening.

He studies law at night on the internet.
He has a straight A average.

Three evenings a week he cleans house for his former wife and the children's mother because of his love for her.
She sits her life long in front of a computer screen playing games and eating.

And every Sunday, he faithfully bring his children, dressed and tidy, to Sunday School and Church.
He faces his days head on.
Never have I heard him complain.

He is my hero.

This young man 'puts skin on' these scriptures.
May I follow his example.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Lions in the Pathway

Even while we are trusting, even when we "lean hard" on the Savior, there is, as Amy Carmichael said, room for fear to move.

Little fears we can easily push aside, or shout into submission. Its the bigger fears, the ones that grip the heart with icy fingers and won't let go that are troublesome. Indeed, they roar their chilling ideas in the ears sounding just like lions. They do tend to stop us in our tracks, making progress difficult.

(How grateful I am to have had a mother who took the time to read to her children of another Pilgrim.
This Pilgrim left such a gripping tale, filled with wise directions for those of us who, many generations later walk the same pilgrim way as he. And so today's thought.)

Is your strength too small?
Do not fear the lions for they are chained
and are placed there to test your faith
and to discover those who have none.
Keep to the middle of the path,
and no harm shall come to you.

Then I saw that Christian went forward
trembling for fear of the lions
but carefully following the directions of the Porter.
He heard them roar, but they did him no harm.

Then he clapped his hands and went on...."

We can be ever grateful for our great and wondrous Lion of Judah, the creator, keeper and trainer of lions who even has been known to 'stop the mouths' of lions.

He guides gently and carefully along - down the center of our every path.

Being assured then, that the lions roar cannot harm, may we go on, hands a-clapping.

May we come through this present test, like Apelles of old: "that one tried and approved in Christ".

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Learning, Growing, Stretching

It took me an entire year to recover from turning 50. It wasn't so much the fact that the number marked a half a century. That was well and good. It was the shock of finding that I hadn't achieved the wisdom that many years should have produced. That was my thinking.

Now, many years after that milestone I am humbled once again. It's the spiritual and life lessons thought already learned that catch one off guard, that baffle, isn't it?

Beginning to love as He love me began in my early years. Loving, embracing, taking others into my heart has always come easily.

Learning to follow the Leader, began, albeit reluctantly, at age 30 something.

The Sovereignty of God? - that issue was settled once and for all at age 40 through an either/or experience. He was either who He claimed to be and acknowledge that or like Job's wife suggested, curse Him and die.

The biggest life lesson, the one deliberately claimed, began in the first year of our ministry (age 33). This is the one point to which I am repeatedly returned. This issue was claimed in sincerity of heart, but time has proved in blissful ignorance as well.

"...that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death." (Philippians 3.10)

The fellowship of His sufferings. Oh my. Whatever was I thinking?

Time and life have proved I am no Paul. Nevertheless, this prayer continues to be my heart's desire. Yet learning about suffering in its many colors and forms seems an endless quest. One bit comes, seemingly and finally learned only to be presented with more and greater. Each time the former is left in the dust, or perhaps ashes of further experiences.

These sufferings do not take the form of imprisonment or floggings, though they sometimes feel like that. I'm speaking here of situations and experiences not of my own making and completely out of my hands to resolve, boat rocking, heart stopping experiences. These are the stresses, the losses, the griefs that come, these that are part of every life yet always seem to take us by surprise.

Of course, in the midst of all there is much joy and delight.

This all brings us to the present day. This time of life that is golden is so many ways. My family nearby, or at least quite near, the increase in our family, these are blessings and joys indeed. The increase has given us the amazing bit of history allowing us to claim four living generations. That is most humbling.

When the newest members were added so recently - those two beautiful little girl-persons- it was asked of me "how can you contain the joy of it all?" Good question.

I was surprised that these little lasses, along with the older Lad have each staked a claim on heart territory.

This territorial claiming has even caused a stretching, if you will, that is physical in sensation. This must be what scripture calls the 'enlarged heart'. In checking out the phrase in the Hebrew, it included the aspect of being opened wide by joy. Its that. Yes! That's the feeling.

But along with this amazing and great joy, there is the grey cloud of suffering over head. One little lass has a physical heart that is not, in human terms, normal. This causes great pain and suffering (not to mention concern) to those who hold her dear, who love her parents, and their parents, all the way back to the Grand-Nan who writes this.

Of course, there is truly the assurance that this child who 'was formed in secret' was so formed by the loving and all-wise hands of her creator God. And this God creates all good for His purpose. So this child who is now ours is perfect in His sight, according to His plan and purpose for her, for us all.

In the midst of many tears, there was the discovery of a new truth about hearts and suffering, growing and stretching. This was found in the writings of another and it can only be assumed that the writer is acquainted with grief himself. He writes:

"The heart is stretched through suffering, and enlarged.
But O the agony of this enlarging of the heart,
that one may be prepared to enter into the anguish of others!
Yet the way of holy obedience leads out from the heart of God
and extends through the Valley of the Shadow."

So then, the heart enlarged by suffering, like the heart enlarged by love, also is opened wide by joy.

Because we follow a suffering Savior, who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, we should not be surprised that suffering and joy are part of the same package or of our lives.

We should not fear enlarged hearts by whatever means they come.

We still feel the pain, excruciatingly.

There are still tears, floods.

But we accept all that has been given as from the Father's hand.

And we go on our way rejoicing.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Shadows of Life and Shadows of The Rock

Yes. Sometimes the shadows fall. They are not new. Sometimes they fall so suddenly. Even yesterday came the reminder that shadows themselves indicate light still exists. That helps. A bit.

So we come once again to a time when all that remains for us is Trust. Once again of necessity we run to Our Almighty Rock and stand shattered under His Shadow. He has promised and we are to "remain stable and fixed" there.

We are to say of the Lord "He is my refuge and fortress".

We are required to lean. He tells us this.

So we do. So we will.
The tears are not fewer.
The pain of the aching mother's heart still throbs with every beat.

At times like this an ancient poem, a prayer, really, of unknown origin comes to mind.

Child of My love, lean hard,
And let Me feel the pressure of thy care,
I know thy burden, child, I shaped it,
Poised in Mine own hand, made no proportion
In its weight to thine unaided strength;
For even as I laid it on I said,
'I shall be near, and while she leans on Me,
This burden shall be Mine, not hers;
So shall I keep My child within the circling arms,
Of Mine own love. Here lay it down, nor fear
To impose it on the shoulder which upholds
The government of worlds. Yet closer come,
Thou art not near enough; I would embrace thy care,
So I might feel My child reposing on My breast.
Thou lovest Me? I know it. Doubt not, then,
But, loving Me, lean hard.

For myself, for my own darlings, This Night, I lean. I can do no other thing.
I know no other One.
"A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief" - in this I my take comfort.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Year of the Daughters, Part 2

Is it a matter of history repeating itself? In a way.
Is it the Circle of Life? A bit.
Perhaps an echo of the Prophet Ezekiel's statement "like mother, like daughter"?

Whatever it may be it is a fact in the history of our family, a delightful, joyous repetition.

Part 1, The Year of the Daughters, was a piece of family history Past.
This is very much family history Present.

This story is of daughter # 2 of the original set of daughters.
This Daughter also had daughters three.

While not as close in age, still very close as it was often true that they were each other's sole playmates and friends, and their mother with them.

And these three daughters of the present generation are also remarkably gifted, breath-takingly beautiful, amazingly witty, clever, delightful. Each, in the way of individuals has brought great blessing and delight to the grand parents as well as all others whose lives they have touched. (Not to mention the lives of the men they have married.)

Life called these daughters to a quite different pilgrim path. They have faced deep things which have grieved and tested. They each, in their own ways have accepted and grown greatly in spirit because of their pilgrimage. And thus they have been, with their mother, brought to this place, this Year of the Daughters.

It began with a wedding, that of the youngest. The immeasurable beauty of the wedding has been written of in an early entry here. But again, it was like no other wedding in its gentle, composed purity and sweetness, first of the bride and groom and then the tone and example they set for all. It was a picture book wedding set on a most glorious summer's day.

The ceremony, solemn, the reception, one of delight and rejoicing with the entire family in attendance; the 'cake', strawberry shortcake.

The scene now changed. Not too many weeks down the pathway, Elder Sister #1 brought forth a dear little lass. This wee child was welcomed into a home where grace is ever present, where calm and quiet voices are the normal way of life. She became the instant possession of a not too-much elder brother who became at once her adoring champion and protector.

[deep breath, re-pack overnight bag]

But six days later, and a number of miles to the north, wee lass # 2 entered the clan's heart. This dear child is the first-born and enters a home where love abounds, just waiting to engulf her.

[Please note, Dear Reader, that each of these new little princesses are perfect in every way. And in the way of adorable wee things have already captured the heart of all comers.]

Looking back to scenario # 1, there is mostly gratitude and awe at the strength of survival of those long ago days. In the here and now there is again gratitude but tears of great joy, and those in abundance. In the past there was no time for tears. This time, as only a spectator, it is far easier to just watch, to savor and delight.

Often in my life there has been the thought that the only regret is not having had more children. At present, reviewing the continual blessings to me, to us, the heart is so full I think this earthen vessel would burst to bits if there were more. There are not enough rich, meaningful words to express my wonder, my thanksgiving to my God and King.

The words of the apostle Paul seem a fitting close.

For what is our hope or happiness,
our victor's wreath of triumph
when we stand in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming?
Are not you?
For you are indeed our glory and our joy!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A Fresh Breeze From the Overfamiliar

Yesterday was a grand day for our clan, a truly blessed day. A new little lamb arrived, a sweet pink bundle of blessing in human form. Added to that, her arrival was on an auntie's birthday. Is that not a double gift?

As I was counting my blessings, all this made me wonder what Psalms in Common Prayer were within the bounds for the day. One of those is Psalm 23. How appropriate is that?

But, as precious a Psalm as it is, it seems too common, if such a blasphemous word can be applied to the Word. The treasured phrases have become so commonplace in their usage. Its language is inserted in unholy movie scenarios, it is quoted without much feeling in too many instances, even in the church setting.

Here then is what I found. This is the metric version of this beloved Psalm of David from the 1856 edition of the Book of Common Prayer.

The Lord, Himself, the mighty Lord,
Vouchsafes to be my guide;
The shepherd, by whose constant care
My wants are all supplied.

In tender grass He makes me feed,
And gently there repose;
Then leads me to cool shades, and where
Refreshing water flows.

He does my wandering soul reclaim,
And, to His endless praise,
Instruct with humble zeal to walk
In His most righteous ways.

I pass the gloomy vale of death,
From fear and danger free;
For there His aiding rod and staff
Defend and comfort me.

Since God doth thus His wondrous love
Through all my life extend,
That life to Him I will devote,
And in His presence spend.


That will do nicely. Quite well indeed, actually. Excellently so.


Monday, October 4, 2010

The Year Of The Daughters, Part 1

Daughters Three. Close in age, to be sure, close by blood and Blood, also remaining very close by sisterly affection. All grew to become remarkably gifted, breath-takingly beautiful, amazingly witter, clever, funny women. All are the delight of all who know them and love them.

For myself, not only do I feel blessed by their being on this planet, but I consider them among my most treasured and trusted friends. That is not such an odd thing. After all, we grew up together.

Sovereignty has called these daughters to quite different pilgrim paths, quite different life styles, and for many years placed them in quite different geographic locations.

The story of their years would read quite differently in many respects just as that of their mother.

Every year of our lives has had significance. Every year is memorable yet all are not remembered equally. Some fade and blend into the others. Some, however, are highlighted in the mind and heart because of events.

One year in particular was like no other. First there was a wedding, the eldest, Daughter Number 1 of this narrative, and Number 1 in truth.

It was a most beautiful, and for our family, grand wedding.

It was Big City. It was High Church. It was Glorious Cathedral. The bride was gowned in a swath of lovely Designer creativity. But like the other two previous, the bride was beautiful and radiant. The groom too, for that matter was radiant - yes, grooms can glow too.

The ceremony, solemn, the reception boisterous, the 'cake', apple pie.

And so from a glorious wedding, another solid, loving marriage began.

Within a few short days the theme switched. There was a baby to be born by the youngest of the daughters, Number 2 in this story.

A dear, wee lad entered the family. The homecoming was a small, cozy mountain cabin knee deep in Autumn's golden splendor. There was no bustle or fanfare. All was peaceful and picture book - very Little House on the Prairie, or in this case, on the hill in the woods. Two still-small daughters greeted the new arrival with gentle sisterly regard. All was love and affection and peace.

Swiftly moving days, again very few in number, found the focus of yet another event, yet another little one's arrival. Daughter 3 of this account was actively involved. Up North and Back of Beyond in snowy Alaska became the birthplace of a dear wee lass. Many miles were traveled between the small town of her birth to the log cabin home where she would begin her life's pilgrimage. She too, was greeted and lovingly received by two older adoring sisters and ushered into a home of peace.

All these events happened in a ten day span. There was hardly time to catch the breath or shift the mental gears, yet each is seen with the eyes of the heart in vivid, living color. Each is seen, while separate, as truly wonderful. A highly colored swath in the family tapestry.

From these have been added many lovely events and memories, other babies and weddings of some of these babies. Yes, a very rich tapestry. Numerous blessings of Grace from the Father of All Grace and Faithfulness.

Please stand by, Dear Reader for Part 2 of this saga.