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, May 31, 2010

Honor Due

No experience or sight has ever moved me like that of Arlington National Cemetery. Its situation is so beautiful, so peaceful, serene. Such a paradox considering what it represents. What speaks to me, what touches so very deeply are the numbers. Obviously the number of white crosses in endless rows, each representing a life. But not a single life only, and this is what overwhelms, each cross, each life speaks to so many others whose dreams were shattered and lives unalterably changed forever. Loss unspeakable, grief unbearable.

So this day, while words seem but a shabby offering of deeper feeling, there is heart-gratitude for those who have defended our country, their country through the generations, in war and in peacetime. There is the greatest respect also for those who have lived, who do live with the loss of one loved who fell in or because of battle.

There is the deepest honor felt for those who even now offer their lives for me, for others in wars not of their making.

Giver of strength, O bless and aid
Thy servants 'gainst the foe arrayed;
Go forth with them to fight!
In battle's storm their shelter be;
Thy Spirit grant, of unity
O counsel and of might.
Watch o'er the wounded in the field,
And, where the sick and dying yield
Their souls, do Thou be nigh!
Give peace within the heart distressed,
And peace on earth, and last and best,
Thy peace beyond the sky. Amen
`Elizabeth Wordsworth, 1885, Hymns A & M

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sloth and Tepidity

Reading from an ancient text this morning, my mind-travel came full stop when these words appeared. 'Sloth' always conjures up the image of that unattractive creature hanging upside down from a branch. Spiritually speaking presenting an appearance to avoid at all cost at all times.

But 'tepidity' - that's not a word found often in our vocabulary. While a funny seeming word for today's usage, it certainly apt and has its profound spiritual application. This is not a characteristic that is pleasing. Tepid, lukewarm, nausea producing and wholly displeasing, disgusting to the Father.

Sloth and tepidity - not to be seen in the individual, not to be found in the Church.

The text continues:

It is time now to rise from my sloth and tepidity.
Today I will obey God's voice,
No longer will I harden my heart.
O God! Teach me Thy fear.
May I work while it is yet day,
"for the night cometh when no man can work."
May I run in Thy ways while I have the light of life,
lest the darkness of death seize me.

It always comes down to either/or: sloth and tepidity or obedience, working and running.
It is either the light of life in the soul or the darkness of death.

Not always easy.

But rousing, rising obedience is the rule of conduct, of life, of pilgrimage.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Iron Shoes For This Day

Some days the to-do list seems to exceed the energy level. This is one of those days. So when I read Moses's blessing for the tribe of Asher I not only giggled, I was encouraged. (Deut. 33.25)

We are all familiar with the last phrase of the verse " thy days so shall thy strength be". That is a promise that always 'fits' and we are always heartened at the thought of it.

But the first phrase is the promise of an amazingly long-lasting form of equipment (this from the King James version) and what struck me today: "thy shoes shall be iron and brass...." Designer shoes of extreme durability for special needs on special days.

While I have preferred bare feet my life long, the idea of shoes to fit the needs of the day is a profound one.

Not everyone is promised iron shoes; they are given when needed and only if they will do the job required. The thought of the extra strength implied suits me this day.. and the footprints they leave should be noticeable, don't you think?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Weather Report

Quite unbelievable!
Today the sky is clear, the sun shines.

Amy Charmichael wrote long ago that "all weathers nurture souls".
Where storm, rain and hail are concerned my soul feels a bit over-nurtured this Spring.

It is a truth, the storms of life do cause growth. I'm most grateful for that fact. But for this Monday in late May, I'm dancing with the thought of warmth and bright.

As I root about in the garden I shall give thanks to the God of All Weathers but shall particularly delight in the sun This Day.


Wishing a happy Victoria Day to all Canadians.
What an amazing queen and woman she was!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Lord's Day Thoughts

O Lord,
I have a wild heart,
and cannot stand before Thee...;
My mind is a bucket without a bottom...,
My will is without power of decision or resolution.
My heart is without affection and full of leaks,
My memory has no retention,
so I forget easily the lessons learned,
and Thy truths seep away.
Give me a broken heart that yet carries home the water of Grace.

He shall drink of the brook in the way;
therefore shall he lift up his head.
Psalm 110.7 - Common Prayer

He drinks from any stream he has to cross,
then charges forward triumphing.
Psalm 110.7 - Moffatt

Friday, May 21, 2010

A Lovely Bit of Burns

Yesterday Scottish poet Robert Burns was mentioned. This poem is among his writings but had never encountered it before. It seemed a startling contrast to what one expects of Mr. Burns. It is a lovely paraphrase of the first Psalm.

Savor and enjoy, Dear Reader.

The man, in life wherever plac'd
Hath happiness in store,
Who walks not in the wicked's way,
Nor learns their guilty lore!

Nor from the seat of scornful pride
Casts forth his eyes abroad,
But with humility and awe
Still walks before his God.

That man shall flourish like the trees,
Which by the streamlets grow;
The fruitful top is spread on high,
And firm the root below.

But he whose blossom buds in guilt
Shall to the ground be cast,
And, like the rootless stubble, tost
Before the sweeping blast.

For why? that God the good adore,
Hath giv'n them peace and rest,
But hath decreed that wicked men
Shall ne'er be truly blest.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Little Bit Celtic

It's true. It's hereditary. Our blood is mixed but there is a strong rivulet from the Celtic stream.

There are those of us who thrill to the sound of a piper's Scotland the Brave or Amazing Grace. There is something very powerful in the appearance of a man in kilts, knee sox and gillies. Tales of Bonny Prince Charlie, of the courageous and unbending Covenanters and many others strengthen and encourage. We may no longer paint our faces as in Braveheart but the spirit is stirred by these things.

I'll not mention the fact that there are faerie houses in our gardens and all that sort of silliness because today the thoughts are along the lines of the spirituality that goes with this tradition.

There may be those of our branch who would choose to go back only as far as the Scots Presbyterian influence, yet for today's specific thought we must travel farther back.

This focus is a word really, and all that word brings to heart and mind.
"anamchara". The word means 'soul-friend', one who is a spiritual counselor.

We all need someone with whom to share our deepest self. This so we can hear and see ourselves as we truly are. (As Robert Burns wrote:"O wad some Power the giftie gie us, to see oursels as ithers see us!") We need someone who can encourage us to be our best selves, a kindred spirit who can be trusted to be truthful.

Our perfect Soul-friend is most certainly our loving Lord. That in no way diminishes the need of our humanity for one 'with skin on'.

So Dear Reader, may you have a true anamchara in your life, one who travels your journey along side, who strengthens your heart in God.

Deep peace, a quiet rain to you;
Deep peace, an ebbing wave to you!
Deep peace, pure green of grass to you'
Deep peace, pure brown of quiet earth to you;
Deep peace of pure blue sky above you;
Deep peace of the Son of Peace to you;
In the name of the Three who are One,
Peace, Deep peace;
And by the Grace of the King of Heaven and all these,
Peace, Deep Peace!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Lest We Forget... count our blessings that is.

This Day, at this point in my journey has been so blessing filled. Small ones perhaps in the greater scheme of things. Yet I must not fail to count out loud or recount the joys that make a common day one of bliss for me.

A soft spring rain to bless the growing garden.
Roses beginning to bloom.
Sweet peas breaking through the ground.
A grand daughter calling with plans for a future visit,
her future baby, the name planned,
and C. S. Lewis.
A grand daughter calling concerning a planned visit,
and quilting.
A beloved niece calling about a radio broadcast,
first loves of daughters,
grand-mother-of-the bride dresses,
and family.
A husband calling ahead regarding dinner timing.
Long ignored chores accomplished happily between these lovely calls.

How's that for a list of the ordinary, with the extraordinary mixed in?
Our God is so amazing with His scattering of little joy dot through our days.
I am bewildered by the abundance of my blessings.
I rejoice.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Feeling Noble, Or is it Smug?

I don't even own a clothes dryer.
Displaying my garments outside along a taught line,
even in winter,
is a cleaning chore that knits me all togeather again,
unlike anything else.
~Mary Jane Butters

Truth to tell, I do own a clothes dryer. Frankly, in the Pacific Northwest, it would be one of the last electricity eater I'd willingly give up.

However. today there is an open, friendly sky. So pretty pastel sheets and pillow cases flutter on the line in the back garden.

It's a happy thing on a Spring day.
And yes, I do feel ever so smug about it.

What is more, those items will smell delicious when back in their accustomed place.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Happy Mother's Day

To all of you, Dear Readers, who are mothers, to those of you who will be, my best wishes to you for a special day of recognition.

Viewing left you will see the reasons why I consider myself the most blessed of women.

Four children with whom to grow up , to delight in and enjoy makes for the very best and happiest of lives.

Four children growing into productive, loving, funny, clever and spiritual centered adults make for a heart-bursting pride, ("pride in the best sense").

And unending gratitude to a most faithful God the giver of only good gifts.

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

Friday, May 7, 2010

Random Phrases, Random Thoughts.

The phrases are from Psalm 35 as found in the Book of Common Prayer.

"and my soul shall be joyful in the Lord;
it shall rejoice in his salvation.
All my bones shall say, Lord
who is like unto thee...?"

It is as though David in this 'song of struggles' cannot be content with just saying the words. His experiences with his God go wide and deep. So must the expression of his heart. The depth of his feelings and his praise seem even to have penetrated his very bones. Even his bones declare the reality and truth of his devotion.
"O deliver my soul from the calamities
which they [mine adversaries] bring on me,
and my darling from the lions."

Just as in truth God collects our tears in His bottle and records our griefs, so our Adversary keeps record of all our sins and wrong doings. These he uses to remind us of our spiritual treason. These he rehearses before the Throne. And in Grace, the One on that Throne reminds him of our status by both promise and right of purchase.
But it is the term "my darling" the is the sweet part of this verse. What an interesting choice of words! My darling is my soul - my one and only, my solitary one. The secret, private inner me that feels desolate, deserted, hopeless. But here is the reminder that regardless of the accusations and roarings of that lion, the enemy of our souls, our 'darling' is also God's dear one and so will find rescue and be safe.
"And as for my tongue,
it shall be talking of thy righteousness,
and of thy praise,
all the day long."

Our life is not to be only a tedium of repetitions, of words. Words are important, but as Augustine reminds us if we sing, we praise. Whatever is done well is praise. When we do not do evil, that too is praise. To do no wrong when transacting business is praise. Now quoting Augustine directly:
"Dost thou till thy field? Then do not [fret], thou has praised God.
In the innocency of thy works prepare thyself to praise God all the day long."

So Dear Reader and fellow pilgrim, let us 'till today's field' in faithfulness and with rejoicing.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

"The Gospel of Grab"

Isn't that a great phrase?

It was coined by David Brown, Canon of Durham Cathedral. It appears in regard of course, to the personal self-indulgent lust for things, toys as well as status.

In the on going struggle to "simplify, simplify" it gives a graphic and powerful title to the cycle of madness in which we allow ourselves to be caught.

Canon Brown is speaking of the writings of the apostle Paul. Notwithstanding the 'reformation message' of the justification by faith alone, the heart of Paul's message, he writes, is that the root of all sin is self-centeredness. "Pride is the worst fault as it cuts us off from a sense of dependency on others, and thus essentially upon God."

Pride. Self-centeredness. The cult of Me. Things. Here is our problem, the problem, my problem. Ouch!

Certainly no new thoughts here. Just for today a refreshed awareness and reminder to choose the right gospel by which to rule our lives.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Spiritual Spring and Gertrude

A Spring garden is a wonder of spiritual teaching and thought. Spring, I think, is the best of times. Plants that have hunkered down dully with the cold of winter begin to awaken, to stretch out with fresh growth. They flourish forth taking their place becoming a proper garden. This growth can almost be felt in the air, it for certain brings a fresh fragrance to it.

So with us. There are seasons of the soul. There are the dark wintry times when the soul is shapeless, lifeless, dull. Then something and Someone awaken us once again. Soft rains fall. The sun shines. Growth begins again.

Gertrude of Helfia, 1256-1302, was a German Benedictine mystic. Not a 'saint' in the canonized way of things, yet a woman of spirit, of influence and deep devotion. She loved lists. These she made for herself in order to keep the steps of her pilgrimage properly directed.

She begins one such list, a prayer really, with "Dear Jesus, make me perfect in fearing you. Make me pleasing to you in humility of purity of my heart, in the guarding of my senses, in the holiness of life...." She continues with a specific request for every aspect of her life that her life may be just that, a pleasing life of holiness.

It is in her closing thoughts that all these become Spring echos " the blessed consummation of your cherishing-love":

"so that the thorn bush of my heart may be converted
into a paradise of all virtues
and a red berry bush of total perfection,
as if it were a field blessed by the Lord,
full of all peace, holiness and devotion."

This Spring, it is my desire to remember Gertrude as I watch the fruit ripen, the color change on my garden's currant bush remembering the goal to be 'a red berry bush...blessed by my Lord, full of all peace, holiness and devotion.'

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Courage, Pilgrim

Some of us are by nature, not so much shy as fearful (that would be me!) So when the teacher challenged us on Sunday with defining 'witness' and 'testimony' the feeling came over me that 'we're in for it now'.

We were reminded of what we know, that in the Greek a 'witness' comes from the same root word as 'martyr'. Witness is risk

In the English dictionary along with the obvious meanings of giving witness to a fact or truth, it emphasises that this profession is to be done openly. Hebrew adds "to say again and again". Once is not enough, it seems. It is continuous action.

Peter and John stood accused by the Sandhedrin. They were told to "speak no more in That Name". Their answer given sums it all up neatly: "we are unable not to speak of the things which we have seen and heard". (Acts. 4) And this after they had received not just the warning and threats but also contempt.

It was said of John Knox "He feared God so much that he never feared the face of any man."

Martin Luther concluding his defence before the Church hierarchy stated "Here I stand. I can do no other." Another time when the papal envoy threatened Martin that in the end he would be deserted by all his supporters. "Where will you be then?" the envoy asked. "Then as now," Luther answered, "in the hands of God."

When Peter and John were once again among with their band of brothers, prayer was offered. In that we have our simple guidelines. They set before themselves the remembrance of their Lord and His triumph. They prayed for courage knowing full well their continued witness could mean martyrdom. And the result was the promise and comfort of the Spirit Himself.

H. G. Wells said: "The trouble with so many people is that the voice of their neighbours sounds louder in their ears than the voice of God."

Fear or courage? That would be the bottom line.

Once again fellow pilgrims, we have our challenge for This Day so head up, shoulders back....