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

Sunday, December 25, 2011

On Christmas Day in the Morning

The Baby we worship today is alive eternally,

both in our hearts and beyond time and space,

the King Who must reign.

~ J. B. Phillips

But where Thou dwellest, Lord,

No other thought should b,

Once duly welcomed and adored,

How should I part with Thee?

Bethlehem must lose Thee soon, but Thou wilt grace

The single heart to be Thy sure abiding place.

~ John Keble

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Word: Promised, Given, Made Flesh

This Christmas season, the reality of the Incarnation has meant more to me than ever before. Perhaps it is simply age, but I think rather it is the needing to know that Immanuel truly is with me in my daily round. When the world goes on its merry way, whirling and humming in its ever moving swirling pattern, it is easy to feel alone particularly when the path of the moment has potholes and boulder strewn between bogs and marshes.

Yet, there are always faithful reminders to encourage, to lift the eyes and the spirit.

"God's with-us-ness means that He has taken our nature upon Him to accompany us as friend and shepherd during the pilgrimage...." so Paul Zahl has written. Once again, footprints.

There is this too, lines from Dora Greenwell's wonderful hymn:

And art Thou come with us to dwell,

Our Prince, our Guide, our Love, our Lord?

And is Thy name Emmanuel,

God present with His world restored?

...The world is glad for Thee! ...And all is well,

And fixed and sure, because Thou art,

Whose name is called Emmanuel!

May our Lord Emmanuel, fill your minds and hearts, Dear Reader, with the assurance of His presence season.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Help us to rise to a fit gratitude

for the over-running blessings

which Thou givest ever,

even to the darkest lot and life,-

the temporal felicities,

the Divine comforts,

the Eternal hopes.

That all things are of Thy mercy,

by Thy mercy,

and in Thy mercy, we thank Thee.

Make us to sing Thy song in the light,

and in the night to touch Thy hand

and be at peace.

~Henry Wilder Foote - 1838-1889

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Met Thomas a' Kempis On This Day's Journey

O Lord my God, be not Thou far from me;

my God, have regard to help me,

for there have risen up against me sundry thoughts

and great fears, afflicting my soul.

How shall I pass through unhurt?

how shall I break them to pieces?

This is my hope, my only one consolation,

to flee unto Thee,

to call upon Thee from my inmost heart,

and to wait patiently for Thy consolation.


How did he know I needed this?
O yes, He knew!
Praise Him.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

That Holy Thing

They all were looking for a king
To slay their foes, and lift them high;
Thou cam'st a little baby thing
That made a woman cry.

O Son of man, to right my lot
Naught but thy presence can avail;
Yet on the road the wheels are not,
Nor on the sea thy sail!

My fancied ways why shouldst thou heed?
Thou cam'st down thine own secret stair;
Com'st down to answer all my need,
Yea, every bygone prayer!

~George MacDonald

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Perfect Endings, New Beginnings

Forty years ago, while a contented wife and mother living the farm life, the Provider came home and announced he was leaving teaching. That was one day. The next on his returning home he announced he had been offered a youth pastor position in a city to the North.

This became a dramatic turning point in what became my pilgrimage. By nature, I am a nester. Roots are put down deeply and quickly. I love the land. All that is wrapped up in the country life is my ideal. At this time in our lives we were happily Mennonite, my parents lived on the other side of our barn, my sister down the road. The children's school was the best of all possible situations. All this to be traded for an uncertain life and ministry with rich city teenager? We went (in my heart- as a Mennonite missionary to the Baptists:) . Long story short: my heel marks can still be seen the distance up Oregon's old Highway 99.

Oh yes. It should also be mentioned that the private life is another aspect of my ideal. The public arena is for the brave, the outgoing sanguine sort of folk, not for those who hear the whispered appeal of the cloister life.

And so it came to pass that life as we knew it was turned on its head. Fortunately, a fixed pattern of devotional life had been established in my early mothering years. This became the most important ballast in my ever-rocking boat through all future storms and seas.

As we went to this new ministry, a passage of scripture was claimed never imagining that my Lord would use that selection, time and again through the years to humble, strip, and shape me bringing me to the place that with David and through tears I could to say "Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul like a weaned child with his mother...." I did not yet understand John Donne's prayer to "batter my heart three-personed God." But the learning began.

Now, at the other end of those 40 years, and 8 ministries later, we come to the end of that road. This ending coming about as abruptly as the first. At months' end comes the final leaving a beloved Body of believers by resignation.

We leave this present place after 10 years. This is the longest ever spent in one location in 55 years of marriage. It has been a good and peaceful ministry and blessed in so many ways.

So there is the perfect ending. Now a new beginning.

This new trail will be oh so different, difficult as well, I have no doubt. The Man, the centerpiece of my life and life experiences has terminal cancer. We have agreed that there will be no extreme measures sought. It seems inconsistent to pour caustic chemicals into an already compromised body, and that body, incidentally being the temple of Almighty God's indwelling Spirit. Then too, what does that say to the watching world - a reluctance to see our Savior face to face?

Perhaps these are simplistic thoughts. But we also have before us the perfect example of how the righteous are to face death through the valiant example set by our precious son-in-law three years ago.

Now we shall see what we are truly made is definitely 'show time'. All that we have taught, all that we think we have learned, all we have said we know is now laid bare and on the line. We truly set off into the Unknown. But we are not alone. Our children and grands journey with us as well as friend gathered through the years. Yet that's not all.

We do have our nails pounded in a Sure Place - the certainty of a Sovereign God, the experiential knowledge of His Faithfulness, the promise of His Presence. We have trusted Him in the past, we can trust Him with our future - He already being There.

Ebenezer...Emmanuel...we are Mercy covered and Grace sustained by His following Love.

Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,

I will exult in the victorious God of my salvation.

The Lord is my strength and my personal bravery,

He makes my feet like hinds feel

and will make me to walk

[not stand still in terror but to walk]

and make progress upon my high places,

of trouble, suffering or responsibility.

So sang the prophet Habakkuk, and the Septuagint adds "that I may conquer by His song."

And so onward, upward, rejoicing, singing, clinging!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Second Sunday of Advent

"...Ere by the spheres time was created, thou

Wast in his mind, who is thy Son, and Brother;

Whom thou conceiv'st, conceived; yea thou art now

Thy Maker's maker, and thy Father's mother;

Thou hast light in dark; and shut'st in little room,

Immensity cloistered in thy dear womb."

~ John Donne 1572-1631

Friday, December 2, 2011

..And Speaking of Treasures...

Some days bring surprises, serendipitous gifts filled with wonder and delight. Such is the day recently enjoyed in the company of one of my Precious Treasures. My treasures accumulated through the years come in the form of flesh and blood beings. (These are the treasures, incidentally, that last for Eternity. Praise Him!)

This particularly darling girl could truly be added to my amazing grand daughter collection. She reads voraciously, loves Jane A. Elizabeth Gaskell, and God's Word. She loves cooking, baking and eating. She loves beauty in all forms. She loves Nature and travels with a camera. She is sweet, funny, honest and all round adorable. (She also fly fishes with her dad. Awesome!)

This one is also a pilgrim whose path has had challenges that have tested her faith and refined her gold. She is a child of mine, not by blood, but through The Blood.

So, there was a phone call, a setting of time for meeting. This wasn't to be just tea and chat, we have done that numerous times. This was hopefully to give help with a college research paper yet to be written. Neither of us could have known the outcome.

The questions she brought struck an important personal, timely note. The conversation that followed not only gave her material for her writing, hopefully, but gave me opportunity to frame with words, to say out loud, the ways in which I've been lead on my own pilgrim way to this new season, how the Hidden Hand has been revealed in my life through the years, how Life's trials and trails have molded and shaped.

How amazing that just such an exercise was the needful reminder for my own challenging Now.

I can't be certain of possible blessings given to my Treasure, I am only certain of the ones received from her. And I thank our mutual Father for His good gifts.

[I love you my darling girl.]

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Hat Pins and Button Hooks

New Zealand essayist/Minister Frank W. Borham (1871-1959) tells the story of a small girl running in from school telling her momma that she has learned punctuation. She goes on to explain that "if you say that a thing is so you just put a hat-pin after it; but if you are only asking whether it is so or not, you put a button hook."

Boreham concludes that sooner or later all life matters are reduced down to these two categories: either "certainties or suspicions".

As I was gathering thoughts on the Christmas account of Mary this morning, I saw this

'reduction' there. Mary had her questions in the beginning - big questions - concerning the things which were angel announced. Yet, as understanding came to her, the certainties grew larger and were seen more clearly as the questions were answered and faded away.

Mary's certainties included a settled trust in Her God and with that who she was in His sight and plan.

All this becomes a comfort to me that the really big things are represented by hat pins. My certainties in my Faith-walk outweigh my fears or speculations, they are 'stuck in'. The things that can either wait or be put aside by button hooks.

My faith is the assurance of things unseen. I can embrace the "Glorious Impossibles" in the birth account of the Christ child. I can and do cling to the merits of my Savior's cross, and the strength and mystery of His risen power. There is the certainty of the goodness and mercy that follows me all my days. Oh, and so very much more.

In these simple truths of pins and hooks, is security from the unsettling issues of my life. Here, like a little sparrow in the sight of my watchful God, I can build my nest and find rest.