Hearts and Flowers

Dear Reader,

Thank you for your patience during the recent lull in my blogging. To explain in the fewest possible words,

I met the man of my dreams and fell in love.

There is nothing like meeting your soul-mate at long last to hijack all your attention and derail all your work plans.

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You are not forgotten readers. I intend to get back on track and begin to post regularly once more.

As we roll into February and everyone else talks roses and chocolates I will attempt to temper all my romantic hopes and thoughts with words of rest and reassurance found in Christ.

That is my plan, my mind may be distracted by thoughts of my Beloved and wedding plans, but I will attempt to share words of inspiration and reflection that will be meaningful for those in all relationship statuses.IMG_2739

I will begin by reflecting on the nature of wisdom.

I wrote before about defining success. Wisdom is often viewed as the quality of having good judgement. In James chapter three wisdom is described as being of two kinds. He refers to one kind of “wisdom” as being, earthly, unspiritual and devilish. This is said to come from envy and selfish ambition. He said that this type of wisdom leads to every kind of wickedness.

James is right in pointing out to us that why we are looking for wisdom will often affect what type of wisdom we acquire.

If we merely want to prove a point we look only for the facts that substantiate our opinion. We may not even consider or notice factors that work against our preconceived notions. Our ambitions can easily blind us.

The other type of wisdom that James mentions is A Gentle Wisdom described in James 3:17,

“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy.”

In my opinion this is the wisdom I value the most. I don’t want to be blinded by an agenda. I do not appreciate ideas that are driven by someone’s ulterior motives.

The quest to find Gentle Wisdom is long and arduous.

The journey has a variety of challenges and the landscape changes and we are refashioned by the adventure. This is the pilgrimage of life. If we are not shaped and refined by the process we are not really engaged in the journey.

When we encounter life fully and skirmish with the truth we learn more of Gentle Wisdom.

In some respects it is only possible to see this wisdom after we are wounded and battle-hardened by the struggle of life. Wisdom is the reward of those who grapple with Truth and Life. Those looking for the easy way inevitably end up seduced by the worldly wisdom that leads to despair. For those who undertake the campaign for Truth the victory is not the cessation of all difficulty, but the blessing of Gentle Wisdom.

Endeavor to hold fast to the Truth and Gentle Wisdom will be the crown that is placed upon the head of the righteous.

If we fight for a crown of our own making we will drive ourselves to defeat. Abide in Christ-the Truth and victory is assured.

Grace and Blessings on you all in 2016!

Row On

I don’t know where I am going-but I do. I have no idea what the journey has in store but I do know where the path leads. This life in Christ has been called a pilgrimage-journey to a sacred place.

This pilgrim life is fraught with peril and adversity yet blessed beyond compare. It is a study in contrasts. The (in)Courage writing group was asked when we feel as though we have “rowed against the tide?” Perseverance is to be the topic for this week.

At first I tried to think of a time I persevered successfully. Then it occurred to me that my whole life has felt like “rowing against the tide.” The tide reminds me of all the world’s pull toward apathy and self-preservation in a world gone terribly awry.

Do you ever watch the TV news? I hear about it from my Dad and watch it sometimes. Mainly I rely on headlines and tweets online from my local station. I find it necessary to fast from the news with some frequency. It makes the world look so bad-so hopeless. The sky is about to fall, or so it seems.

I think they tell less than half the story. That is what people often want-the bad news. I am convinced that there is far more good in the world than bad. I think that there is far more love, goodness and self-sacrifice in the heart of man than you would ever believe if you watch the news everyday.

I believe that life is worth persevering through because good ultimately triumphs over evil. I don’t know what trials lie ahead but, I do know where victory lies. Jesus rose from the grave. Death has lost it’s sting. It may be Lent but Easter is a reality. Jesus said, “It is finished!”

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I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!”

I row against the tide because like Ferrar Burn in The Writing Life by Annie Dillard I know the tide will turn. Row on fellow pilgrim!

Life is what happens while you’re making other plans.
You sail out on the ocean
Ever father from dry land.
The slowly, rolling rhythm of the ship upon the sea
Lulls you melodically into deep monotony.
The wind and waves and waving flags,
So endlessly the same,
That it hardly seems you’re moving
As you roll across the waves.

And then comes the tempest.
You’re tossed into the air.
You look about to discover that
You’re in the middle of nowhere!
In the middle of the ocean,
Beaten, battered and lost,
It causes you to wonder,
“What was worth this cost?”

“Where am I going?
What will be my end?”
Fear, doubt and rising sense of dread
Accompany you on your journey
Through life’s uncertainty.
Life is not what you expected
In the land of early youth,
When the world was yours for the taking
And dreams seemed all the truth.

Life-one discovers,
Is not the brilliant dream that starts
Nor the glorious triumph
As you finally conclude your part.
No, life is simply very wet
For life is lived in the ocean.
It’s unfulfilled as yet.
Most of it is lived in the great in-betweens,
Between the place you came from
And the land of your dreams.

We Can Get There From Here

When I was growing up my family liked to go camping. Every weekend we could get away we packed up the camper and took off for one of the state parks. Our favorite park had a private beach for the campers and you could see the lake from your campsite. The closest park also had it’s attributes, the primary of these being proximity. I spent many happy weekends there as a kid. You could not get to the beach without a drive unfortunately. So the beach was saved for Sunday afternoon on our way home.

One Saturday I begged to go swimming. It was a hot and steamy afternoon and I longed to go to the beach. My father had no intention of disconnecting our utility hook-up, taking down our attached screen room and driving 15 minutes to the beach that day. He did however love his daughter and my pleading did get the best of him. He did one of the things I learned from him to do well. He improvised. He told me to get my swimsuit on and picked up a lawn chair to sit in. I took a lawn chair of my own and off we went…on foot.

There were hiking trails of various difficulties all over the parks we visited. Hiking the trails was our favorite pastime on those camping trips. He led me on to a familiar trail, and I asked why we were walking. He told me that we could get to the beach from where we were. A little way down the trail he took a left turn off the trail and into the brush. That part was not nice and I complained of the briars on my bare legs. Soon we were on another trail. And on and on. We criss-crossed from one trail to another trying to get through the woods to the lake.

I had not known you could walk to the lake this way, but my Dad said he could take me there from here. So, I followed. It seemed to be taking a long time, but just as I would begin to give up hope we could hear the sounds of kids splashing and people playing at the beach. Surely we were almost there. From one trail to another with cross-country jaunts between them forward we went.

Since we were carrying lawn chairs it made sense to stop and rest but we never sat down. My Dad led the way with his lawn chair in one hand and his ubiquitous walking stick in the other. I carried a lawn chair with coloring pad and colored pencils shoved down in the folded seat. It is odd in a way, we could have paused and taken in the scenery and made a day of it, but we were in such a hurry to get to the beach, we did not stop and take the view in.

At one point we were in a high pine forest and all was quiet, the scorching sun was no longer beating down upon us. I will always remember that forest. The cool, shade and the scent of the pine. I wanted to stop and rest, but no. “Just a little bit further”, my father replied. We did not stop. We walked on hiking trails. horse trails, service roads, non-roads. We went and went, yet still the beach was just out of reach.

Eventually we both knew that we weren’t going to get to the beach. We just wanted to get back to our camper and the rest of the family. “I guess you can’t get there from here.” my Dad finally acknowleged. We had caught sight of the lake so many times, heard the laughter from the beach but we could not reach the lake shore at all, much less the swimming beach.

We were both wearing thin soled canvas shoes, suitable for the beach but not hiking in the rocky woods. Our feet became so sore that we could not bear to walk on the gravel roads, or even the paved main road which we eventually came out on, far from the campsite. We walked in the grass along side the road, thankful it would finally lead us home.

When we reached the camper my mother and sister asked how the beach had been. We sighed. Daddy explained. I took a well earned nap.

The next day we stopped at the park office on the way home and got a map. Retracing where we had been we discovered that we had gone ten miles and completely circumnavigated the lake. The roads and trails all led alongside the lake, but none went to the lake. You could not get there from where we had been without a compass and good planning.

Our simple hike through the woods to the beach became legend in our family. We took no pictures, but I see it all vividly in memory. When I went looking for pictures of the lake in the old photo albums, I discovered to my dismay that the 30 year old photos have faded. Another of our favorite parks’ lodge was up for sale a few years ago. The years roll by, but memories still hold, even the scent of the pine forest.

I realize in remembering this episode that I never doubted my father’s ability as a guide. I followed him through thicket and trail, forded small streams without bridges and never looked back. I did complain some. The briars scratched my legs and I wanted to sit and rest in the forest. Still, I didn’t pester him and make a fuss. By the time I realized the beach was not accessible I was too tired to care.

Do I follow my Heavenly Father as well as I followed Daddy? I trust Him to lead me right. But I do a good bit of complaining sometimes. Life is a lot like a hike. It gets steep and rocky. There are briars and bugs. Sometimes the sun is too hot and sometimes it is just too cold. When we find a good place to rest, we are hurried on. This pilgrimage however, has one advantage. When God says we can get there from here He knows what He is talking about.

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