Pilgrim Road Blog Photo

Pilgrim Road Blog Photo

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Great Consolation

Dear friends,

The Consolation of Israel…that’s what Simeon was waiting for.

Reading the account in Luke of Simeon’s encounter with the infant Jesus is like witnessing someone opening the best Christmas present ever.  Simeon had been waiting his whole life to meet the Messiah.  The Holy Spirit communicated an astonishing truth to him at some point…maybe while he was playing stick ball on a dusty Jerusalem street…maybe when he was polishing up some brass candelabra for the temple…maybe when he was reading the scrolls in “Hebrew school”.  This prophet who bridges the chasm between the old covenant and the new got the revelation:  “He’s coming, Simeon.  And you won’t die until you see his face.”

I’m not sure, but somehow I don’t think Simeon was expecting the Christ to be unwrapped from the particular package he arrived in.  Most Jews of the time thought Messiah would appear as an earthly king.  Powerful.  Wealthy.  Stunning.  When an ordinary Jewish carpenter and his young wife entered the temple with their baby, it had to be God Himself once more communicating with Simeon.  Perhaps the old man heard this in his prophetic ears: “Here he is, son.  Look upon the face of your deliver…” 

However it all went down, this was the seminal moment of Simeon’s life.  I can just imagine it.  He takes Jesus in his arms, and blesses the one who was his consolation.  Consolation for all the darkness, sadness, loss and fear Simeon carried as a result of the Fall.  Consolation for the 400 years of silence between God and his fickle, wandering people.  Consolation, indeed, for the whole world, including the pagan Gentiles.  How I wish I could have been a fly on the wall in the temple.  Mary and Joseph (who have already had some wild prophetic visions of their own) are finding out for the first time that Jesus is not only going to be the salvation of the Jews, but of THE WHOLE WORLD.  Luke says that “Mary and Joseph marveled at the things which were spoken of Him.”

The recorded encounter of Simeon with Jesus Christ is concluded with Simeon hinting to Mary of her future suffering, and declaring that this simple child from the tribe of Judah will precipitate the fall and rising of many in Israel, and be a sign that will be spoken against, that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.  If you really think about all of that, your brain will explode.  In this helpless, dependent, fully human being there will be such an intimacy with individual people, that the innermost thoughts and intents of their hearts will be known by this God-Man. 

Jesus did not come to save the masses.  He came to save you.  And me.  He came for all the individual hearts that make up the many.  He didn’t leave one soul out of the mix in His mind boggling plan of redemption and glory.  He entered this broken world to make “the crooked straight and the rough places plain.”  He was not only the consolation of Simeon, and the consolation of Israel, and the consolation of the Gentiles…but your consolation.  He did not come as a rich monarch from heaven (which He is, by the way), but as a humble Judean kid actually wrapped up in rags and sleeping in an animal’s feeding trough.  God understood it would be no consolation to us to have a Savior unacquainted with the hardships, struggles, irritations and disasters of this life.  No, a true consoler is one who knows…one who shares the burden...one who enters in to be a help.

In eternity yet to come, we will no longer need consolation.  There, far from the days of sin and darkness, Jesus will be revealed as the Mighty One of Israel, and all will be joy every minute of every timeless day.  But while we continue to walk the pilgrim road to home, what a Christmas present it is all the time to be loved by the Great Consolation Himself.  I pray God will cause each of us to “marvel at the things that were spoken of Him.”

Merry, Merry Christmas.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Shall We Accept God from God, and Not Trouble?

Dear friends,

Somewhere, in the bleakness of this early December morning, with my crab apple tree stripped and naked, with the cold drizzle leaking from a monotone gray sky, with a heart broken and yet unhealed by a calamity of November’s past, a question hangs in the a shadowy corner of my consciousness. 

“Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”  Job 2:10

Here is that cosmic dilemma once again.  Here again, that question that has ripped from good men their fragile, emerging faith.  Here is that question that we who love God play tennis with all the time, hitting the ball back into the other court, hoping to avoid its insistent clamor, only to find it returning again to be considered by our limited perspective, by our shallow understanding.

In the pediatric icu, the question hangs heavy as a mom and dad wait for their brain injured son, hurt in a car accident, to die as his brain stem shuts down.  In the apartment of Burman refugees, wrapping toothpaste in aluminum foil for Christmas, the question hovers.  It is there too in the midst of an ugly divorce, and wears like a cloak on the parent waiting for the prodigal to return.  Everywhere there is suffering, the theological debate rages invisibly on… Where does the free will of man, often resulting in evil, and the sovereignty of God intersect?  Does He indeed bring trouble to those He most vehemently claims to love “with an everlasting love.”

As I wade through my own losses, digging ever deeper (despite my lack of spiritual skill) into the mine of God’s word I find some consolation.  I turn this thing around a thousand times in my head…the car accident, the fallout, the pain and suffering that continue down unfamiliar roads I didn’t see coming…and it is this word that remains: Emmanuel.  God with us.

Job writhed in anguish of body and soul.  He railed, he complained and he suffered profoundly.  He volleyed that ball back and forth with his God many times.  Read his account, so very human…one moment faithfully hanging on, the next wanting to die, the next madder than a wet hen.  All the while The Great One stays with Job.  Like the faithful friend at the bedside of the feverish, He will not let Job go on alone, even though Job can’t see him there in his misery. 

God replies to Job’s sufferings with Himself.  In that famous speech from the pulpit of heaven, the Ancient of Days points out to the poor man in a myriad of metaphors just how limited human perspective can be.  In the end, Job finds the “God with him”.  He finds Emanuel.  But it’s messy business.  Not a neat tidy story.  And lest you forget, Job never got those dead children back.  He would have to continue on accepting not only good from God, but trouble also.

There is so much more to say.  As I write these words I think of the value the word of God places on suffering to bring great good.  I think of the deliverance and joy that are also splashed across the painting of a life bearing the smudges of evil and grief.  And I see a Savior born in a smelly barn, asking a similar question in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”  ‘If it is possible, could this cup possibly pass me by?”

Thankfully, He accepted trouble to bring us good.  Sins forgiven.  Sorrows consoled.  Death defeated.  Emanuel.  God with us.  Hold on in your suffering.  Before we know it, it will be Christmas and Easter every day.  We  will see all the spiritual cancer the Surgeon’s knife cut loose in our pain.  And like Job, we will simply stand awestruck, and the question will no longer matter.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

October Musings

Dear friends,
Don't miss October.  With all the distractions and vicissitudes of life, please don't miss it.  I asked the Great One not to let ME miss it.  This little ditty combines some of my childhood memories and my current observations.  Hope it makes you smell the dry leaves and feel the nippy wind.  Get outside!  Embrace it before it's gone...

 Sweet October
In October I am five, crunching cross' the sidewalks
Pulling up my itchy, wrinkled tights
Mary janes are scuffed from skipping round and round the block
Spitting out the skins from apple bites

In October I love wind, blowing way' my sorrow
Pumpkins smile despite their pending doom
Library smells of chestnuts and the books I'll borrow
Swoosh of leaves succumbing to the broom
In October strength is givn' for November's losses
Hearts can store up all that's warm and gold
The axis of the Earth is daylight's restless posse
Chlorophyll's auctioneer barks finally "Sold!"
In October tea tastes better, pies' a wonder
Perfection's found in street boys' football spirals
Brides and grooms forbid to ever "put asunder"
Microbes fear the latest anti virals

Hear October! I am grown, but still I crunch
Cross' the sidewalk, through the spunky breeze
In the sorrows, in the sweetness, in the autumn
My hope clings brilliant, like the maple trees

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Places vs. Things

Dear friends,

I’ve always said if I struck it rich (as Jeeves would say “the contingency is a remote one, sir”), I would love to travel extensively.  I’m not the least bit interested in owning a big house, driving a fancy car, or wearing designer clothes.  It’s not that I’m ultra humble, or that I don’t like nice things, but I’m pretty content with the “stuff” of my life.  Sometimes I walk around my house in utter astonishment muttering “thank you Jesus, for my palace!”  I recognize the obvious disparity between my possessions and those of ninety percent of the world.  On my best days I’m practically overwhelmed with gratitude. 

No, what I covet on my worst days and dream of on my better ones is to see the places that decorate this blue ball in the universe.  Mind you, I’ve been blessed with more travel than the average Joe.  Back in my career days with Reading Rainbow I traversed the big 48, and even spent a month in Hawaii.  I wondered at the waterfowl and complex ecosystem of the mighty Chesapeake Bay.  I watched in awe as millions of bats left their guano laden cave at dusk to consume billions of mosquitos somewhere near the Mexican border.  I hiked the Highline Trail in Glacier National Park Montana on the 4th of July and stood face to face with a papa big horn sheep and his harem.  I cried overlooking a vast chasm on the way from Estes Park, Colorado to Aspen.  I’ve met interesting people, from a model train expert in New Jersey to the pig wrastlers at the Pomona County Fair in California.  I stood on the eye of the Statue of Liberty while it was being restored back in the 1980’s. 

Places have personalities.  Much like people, you have to get to know them a little bit to find out the lovely things about them.  Some wow you immediately, some grow on you, and some just aren’t your kind of ice cream.  But I sure would love to try a few more flavors.

For example, I want to visit Dulwich College in England where Ernest Shackleton’s 23 foot whaler, the James Caird is on display.  (That open wooden boat travelled 800 miles in the Arctic Sea and was a vital tool in the rescue of Shackleton’s men from their ordeal near the frozen South Pole – but that’s another story).  In all my travels I still haven’t seen the Grand Canyon.  More than anything, I want to set my feet in the Holy City of Jerusalem.  That, my friends, is one piece of real estate lots of people seem to want to get their hands on…

Alas, I haven’t struck it rich, and right about now with 3 teenagers in the house and the ongoing recovery from a wildly perilous car accident, I won’t be trompsing about in my wayfaring boots anytime soon. 

There is one place that captures my heart more than any other.  That place is heaven.  Some of my my most dearly held secrets contain my thoughts about that celestial homeland.  Our ancient father Abraham’s feelings about that promised land mirror my own: “For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.”  Hebrews 11:10  The appeal of heaven is hard to overstate.  John the Revelator tries to use human language to describe something that defies words. Images foreign to our 21st century imaginations seem weird.  Some folks would have you believe that heaven is not really a place, but a state of mind.  I don’t buy that one.  Rivers, cities, streets…these are all the stuff of places.  No, it will be a real, solid, substantive whereabouts alright.  This world will seem like the wispy shadow land.  That place will team with life and love and freedom. (For a great fictional story about the “realness” of heaven, try C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce).

In the long run, it’s places I prefer to things.  But honestly, I couldn’t care less if heaven were a barn.   The appeal of heaven is my Jesus.  Without Him, it’s not heaven at all.  The most beautiful place in the world is hopelessly boring and sterile without the key ingredient: Relationship.  And eternally speaking, relationship with God is the passport to the wonder and joy of heaven. 

For now, I’m hoping to make this broken place just a wee bit better for some of the other dwellers on this planet.  But when my ticket home comes through, watch out for the woman that’s like a “short, brunette streak of light” (to paraphrase Cary Grant in “Arsenic and Old Lace”).  My pilgrim road days will be over.  My true travellin’ days will have just begun!   

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Blind Leading the Blind

Can a blind man lead a blind man? Luke 6:39

What a picture that verse stirs up in my mind. 

I have a precious friend who is blind.  She astonishes me regularly with her capacity to do things I would kill myself doing with my eyes closed.  She cooks complete meals, washes dishes, runs on her treadmill, does laundry, and takes outstanding care of her husband who has an acquired brain injury.  (I still have no idea how she toilet trained her two girls...)  Joanne is a joy, a delight and a wonder.  But I wouldn't want her to drive me to the store or lead me through a labyrinth of booby traps.  Without physical eyesight, one is in no position to lead anyone anywhere. 

Of course, Jesus wasn't discussing physical sight in this passage from Dr. Luke's gospel.  Right after what seems like an obvious question, The Savior begins his famous plank/speck sermon.  You remember the gist: Don't judge, don't condemn, forgive and stop trying to take the speck out of your brother's eye when you've got a piece of wood the size of Manhattan in your own.  Pondering this familiar passage, here's what I'm thinking:

I see people every day through the lens of my own sensibilities. Someone claims to be spiritual, yet gathers material wealth in a way I don't like.  Judgement.  I am slighted or hurt by someone, so I label them insensitive or nasty.  Judgement.  Someone is suffering because of their own sin.  I shrug my shoulders.  Judgement.  And while I judge, I feel the darkness close in on myself.  My own failures, sins and folly, far more grievous than the ones I pick at in others, rise up to haunt me.  Perhaps that's what Jesus meant when He said "judge not, lest you be judged..."  He knew the natural result of blind judgement is the weight of our own wreckage.  Oh how beautiful is the sting of the word of God!  It pulls us from our shipwrecked souls into the light of understanding, repentance and mercy! 

The truth is, we are unable to even recognize our own darkness, never mind that we arrogantly try to grasp the vast, unsearchable heart of another human being.  Never mind that we have no idea what sorrows, loads or injuries they bear.  When we judge another man, we are the blind leading the blind, bumping around and getting hurt and hurting others along the way.  What does the Great One say to us in the face of this?

"You hypocrite (ouch), first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the SPECK from your brother's eye."  God, it seems, doesn't want anyone blind.  Not from a plank.  Not from a speck.  Once we deal with our own judgemental, self righteous, crummy attitudes, then we can very gently, as you would with a little kid, try to get that annoying piece of dirt out of someone else's eye.  Not to hurt them.  But to help them.  So both can see.  So both can love.  So the blind don't lead the blind. 

I am so very grateful for the continued speech of the living word of God.  When that blind man in me takes to judging, my sweet Jesus takes to correcting.  He takes to healing me, so I can maybe, tenderly, help someone else.  Via the pilgrim road of love...not the blind alley of judgement.

On a lighter note, my cats have become killing machines lately.  The tally of chipmunks, rabbits and moles is rising.  Wish I had a nickle for every carcass in my yard...

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Spin Parade

Dear friends,

I wasn’t awake but 30 seconds this morning before The Spin Parade began.  Any of you other ragamuffins like me know what I’m talking about.  It was early enough that I didn’t have to get out of bed, but my brain had already taken to the road, with the toxic stress that can kill a person at 3 paces.  All the repairs we need done in our house paraded past me, loading their burden in my cart.  Financial pressures and financial regrets piled on their weight of anxiety.  Relational troubles and the fallout of a life altering traumatic car accident put in their 2 cents.  Worries about the future, worries about my children, worries about what to make for lunch (am I giving you a glimpse of one of my most entrenched strongholds?) pounded hard on the already steep, weighty mountain of have to’s.  Frustration over a not yet won battle with a flea problem, a dirty car, and school shopping looming on the horizon spun a bleak rope around the impossible load, and I could almost hear the laughter of the enemy of my soul.  That did it.  I sat up and got mad, dagnammit! 

Remember the words of the great C.S. Lewis:

"It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussings and frettings; coming in out of the wind."

Better yet, the words of Jesus of Nazareth, lover of your weary soul:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Mt. 11:28-30

I picked up my bible and stopped the madness.  Like a cold glass of water on a hot- as-Hades day, waves of refreshing sanity stopped the Spin Parade.  Then in church I closed my eyes, left all my troubles at the Savior’s feet, and got my footing back.  Peter Johnson’s message reminded me of why I’m a follower of the most loving, compelling “I AM” of the universe…It’s all grace.  He loves me when I’m messed up in the spin, and He rescues me from the spin every time.  This poor sinner is also a beloved child, with a Hero for a Father.  He cares about the most heartbreaking sadness of my life and yours, and He cares about the stupid flea problem.  This Savior is with us here in the mess.  It’s not the religion of the Pharisees; it’s the relationship of Jesus to the poor in spirit. 

One of my most difficult sins to overcome is the spiral of worry.  But the Great One refuses either to berate me or let me off the hook.  In His compassion He is determined to get me to a place of trust while holding me close and putting His hand up to tell the Spin Parade where to get off.  Little by little, He wants to strengthen His ragamuffins to the point where we get in that yoke with Him, where the Spin Parade just passes us by as we walk along with Jesus.  By the power of the person of the Holy Spirit, we weak folks can walk with Him in the cool of the internal day, no matter the twister of circumstance that rages and blows.

Tomorrow morning, when I open my eyes, no doubt the Parade will want to take me for another spin.  By the grace of Christ, who daily bears our load, I will stand back from all my natural fussings and frettings, and come in out of the wind.  If I don’t, He loves me still.  But why spin when you can fly?

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Back to the School of Grace Alone

Dear friends,

I haven’t written here in a while.  Mostly, it is because I have succumbed to shame and brokenness, and can hardly bear to dig in and tell the truth.  You know that feeling you get when you have avoided something for so long it becomes a looming mountain before you?   That has been the case with me.  I have been graciously, as usual, put back in my right mind by my beautiful Savior, and so I take a few halting steps up from the valley of deception into the open air of mercy.  I will, in all my powerlessness, rise.  As the great apostle said “I will stand, for He is able to make me stand”. 

I have greatly erred.  I have left behind the absolute precious mercy of God, and attempted to dig my own wells.  Now, with a broken back (figuratively speaking, but still painfully debilitating), I have come to the end of my hard efforts to be a “good” Christian.  I am banking all on Christ alone.  I am tired of myself.

Every person you see is walking about with something broken.  Some are skilled at hiding it, but this world lies on a razor’s edge of despair.  Those given lots of distractions can often better manage heartache, disappointment and loss, but the longing for tender forgiveness lives in every soul.  Our own lack of strength to truly love and our powerlessness over the tragedies of a fallen world bear down on us, on the poor especially, but on all men.  Admission of weakness fills our fragile frame with fear (how’s that for alliteration!), and causes what Brennan Manning refers to as “the imposter”, to rise.  The imposter-our ego motivated, self protective, bottomless pit of need for human affirmation- tramples the true self.  That true self has room for mercy, and delivers the strong cry of the broken, calling out in a loud voice “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.”

My dead spirit was woken up by Jesus Christ in 1985, when with great joy I received the best news of my life…”I love you exactly as you are”.  Stunningly, that indescribable transfer of love and mercy to my poor, wretched soul enabled me to begin to change.  I was able humbly, and haltingly, to begin to love without multiple motives.  But like many followers of the Dear Shepherd, I have been hoodwinked by the enemy of my soul, and by a worse devil, self.  As I began my walk with God by grace, not by following the law, so I can only continue lo these 25 plus years later to receive without any personal merit the love of Christ in order to have an authentic, abundant life.  Every ounce of striving has been a waste.  But when the river of the love of God flows through the soul, each moment expressing the Father’s great affection, then there is the opening of the dam to our fellows.  The water runs all over the place.  No one has to make it happen.

So I write here without any cares for my simple mindedness.  I have determined to spend this whole summer looking at the love of Jesus in the word of God.  I am a thirsty woman in a desert of my own making, and joyfully I sit with the psalmist to receive “water on the dry land and streams in the desert”.  I will relearn that profound truth:  God not only loves us, he like us.  The reckless, unrestrained sacrifice of the cross is God’s ultimate answer to shame, grief and every other misery in this world.   If I am loved, I can bear anything.

So friends, I must go back to kindergarten.  I return to the school of stupefying grace and mercy.  Lest I become less than all the Great One created me to be…a brushstroke of the tenderness of God.  The same is true for all of you.  So many of you are far beyond me in this understanding.  Thank you for your kindness.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


On a lighter note (because part of this process is learning to take myself less seriously): I am in a state of devotion toward cinnamon graham crackers.  Whoever came up with that combo, thank you.  Double Yum.  Especially with a glass of 1% milk!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Waiting for the Rain

Dear friends,

I haven’t blogged in a while, mostly because I’m busy homeschooling my 13 year old, and because so much of what I’m experiencing on the pilgrim road is interior, defying that process of pen to paper. And to be honest, I’m just plain beat.  Not sleep deprived, not physically exhausted, but internally tired.  Maybe empty would be a better word.  Like a well that’s gone dry, or a field of corn waiting for a good drenching to perk it back up.

These times are to be expected on the pilgrim road.  Sometimes the land goes fallow for a little while.  The mistake would be to waste the dry time in self pity, or to give up stretching for all you’re worth toward God despite the crispy ground around you.  Things may feel one way, but in the invisible world of the Spirit, there is always some great, cosmic plan going on, always some unseen workings of a mighty God in progress.  These are the times I find the writings of the ancients so helpful.  They all experienced their share of drought, their times when they simply did “the next right thing” without a big bang to go along with it.  And then, at an unexpected moment, the Great One sends the rain…sometimes a flood, sometimes a trickle, sometimes a gentle drizzle.  And the dry time takes its place in the annals of our walk with God, most likely to be repeated in His unending pursuit to bless us with greater faith.

On the home front, the family continues to march on.  Three teenagers in the house.  Enough said.  (I don’t think I can write one of those Christmas letters abounding with accolades and accomplishments.  I mean, my kids are my earthly treasures, beautiful beyond compare to my heart, but my Christmas note would look like a spoof if I were completely honest…things can get messy in my neck of the woods).

Right now I’m reading The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer.  Tozer always makes me think more deeply and “outside the box”.  I’m getting ready to start a new book on the Kindle by P.G. Wodehouse (a classic, making it a 99 cent download!) It’s the first in his “Blanding’s Castle” series.  If you’ve never read any Wodehouse, start with any of the Jeeves and Wooster stories.  Pure, witty escapist comedy!

On the TV front, I’m sad to say we just watched the last episode of Foyle’s War, a PBS series I highly recommend.  It’s about a police detective in Hastings, England during WW2. Michael Kitchen as detective Christopher Foyle is simply perfect.  We got the series from the library, but I’d go with Netflix to avoid the frustration of many pixel glitches.  In the barren land of quality entertainment, this one is top drawer. 

My baby boy will be playing the part of Horton this weekend in Our Savior’s Lutheran School’s production of Seussical the Musical.  I will be doing make up (God help them!), and David will play the role of that philosophical elephant, reminding us all that “a person’s a person, no matter how small…” 

So, here I am again, as I’m sure you are, making my way along the pilgrim road, not at all sure of myself but absolutely sure of the One who set my feet to walkin’ here.  I’ll leave you with a quote by one of those old dead guys who didn’t get distracted by facebook and twitter, but who were vexed by things like outdoor “plumbing”, the black plague, and public hangings without due process.

Men go abroad to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering.
~Saint Augustine

Whether you are experiencing rain or drought, don’t pass by yourself and miss the wonder, in whom God has invested His all.

You’re friend on the pilgrim road,


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Leaving Home, Going Home: Jesus on Good Friday

“The first thing I remember about the world…is that I was a stranger in it.  This feeling, which is at once the glory and desolation of homo sapiens, provides the only thread of consistency that I can detect in my life.”  ~Malcolm Muggeridge

Dear friends,

As Good Friday approaches, I am pondering the loneliness, the sense of isolation Jesus must have felt as he prepared to depart from the very world His cosmic intellect and uncontainable love created.  Every nook and cranny of this planet, every blade of grass, every hair on every antelope, the soft sand of the Atlantic shoreline, the prickly saguaro cactus, the stinky smell of a stagnant bog – all were put into place by His divine imagination.  (Can it even be called imagination when it is the ultimate reality?  That’s a blog for another day.)  For us, this world carries with it what Malcolm Muggeridge describes above.  It’s a place we always find uncomfortable, like we’re wearing someone else’s shoes, only much more important than that. We were designed for a kingdom of love and peace, where an ever present Father walks and talks with us in the cool of the day.  But alas, the misery of sin created a devastating chasm.  The detached spiritual retina of our human eyes cannot see the Father beside us, and our corrupted bodies have lost all but a faint memory of our true home.  But the ache remains, and the foreign feeling of our lives never goes away. 

For Jesus, as He approached His passion, I wonder if it was different.  When He entered this world, the Kingdom of God came to Earth.  He was face to face with all He made.  He looked into the eyes of children whose DNA He worked out in eternity past.  He knew He was on an island where a terrible shipwreck happened, but it was an island of His very own. I wonder if there was a restless stirring in this true Man of Sorrows, who knew what He must do to rescue the whole lot, but who loved us even in our disastrous state.  Was it hard to physically leave us?  Was the lure and beauty and perfect fellowship with the Father so enticing, especially knowing He would succeed in saving us, that He never gave a second thought to His departure.  He set Himself like flint, but was there more to His anguish than just the agony of a hellish death? 

I don’t know the answer to these questions.  I wonder if for Jesus, Earth was missing the same strange, distant loneliness it has for us.  He was the architect of the building we occupy.  He was the carpenter, the interior decorator, the plumber and the electrician.  He built it with extraordinary features to meet the needs of those He was excited to see occupy the place.  It was all His from day one.  He knew while He walked the road from Bethlehem to Jerusalem where the religious and political folk would ultimately stop His beating heart, that one day He would tear down this place of His own and remake it, extinguishing all its corruption and violence.

But did it hurt to leave?  Could the embodiment of heaven miss heaven? 

No matter.  On the third day He rose again.  So one day, we would come home, never to feel like aliens on foreign turf again.  Blessed be His name forever.  He is risen.  He is risen indeed!

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Fire, Earthquakes and Other Not-So-Natural Disasters

Dear friends,

Forgive my fairly lengthy absence.

There are sorrows and troubles that can paralyze the pen, and the soul, but His mercies are always new…and there is a time to simply do, even when the doing comes hard.

To tell the truth (and really, what’s the point if I don’t), my faith is being cooked in a fiery furnace at the moment.  It’s interesting, how life continues to shuttle you forward, making its demands as usual while you seek and cry and burn.  There is no getting off the train.  One must trust the Great One through the smoke and heat while bills are paid, groceries bought, children educated and jobs attended. 

The terrible car accident that visited our family in November, 2009 carries with it fallout, like an earthquake does (of course on a much smaller scale.)  How grateful I remain for the full-team rescue that came our way during that acute phase of disaster!  Eventually the aftershocks calm down and the tsunami waters recede, but the rubble remains and the restoration process has no schedule.  There are too many variables.  So one must cope with a completely different landscape.  Things will never be the same as they were.  The Lord gives, the Lord takes away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Often times, disasters make way for newness of life and a new kind of beauty.  Great forest fires devour great swaths of nature.  Certain kinds of seeds only react to the heat of a major fire, getting a cue from nature that it’s time to rise from the dead.  Faith is the time between the inferno and the shoots of new growth. How I long to have my faith proved genuine!  How I wish there was an easier way to get there.  But if there is anything this puny mind has figured out along the way, it is that I am sorely lacking in perspective.  God is big, magnificent, wise.  I am dust.  If He didn’t keep me along my way, I would surely have slid into a completely wasted life long ago.  I would have ended up at the bottom of some bottle, or in some vat of pride and arrogance, or hopeless, heartless and afraid, wondering why in the world I exist.  That is not my life.  With all its bumbles and offshoots, I know what really matters.  Relationship.  First with God.  Then with people.  In the long run all that remains are faith, hope and love.  But the greatest of these is love.

 Jesus warned us this pilgrim road was not for the faint of heart.  He also promised never, ever to leave us alone.  I’m writing this tonite in my pain because I know you have your own.  We must carry on friends, and allow the work of the Holy Spirit to do what it must, despite our inability to grasp all the whys.  God did not take on frail humanity, humble Himself, die a miserable death, and rise gloriously for nothing.  He is completely invested in us for now and for eternity.  His love really is unfailing.  Nothing can separate us…

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
~Romans 8:38-39

Enough said.  The fire doesn’t last forever.  Only long enough to wake up those seeds.  Things will be different, true.  But there will always be mercy.  And grace.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Tsunami of a Temporal Only Life

Dear friends,

Several hundred years ago, a man of uncommon common sense spoke these words:
“These are the times that try men’s souls.”  That man was the inimitable Thomas Paine, pot stirrer of the American Revolution, brave patriot and visionary.  He spoke of his time, but all times can borrow his famous moniker.  Every age has its burdens, its trials and its agonies.  As does every life.  History is often a macrocosm of the individuals who occupy its artificial barriers of time.  Artificial in the sense that there are really only two realities: the temporal and the eternal.  While we spin around on this green and blue top through the linear experience we are having, it would do us well to remember we are actually spiritual beings.  I’ve been reminded of those two worlds so many times in these past days that I felt a burning urgency to share my sentiments with my fellow pilgrims.  And those not on the pilgrim road.  And anyone who is engaged in this present darkness, feeling the prick of life’s brevity and the merciful demands of the Great One to “Look up, for your redemption draweth nigh…” 

The earthquake in Japan does not mean the world is ending tomorrow.  But it sure as heck could!  I mean, end tomorrow.  The message of that Pacific island is crystal clear to me:  Your comfortable world, the one you see and touch and interact with every day, can come crashing down in 10 seconds.  If you find your meaning and purpose in this momentary life alone, you are bound for a gigantic fall. 

I feel absolutely frustrated that I can do very little in the physical realm for the people of Japan.  I mean, these folks had our way of life one day, and BOOM, they are rocked back to the 18th century in a split second.  Crisis is afoot everywhere.  It disturbs.  It horrifies.  It breaks the heart.  But is serves, man, does it serve. “WAKE UP PEOPLE!”, the quaking earth and the roaring seas proclaim.  “This fallen world is not your home, you’re only passing through!”  How dreadful, how much more terrible than even the disaster of Japan, is to  occupy material space for 70 or 80 years, thinking life is about one thing, and finding out in the end it was about something else entirely.  That would be a cosmic meltdown for the human soul more grievous than any nuclear nightmare.

The good news, the great news is of course that God has not left us to wander these shipwrecked shores.  We have (I, the greatest offender!), done every manner of wrong against His eternal kindness, have cared first for ourselves, have placed our maker in a small corner to pull out when convenient, or ignored Him altogether.  He has been the object of intellectual scorn.  He who provides the very air we breathe is railed against as an unfair and uncaring power, despite the fact that common sense scrutiny of the scriptures would disprove this.  God is routinely blamed and questioned for all the world’s evils and dismissed as a joke in regard to its blessings.  Despite all of this, He continues to call men to Himself in multiplied ways, not wanting any to perish in their small, selfish little world, but passionately calling all to come to the open spaces of knowing the One who loves them forever.  He will not force.  But He will press.  And He will use the worst things a devastated world demonstrates to bring all the chicks into the nest.

How I long to live grounded in that eternal world every day!  That real world, which lasts not 70 years, but long after all the suns have become black holes and this little revolving blue beauty has long since been made new.     As much as the terrors and sorrows of the Japanese drama impact us to do earthly good (and may they do that!), let them also remind us of the vapor we are.  All of us.  So that everything we do on this earth has a piece of eternity wrapped within, that can never perish, spoil or fade.

I leave you with a quote from one of my favorite little books, “The Practice of the Presence of God” by a lame little lay monk by the name of Brother Lawrence.  Whether he peeled potatoes in the kitchen, or took on errands for the brotherhood, every humble act he did for “the love of God”.  I put this up over my sink and my desk at work:

“O my God, since Thou art with me, and I must now, in obedience to Thy commands, apply my mind to these outward things, I beseech Thee to grant me the grace to continue in Thy presence; and to this end, do Thou prosper me with Thy assistance, receive all my works, and possess all my affections.”    ~Brother Lawrence

I hope you know I’m always talkin’ to myself first of all.  Let’s let all the terrible things turn us to the true, beautiful, eternal things that can NEVER be shaken.

I love you folks.  I really do.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


P.S.  Hurray for Peter the Great! You can now have this blog sent to your email if you like.  Thanks for tuning in!


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Resting and the Suffering

Dear friends,

Here are some random thoughts since our return from the “Smith Family Celebrates Life” vacation.

-         How I wish I could travel on the deep blue sea in February every winter.
-         Best thing about the “Allure of the Seas”: You feel like you’re outside everywhere you go!
-         Net weight gain Loriann: censored.  Net weight gain Stephen: zero!  Despite eating 3 times his normal amount. But he exercises like a mad man!
-         Second best thing about the “Allure of the Seas”:  you never have to drive a car anywhere!
-         I’ll never forget this beautifully relaxing trip, but more than that, I’ll never forget the 14 months leading up to it.  (For more on that, see www.steveandhannahsmith.blogspot.com).

Now we step in to the 40 days leading up to the celebration of the resurrection of the One and Only Son of the Living God.  I’m striving to seek Him with all my heart during this meaningful season, and to receive all kinds of grace from Him when I fall short.  Like all of you, we are experiencing problems and sufferings.  But let’s look at our troubles the way scripture does: as opportunities to go through the purging fires to greater faith.  Trials are not our enemies.  The Book of James says:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

Jesus endured the cross for “the joy set before Him”.  Friends, it seems there will always be obstacles on the pilgrim road.  I get weary, and I know you do to. We can cling tight to the Great One through it all, and find in the end, sometimes the very end, that everything will work out alright.  None of us has had to face martyrdom.  None of us has gone hungry.  We’ve got it so much easier than many of the great saints, living and dead.  (Just watched Carl Dreyer’s Joan of Arc last night…WOW!)  That doesn’t mean our trials don’t hurt, or don’t count.  But it helps me anyway to remember how “light and momentary” they really are in the whole cosmic scheme of things.  I’m like everyone else: I wish my life were easy, with no heartaches.  That’s simply an unrealistic fantasy.  So best we get on with the business of making our trials work for the Glory of God.  And for joy set before us here, and if not here, in the ages to come…

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


PS: A shout out to Danny B., our guest blogger.  That guy always makes me think…and smile!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Smith Family Celebrates Life vacation shots!

Dear Friends, 
A few shots from a special time!  I'll sign in soon with a message, but for now, here are some pix from the Caribbean.  If you want to know why we went, see that other blog: http://www.steveandhannahsmith.blogspot.com/.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Friday, February 25, 2011

Cut Those Hedges Down

Cut Those Hedges Down!
I had hedges outside of my house that were probably planted 50 years ago. When you see them in front of another home, they are deep green, look something like pine, have a smattering of red berries in the winter and are about 2 feet tall. . Unattended, mine had grown to a height of about 7 ½ feet.  Our front bay window was almost entirely covered by these hedges turned into dense trees. Every year I would say to myself, “I have got to get those out of there.” They grew more ugly and wild every year but instead of cutting them down; I would try to make them look better. I would actually put a ladder inside the hedges at different points, climb up through the branches with my electric clippers and try to trim these things. My arms would be scratched and inevitably, there were spots I could not reach so these once decorative hedges were now a thicket of small trees that started to look like part of a skyline. Everyone who would walk by or drive by or enter the house would see these ugly things.  Of course everyone was polite and never said anything; but I know what they were thinking, “Why don’t they cut those ugly hedges down!”
So you may ask: “Why didn’t you cut them down?”  I just pretended they weren’t that bad. I had no clue how to get rid of them. Do I cut? I don’t own a saw. Do I have them pulled out? I don’t have a truck and like many men and perhaps many pilgrims, I would be embarrassed to admit my ignorance and ask for help. I actually convinced myself that the trimming was less work. Ha!
Well after living here ten years I did finally get up the courage to ask for help this past fall. A good brother, who I think secretly sleeps with his chain saw, was ecstatic to wield his electric sword against my demon trees. Within 40 minutes they were gone and all the branches were lined up nicely on the street for pickup. What a relief!
Well before you yawn or click this off, or say “and the point is?” I will tell you why I share this little story and what this pilgrim learned by it. Those wild hedges had covered up the point where a gutter drain had allowed water to flow into the foundation of the house. Now I saw the gaping hole and probable damage to the foundation. Ugh! I had ignored and then finally paid attention to the surface stuff, the cosmetic stuff. I added 10 years to the life of the ugly bushes and took 10 years off of the far more important foundation of my house.
“As in the natural, so in the spiritual.”   I am at a time in life when I have been pressured by God and other true friends on the pilgrim road to stop the denial about the ugly things in my life. Look at them for what they are; stop trying to make them pretty, and, CUT THEM DOWN!  As I have responded to this charge, I have discovered that letting apparently surface bad habits, sins go wild does affect the very foundation from which we share life with our spouse, family, friends, co workers and fellow pilgrims.
So I find myself in the painful yet beautiful process of allowing God to repair my personal foundation. Sins are confessed. Wounds are being healed. Wrong mindsets are being broken. Lies are being rendered powerless by truth. Freedom and joy increase daily. Just as I did to get rid of the hedges, I have had to ask for help, insight and tools from others.  My wonderful mate and precious fellow travelers have all provided help and prayer without judgment, but only love.
If this little allegory strikes a chord in you, in all humility, this pilgrim would encourage you to cut down your hedges. Stop denying that there are things that need to change. Stop trying to make the ugly look pretty (it never does!). Know you can’t do it on your own. The Only Wise One designed it that way. We should deal with life in His loving arms and with those He gives us for the journey. For the one who knows you better than anyone else says “For I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” He sent His Son who says “I have come that they may have life, life more abundantly”
By the way, I am a guest blogger this week. My name is Dan. I am honored to walk with Lori Ann and Steve on the pilgrim road and humbled that Lori Ann would allow me to share a small piece of my journey. Thanks guys.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Ear Wax - A Tween Boy's Delight

Dear friends,

This subject is ripe for 12 year old boys.  Earwax.  Today I took David to the ENT doctor to get a big ole' chunk of nasty stuff out of his ears.  If you've never experienced ear wax removal, GOOD.  It's gross in the extreme.  For some reason, my youngest son is genetically prone to this yucky, annoying build up, and every so often we have to put drops in his ears to soften the clumps up.  Step 2 is the mini "vacuum cleaner" in the doctor's office, and that awful set of miniature forceps that would make even Chuck Norris tense up.  OK, maybe not Chuck Norris.  But definitely any other tough guy.

So I hold David's hand and he squeezes like a boa constrictor, and out come these colossal pieces of orangey-brown ear wax.  (I can't understand how these can be so big and still fit through his ear canal)!  Of course, David insisted on seeing the mess. Then the big revelation: "Mom, I can hear!"  Now the odd thing about that is HE DIDN'T REALIZE HE COULDN'T HEAR BEFORE!  The additional relief of not having stuff knocking around in his ear canal seemed secondary to the woofs and tweets his brain was now able to interpret.  As my friend (and next week's guest blogger) Dan B., the hearing expert would say: "He wasn't employing selective hearing."  Well, perhaps when I told him to clean his room...

Of course, as the person who must spiritualize just about everything, (to the annoyance of my kids) I found a metaphor in this experience.  It made me wonder how much of my spiritual hearing, my ability to listen to God, is impacted as I go not-so-merrily along, unaware of some chunk in the "ears of my heart" that might be limiting my perception of the Great One's communication with me.  What sin, what hindrance, what wrong idea or faulty doctrine keeps me from the rich blessing of truth going deep into the corners of my soul?  I come to this conclusion: a main blockage for me is the tendency to forget the bigness of God.  Mounting troubles, difficult circumstances, stubborn problems that I can't fix- these in themselves have no impact on my or anyone else's power to hear the One and Only.  The deafness comes when we don't believe in the greatness and stunning compassion of a Good Father who wants to speak to us in our pain.  Unbelief is a big ole' chunk that must be removed. Then we can hear and experience in a far greater way the words of encouragement and peace the Lord wants to impart to His own. 

I got into such a grumble this week.  My pain over persistent sorrows became acute.  And instead of running to Great Physician for an "ear vacuum", I forgot His bigness and crawled into a hole of trying to figure my way out of this mess.  This mess cannot be figured out of.  As usual, though, His kindness poked through my deafness.   His word, read aloud by Peter J. at church on Sunday came through in all its glory:

"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." ~2 Corinthians 4:16-18

The word of God took the wax out of my heart's ears, and renewed my hope.   

One thing: David has to have this procedure done on a fairly regular basis.  In the realm of the Spirit, I think daily is the ticket.  Because as Scarlett O'Hara would say, "Tomorrow is another day..."  There are words from our Father of grace, peace and love to be heard.  Whatever it is that's blocking your ears today, go to the Only Doctor who can clean it out. 

On another note, Smitty got me a box of assorted Lindt truffles for Valentine's Day.  Double Yum.  The little princess got some truffles from Daddy too, and a beautiful card.  He's alright, that guy.  I gave him exactly what he wanted to celebrate the occasion...

Keep climbing, friends.  And thank you, Dr. Silver, for being a gentle, kind guy while digging around in my baby's ears!

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Glorious Ruin

Dear friends,

Francis Schaeffer has an apt description for the human species.  He refers to us as a "glorious ruin".  I've never been to Europe, or the Middle East, but I understand there are some pretty remarkable ruins in those places.  Apparently Greece tops em' all.  Somehow in the broken pillars and cracked marble of the Temple of Poseidon or the Acropolis of ancient Athens, the former glory can be tasted and almost seen.  All the cracks and crumbles of the lofty designs of men can't completely conceal the original maker's ideal.  So it is with buildings.  So it is with us.

This weekend I went on a short trip with DFG in conjunction with the New York School of Urban Ministry. 
Part of our time was spent in outreach to homeless  folks in Manhattan, and part was spent in Sunset Park, Brooklyn canvassing the neighborhood with resource information for kids in the Children of the City program.  In both these places I saw evidence of the glorious ruin.  It may sound cliche, but there really was a charm and beauty behind the eyes of the men and women we encountered on the street.  Even Willie, the mentally ill fellow whose sentences were a maze of non sequiturs and wild imaginings, sported the spark of the Divine in his tender kindness and undaunted hope.  In Sunset Park, one little boy, crammed into an immigrant apartment with lots of other people, beamed with joy in his impoverished conditions.  I wept when I hit the stoop.  Perhaps that's how people feel when they walk away from the Mayan Pyramid ruins.  The glory still shines in the decay.  The Architect's intent pricks our desire for the original greatness.

This is why I love Jesus Christ so much:  His full intention, from Genesis to Revelation, is to restore His people to their first glory.  To resurrect them with the love and beauty and grace they were always meant to have- but that cannot be had separate from the Source of Life.  He is determined to rip us from the clutches of an oppressive enemy, to save us from the slavish horror of self, and to be our Father in the true and right sense of what that relationship means.  I don't have to look very far at all to find the glorious ruin.  No need to travel to a poor neighborhood in Brooklyn or a paper box house on 51st street.  I only need look in my own soul to find that longing that remains for truth and purity and real love.  Amid my sinful, foolish ways that dog me every day, I see something else - something more.  I see the hope of redemption.  I know the ongoing struggle of sanctification and I believe in the blessed hope of the Great Day to come.  On that day, all my darkness will finally be swallowed up in light.  The broken down cottage will indeed be a palace.  The scripture says it this way:

" Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” ~1Corinthians 15:51-57

Remember, when you see the ruin, the Great One sees the glory... These old Acropolises will stun us beyond all our imaginings...Hallelujah, my Redeemer lives!

Your fired up friend on the pilgrim road,


A shout out to the truly excellent and honorable people I spent the weekend with.  What a privilege to hang with the likes of you. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Woodpeckers and Winter Wallowing

Dear friends,

The woodpeckers were mad for the suet today.  David and I broke out the binoculars and spied on a male and female downy, and another species we couldn’t quite figure out from the bird book.  Preparing for the storm tomorrow, these avian wonders were determined to fill up on fat hardened from the grease of a long ago pan of hamburger. There was some chicken grease in there too, most likely, but we won’t tell them about that…cannibalism, you know…

I had to start practicing some ancient disciplines to keep from becoming depressed and joyless during the external and internal winter I am experiencing.  How easily I get stuck under circumstances.  I think it’s pretty common, (or maybe I’m the only Christian hacking my way through that dense forest), but there is a different way to live.  It’s going to take effort, though, because our natural man tends to live by what we perceive.  The Book points to another way to operate: “We walk by faith, not by sight.”  There are some practical things that help me to get out from under the cold, wet blanket of introspection.  When I actually do them.  They really are as old as the hills:

Read God’s word actively (my literary daughter taught me this “active reading” thing).  Pick a passage and go through it, underlining anything that even remotely has meaning to you.  Or, read it out loud, and then say what you read in your own words.  Is there a theme? A motif? (Reading through the Psalms since December, I have been underlining every time I see the word refuge.  It’s a lot). 

Make the thing bothering you the subject of your prayer.  Get it off your chest.  Then leave it alone, and move on to someone else’s trouble. 

Sing part of an old hymn all day long.  Today I had “Great is Thy Faithfulness” on the brain.

Eat soup.  (Well, that’s just me – it always makes me feel comforted).  Try the Progresso Vegetable Italiano.  Only 200 calories in the whole can.  I add half a can of water and a couple shots of Tabasco.  Of course, if you have homemade, all the better.

On that same note, some of my most miserable times in the winter have been a result of poor eating.  If you’re cold, the cure isn’t food. (Food, I must remind myself, is the remedy for hunger). To beat being chilly, get under a warm blanket or into a hot bath.  If you have time to eat, you have 15 minutes to snuggle in the covers with a good book till you warm up. 

Rejoice in something, for crying out loud!  There’s got to be one thing to be happy about.  I’m sure there are many more than one, but when you’re blue it’s hard to find them.  So just dig up one blessing and rejoice in the goodness of God.  For me today it was looking at woodpeckers with my baby boy.  Outstanding!  Praise God for those awe inspiring birdies. 

Move your body.  We are triune beings.  Our spirits are impacted by what we think about AND how we treat the temporary tent we’re occupying.  This machine was made to move!  If Smitty can get up at 5:30am and go to the gym, I can dance in front of the weather channel (a favorite TV choice for me and my sweet niece Nicole Belle).  Even if it’s only for 10 minutes, the huffing and puffing will do you’re a world of good.  Better yet, go outside and shovel a little.  Just a little.  If you look at the big snow picture, you’re libel to get all discouraged.  Take your life in small chunks.  A little shoveling.  A little reading.  A little snuggling under covers.  A little singing.  Go in the right direction on your pilgrim road, even if you can only go a little at a time.  And remember, the Great One is full of joy to share all day long.  How I love preaching to myself!!

This is not to say there isn’t a time to feel sad.  Sadness is part of the full range of human emotion.  But when we’re under a constant shadow, we lose our way.  The pilgrim road becomes gloom and doom.  And it wasn’t ever meant to be that.  Challenging, yes.  Difficult, yes.  But peppered with plenty of delight.  Some folks may even need medicine to help them over the top.  No matter.  God promises that “goodness and mercy” will follow His own “all the days of their life.”  Let’s see beyond our present pain to the glory of life with God.  Help me Jesus, to pursue this as vigorously as the dear downeys go after the suet.

I love you folks. 

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


PS  A special thanks to Mel and Phyllis for their “good things about winter” messages.  Both of you reflect light and hope like nobody’s business.  I’m not surprised you find the jewel buried in the snow!