Pilgrim Road Blog Photo

Pilgrim Road Blog Photo

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Happy Birthday, Hannah Mary Rejoice

Today she turned 18.

My baby girl, who entered the world like a freight train on the downhill, so quick from the dark to the wide world that her collar bone fractured on my pelvis.

We held our breath, as we waited for hers...

Finally, she inhaled, and we exhaled.

At 3 weeks old I wondered when they would begin...the colicky screams her older brother wailed for months on end.

They never came.

She cooed, she rested, she was content.  Even a little melancholy, like her Momma.

A girl.  All I had ever known was boys.  Brothers.  Husband. Son.  Here was someone like me, but not like me.  I was transformed by this child.  This double X chromosome with wavy hair and a poets soul.  I continue to be changed by her.  And I live in the fierce love for her that bears every pain, grasps every victory, and will never relent in hope for her future.

She talked early, and loved words from the beginning.  She wrote poetry even in first grade, delighting in the  cadence of the sounds.

She excelled in school, and though usually on the quieter side, could be goofy and loud with the best of them.

The ocean's rhythms delighted, and still delight this girl who ponders much.  The ice cold waters of Coast Guard Beach could not keep her out.  For hours, blue and salty, she dunked and splashed. She endured for the sake of joy.  Her father stayed with her in the waves, diving straight in to the mighty, frightening waters.  He stays with her still.

She spent the whole day, non stop, reading the last Harry Potter book.  She grew, and waxed beautiful.

At 13 she fell in love with Jesus, and found grace to be great.

And then, the sin of another bore down, and suffered her to suffer, and turned the tender days into difficult times.  When the man, intoxicated, plowed 2 tons of metal into her and her father, the world gave way and my heart sank, nearly drowned.  I held my breath, waiting for hers.  When they pulled the breathing tube from her young lungs, I stood outside, gasping for my own air.

All parents hope and pray for the safety of their children.  That they will live long, and prosperous, happy, fulfilling lives.  That every birthday will be all joy.  But into every life, sorrow and disappointment come.  And this one, who roared into life, was suddenly so still and wounded.

But there is mercy.

The years that followed, they were hard.  So very hard, and Momma spent and spends each day with knees bent for this beloved of my heart.  And she continues.  She perseveres.  She presses on.

She cannot see Him now, this God who adores her.  But He, oh He...sees her. Pain can bring a veil.  But veils are made to be lifted.

Jesus, who raised Jairus' daughter, raised her.  Continues to raise her.

And now, she drives a car.  She works a job.  She returns to the high honor roll.  She will go away to college in August, to study English.

She climbs a mountain only she can climb.  Except that I climb with her, silently beside her, though she doesn't know it. And her father, bearing his own load from a body broken by the day of disaster, he climbs too, and stays close like he did in the cold, crashing waves.

She doesn't know the little girl in french braids holding 15 stuffed animals in her bed is still her.  That when I wrap my arms around her, my daughter, taller than me, a million memories of joy and sorrow rise up like the waves of the sea. That the mountain she must climb is always in the sight of the one I too climb, and I am filled with a powerful love I cannot adequately express.

As her beloved William Shakespeare has said:

"The course of true love never did run smooth."

Hannah Mary Rejoice...Each part of that lovely name tells a piece of the story of her life.  Hannah:grace.  Mary, from the Hebrew for "Mara": bitter.  Rejoice...rejoice.

I wanted peace and light alone for this child.  She has seen days I could not protect her from.  I don't know why.  But He giveth more grace.

Happy Birthday to my darling daughter.  May the next 18 years give her back all, and more.

She will rejoice.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Double Indemnity

Being a big fan of movies of the 40’s (Smitty and I consider that time the golden era of film making , there is a genre of motion picture in particular that stands alone during those years of war and recovery: Film Noir.

The Big Sleep, The Maltese Falcon, Key Largo…if you haven’t seen them all, you must.  But there is one that I watch more than any other, one that always sets my heart a beatin’, and one that has a title that today sent an earthquake of revelation through my bones. 

Starring Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, and the inimitable Edward G. Robinson, Double Indemnity is my most beloved of the film noir.

For a trip through the corruption of a soul, down the alleyways of temptation and guilt, this dark masterpiece is the train you want to ride. 

A brief, non-spoiler synopsis: Walter Neff (MacMurray) is an up and coming insurance salesman.  In an effort to sell an accident insurance policy to a client, he instead is smitten by the man’s calculating wife (Stanwyck),  who wears tight sweaters and doesn't like her husband much.  As often happens with bad decisions, one leads to another, and Neff finds himself in a plot to deceive the husband into signing on for an accident insurance policy with a clause for “double indemnity”.  What that means is the beneficiary on the policy would receive double the payout on the death benefit under certain conditions.  For example, if the policy holder were to die by falling off a train, well, what are the odds of that?  So the insurance company sweetens the pot by offering a benefit that they will rarely, if ever, have to pay out.  From here on out you’re on your own.  Rent the movie, directed by the great Billy Wilder.  Nuf said.

This blog really isn't about the movie.  (I know, you’re shocked!)  But the title of the movie made its way into my consciousness this morning and nearly blew my head off.  I was thanking God, and out of my mouth came the words “thank you that I stand indemnified before you…”

I talk to God a lot, and when I do, I talk like I would to a friend, but with a whole lot more reverence.   Still, I don’t typically use big words with Him.  Especially ones I don’t fully understand.  But this word kept pressing on me, kept seeming so blasted right, and finally I got practical and pulled out the dictionary.

Indemnify: To protect against damage, loss or injury.  To be legally exempted from liability for damages.  To make compensation for damage, loss or injury.

This was exactly the word The Great One wanted me to see.  Wanted me to understand. 

The Fall brought with it every conceivable evil and heartache, and down the ages the damage, loss and injury has been devastating.  But for Grace, we humans would have been long gone, long ago.  Hatred, envy, strife, lust, avarice, gluttony, apathy, greed, sloth…and the mother of all, pride, have hurt every one of us, both as perpetrators and victims.  We've done them, and been done by them.  Here’s what the ancient word says of all this:

“The wages of sin is death…”  Romans 6:23

Kaput.  Done.  God would owe none of us an explanation.  He’s Holy.  He’s just.  Evil wasn’t in His plan, and since we insist on carrying on He could simply call it a day.  But the rest of the verse is as follows:
“…but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Jesus Christ, lover of our souls, provided indemnity for us.  God the Father wanted all of us to know Him, to see His love for us, to find Him.  We are His glorious ruin, the heart of His heart.  He would satisfy perfect justice with perfect love through the perfect Son.  The death of Christ legally exempted us from liability for damages.  He not only provided justification from sin, but glorification too. An increasingly transformed life, destined for the joys of heaven.  Double indemnity.

This may seem like heavy theology, but it’s really not.  Still, don’t let this bollix you up.  If it doesn't help you love Jesus more, and love people more, send it straight to the recycle bin.  I just thought it was too marvelous to keep quiet about.

Christ plays in a thousand places.  Including movie titles.  Blessed be His name.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


PS:  Grace has left us with so much beautiful, yes?  In the darkness, so many shafts of light.  Thinking of the wonders of kindness in the midst of so much ugliness in Massachusetts, where I was born.  Boston’s pain makes the loveliness of charity so shine.  Love: a compensation for loss, damage and injury.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Weasel Thingy

When I lived in the city, my vegetable gardens were productive.  Despite a teeny plot of ground with lousy, clay soil, I enjoyed tomatoes, cukes and even those rascally zuchinni that spread under the fence to my neighbor's yard.  When we pulled up our stakes and moved to the suburbs (though in my heart I will always be a city girl), I contemplated the magical veggie garden I would sport: lush, overflowing, Jack-n'-the-beanstalk even.  Ignorance, my friends, is decidedly not bliss.

The town we live in used to be farmland.  I rejoiced at the loamy dirty in my yard!  The folks who lived here before even grew grapes in the back.  I was already fixin' salad and zuchinni bread in my wild imagination.

Gardening is delightful and relaxing, said no one ever who has worked one... OK, maybe someone has said that, but no one as lazy as me.  My dear adopted dad came over with the tiller.  Weeds were pulled.  Planks were laid down in the geometry suggested by The Square Foot Garden.  Fertilizer was raked in, seeds planted, water sprinkled.  Sun shone.  Plastic fence was laced about the perimeter.

Plants grew.  Veggies formed.

And then HE came.

Because I really don't know what particular animal this was, I have opted to call him "The Weasel Thingy".  One afternoon, as I sat in my breezeway surveying all I had planted, he stood up.  In-the-middle-of-my-garden.  He was gnawing heartily on a young, beautiful zuchinni plant.  He looked right at me, bold and, I think laughing, there in broad daylight.  If I owned a gun I would have shot him on the spot.  (Apologies to my mother and sister in laws).

I ran shrieking into the yard (apologies to my very normal neighbors).  That varmint stared me down, vegetable in paws, till the last second.  Then, under the fence he scurried with my food.  I was madder than a wet hen.

The next day I went out to smile over my labors, forgetting the pain of the day before, only to find my entire garden plot completely decimated.  Not a blossom, not a baby cuke, not a tomato plant, not a pepper unscathed.  Weasel Thingy had been back overnight, along with Bambi and maybe Thumper too.  The whole garden was demolished. Ruined.  By critters both stealth and crafty, travelling in broad daylight and under the cover of darkness.

I tried to plant another garden the following year, but the Weasel Thingy remembered...  And that was that.  Too much work, no reward.  Done.

I was defeated by the Weasel Thingy.

So, as I over-spiritualise everything, I pondered this today...

I wonder what the Weasel Thingy is in your life.  What is it that steals your good fruit, that robs your joy, that takes the things you've labored to produce?

For me, it's always been fear.  But unlike my veggie garden, I can't simply be stripped over and over and expect to live the life I'm called to live.  I'm learning to fight back, to protect what matters, and to grow.

If I wanted it badly enough, I could grow stuff.  I could plant the fence much deeper to keep the diggers out, and I could make it much higher to keep the deer out.  I could tend the weeds better and use the chemicals that kill bugs and worms.  But I'm not willing to work that hard.  I'll get tomatoes from the farmer's market.

Life, however, doesn't work that way.  We can't get internal peace, freedom and victory from somebody else.  We've got to cultivate it ourselves.  There's no getting around the work.  The work of FAITH.  Of believing what God says in His word, and DOING it.  The good news of the gospel is this: God is on our side and wants us to bear much fruit.  He's got the good soil.  He's all about our killing the Weasel Thingy's of doubt and fear, and keeping out the pests of idolatry and pride.

Mt. 13:3-9
“A farmer went out to sow his seed.  As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.  Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow.  But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants.  Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.  Whoever has ears, let them hear.”

Remember this:  The work of God is to believe.  Not to prove our goodness by our own effort.  Your life grows because it's protected from evil, and sits on good soil in a sunny, and sometimes rainy place.  Your job is to listen to God and cooperate with what He says.  He's the farmer, and he'll keep the Weasel Thingy out.  But not if you invite it in to dine.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Old Dogs, New Tricks, and the Futility of Regret

This I regret:  that I didn't memorize scripture more diligently as a young woman.  Here in the middle age of life, where I crave quick access to the life giving elixir of God's word to my soul,  I find the brick hard neurons of a non-compliant brain. An old dog not wanting to learn new tricks.  Desire for truth and light I have like a young man for a nubile young woman.  But the receptors are hard, friends, hard.  Like concrete.

I've been working my way through Isaiah 43 since last August.  I can replay verses 1-18 now.  Eighteen verses in 7 months.  At age 25 it would have taken me 7 weeks.  At age 12, 7 days.

Granted, this is not a full time occupation.  Obviously more time would generate more results.

And I didn't even have a relationship with God til I was 25 years old.  Looking back I wonder at that.  How could I have missed the Great and Mighty One for all those years?  Sleepwalking.  Thinking life was about one thing, when it was about something else entirely.  Lost years.

Isaiah 43:18-19
"Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland."

I'd bet the house that everyone reading this has regrets about wasted time. About ill used time.  About the actual abuse of time devoted to sin. Get in line behind me.

This is one of the things I love so much about God: He has a full grip on that stuff.  He speaks directly to it: FORGET the former things, DO NOT dwell on the past.  He's giving us permission to leave it behind.

The burden of regret is one of the heavy weights Jesus took to Golgotha.  There it died with Him.

Let it die.

I didn't put as much of the word of God in this 3 pounds of gray matter as I wish.  In myself or my kids.  But concrete can be broken up. Trees have grown from cracks in the sidewalk.  Forget the former things.

I'll keep forging my way forward through Isaiah 43.  The wealth there makes the bank accounts of middle eastern sultans look like chump change.  Well worth forcing those neurons to fire, whether they like it or not. Cause I'm fixin' to be a rich woman.  Striking gold here in the middle years.

Philippians 3:13-14
"Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,  I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."

Your friend on the pilgrim road,