Pilgrim Road Blog Photo

Pilgrim Road Blog Photo

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Spiderman Tattoos and the Deeper Meaning


I bet you thought this was going to be another one of those blogs where I find the metaphor in some life experience and sift through to the deeper meaning.


This morning I woke up cracking up.  I mean this was loud and silly laughter, startling my husband (up hours before) who is usually the one chuckling around these parts.

I was dreaming.  I dreamed we were having a big back yard picnic, Smitty and I, except the back yard was not our real back yard.  But we did indeed live there.  You know how it goes in dreams.  There were tons of familiar faces in this dream.  Tons.  That's a bit more unusual for a dream of mine, which usually leaves me more often alone or with one other person.

So I go into my house (which isn't my real house) and I said to Smitty, "Oh no, when did they do this to me! Where did I get this tattoo on my leg?"  And lo and behold, my entire right leg looks like Spider-man's leg, blue and red and webby, an extraordinarily well done tattoo.  I was beside myself.  The tattoo was signed by 4 ladies in my church, one of whom I remember was the dear Pat Ellis, who is one heck of a woman but definitely not the sort to tattoo you in your sleep.

As I'm fretting over this inked leg, and trying like crazy to sort out how it all happened, our friends from Brooklyn come in the kitchen.  Hugh and Joelle take one look at the leg and the gales of laughter begin all over again.  My daughter's old boyfriend Joe howled in hysterics at my limb.  Soon a crowd has gathered to laugh.  And no sooner has my bewilderment reached critical mass when I realize  it's not a tattoo at all, but a pair of leggy pajamas with Spidey legs on them.

At this I roared with laughter, and woke up with my cat staring at me like I'm some kind of mad woman.  (Cats tend to do that anyway).  Stephen comes in, the man who loves to laugh, and I tell him the story.  I started parsing the dream, looking for some meaning in it, and finally concluded it was solely for my amusement, an extra, a respite in a tough world, simply a laugh.

I was reminded of last week, when my friend Susan, in her inimitable way, quoted the famous fictional detective Sherlock Holmes as he expounded on the superfluity of a rose:

"'There is nothing in which deduction is so necessary as in religion,'" said he, leaning with his back against the shutters. "'It can be built up as an exact science by the reasoner. Our highest assurance of the goodness of Providence seems to me to rest in the flowers. All other things, our powers, our desires, our food, are all really necessary for our existence in the first instance. 

"But this rose is an extra. Its smell and its color are an embellishment of life, not a condition of it. It is only goodness which gives extras, and so I say again that we have much to hope from the flowers.'"

~Sherlock Holmes, "The Adventure of the Naval Treaty" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

It is only goodness that gives extras.

P.G. Wodehouse novels, red paint, chocolate chips, a good laugh...extras.  Scottish tea, poetry, Christmas carols, soft towels...extras.  Baseball, glass windows, Claude Monet's water lilies, the smell of rain...extras.

Life is full of trouble in a post-fall Universe.  It is also rife with beauty.

Perhaps there was a deeper meaning after all.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Changed in the Unchanging

"For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed."  Malachi 3:6

Despite the sort of dry, dusty internal landscape of my soul right about now, there's a great spiritual truth that keeps appearing and reappearing to my mind, fading in and out of my consciousness like a mirage in  the desert.  My spiritual temperature may be cold, but this truth remains:  He is the Lord God, who changes not.

Women especially are vexed (and blessed) by a broad range of emotional ground, some of which is covered from west to east in an hour. (Ask my husband for references on that one).  For years in my travels with God, I believed if I felt good, if I was being "good", that the Father was good with me.  Conversely, when my darker, more arid times rolled in, my fouled up understanding of the nature of God lead me to think He was mad at me, or frustrated at least.  As if somehow this puny but beloved child of the Great One could upset the inner workings of the Absolute Supreme Master of the Universe. 

It's a great relief to stop taking oneself so seriously.

A whole lot of life is lived on the plain, and frankly the folks I respect and admire the most are first the ones who accept adversity and keep climbing, and second those who know how to live well in the mundane.  My friend Kate is that person.  For 20 years she has been patiently, kindly, cheerfully taking care of her dearly beloved, severely autistic son Timmy.  Twenty years of cooking him the same foods, (the few he'll eat), bathing him, diapering him, putting on the same Barney video for him, bringing him to Walmart for a change of pace, and ditto the next day.

The undulations of the pilgrim road are many.  Vexations without and within, comforts and pleasures, dealing with people, dealing with money, dealing with time...all things are constantly in flux.  It would be a fool only who would expect to feel the profound reality of God all the while.  He, of course, is never an inch away.  But our perception of Him is often impacted by the changing nature of our natures. Our perceptions can be trifled with by a sinus infection, or a low pressure system that won't budge.  To quote Ebeneezer Scrooge trying to make sense of why he was seeing his dead partner Marley:

“You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato. There's more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!”

Our senses are great servants but lousy governors.  If we acted on every whim of our emotions, or didn't act because of their lack, would those firefighters have climbed the stairs at the World Trade Center while everyone else was coming out?  Would any marriage make it past the first temptation?  Would Columbus have sailed the ocean blue?  Would Jesus Christ have gone beyond Gethsemane to Golgotha?  Would our faith grow in the plain, where there are no great revelations or experiences of the presence of God?

God too has emotions, powerful ones, but because He isn't subject to sin He can have feelings (in some cosmic way I can't begin to understand), but He can remain ever steady, reliable and trustworthy in them.  He has set His love upon His own, and that's that.  He loves us when we're good and He loves us when we're not.  And He is still loving us when the sail of our heart is sitting on a windless sea.  All is dull, but all is still well.  The grand emotions of a speck of God's presence are withdrawn, and in that void humility and true faith are forged.

"Faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see."  ~ Hebrews 11:1

The winds always change. Just keep doing the next right thing, whether you feel like it or not. We'll be moving again, sometimes under blue skies with the wind in our face, sometimes in the middle of a great storm.  No matter.  We change like shifting shadows.

"For man is a giddy thing, and this is my conclusion."
~ Benedick to Claudio in Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing

 He is God.  He changes not.

Your friend on the currently windless pilgrim road,