Pilgrim Road Blog Photo

Pilgrim Road Blog Photo

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Fairy Tales: Way More Truth Than The 6 O'Clock News

 “A myth is something that never happened but is always true.”  Joseph Campbell

Smitty and I starting watching a new show on Netflix on the recommendation of his twin brother.  At first, I was summarily unimpressed, but now the darn things has its tentacles in me and as my kids would say, "I'm done for."  I should have known.  I'm a sucker for a fantasy, a fairy tale...in fact, any great story with mythological undertones.  These type of stories always awaken in me, and I think in most people, the reality behind the myth.  That's why they continue to have power even here in the cynical, fact driven, materialistic 21st century.  Truth is wired into us, and fairy tales are like alarm clocks that startle us out of our drowsy day to day and poke at something deep within us...the sleeping giant of the Real Reality.

My husband would kill me if I gave away anything substantial about "Once Upon a Time", the Disney produced series set in the pretend town of Storybrook, Maine.  I've been trained lo these 26 years of marriage to respect the sacredness of the secret, and never to be the spoiler.  So I'll tread carefully and just say that the premise here is as follows:

All your favorite, classic fairy tale folks are living in their enchanted world, when through a variety of hurts, sufferings and downright meanness, a wicked queen gets really mad and conspires to ruin the lives and loves of every happy person in the kingdom.  So she sends them to a place where they won't remember their life (this is the curse), but all retain a feeling of loss and longing.  The brave and beautiful prince and princess have one chance to save their newborn daughter who is destined to rescue all of them from the curse.  But it means losing her, not knowing where she is, and remembering her no more.  Anyway, that's the gist.

Every fantasy I've ever read, watched or acted in has always impacted me in this same strange way: they have made me consider the bigger picture, to see people as more wonderful and complex, and to long for the day when the happy ending will come.  Of course, no fairy tale is true, but they open a window to the truth behind them all.  You can't get too linear here...the allegories break down, the metaphors aren't perfect - but there is no doubt that there in the evil queen's wholesale desire to destroy happiness, there in the sacrifice of the Prince for his bride, there in the turning of the wooden boy into a real boy - there are undeniable cosmic truths.

Somebody reading this right now is no doubt thinking I need a little rest in one of those houses with lots of rocking chairs on the front porch and people who talk softly while they hand you your medication.  

Still, the thing has haunted me since I was a little girl. When the elves came to help the poor shoemaker, I wanted to find a way to help someone who was sad.  Hansel and Gretel made a fierce protectiveness rise up in me for my younger brothers.  And that Little Mermaid, she made me dream of a world so different from my own, where I could breath underwater and explore the deep blue sea.  (There was no little mermaid movie then, and the real story actually has some dark corners...but that's all part of the truth too.) 

The Lord of the Rings speaks volumes to me from its fantasy world of Middle Earth, with the lofty themes of light, darkness, loyalty, friendship, failure, redemption and love.  It is here in these kinds of stories that we can find the truth.  Not fact, as Indiana Jones says in Raiders of the Lost Ark, but truth.

And the truth is this:  There is a real Kingdom.  And there is a real war going on right now for the souls of men.  And there are lots of people, beautiful, unique, precious people, sound asleep, ripe for the slaughter, unaware that there is more to this world than eyes can see and hands can touch.  There is an evil serpent, bent on destroying everything the King loves.  And he has duped and tempted and hurt every one of the King's people.  But the King is far more powerful than this wicked, diabolical destroyer, and has made the supreme sacrifice to buy us all back from the kingdom of darkness. He's actually sent His own dear Son into the very vault of the enemy, and allowed him to be killed, innocent though He is, for the sake of the world He loves.  In this true story, the power of evil is broken.  The only power that remains is that of guerrilla warfare, where enemy encampments still exist but are doomed to destruction.  And where those who haven't heard or believed in the victory are still acting as slaves. (Much like the southern slaves who hadn't heard the Civil War had emancipated them!)  

This is Reality.  It happens to take place in the mundane of everyday life.  But just like in the stories, Love is the great magic that breaks the curse.  The great love of Christ Jesus, the One and Only King of All, who sends his beloved into the darkness to pull out those trapped there.  He sends them with all the weaponry and power necessary, because He would never leave his children alone.  But He does demand we be brave.  And He does give us the honor of sharing in the deliverance. 

Once upon a time, a great King came to rescue you from a broken world, in order to create a new kingdom of righteousness and love.  He intends to take back the world lost by sin, and to give eternal joy to all in His kingdom.  But there are giants to take down first, and they come in the form of addictions, family problems, suicide, jealousy, unkindness, purposelessness, unbelief and a whole host of other enemies.  

Here's a spoiler. There's a happy ending. In the end, love wins.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Tanzania, Foyle's War, and The Battle of Bedford Falls

Tomorrow our friends the Guilzon's board an airplane with 2 of their 4 children and fly to East Africa, where they pioneered and continue to operate a medical clinic for thousands of people in the remote Rukwa Valley of Tanzania.  (One child will join them at Christmas, travelling with his sister who is here in the states for college).

We had the privilege of spending a little time with these beautiful missionaries at the church's soup and salad send off. This family is as down to earth as you can imagine: regular folk with extraordinary courage (though they would never say so), laying down all the comforts of western culture to show the love of Christ in a very tangible way to some very needy people.

But they never act like their calling is a sacrifice.  They act like they love it.  Because they do love it. They say it's hard sometimes, but it's a joy.  They love the people of the Rukwa Valley.  So they keep going back, despite their oldest daughter nearly dying of malaria, despite 125 degrees in the shade, despite bugs the size of small rodents.

You could feel a little small beside these faith giants.

But as we were sharing the last few embraces, I said something to them that has stuck with me these last few days.

"You go do what you're supposed to do, and we'll stay here and do what we're supposed to do..."  I turned and said to my husband, "we'll stay here and fight the battle of Bedford Falls."

That last quote might take a bit of "splainin'" as Ricky Ricardo used to say.  (If you don't know who he is you better Google it...I can't spell out every pre 1960 reference!)

In the classic Christmas movie, It's a Wonderful Life, Jimmy Stewart plays the character of George Bailey, all around good egg who seems to wind up with the short end of the stick every time.  While his younger brother beats up on the Nazi's as a heroic fighter pilot, George is stuck in Bedford Falls due to a deaf ear (brought on when he saved this same brother from drowning in an icy pond as a boy).  He stays and fights the battle of Bedford Falls...

"Air raid warden, paper drives, scrap drives, rubber drives..."  This was the unglamorous, unheralded work George Bailey was called to do.

And it was critical.

Drawing on British TV, I thought of another example from fiction to illustrate what I'm trying to say here: If you haven't had a chance to watch Foyle's War, get thee to the Netflix!

Detective Chief Inspector Foyle would love to do something meaningful during England's difficult days of WWII.  But he's too old to fight, and his Superior lays out to him that he's needed as a policeman on the home front.  As it turns out, the civilian work he does often intersects with the lofty goals of the war.  But it's hard for him to see from his perspective.

I think that's what the crux is of what's been rolling around in my head since we said goodbye to Mark and Jodi.  This sturdy realization that we must seek the will of God for what our part is in this cosmic war for light and truth, for life and real, eternal liberty.  Then we need to do it.

Perhaps we have our marching orders to travel to a distant land, and show compassion to a world of impoverished people who depend on witch doctors for their infected fingers and have little hope of a life beyond the narrow confines of their village.

Maybe some, like C.S. Lewis, will use words to change lives for decades and perhaps century's to come, having a platform to reach millions.

But just as critical, and just as valued by God, are those who fight the Battle of Bedford Falls.  Those who go to work and show compassion to an office full of spiritually impoverished people, American "villagers" depending on alcohol, material gain,and all manner of empty addictions, with little hope of a life beyond the narrow confines of their harassed and rat raced lives.

Mom's who care for their kids, picking up a thousand Cheerios and stepping on a thousand Lego's.

Stock brokers, nurses, teachers, electricians, government executives, tennis pros...and so on and so forth.  Wherever you go, whatever you do, do it right there for the love of God and the benefit of people.

The Detective Foyle's of the world, the ordinary blokes who keep doing the next right thing for the sake of the kingdom of God, they too will have their reward.

If you're feeling like your life doesn't count, you're wrong.  We're all intertwined and we all have a job to do.  Nobody else can do yours.

Go out there and pray, love and live for the Glory of God.

Go out there and fight the Battle of Bedford Falls.

Here, in London or in Tanzania.  Everywhere on this earth, in this chapter of eternal history, that will soon be wrapping up.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Pilgrimage, Gratitude And William Bradford's Thanksgiving Gift To You

To the surprise of no one, I am a big fan of the Mayflower Pilgrims.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, something I anticipate and cherish and embrace every year for the powerful reminder it is and the beautiful virtue of gratitude around which the whole season revolves.

I spend far too much money on the 2 wick jars of Pumpkin Spice Yankee candles.  I stuff more people in my house on that special day than is reasonable.  I sing "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" to myself over and over.  (That hymn seems pilgrimish, but I'm not sure if they sang it or not...it's likely though, Protestants to the core that they were).

You might have figured out, given the title of this blog and many of the topics I've written on over the years, that the pilgrimage of Christ followers to our true homeland, one we've never been to before, is a central theme of my life.  It is hard for me to overstate how life with Jesus, in the here and now, but especially in the life to come, is my primary motivation.  I stumble, flail and foul up, but the thirst for the Kingdom remains...

And so it was for the pilgrims of Plymouth.  They recognized  that this world was not their home. Understood, they had some weird ideas and culturally foreign religious ways.  But I wish I had half the strength and sinew of that battered band.  I vacation on Cape Cod...many of them starved there.  I get seasick in the bathtub; they spent 66 days at sea sailing straight into a monstrous winter.  I say I trust God with a basement chock full of non perishables; they gave thanks after making it through a winter where 40 colonists dropped dead of disease and malnourishment.

I want so very much for my heart to be like the pilgrims'.  I want to shout out thanks for every blessing, and thanks for every difficulty.  I am not that woman, not yet.  That's what the pilgrim road is all about for all of us.  We are given a stretch of time to love God, love others, and be changed by His grace.  The act of giving thanks is a strong ally in the pursuit of becoming more gracious.

Below is my little gift to you all for Thanksgiving. It's a poem we read here in on that wonderful day, when my heart explodes with the joy of gratitude.  Really, shouldn't it be like that every day?

This poem was written by William Bradford, described as "a Mayflower Pilgrim, Governor and Historian of the Plymouth colony, and devout Christian."

From my years young in days of youth,

God did make known to me his truth,

And call'd me from my native place
For to enjoy the means of grace.
In wilderness he did me guide,
And in strange lands for me provide.
In fears and wants, though weal and woe,
A pilgrim, past I to and fro:
Oft left of them whom I did trust;
How vain it is to rest on dust!
A man of sorrows I have been,
And many changes I have seen.
Wars, wants, peace, plenty, have I known;
And some advanc'd, others thrown down.
The humble poor, cheeful and glad;
Rich, discontent, sower and sad:
When fears and sorrows have been mixt,
Consolations came betwixt.
Faint not, poor soul, in God still trust,
Fear not the things thou suffer must;
For, whom he loves he doth castise,
And then all tears wipes from their eyes.
Farewell, dear children, whom I love,
Your better Father is above:
When I am gone, he can supply;
To him I leave you when I die.
Fear him in truth, walk in his ways,
And he will bless you all your days.
My days are spent, old age is come,
My strength it fails, my glass near run:
Now I will wait, when work is done,
Until my happy change shall come,
When from my labours I shall rest,
With Christ above for to be blest.

Your grateful friend on the pilgrim road,


Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Diabolical Power of Resentment

It can arise in seconds and destroy for a life time.  It has the potential to ruin every good and beautiful relationship in the life of a man or woman.  I put it second on my list of the most damaging,
diminishing, paralyzing things against which I must fight for my life.


That coal black, creepy crawly thing from the pit of hell, ready to test, tempt and put us on trial at any moment.

This very week, I'm dealing with the monster.

I was given a few bits of information that I wish I never had.  Believe me when I say that I understand ignorance really isn't bliss, but sometimes being left out of the know is a powerful good thing.

I could feel the heat hit my skin and the blackness climb from my stomach to my brain.  "It's not fair, it's not right....It didn't really happen that way....After all I'VE tried to do..."

I took up an offense but quick, and no one could see it but me.

And God.

I wish I could say I killed that killer, and buried it.  Sometimes resentment must be dealt multiple blows before it dies.  I've hit the sucker a few times.  I hear the voice of Grace saying, "Now, leave it for dead."  It rises up from a beating...but weaker each time.  I'm determined to win this bloody battle, for the sake of my own soul and the souls of those who are sharing this road with me every day.

And especially for the sake of the Captain of my heart, who had every reason to be resentful, ungracious and self righteous.  But never was.  And never is.  He always says to all men at all times:

"See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many."  Hebrews: 12:15

See to it.  See to it.  He will give us the grace, but it's up to us to see to it.  We decide, He reports.  

There are always going to be unfair things, things to offend, things to fertilize the root of bitterness. Our way out is to see to it that we don't get smothered and eventually killed by these dark infiltrators.

How does one do battle with an invisible enemy like resentment?

 I don't have this thing figured out, but I'll share with you what I'm practicing in my own war.

Get on it early.  As soon as you've got the offense, call it what it is, and let the Great One know that you know.  That you see. 

Ask right away for grace to be merciless with your own self pity and manipulation.  

Hit that hideous strength with something stronger still.  The powerful, beautiful, truth of the scriptures.

Determine to act in opposition.  In my case that means finding a way to bless the people involved in the offense.

Every time that half dead animal rises up again, hit it again.  Refuse to climb into bed and get cozy with it.  It might feel good for a minute, but take warning here, it will poison you in your sleep.

“We forgive, we mortify our resentment; a week later some chain of thought carries us back to the original offence and we discover the old resentment blazing away as if nothing had been done about it at all. We need to forgive our brother seventy times seven not only for 490 offences but for one offence. ”

 ~C.S. Lewis

And here's the one so worthy of the season: employ gratitude.  Find something in that source of resentment to be thankful for.  In my case, I'm so grateful to be unblinded from the insecurity in myself, and the jealousy that has to go.  I'm grateful to have my eyes opened to what could keep me from my calling: to encourage and love people in a cold world, and to live out before them the life and light found in Christ.

Finally, remember your own ready ability to be the offender.  This is the tool I find most effective in giving the final death blow to resentment and her twin sister, bitterness.  Think strongly on your own trespasses that have been forgiven, and think little on those of the one you must forgive.  These "self mortifications" are the healthy kind.  Not laboring over them, but facing them.  And remembering the words of the Master of Forgiveness...If you do not forgive others their sins...your Heavenly Father will not forgive yours...

Strong words.  Sobering words. True words.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Stress Piles and Leaf Piles:Autumn's Grand Recitation

The dry autumn leaves tell a story.

They fall, dancing for a moment in the air before landing all over my front lawn, the glory moment of their death.  They have their 6 seconds of fame.

Beautiful, fragrant, merry, they fall from the tree in what looks like joy itself, tumbling down to make for lots of raking.

My porch is ankle deep in maple leaves, and a few from the tulip tree, which hasn't yet pushed out as many of the doomed blades as the maples' have.  I pick up the broom, and I'm all grumbly and tired. It's after 7pm, and I have to run out to the grocery store.  I'm irritated by the mess on the porch, complaining to some double within my self that I have 2 strong boys (who would have willingly done the job if asked).  I haven't even taken my pocketbook off my shoulder as I sweep malignantly, with rottenness of heart and tension like a noose around my neck.

Around me, the leaves keep happily falling, dying gladly, as if they know that this letting go will bring new life come April.  They keep landing on my porch, calling me to join the party.

I remove my heavy purse and move the big pumpkins with leaves stuck underneath.  The sweetness of the smell in the air, the brisk breeze and the quiet of standard-time darkness begin to lure me from my tightness.  I can practically hear God in the crunch and brush of the broom..."Let it go...and live."

In just a few minutes I'm slowing down, listening to the sound of leaves being moved and those landing gently on my home.  And gradually, the sweeping becomes joy, and my exhaling releases the need to be in control...to get it all done.  I am in the moment, dying to myself, living to that greater reality.  There is so much to this world of grace that we miss in our pocketbook-laden, tight-fisted, want-it-my-way snits.  When we release ourselves to the beauty of the moment, there is a wonder that comes.  Like the leaves swaying their way to the ground, we can let that thing within us die so something alive can form there.  In this way, death to small things becomes the life of something new.

Every day, thousands of leaves in the boundaries of my yard filled with mature trees, fall to the ground and die.  Their death is so beautiful and bountiful.  The cats hide behind the leaves.  And when they're piled up, my grown children can still be found leaping about in the hills they form. Every day of fall in New York is a living epistle.  A reminder of the life that comes from surrender.

I'm so very grateful for this seasonal memorial and its' metaphor.  This very evening I am reminded of my need to be reminded.  Confronted by a truth from my husband, who has died to himself countless times for all of our sakes, I am again given the choice.  I can clench and defend myself or let go and dance to the ground, with every hope of new life to be coming around all in good time.

What do you need to release friend?  It's different for everyone.  Some things are large, some small, but they all have to go. If the old leaves hold tight, there will be no fall perfume, no dancing "fairies" on the wind, no piles for play.  And worst of all, there will be no green when the perfect time comes.

Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday, is around the corner.  Without a doubt, gratitude for this truth of the elegance of dying to self will find it's way to our thank-you basket.  No doubt those bedraggled, brave pilgrims of the Mayflower let go of so much, and out if it came a whole new world.

We pilgrims, we need to have faith for the same.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Big Picture: Casablanca And What Really Matters In Every Age

We drank Mexican hot chocolate and watched the movie everyone should see before they die, Casablanca.  It was the first time our friends had seen that particular classic.  (It feels like a privilege when you share a great work of art with someone who's experiencing it for the first time).

If you've never seen Casablanca, in the words of Dr. Seuss, "The time has come, the time is now..." Besides being a true gem of American culture, Casablanca sits on your ribs with a message for our time. It stirs up the best in us, a best we've almost forgotten in our ridiculously fast paced and self absorbed world.

The picture takes place in Vichy controlled unoccupied France in the Moroccan city that titles the film.  The long and short of it is that the very destiny of the world is hanging in the balance as the Nazi's march all over Europe, and the personal lives of the 3 main characters are intertwined with the cosmic realities of their times.

Humphrey Bogart plays Rick Blaine, an ex patriot American with a mysterious past who has migrated to Casablanca for a variety of reasons.  Ingrid Bergman is the enchantingly beautiful Ilsa, married to the great leader of the French resistance, Victor Lazlo, who has escaped a concentration camp and now poses a huge psychological threat to the Third Reich.

There are too many wonderful scenes in this movie to recount here, and this isn't a review of the film anyway, but suffice it to say the conflict revolves around the lives and loves of these three characters, all of whom must choose between their own strong and dear desires and the unmistakable importance of the big picture.

So here I am, more than 70 years after the making of Casablanca, crying into my Ibarra chocolate while the French nationals overpower the national anthem of the German soldiers as that rag tag collection of refugees sing La Marseillaise in Rick's Cafe Americain.  And I feel that thing rise up in me again as it so often does:

There's more to your life than your little desires for comfort and quiet and everything just to go along easy.  There's a cosmic picture, and we're part of it whether we want to be or not.  There's a battle out there for the hearts and minds and souls of men and women, and our little part in the war matters. But we must be willing to lay down our own agendas and take up something bigger than ourselves.

Humphrey Bogart put it this way:

"Ilsa, I'm no good at being noble, but it doesn't take much to see that the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world."

Jesus put it this way:

"Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it."

Tomorrow you will most likely start your day like any other Monday.  You'll get up and take care of your children and clean up the same toy 24 times.  You'll go to your job and manage a thousand frustrations and get your coffee and put one foot in front of another.   Maybe you'll fight a debilitating disease, work through a relational problem, make dinner, wash the dishes, listen to the news.  But while you do all these things, the big and the small, what a difference it will make if your motive is always the other guy.  If you lay down your own life in some small way.  Like performing a thankless kindness, or refraining from a hurtful word, or tackling something difficult with humility and perseverance.

What if we worked and washed and struggled tomorrow with the mindset that our struggles can be redemptive.  That we can use our small lives as an offering in the great cosmic picture...the fight against evil in ourselves first, and then in our world.  And to take the greatest weapon the world has ever known...love...and use it sacrificially and generously.

Seems the Great One can use anything he pleases to remind us of what really matters.

That the fundamental things apply, as time goes by.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Friday, October 31, 2014

31 Days of Courage: Tip Of The Iceberg Of A Beautiful Virtue

I started this 31 day challenge with the confession that I am indeed the world's biggest chicken.  I've actively worried about how I would hold up under extreme duress, and if my faith would survive some of the world's pummeling's and storms.

But I guess the best thing to do in the face of our own misgivings about our strength to endure is to throw ourselves into trusting the Bravest of All in each moment.  Most of us won't face being held in an Iranian prison or being burned at the stake like Joan of Arc or trapped in the Arctic like Ernest Shackleton.  The truth (and I hope this blog has been a bit of a window into this truth) is that courage for everyday folks is a matter of one step at a time in a long race.  One moment of holding on to light in the midst of darkness, followed by one instant of being glad despite the trouble spinning about you, stepping into one occasion of building a bridge, defying the villain of fear.

These 31 days have passed so quickly.  I am sad to see them go.  I have learned and grown, and been forced to be honest with myself as I've tried to put into practice what is so much easier to write about than to do. Like every one of you, I've confronted discouragement, laziness and pride from the first of this month to the last.  I've had to decide in life's small moments to let go of my reputation, to see the loveliness in each person with whom I share my days, and to press on when I'd rather sit tight.

There were days when I sat at this keyboard (well, not so much this one but the one that died at around day 24) and wondered what the next sub-topic would be in the vast universe of courage.  The One who instructed me to write always provided something to write about.  I never worried what anyone thought, because I knew from the start this was simply following God's prompting.  I noticed more than ever the courage of those I love during these weeks: 2 friends with terminal cancer living life well to the end; people I work with giving their all and going home to give a little more to their families; a husband who keeps joy alive with everyday pain...and so much and so many more.

I have only written what I have found from my own small perspective as a middle aged woman from a western culture living an often, but not always routine life in an age of cynicism and spiritual darkness.  My perspective on courage is limited and skewed, but it is none the less honest.  Still, the frustration is that I don't have the skill to truly express the exquisite allure of this excellent, beautiful virtue in all its glory.  It is all of us, together, stretching on beyond our dread and doing the next right thing that will display the radiance of courage to a cold, frightened world.  In all the small acts of bravery we employ every day, the world becomes warmer and lovelier.

Though I wrote these words for God, and God knows, for myself, I have been greatly encouraged by those of you who have spoken to me, written to me and encouraged me along this 31 day stretch along the pilgrim road.  Thank you so much for giving me courage.  I know heaven will reveal that these small, tender kindnesses were part of making me less chicken-hearted and hopefully a little more like Jesus.

So, onward and upward friends.  This little drop in the bucket of discovering courage is just a beginning.  This tip of the iceberg hopefully makes all of us want to keep running the race, everyday.
I'm thinking this might become an annual tradition with a different topic each year.  In the meantime, perhaps a little less writing than every day, but a little more than once a week.  I need a break, but vacations should never be permanent.

"Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified, do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."  Joshua 1:9

Courage friends, in the big and the small.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Thursday, October 30, 2014

31 Days of Courage: The Courage Of Those Who Went Before Us

I'm not at all sure why, but since I can remember I've had a deep appreciation for the people of earlier times on whose shoulders we stand.  My imagination has been captured by the brave folks in all walks of life who lived through some extraordinary times, sacrificially willing to suffer one kind of hardship or another for those who would follow them.

The common people of the middle ages experienced a world of great corruption and religious superstition.  With little hope of change in their own lifetimes, and almost always illiterate, great masses of human beings sang and memorized the hymns of the church, rife with scripture, keeping the truth and the true church alive with the power of a song.

Ignaz Semmelweis was a Hungarian physician during the 19th century who noticed mortality rates going down on hospital wards when doctor's washed their hands.  Of course, there was no understanding of germ theory at that time.  The medical establishment was offended by Semmelweis' suggestion that they wash their hands, and the good doctor was ridiculed and ultimately rejected for his hygiene theories.  He was committed to an asylum and died, only later to be lauded for his progressive ideas when Louis Pasteur confirmed through microbiology what Semmelweis could only have imagined. He paid a price for the sake of others to come after him.

There are so many heroes in history, and we owe so much to all of them.  The soldiers who stormed the beaches at Normandy.  The runners on the underground railroad.  Lewis and Clark and the other explorers of history who knew not where they would land, and had no cell phones, satellites or GPS systems along the way.  Though some did seek their own glory, many more thought of the benefit to their descendants.  They gave their lives away for the lives of those to come.

As I write this, I think too of the people very close to home who built the step we now stand on.  Our parents, grandparents and great grandparents (and so on) gave us a shot at life.  None of them were perfect, but most of them thought ahead to us as they laid down their own wants and needs so we would have a decent life.

It's just too easy to forget that we aren't here on our own steam.  God set many a wheel in motion to bring us to this day, and He knew how each person's contribution would impact generations a thousand years later.  It's a heady thing to think about.

I wanted to use this 2nd to the last blog in the 31 Day challenge to encourage all of us to remember where we came from, and to remember with gratitude the courage of our ancestors.

There's a mountain of courage that lies behind us, billions of footsteps to follow, faith of ages and ages to which we owe a great debt.

Our duty now is to be the brave ones for those coming behind us.  This is an enormous challenge. Especially for a chicken like me.

These are selfish times, but also times of great courage.  In fact, the darker the world, the brighter the light of those determined to bravely consider NOT THEMSELVES, but the generations to come. This was always a given in the history of the world.  Now, in our generation, we must be consciously determined to swim against the current.

Jesus is of course the ultimate example of a courageous life lived and sacrificed for the sake of those to come.  And in his case, for the sake of those who walked by faith before that first Christmas.  His shoulders are stood upon by the whole world, past...present...and future.

Only He can handle that.

But He gives us this one life to give away.

As He did for those who came before us.

May we bless their courage as long as we have breath. And pay the debt forward with all our strength.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

31 Days of Courage: The Courage To Confront

I had to confront someone this week who I love and respect.  Someone with a big heart, a generous spirit, and a close relationship with God.

How I didn't want to do it.

When I heard the voice on the phone I knew there might be a bit of messiness.

I instantly asked the All Wise One for wisdom.  For courage.  And to know exactly what to say and when to be silent.

For once in my life, I found the balance between cowardice and being a blowhard.  I think this 31 day challenge has really helped me in a practical way.  All I've been pondering I've tried hard to put into practice.  Lest I be the mother of all hypocrites.  (That's not to say I've done it all right...but moving in the forward direction is always good).

I was surprised at the peace I had even when this dear friend cut me off.  When uncomfortable topics brought a bit of heat, I didn't find it necessary to defend myself or go on the attack.  I tried very hard to speak the truth, understanding and communicating that my perspective is limited, and that I could be wrong.

Sharing this story is not intended to toot my horn.  I've failed in healthy confrontation far more than I've succeeded.  I've either avoided necessary conflict or bit someone's head off, or complained, or fussed or overeaten.  I've handled confrontation so poorly so many times that I'd be the proverbial "plank in my own eye" to even hint otherwise.  No, I share the story because I'm virtually certain that someone reading this feels the sweat forming on their neck just thinking about having to be honest with someone you so don't want to offend.  I want to help that person find their courage.  And to pray for the grace to do the thing right.

To be wise in dealing with difficult matters requires insight and wisdom we mere mortals lack. Thankfully, supernatural help is just a breath away.  Often the bigger problem comes in laying down our need to be right.  I found myself listening more than speaking in the conversation I had with my friend.  That's a really good sign.

"An element of conflict in any discussion is a very good thing.  It shows everyone is taking part and nobody's left out."  ~ Jimmy Stewart as Elwood P. Dowd in Harvey

Jimmy Stewart's quote as the inimitable Elwood Dowd in the 1940's cinema classic Harvey may be a bit simplistic.  After all, there are times people, including ourselves, can be unreasonable.  There are times confrontation is impossible because there is a resolute determination on someone's part not to hear or be heard.  This is when silence is truly golden. Beating one's head against a wall is useless.

The New Testament admonishes this: "Tell the truth in love."  I'm no expert, but I'm getting the revelation that motive is key in confrontation.  If we truly want the best for the person we are addressing, it's likely they'll sense that.  And if they don't end up understanding us in the end, it is 100% critical that forgiveness and grace be extended.

I don't know where this quote originated, but it says perfectly what I am trying to say haltingly:

"In the essentials; unity.  In the non-essentials; liberty.  In all things; charity."

May you have the courage to confront with great charity.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

31 Days Of Courage: John Wayne, Dean Martin And The Fabulous Rio Bravo

I thought I’d have a little fun with today’s post and do a quasi-movie review of a family favorite: Rio Bravo.  I picked this movie because of its big hero, John Wayne, and the other smaller heroes in the film: Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson, Angie Dickinson (gorgeous!) and the inimitable Walter Brennan.
Dean Martin, Walter Brennan and John Wayne in Director Howard Hawks' Rio Bravo

Movies, especially westerns, have a way of lifting us out of the everyday with their bigger than life characters.  Courage is almost always at the heart of every wonderful western, and the demarcation between hero and coward is often drawn in dark black lines. 

In this particular story Dean Martin plays Dude, a once proud lawman turned alcoholic. The picture opens with one of the requisite western bullies, Nathan Burdette, throwing a coin into a saloon spittoon, where the inebriated Dude is just about ready to stick his hand in to retrieve the money for his next drink. 

Enter John Wayne.  Enough said.

Well, OK, I guess I should explain a bit.

Playing the character of John T. Chance, sheriff of this two bit outpost, The Duke kicks the spittoon away from Dude in disgust.  A scuffle ensues, and the nasty Burdette ends up killing an unarmed man.  (Note the cowardice).  Sheriff Chance takes Dude back to the local jail guarded by Stumpy, an old, crusty, crippled deputy with a hysterical voice and a penchant for saying exactly what’s on his mind…with no tact.  But he’s a brave little whippersnapper, as are all the folks in this unlikely band of good guys, willing to stand up against the corrupt and rotten Burdette gang to bring justice to the town of Rio Bravo. 

In the middle of this mess, John T. Chance deputizes Dude, giving his ruined soul a chance at redemption.  It’s a shaky withdrawal process and a rocky road. 

In the meantime, Ricky Nelson, very young but handy with gun and guitar, finds himself in the thick of something he didn't sign up for. He is added to the ranks of John Wayne's mismatched band of brothers. And of course you have to have the pretty lady, “Feathers”, who loves John T. Chance but has a bit of a sordid past in the gambling department.  She too sticks her neck out, and both she and Colorado Ryan (the Ricky Nelson cowboy) put the others before themselves deploying various acts of courage.

At one point one of the less important characters in the movie asks John Wayne about his motley crew, all messed up in one way or another:  a recovering drunk, a man too young, a man too old and crippled, a woman with a strange past.  The question is: “Is that all you got?”  And the bravest man in movies replies in his completely unsentimental way: “That’s what I got.”

I wonder if that’s what our Great Hero says about us…proud of us, even in all our weakness.  When that dastardly enemy of the souls of men who has no joy and no humor says to God “That’s all you got?” perhaps our Fearless Leader says in reply, (as if He owes anyone an explanation) “That’s what I got”. 

I don’t know, but I love to imagine.

In Rio Bravo’s final showdown, the once self- doubting Dude risks all for his friends.  Stumpy and Chance bring the enemy to their knees with a barrel full of firepower.  Colorado proves for certain that youth is no detraction to valor.  And of course, the girl doesn't leave on the stage coach and there’s the proverbial happy ending.  So I've kind of given a lot of the movie away, but it’s so great, watch it anyway.

Movies inspire courage.  This is fiction for sure, but it’s marvelous to have heroes of stage and screen and literature to give us a shot in the arm for the little bit of everyday courage we need.  Or maybe for a lot of it.  One thing’s for sure.  Like the characters in Rio Bravo, the whole of us is most assuredly greater than the sum of our parts.

We are a motley crew for sure.

But we’re “what He’s got.”

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Monday, October 27, 2014

31 Days of Courage: The Courage to Think About A Very Important Funeral...Your Own

If you want to clear out a room quicker that yelling "fire", just start talking about death.  Oh, that's a really popular topic.  The most common, inevitable eventuality of the human condition is likely the least considered.  Folks become Scarlet O'Hara when it comes to a careful reflection on the end of their lives: "I won't think about that today, I'll think about that tomorrow..."

Except no one really knows if tomorrow will come.

"Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.  What is your life?  You are a mist that appears for a little while, and then vanishes."  James 4:14

We skirted that one right here in my own family.  Some of you have been smacked head on with that reality with someone you love.  But the ultimate truth is, we're all going that when.  Every one of us is terminal, we simply don't know the date.

So how then shall we live, knowing that the guillotene is hanging over our heads?  Is this a call to morose self examination and morbid introspection.

Heck no.

(And by the way, this is a prime example of why I write these blogs.  Because no one needs to hear this more than me).

If you got the note from the doctor saying you had 6 months to live, how would things change in your life?  I'll bet relationships with God and man would be uppermost in your mind.  I'll bet you would pray a lot more and waste a lot less time on stupid things.  And I bet your complaining would go down and your gratitude would spike.

Listen, it's scary to think about crossing that mysterious bridge from this life to a land we've never been to before.  I don't relish the crossing, but I do long for what's on the other side.  I'm glad it will be a beautiful place, a peaceful, wonderful, exciting place.  But all those things are secondary.  I want to see my Jesus.  In that sense, heaven could be a barn and I'd be happy forever.  Heaven is about being with God forever, finally, with no veil between us.

For some people, that thought fills them with dread.  But that's because they don't know yet how the Savior loves them so, and invites them to have their sins washed away at the place where death lost the war: the Cross.  For every man, to the worst and the most wicked, the Cross of Christ is the relief from the fear of death.  Without it, you are right to be afraid.  No one stands before God without holiness.  And I haven't found one of us yet, least of all me, who is good enough or just enough to face that perfection without the Perfector.  There is none righteous, no not one.  Only the God-Man can bring us safely home to our Father.

That is exceptionally good news!  The word of God states that the Father "desires that NONE should perish."

So be brave today and don't be afraid to think about your own funeral.  It's coming, and you don't know when.

Decision are for the living.  How we live. What we live for.  Who we live for.

"Therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."

Love someone well today.  Go the extra mile.  Give God praise and gratitude.  Eat something delicious.  Smell the fall leaves.  Slow down.

Think about your funeral today, not tomorrow.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Sunday, October 26, 2014

31 Days of Courage: Courage In A Time Of Ebola And Beheadings

These times we're living in, they could get a girl down in the dumps.

But really, it's been ever thus.  Every age has its nightmares.

Finding the good in this jumbled up world - finding beauty, that's an inside job.  There will always be pressures, obstacles and darkness to oppose the human race.  It started at the Fall.  It will end at the Return.

It will take a tough mental and spiritual courage to experience a world of school shootings, Ebola and televised beheadings, and still stand and find joy in the marred, but unmistakeable beauty of the original.  It will take determination to accept the reality of the shipwreck, but still give thanks for the island, with it's provisions of blue sky, coconuts and most of all, the other folks who are the greatest gifts of all.

There's a scripture that is so simple, and so profound, that says succinctly what I can't express in a thousand words:

"Where sin did abound, grace did more abound."  Romans 5:20

Yesterday at my nephew's 3rd birthday party, several grown ups (including my husband of course), spent an hour with a 5 year old goofing around with a huge balloon in the shape of the number 3.  Every body got yoked into that balloon, cracking up, turned every which way, pictures taken, nuttiness in all its glory.

Where sin did abound, grace did more abound.

On the way home through the Berkshires, the 6 o'clock sky was streaked with a blending of colors no painter could produce with the most state-of-the-art palette ever manufactured.  A tiny sliver of moon looked like what Smitty describe as a little "crack in the sky".  I couldn't even absorb the whole beauty of it as we crossed those gentle mountains.

Where sin did abound, grace did more abound.

When we stepped out of the car (which took us 90 miles in an hour and a half), the smell of fall in upstate New York wafted subtle into our noses, leaves that blessed us with shade all summer now blessing again with the fragrance of autumn.

Where sin did abound, grace did more abound.

Grace, grace, grace everywhere.  But I miss it every day.  It takes a little pulling up of the suspenders of courage to stand up against cynicism and to hunt for and embrace good.  And it takes that same courage to slow down enough from the ridiculous pace of this rat race to witness the wonders that are his merciful gifts to us in a world of Ebola, beheadings and every other ill the shipwreck brought with it.

Take a rest on this Sabbath. Bravely lay down the complaints and the cynicism, and be counter cultural.  Abound in all the grace.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Saturday, October 25, 2014

31 Days of Courage: The Courage To Be Brief Or Even Shut Up Altogether

No one knows better than I do the tendency toward being a blowhard.

Lots of times people who don't know when to shut up are simply insecure, and desperately want to be understood.  They often feel so sure they will be misunderstood that they say the same thing a few different ways, until those listening are looking around furtively for the nearest exit.

My poor husband, I think I've seen that look in his eyes a thousand times...

It's entirely possible I was born talking.  I can't remember a time when I didn't feel a drive to communicate. All human beings have this to some degree.  We are relational at our core, made in the image of a relational God.  But some of us definitely get the expression thing twisted up a bit, and like the drinker with his drink and the foodie with her food, we become the wordy with our words.

I've been on both ends of this thing, so you'd think I'd have learned by now.

The times I've bitten my tongue have been far too few.  But when I have, when I let go of having to make sure everyone knows I'm not dumb, or realized if my opinion wasn't considered it would be ok: those moments have taken a bit of moxie.  It is far easier to open one's mouth than to keep it closed.

Of course there is an opposing problem to talking too much and listening too little: not speaking up when we ought.  I've addressed that problem in another blog, and the courage needed to speak up is easier to define than what I'm spelling out here.  Being brave enough to be quiet is far more subtle.  No one will know when you've measured your response and swallowed your pride.  That courage becomes an unseen virtue.  Those are the ones that really construct the metal of a man.  Those opportunities for holding back and listening up happen just about every day.  Those small victories of putting the other guy first make for a more civilized world.

I took on this 31 day writing challenge because I really do believe God was directing me to write for the sake of it, to practice this beloved craft, and to tell the truth.  The danger is always that I will say more than is necessary to communicate whatever I'm writing about.  I try hard not to do that.  I hear the voice of my NYU writing professor in my ears lo these 32 years later:

"Just tell the truth in the clearest way you can."

God bless Mark Dickerman.  When all us college students were trying to have a "style", he spoke those few words that changed the way I write forever.  He said by being honest and clear, we wouldn't be able to help but have our own style.  Because each person is designed differently, and when they strive for clarity, who they are comes out as a natural byproduct.

Maybe that will help somebody today.  Have the courage to tell the truth, or to keep your two cents out this time.  Oh, how I preach to myself in these posts!

One of America's greatest communicators, indeed one of the bravest leaders in American history said this:

"I am the master of my unspoken thoughts, and the slave to those things which should have remained unsaid."  ~ Abraham Lincoln

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Friday, October 24, 2014

31 Days of Courage: The Courage To Love On In A World Gone Cold

It’s the 24th day of this 31 day challenge, and today’s post is heavy on me.

I took the day off from work today with the sole purpose of withdrawing from the madness for a little while, to seek God for some perplexing questions I have; to slow down and breathe deep and remember why the heck I’m here anyway.

To begin with gratitude is always the way to start.  I am a blessed woman.  I am more grateful than I can say for the love I have in my life from a thousand corners.  My eternal destiny is secure.  I have way more than my daily bread.  Every hard place and every difficult trial is only sandpaper in the hands of the Master Carpenter, who will show the good work in His good time.  So I have no complaints.

But there is a weight.  And you and I need courage and strength for this burden, because it continues to grow with no end in sight.  

“Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”  Matthew 24:12-13

There’s a fire in the fireplace, pumpkin candles burning and a space to pray and read the sacred word.  I’m warm and thankful.  But the truth is I’m not so strong when I walk outside to the Arctic chill Jesus saw coming from eternity past.  I shiver out there.  The world is moving at breakneck speed on the road to nowhere, and people are often downright mean.  Uncaring.  Cold as ice.  When you live in an icy world, it’s oh so easy to protect yourself in layers of fur, and to hunker down and determine not to send an ounce of warmth out to that world to be rejected and snuffed out.

But that is not the way.

Oh courage, be my companion in this internal war to choose to love regardless of the outcome!  To feel the cold wind is painful, but to be the cold wind is far worse.

You are sharing this planet today with folks who are so lonely, broken, distressed and angry that they have no capacity to give love.  The only hope is that they might receive some, and that the light and warmth of that most beautiful power will begin to thaw the frozen heart.  There is no other cure.  Love is the remedy for a thoughtless, ungrateful, ugly world.  

These words are not flowing from the mind of a woman who has found her way with unconditional love, but from one who longs with every fiber of her being to be willing to humble herself to give it.

When I said good night to a coworker, and they gave the cold shoulder, I determined that was the last time I would feel that little rejection.  When I left a small gift on someone’s desk and it was returned without a word, I shut down a little more.  When I listened for the hundredth time to a demanding, graceless person wanting someone to blame, and apparently thinking I’d be just as good as anyone else, I hardened myself yet again.  When liberal grace was extended to a family member, only to be returned with ingratitude, I was done.

Those things and many more, all of which I’ll bet you have experienced in some way, shape or form brought me home today.  I could feel the cold getting into my bones, and I needed some perspective right quick before I hurt myself or someone else badly.  And worse still, before I hardened my heart toward my dear heavenly Father, who commands us to be bold and strong, and to fight the ice age with a fire against which no winter can contend.

These extended hours in the Bible, these hours quiet with God have renewed my strength.  They have given me the courage to forgive the wrongs done me, to be forgiven for the wrongs done, and to step out again into the tundra, with my little torch.  

This problem is not solved.  It must be visited over and over again, and there need to be many more times of sitting still with the One who faced the absolute zero of the cold of hell, and remains the Great Lover of all time.  He alone can give us the courage to stay warm.

That we might be brave enough to love without reciprocity.  That we might stand firm to the end.  

And be warm in our hearts for the sake of many.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Thursday, October 23, 2014

31 Days of Courage: Endurance, The Heart Of Courage

“Men Wanted: For hazardous journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful.  Honour and recognition in case of success.”
― Ernest Shackleton
Sir Ernest Shackleton and the crew of The Endurance
Of all the sub headings under the virtue of courage, none captivates me more than endurance.

 Courage encompasses so many beautiful and awe inspiring deeds, but for some reason the courage to persevere is to me the loveliest of all.

 In 1914, Irish born Ernest Shackleton started out on an expedition doomed to fail.  Of course he didn’t know that going in.  He had a state of the art ship, and crackerjack crew, and the experience necessary to reach his lofty goal: a continental crossing of Antarctica.

 Sailing on the aptly named sea- vessel  Endurance, Shackleton and his men set off for the deepest regions of the south of this planet as the rest of the world embarked on a great and terrible war.  Shackleton and his men would soon be fighting a war of their own: to survive.

 Through  1000 miles of ice pack in the unpredictable Weddell Sea, the Endurance sailed on.

 And then, one day from its destination, the ship simply got stuck in the ice.  Temperatures began to drop dramatically.  The ship’s storekeeper wrote: “She was like an almond in a piece of toffee.”

 That was January, 1915.  Summer in Antarctica.

 From February to October 1915, the men of the Endurance waited through the 24 hour darkness of Antarctic winter to see if their ship would become free or crushed as the ice flow broke up in the spring.  After months of anxiety and strain, Endurance began to crack and implode from the indomitable weight of nature’s frozen ocean.  Abandoning ship with as many supplies as they could drag across the unstable ice flows in their little life boats, Shackleton and his crew were only just beginning their real test of endurance.

 Navigating on drifting ice, with a limited food suppy (they eventually had to eat their sled dogs), suffering from cold and exhaustion, Shackleton’s men persevered.   497 days since they had set foot on real land, they rowed their beleaguered crew, all still alive, in lifeboats onto Elephant Island, a rock in the Weddell Sea.  Conditions became more and more appalling,  and the unbelievably brave Shackleton made a bold decision.  The only hope of rescue lie in an 800 mile open boat crossing to the nearest whaling center on South Georgia Island. 

 Leaving most of the men behind, he took 2 crew members with the most rudimentary navigational tools through a storm to finally arrive on the wrong side of the island.  Then a climb in threadbare clothes and shoes over the  mountains.  Then finding a ship to help them go back to pick up the men.  And I’m leaving out a thousand painful details because this would be a 15 page post otherwise.

 On August 30, 1917, every man on Elephant Island was brought to safety by the unrelenting courage of their captain, Ernest Shackleton.  It is a story you must see. (There’s a marvelous NOVA version available, which beats out the fictional adaptation by a mile).

 It had been nearly 3 years since anyone anywhere had heard from the crew of the Endurance.  The encouragement of that great leader, Ernest Shackleton, was the key to their profound success.  Perhaps their original mission failed, but there was no failure for the brave captain and crew of the Endurance.

 Endurance is the heart of courage. 

 To carry on for extended time, holding on to a shred of hope, carrying your cross and putting one foot in front of the other, this is where the rubber meets the pilgrim road.

 “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, for when he has stood the test he will achieve the crown of life which God has promised to those who love him.”  James 1:12

 That we would all persevere, come what may, like our great, encouraging Captain of All before us…

 Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

31 Days of Courage: The Courage To Climb The Right Ladder

“She’s the kind of girl who climbed the ladder of success wrong by wrong.”  ~ Mae West

(That quote cracked me up...from Mae West no less!)

I want to say at the outset that I’m pro-success.  I love to see people find something they’re good at, that is satisfying to them, and God bless them too if they can make loads of money doing it.  (More on that in a minute)*.

It seems though, that in Western culture most of us have our ladders leaning on the wrong walls, and we climb them in the wrong direction.  It has taken me my entire adult life and some seriously difficult seasons to figure out that many of our aspirations are completely wrongheaded.  Making it to some well-planned goal, achieving a long held dream, experiencing what the world we inhabit calls success is taking a secondary thing and putting it in first place.  These blessings ought to be the good fallout of living with right priorities. (And there are no guarantees there either).  But it takes a great deal of courage to step out of our sin stained, self-loving shoes and choose the ladder less travelled. 

You’ve got to be brave to climb the right ladder.   Because you’ll be going against a hurricane force wind from the opposite direction.

I bet there’s someone out there thinking: “Who the heck is she to say what the right ladder is?”  And they’d be right.  But I’m just here to report what the Director of the Universe says:

“Seek ye FIRST the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these other things will be added unto you.”  Matthew 6:33

I’m not even talking to non-believers here.  I’m talking to people like me, who love God, and have a relationship with Him, and who've messed this thing up countless times.  I’m appalled at the way I’m swept up in the culture, how I fear man , and spend so much of my conscious life seeking after comfort, security and acceptability until I’m sick to death of myself.  To rise in the opinion of others for the sake of being admired is pride. Wanting to be the top, not to serve but to be served, is pride.  Wanting a home others envy or children you can boast in to your peers or letters following your name so you can feel a wee bit superior is pride. No sense dressing it up in some euphemistic blarney.  Facts are stubborn things.

Climbing the ladder Jesus describes means climbing DOWN:

“He who is greatest among you should be the servant of all.”  Matthew 23:11

When God in the flesh stoops down to wash and dry the filthy feet of his friends, that ends all discussion of what greatness really is.  We’ve got the whole fandango royally backwards.

If you have a place of authority, climbing higher means going lower.  If you’ve been blessed with wealth, climbing higher means digging deeper into those pockets for the sake of the poor.*  If you are gifted in any way, climbing higher means freely distributing that gift for the sake of others.  And if you don’t think this way of life requires a large dose of courage, I’d like to check your pulse. 

I think I shocked someone I’m acquainted with when last week I mentioned to him that his gifts and position were a marvelous opportunity to serve others.  This is a man the culture would say is wildly successful.  I’m not sure he ever even thought of it that way before…that it really isn’t about him at all.  God knows I’ve got to remember that truth every day. But he’s been so indoctrinated into our wrong direction ladder theology that he’ll have to be awfully gallant and resolute to move his ladder to another wall.

It’s just this friends:  It takes courage to go against the tide of power, materialism, intellectual superiority, artistic snobbery, worldly beauty and a whole host of other twisted priorities to get the dang thing right.  There is only one right ladder of success, and that ladder leans on a wall called The Kingdom of God.  Each person will have something different to do on those rungs, but they all move in the same direction: down. 

That’s not down in some joyless, woe is me, martyr kind of way either.  It’s the greatest ladder of success the world has ever known.

Remember that the most successful man of all time said:

 "He who loses his life for my sake will gain it...and what profit is it if a man gains the whole world but loses his soul?"  Matthew 16:25-26

 Lots of times, because we were greatly blessed to be born in America, we get all sorts of other icing on the cake of true success.  But the minute we start looking for those things as the primary goal, we’ve leaned our ladder on the wrong wall again.

 This is a daily effort, and not for the faint of heart.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

31 Days of Courage: The Courage Not To Get It All Right

It’s the plague of the first born.

OK, not just the first born, lots of other people too.

I was reading some of the comments of other folks involved in this 31 day challenge, and it struck me how we all have a bit of a different take on this crash writing bonanza.

Some people just decided to skip the weekends and are perfectly ok with that.  Those bloggers are really relaxed and secure and are having a ball.

Some are finding it difficult to write on one topic and keep the quality of the content.  They reach out to others for ideas and encouragement.  They stumble about a little with complete authenticity regarding their struggles and successes.

And some, well probably mostly the first born crowd, sweat, take notes, determine to write a certain number of words every day, and never miss a day, no matter what.

Art (or in my case and my opinion, it’s more craft) imitates life.  Every person has to find their groove and do what they are put together to do.  But it’s not at all linear and clean.  There are days when the whole thing flows like the Hudson down Mount Marcy, and those other days when it’s more like pick axing up the side of Mount Crumpit (who gets that reference?).  Most of us will look back and say of the story of our lives “I wish I had written that bit a little differently” (or a lot differently), or “That paragraph was a complete mess…” or maybe “I’m done with with this story…I can’t get it right.”

And here’s where courage comes in to play.  Because in this little microcosm of the 31 day challenge I have experienced all of these emotions through the tip of my “must get it all right” pen.  It’s completely ridiculous to expect every day to be your buttoned up best.  Maybe we’re tired, or the check engine light is back on in the car, or we've got the Coxsacki virus coming on…any of a myriad of the foibles of life that make our days less than ideal.  Not to mention the downright earth shattering "work stoppages".

There is courage in saying with peace in our hearts:

I did my best today. Even if my best wasn't all that great.

You have nothing to prove, because you are loved by the One who approves of you exactly as you are.

With that comes freedom to find our way through failure and fallout, because we’re not working to be loved, but because we’re loved we’re working. 

I promised myself when I joined these 31 days, that I would write for the One who has given me the love of communication and words.  I really do love to write.  Or should I say as Dorothy Parker said, “I love HAVING written”.  But I admit I've got the first born tendancies.  I always wish I'd done better.  

There’s a freedom in not having to be great.  To simply be and do for the sake of being and doing.  

Whatever your life looks like, whatever strange turns, however many mundane stretches or confusing patches, press on.  Do your best, even if today’s best isn’t as lovely as yesterday’s or tomorrow’s.

It’s a big story, and you aren’t the Author anyway.  You’ll be amazed when you see how His grace and mercy edit the thing to make it a splendid chronicle in the end.

That was the point of the Jesus' best day...which was the same day as His worst day.  He got it all right for our sakes.

Be brave enough to lay down your pride and know it’s ok not to get it all right.

Your first- born friend on the pilgrim road,