Pilgrim Notes

Reflections along the way.


Elder Meditating His Life Watch The WaterThe whole world seems out of breath, gasping between the frenzied moments. The darkness of night crackles, buzzes, beeps and blinks. Compulsive news binging. Emergencies from every corner of the globe pulse through our minds. Currents of chaos fill the waking hours. I cannot remember why I got up. I cannot remember who got up.

One argument gives way to another argument gives way to another protest gives way to teeth set on edge. Hands clenched. Backs arched. Joy banished: thrown down into a dry well. Heart pulsing to the drums of doom, more doom, and a little more doom.

I cannot hear the whispers. I cannot hear the sound of music in shuddering silence.

Pause. Watch. Wait. Listen

In the gentle susurration of breathing, I return to the simplicity of prayer. Inhaling, “Lord.” Exhaling, “Mercy.” Lord. Mercy. Lord. Mercy. Lord. Mercy.

Stilling heart and mind before the All. The Holy. The Word who fills His forms with breath, life.

Teach me, Lord, to speak one true word, one seed swirling in light and not a thousand pounds of crushing concrete.

Or simply let me breathe.

The steady hum of remote cars
like waves upon the shore.
It is afternoon
and a certain stillness lulls
the day through siesta.
Breeze creeps silently
across the lawn
like a child waking from nap.
Distant birdsongs drift through air
Soft echoes from the morning uproar.
I feel the gentleness across my skin, my neck.
Ever so briefly,
I breathe in the never-ending symphony
Of heaven and earth
Then return to rush of traffic.

Our songs take flight like fireflies
Disrupting dark skies
With flashes of joy.
Just beyond the wall
Of blackness

A Song in the Shadow

dancingshadowBehold, you have made my days a few handbreadths,
and my lifetime is as nothing before you.
Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Selah
6  Surely a man goes about as a shadow!
Ps 39:5–6.

Just a moment, just a twinkling of an eye, and I’ll be gone. Forgotten. A mere breath. A shadow.

At first, I feel completely insignificant. A speck of nothingness before the vastness. I feel that empty sinking feeling of gazing into the galaxies beyond number, containing billions and even trillions of stars in each galaxy. In light of the immeasurable creation, I am less than a blink.

With the Psalmist I acknowledge, the utter evanescence of my existence. The Psalmist beholds the glory of God and the vapor of human life together. Instead of despair, he finds hope.

And now, O Lord, for what do I wait?
My hope is in you. Ps 39:7.

This little prayer, prayed ages ago is still ringing, singing in my ears.

Oh what cause for joy! I am so minuscule, so minor, so fleeting, and yet, I am here. In His good pleasure, He did create me. He sang His life into me and my heart still pounds with the dance.

The God beyond measure gathers me, you, and all His people up in His love, His grace, His utterly surprising creation.

Yes, we are frail and fading, but we are here in this blink, this breath, this shadowed moment. So we rejoice, we rest in Him.

We hope. We trust that He remembers us and will remember us and will remember us and will continue remembering us as we rise, in just a moment, to the fullness of His glory.

Sliding Shadow image by Annalisa Antonini (used by permission by Creative Commons).

Behold Your Salvation is Near


For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. (Romans 13:11–12)

On some nights, the fog of fear and doubt bewitch the mind and torment the heart. We can be trapped in a moment of anguish that feels like ages. For some people, this moment extends to days, weeks, even years. In C.S. Lewis’s novel, The Silver Chair, the prince has been bewitched by the dark Queen of the Underland. He forgets who he is and becomes her slave. When the children try to rescue him, the Queen tries to seduce them and soon they are ready to doubt the sun, the world above, and the hope beyond them. They are falling under her spell.

The constant bombardment of dark news and sad stories can quickly convince us that darkness is rising and the light is fading. Continue reading

Beginning the Advent Journey

adventThe year begins in darkness. Long nights, short days. We gather before the dawn–in the dark of human struggles and fears and loss. What lies ahead? What obstacles may block our way? Will we lose our way in the valley of the shadow of death? Night terrors haunt our days with division and distrust all around us. The nation is shouting. Brother against brother. Fathers and sons turning apart. Our country and even our world seem doomed to repeat another year of anger and hatred; another year of striving. Continue reading

Murmuring the Psalms


It’s 1:30 in the morning, and I sit soaking in the old familiar Psalms. During the quiet of the night, ancient songs wash over me, renew me and gently lead me back to sleep. These same phrases have quieted my soul for decades. Little phrases linger in my mind, “Teach me your way O Lord, that I may walk in your truth”; “Give light to my eyes or I shall fall into the sleep of death”; and the simple “Bless the Lord O my soul.” In nights of distress, days of darkness and even moments of pure joy, these Psalms give articulation to my stammering heart. Continue reading

On Meeting


“On almost every occasion when I have met somebody, I have met somebody else.” – G.K. Chesterton

“All real living is meeting.” – Martin Buber

When my dad was just a boy, his father took him to the TN Valley Fair. They were sharing a bag of peanuts and walking. His dad walked up to a stranger and offered some peanuts. He grabbed a handful. In a few minutes, they were swapping stories, laughing and becoming friends. My dad told me that story again and again and again. Continue reading

Holy Fire


“The Lord comes roaring out of Zion.” The shepherds weep. The mountains wither. It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Advent may be far more risky than we ever imagined. The coming of the Lord may cost us everything.

It is so easy to forget that He is a Consuming Fire. Continue reading

Advent Calendar


We had a simple cardboard Advent calendar that marked the days until Christmas. Each day had a small flap that opened to reveal a little picture beneath the larger picture. This simple, inexpensive calendar opened a window to a world of wonders just beyond my grasp. Continue reading

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