Pilgrim Notes

Reflections along the way.

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Advent – To the Wonder

advent wonder

In some ways, the journey into Advent is a journey into wonder. It begins with the people living in great darkness and ends with the birth of Jesus, the Light of the World. As we look and long for his coming, we turn toward Him in our thoughts, meditations upon Scripture, and songs of the season. We sing, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” Continue reading

Advent – Into the Light

advent light

“I don’t know what to do!” cried Scrooge, laughing and crying in the same breath…I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a school-boy. I am as giddy as a drunken man.”

After Scrooge awakes from his night with the ghosts, he is overjoyed to be alive and greets the day with laughter and merry-making. He steps out of the dark and into the light. During Advent, we rehearse the hope of stepping out of the dark and into the light. We are reminded, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8). Continue reading

Advent – Prepare the Way of the Lord

St_John_the_Baptist_Preaching_to_the_Masses_in_the_Wilderness_oil_on_oak_panel_by_Pieter_Brueghel_the_Younger copy

A voice cries out, “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord.”

Come all you saints and sinners, prepare your hearts for the coming of the Lord. Come you weak and weary. Find rest for your souls. Come you strong and full of vigor. Behold the source of your life. For the King approaches. Come you poor and rich alike. Offer your lives in worship. Come you hungry and full, behold the feast has been set before us. Come you joyful. Come you grieving. Put on the garment of praise for the Comforter stands among us with healing in his wings. Let us all come before the throne of mercy and grace, to watch and wait together for the Lord, the Savior, the Redeemer who brings salvation to His people and to His world. Continue reading

Advent – The Day is Coming

candle at dawn
The day of the Lord is coming. Advent resounds the promise of His coming: His justice, His glory, His light that overcomes all darkness. We step into the season of Advent like a child awaking before the dawn and exclaiming that the sun is coming. He cannot see the its piercing fire; he cannot feel its blanketing warmth, but he knows that it is coming. The day is ready to burst forth into newness. Continue reading

Rejoice in the Lord


Paul commands us to rejoice. Echoing the ancient Psalmist, he rehearses the call to “Rejoice in the Lord.” How can joy be commanded?

After several days at the beach, my siblings and I were growing weary with play. We started complaining, arguing, and expressing general discontent. Suddenly my dad’s voice boomed into the mix, “I paid good money for this trip and you had better enjoy it!”

Half fearful of the consequences of not enjoying the vacation, we quit complaining and stiffly tried to enjoy. Somehow joy under command seems odd, if not impossible. It seems inauthentic. Continue reading

Remembering Home

Sabbath is like remembering home.

remembering home

image courtesy of Thomas Hawk (via Creative Commons)

Singsong voices ringing in the air. Running through the house, out the back yard and circling round again. Burnt leaves lining the sides of the streets. Aromas of autumn float in the air. Rolling pastries to the hum of Christmas songs. Family and friends crowded around the dinner table. Long stories. Loud laughter. Drooping eyelids.

Longing for an innocence, a wonder, a place before.

Abraham Joshua Heschel tells the story of a prince sent away from his home, his father. He wanders the world alone, longing for his Father’s love and approval. One day a messenger arrives outside the lodging of the prince and announces, “Prepare to come home.” Filled with joy, the prince runs through the village and into the local tavern. “Food and drinks for all. Today is a day of great joy for I’ve heard the call to come home.” Heschel says that Sabbath is a day of great joy for we are going home to see the Father. Continue reading

“If we are not able to rest one day a week, we are taking ourselves far too seriously.” – Marva Dawn

Discerning Spiritual Experiences

spiritual experiences
“…faith is understood as the encounter of the whole person with God. And it is precisely the whole man that God desires to have before him. He wants for his Word the response of the whole man. God wants man not only with his intellect (which would, in any case, have to be sacrificed to a truth which is not self-evident), but, from the outset, also with his will; he wants man not only with his soul, but also and equally with his body.” (Hans Urs Von Balthasar, Glory of the Lord, Volume 1, p. 213)

Living faith is not simply mental consent to a set of propositions about God and man. Von Balthasar reminds us that we participate in this living faith with our whole and undivided person. Spiritual experience encompasses our whole life and may overwhelm us in ways we had not expected. Continue reading

The Mystique of Spiritual Direction

spiritual direction

I was talking with a friend the other day about spiritual direction, and the conversation continued in my head long after I walked away. In fact, our conversation was an overflow of a conversation she had with another friend the day before. Words, thoughts, questions sometimes linger long after we leave the presence of another. Continue reading

Building Hope Amidst the Ruins

building hope

In the lonely haunts of forsaken places, the people of God are building hope.

What does building hope look like? It looks like a glimpse, a hint, a promise of God’s coming Shalom. The Lord rescues the children of Israel from a world built and sustained by slavery. He leads them on pilgrimage through the stark barrenness of the wilderness. Far away from the Nile and the bounty of Egyptian food, his people face the threat of no water and no food. Stripped of necessary provisions, the people of God learn that we do not live by bread alone but by “every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:3). Continue reading

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