Monthly Archives: August 2014

Tokens – Saint Christopher

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St. Christopher

Next to my lovely South Pacific pearl and Mayan coin hangs another medallion.  On an adventure to Italy, I visited Rome.  While I’m not Catholic, I couldn’t pass up a chance to visit the Vatican. I walked on uneven cobblestones and marveled at the uniqueness of the smallest internationally recognized independent state in the world by both area and population.  The buildings were large and old. Inside, the buildings varied from newly renovated and extravagant to old and decaying.

It took persistence to see the Vatican.  I visited it on three separate days.  It reminded me of the persistence that I need to have in my relationship with God.  On day one, I saw the outside, and didn’t want to wait in line to go inside.  I reveled at the outside architecture without stepping inside.

On day two, I decided that I needed to wait in line, but it was a Wednesday, which is the day that Pope Benedict XVI had a service.  I watched the pomp and circumstance as the service began and the stage filled with priests in black with red sashes.  Then, in glowing white, the Pope sat in the middle of the stage.  Several people spoke and then the Pope began his sermon.  I couldn’t understand him because he was so far away and speaking Italian.  However, it was a fascinating experience.  I learned that on “Pope” days, nobody is allowed inside. So I wandered across the street and meandered through the hectic streets of Rome.  I sat outside a small café and ate pizza margarita with slices of egg and ham.  I savored my Coca-Cola after slowly pouring from the little bottle into a small glass.

I wandered through some little shops and in one a collection of small medallions caught my eye.  I struck up a conversation with the shopkeeper who spoke broken English.  We had an awkward but fun conversation as we struggled to understand each other.  I told her that I wanted a medallion to add to my chain and gestured to my chain around my neck that held a token from Mexico.  She pointed to St Christopher, and explained that he is the saint of travel.

“Well, that sounds appropriate, so I’ll take it!”  I added the medallion to my chain and continued with my exploration of Rome, always careful to keep track of where I turned or stopped so I could return to my hotel safely.

On day three, my persistence paid off.  I was able to take a tour inside the buildings and marvel at the architecture and huge cathedral and buildings.  The Sistine Chapel was large and filled with people from wall to wall.  I was disappointed that instead of quiet reflection, I was surrounded by a noisy mob taking nonstop pictures despite a strong warning that no flash pictures are allowed. It was a warning that couldn’t possibly be enforced with the number of people packed in and passing through the holy chapel.  I wish I could have visited it alone to spend time in prayer and reflection.  I noted the parallel of the need for hectic lives to slow down and the irreverent crowd hurrying for a snapshot of the beautiful ceiling of history without pause to consider each colorful drawing’s story.

After getting home with my new medallion, I did some research on St. Christopher.  He is viewed as a saint of protection, particularly for protection during travel and long voyages. He was 7.5 feet tall, and was searching for the greatest King there was.  When he saw a human king show fear for the Devil, he turned to the Devil as the greatest.  However, he then learned that the Devil fears Christ, and turned to Christ.  He dedicated his life to honoring Christ and ended up helping people cross a dangerous river as his service to the Lord.  He once carried a young baby, who turned out to be Jesus, as heavy as the world.  Struggling, he finally made it through the rushing water to the other side.  His story reminds us that as Jesus carries the weight of the world, Christ is carrying me through life.

Tokens – My Mayan pendant

 

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I will continue to share the tokens that I treasure in the order acquired.  Prior to the imperfect pearl came two others.  The first was a Mayan token from Mexico that I had no idea would become the first of a collection.  I love to have reminders of my travels but never want to find room in my luggage.  I’ve found that gathering little tokens provides a reminder requiring little space.

A few years ago, I went on vacation with a longtime friend.  We had held each other up through some tough, emotional times.  We had a lot of fun shopping, traveling, and even had dogs that were best friends.  Life was always an adventure filled with laughter and camaraderie.

This particular trip took us to Mexico.  One day, we visited some ancient Mayan ruins where we climbed partway up a very steep and tall set of steps. Giving up about halfway, we sat and looked out over the jungle that had overgrown remnants of a civilization. We wandered through pockets of the ancient civilization, spread through an overgrown jungle, following paths carved out for tourists.

Upon returning to our hotel, a small silver coin with Mayan symbols caught my eye in the window of the gift shop.  I bought the token and have since worn it on a chain around my neck.  It reminds me of the preciousness of life and how time moves on, leaving whole civilizations behind. It emphasizes that nothing here on earth is forever. It also reminds me of the strength and fragility of friendship as I recall laughing throughout the trip with my friend.  A friend who, like past civilizations, has moved on in life. There are times, when we lose touch with friends, not deliberately or through conflict, but because of life changes.

In contrast, the small, round, Mayan token reminds me of constancy when I think of how God has been there for all civilizations. God’s view is better than ours, and he’s seen everything.  He sees where my life will lead and will be there with me.  God is constancy even as life is not.

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The Blog Pile – Lighting Our Path

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Summertime is full of outdoor activities. I recall camping as a little girl, and the most dreaded part was having to go to the bathroom in the dark. I would plead with my family members to accompany me, and off we would go. I remember screaming and jumping on the toilet if a mouse happened by. But the flashlight? I never let go. As an adult, when I took my kids camping, I was on my own if they were sleeping. While I was braver, admittedly, as an adult, I still had the heebie-jeebies. I would hang on to the flashlight tightly, using it as a guide that I would not let go of. Darkness hung around the light that helped me navigate branches or puddles along the path and brought me back to the tent safely. I only went where the light led.

In Psalm 119:105 (KJV), we are told that “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” Have you noticed that, just like a flashlight in the night, we are most concerned about where our feet are currently, and where we’re going? Why are feet and path both mentioned? Simply put, our feet are where we are in life and our path is where we’re going with time, efforts, and sometimes uninvited events. God shines a light on our lives through His Word to highlight what is pleasing and what needs attention. Reading the Bible provides us with a light that helps us see ourselves as we are – right where we stand. He meets us where we are, in the midst of events spiraling out of control or stuck between unmoving issues in life. We may be deep in debt, bound to bad habits or, conversely, feeling pretty good about ourselves. It’s important to look at where we are in order to chart a path forward.

Then, He shines a light onto our path, leading us along a path that is illuminated by His guidance. There will be rocks and detours, but He’ll shine His Light through His Word. Just as a lamp’s light diffuses as it moves into darkness, our knowledge of the future will show our next steps brightly with a still unseen future. God has put us on a need to know basis.

Interestingly enough, there is no mention of the path behind us. Even though we are living with fond memories, regrets, or even consequences, the past is behind us. It is over, as He forgives us as we confess the bad and acknowledge the good in our lives. He lights both where we are and where we need to be.

Camping is fun, and I have great memories of it. I now camp at the Marriott without need of that indispensable flashlight. However, I still have God’s Word reminding me of an indispensable lamp that leads my life. I try to not look back but focus on today, tomorrow, and avoiding puddles.

Tokens – My Imperfect Pearl


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I’ve never been into symbolism, but I have slowly gathered meaningful pendants and charms that I wear on a necklace and bracelets. Each has its own story. Today, I’ll start with my South Tahitian pearl. During this past frigid winter that introduced the term “polar vortex” into our lives, I slipped away for a few weeks of warmth. My first stop was Tahiti, where I spent some time in solitude, pondering life. So that is where I’ll begin.

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I sat, alone, on the balcony of a bungalow in Moorea that reached over the water, supported by a foundation of poles that disappeared into the water and sand below. South Pacific — One more check on my bucket list. I fingered the smooth, imperfect pearl on a chain around my neck. Rolling it between my fingers intricately to become familiar with its deviations as I drew parallels to beauty despite the imperfections of life. Wind howled through the South Pacific mountainsides and rushed across the surface of the ocean. It was noisy despite the calm that was displayed.

Palm fronds rustled on the bungalow’s roof and wind touched my face. Salt air rushed across my skin as I took in the wonders of the Pacific. Clouds gathered at the horizon, hovering to mask and shape the brilliant sunset.  Dogs barked in the distance. Birds cawed and warned of the coming night. A rooster crowed, defying the myth of only crowing at daybreak . Headlights, in-congruent with the remoteness of the surroundings, popped in and out of view as cars circled the island on a road with ocean on one side and a rapidly rising mountain on its other.

Ocean water flowed quickly as the peaceful depths hid fish in the coming night. Two large sting rays glided by gracefully, their lovely gray fins floating through the water. Fish scattered as two sharks approached, circling in a deceptively calm nature, their soft gray color illuminated by a light under the deck. Night-time was almost upon me – the girl with the imperfect Tahitian pearl on a chain around her neck. The girl whose life had been ingrained with a thirst for travel despite many odds.

The surface of the pearl became more and more familiar even as the foreign feel of Pacific air, sounds, and fading light enticed my senses. Twinkling lights of civilization betrayed the remoteness of a vast ocean and isolated island. Mountains jutted high in the sky, contrasting with the flatness of a seemingly endless ocean. The water’s surface varied from still to rippled, with no visible logic for the difference in movement. Pockets of floating sea weed were pulled gently by the tide. The jagged yet flowing beauty of my surroundings reminded me of the intricacies of life and its ups and downs.

The value of a South Pacific pearl is measured by its roundness, size and darkness in color. The world gives a monetary value to the pearl based on these criteria. I had gone into the store and asked to see the cheapest pearl in the store. Not the huge and long strands in the window. Not the pearls intricately surrounded by diamonds. The clerk, after resigning herself to the fact that mine would not be a large purchase, pulled a tray of pearls from deep within a drawer. On it were the imperfect and undesirable pearls.

In several shades of grey, various shapes, ridged or oblong, the tray looked sad compared to the beautiful jewelry that filled the store. I looked in the top left corner of the tray at the cheapest pearl in the store. That was the one I wanted. It was beautiful in my eyes. Medium gray, ridged at the top with a polished shine. Taken out of the environment of competition in the store, it now lives gracefully on my travel necklace, sharing top billing with treasures from abroad. I love it.

God loves each of us too. Based on His criteria, not ours. He reaches deep into the folds of his sheep to love the imperfect, specifically those who feel undeserving. He reaches past the seemingly perfect sheep to touch those with feelings of unworthiness in their hearts and minds. He sees beauty in each and every sheep in his flock.

I sat outside the bungalow and fingered my new pearl that, to me, represented hardship that brought beauty. It began as an irritant in a living oyster, possible as small as a grain of sand. The oyster learned to live with it by laying shell material until the pearl became tolerable and smooth. It represented faith that God carries me through rough waters, smoothing my rough edges as needed. I looked at the beauty of the tiny corner of the world that I was in and felt the love of God, and relaxed deeply into my surroundings.