Very grateful for this morning.
I’m more conscious of walking around with God in the early morning, at least when I’m in Florence. There are fewer distractions to draw my thoughts away. The streets are relatively clear of traffic, the sidewalks sparse save for a few runners; I don’t have to concentrate on maneuvering my way from spot to spot, from café to cafe. And then there is the heat; even in September there is the omnipresent sun.
Very grateful for this morning.
On this visit to Florence I’ve become aware of how different life has become from what I experienced during my childhood and even my parenting years. Cell phones, selfies, wearing attire, hair styles, tattoos are just the way it is these days. Most would agree that the world is changing exponentially.
The good news, at least as far as I am concerned, is that I have no regrets about the past, nor specific desires for the future. As I sit here writing in this little park, I feel myself accepting things just the way they are, and, as the saying goes, just the way they aren’t. I notice I have very few judgments about people and I’m less apt to analyze situations. It’s just the way it is, not good, not bad. Life is changing and people have to adapt. You might say I have a Zen approach in accepting what is.
However, as a Christian I attribute the calm I feel to my meditation and prayer practice. My moral compass is always shimmering and keeping me on track. I try to be honest with myself and others, and follow the Golden Rule.
This is grace, not of my own doing. I just show up to open my heart.
I did it again. I took pictures of Fra Angelico’s frescoes in the monks’ cells at the Convent of San Marco. Before every visit I tell myself I don’t need another set of photographs; during every visit, I take pictures anyway; at the end of the day, I post them. So, here they are for your prayerful enjoyment.
If you name it a prayer walk, it will becomes one—it happens when t the mind goes to the heart. On this Sunday in Florence the temperature may reach 90, and for sure the streets will be crowded, but right now the early morning is cool and the streets relatively clear. So I start my best prayer walk, inviting my mind into my heart.
My walk began quietly as I wandered across the Piazza della Signoria, along the Arno, over the Ponte Vecchio, and down some side streets. Life picked up at Piazza Santo Spirito, where an antique show was getting underway and where my go-to café was bustling. Final stop, Sung High Mass at St. Mark’s English Church.
It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything more than a Daily Quote or Word & Image. It’s not that I haven’t been praying, but I couldn’t pull together anything I felt worthy of sharing. Maybe I should have told you that I was all over the place mentally and physically getting ready for this moment when I would be sitting in the garden of the art institute adjacent to the Boboli Gardens in Florence. Maybe I should have told you that I was too involved in the non-stop breaking news to ever imagine that I would be taking a two week vacation from it all.
The leaves are turning and there is a soft breeze here in the park. How easy it is to feel God’s presence in God’s natural creation and in God’s people enjoying themselves! I say that I go to Florence to walk around with God, because that is truly what I want to do, although I often forget. When I do remember, however, God is clearly present whether I am walking the streets, visiting a church or museum, enjoy delicious food, or watching people (and their dogs) in the park.
Traveling alone simplifies things; it’s just God and me, no one else. Traveling alone helps me practice what I’d like to have happen all the time—be aware of God. I’m reminded of St. Paul’s suggestion that we pray without ceasing, and the way of the pilgrim repeating the Jesus Prayer.
I am very grateful that solitary travel works out so well for me, but it’s not the only way to travel or to be in solitude, nor the only way to be in God’s presence. When we follow Jesus, however, we see that a little solitude time with God is part of God’s plan. If Jesus traveled off by himself to be with God, why shouldn’t we?
It is said that Jesus was both human and divine--a concept I easily resonated with on my walk this morning. I set out with the intention of walking with God—to meditate and be in God’s presence by letting go of all my everyday thoughts—the monkey mind, as it is called. At varying intervals I was able to do this, to be with the divine Jesus.
However, I was also present to the human Jesus. How could I not, with sweat dripping down the back of my neck, with my legs letting me know they were working hard, and with thoughts of thirst?
I’m glad my faith celebrates both the human and the divine, not just in Jesus but in each one of us humans. Without thought or commitment we all participate in the human. But although the divine is there, we have to chose it and practice bringing it into our consciousness and actions.
So did Jesus. He was out and about in Galilee walking and talking with people, but he there were times when went off to walk and talk with God. And then there was the cross, where he was fully human, and then in some mysterious, unfathomable way, showed us how also to be fully divine.
This month my life has been filled with two visits with family to Lake Dunmore in Vermont. Prayers of gratitude came easily, and it doesn’t hurt that I was brought up by parents who by example taught gratitude. Grateful (lucky) me!
I know that life doesn’t just offers joys such as being at a beautiful lake with family; sadness comes and goes for all of us. But what about the people who have never had a lake to sit by? Families fleeing terror, children separated from parents, people living with malnutrition, disease, hunger? I struggle with all of this. I know I don’t deserve what I have at the expense of others; I know others don’t deserve what’s going for them.
What can I do? I don’t want to use my age as an excuse for not being an activist, but I can use it to pray that people the world over will be offered beautiful reasons to be grateful. We older folks have the time to pray, and the life-experience to believe deep in our souls that prayer makes a difference.
I receive emails from “Faithful America”, www.faithfulamerica.org and organization committed to give voice to Christian love in the political arena; to voice inclusivity, to speak loud and clear that God loves EVERYONE, to proclaim Jesus’ message of love not fear not. It speaks a liberal point of view to counter a conservative message.
As a Christian, I am grateful for this voice out there on the internet: to feed the poor, speak kindly, not with anger, don’t laugh at people, honor the due process in our land of law (don’t say ‘lock her up’).
We Christians must do our prayerful best to stay positive and loving in the current political climate. It is always a challenge but because we know and believe that we are not our own savior, we have an inkling of a chance to show a different way of living and being in the world.
Here’s the latest post.
Dear Faithful America member,
Criminal indictments and headline news have revealed that the National Prayer Breakfast is an "international influence-peddling bazaar." What masquerades as a religious event has long been chock full of lobbyists representing foreign dictators and oligarchs looking for a chance to rub elbows with U.S. leaders.
Maria Butina, an alleged Russian intelligence operative, has been charged with criminal conspiracy for collaborating with National Prayer Breakfast organizers in 2016 and 2017 in order to establish a back channel of communication between Russian and American officials.
From its inception, the breakfast has been organized by a secretive network of conservative Christian leaders known as “the Fellowship” or “the Family,” who admire Jesus as a “strongman” and extol “totalitarianism for Christ.” The event’s official legitimacy comes not from any church or denomination, but from the bipartisan members of Congress who chair it each year.
Senators Chris Coons (D-Delaware) and James Lankford (R-Oklahoma) are next year's chairs. Now that the National Prayer Breakfast has been exposed for what it is, they must resign.
I’m reading The Cloister, an intriguing novel by James Carroll. It takes place in NYC in the 1950s, occupied Paris in the ‘40s, and France during the time of Peter Abelard (1079-1142).
In one of the scenes Abelard is quoted as saying, “it is human to err in knowing God’s will. Therefore, your act in its pursuit can be wrong but you can still be virtuous if your aim is pure. The intent defines, not the deed (p. 82).
For a long time I’ve believed in the importance of our intent, but reading Abelard’s words took me to a deep place. For many of us privileged, twenty-first century good citizens it is easy to do good works, to help those in need; we don’t need to embrace any spiritual or religious tradition to do so to be human beings at our best.
But we faith seekers grapple with the faith/works conundrum, knowing that the intention we feel in our hearts matters. The more open our hearts, the more loving the work, which sends the God energy/love/peace out into the universe. This very mysterious act affirms St. Paul’s words: the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).
In Very Grateful, the memoir I wrote about my mom and me during the last two years of her life, I talked about ‘holding on’ and ‘letting go.’I held on to her and then slowly let her go; she held on to life and then slowly let go. Since her death almost seven years ago, I continue to hold on to all that she was to me and to everyone who knew her.
Life is full of good things to holding onto, as well as bad ones. The challenge is to know which is which and then to muster the courage either to let goor hold on.
I try to hold onto anything I’m grateful for. Today I am holding onto this beautiful day, the book I’m reading, my family and friends, my church, and family time in Vermont in a few weeks.
I try to let go of anything that gives me worry that is beyond my control. Today, for example, I am letting go of the stressful news, while at the same time considering how I can contribute to making a positive change.