Here are the Annunciation pictures I took at the Uffizi the other day. I can’t get enough of them, so I snap them over and over and over again. Maybe I should be posting pictures of Holy Week to correspond to the current season, but I resonate with the beginning of Christ’s life, and with what God is asking of Mary—to be the Christ bearer. I keep asking what God wants me to bear and what I hear is hope and love.
On a good day, I wake up asking, “How can be of service today?” At home it is easy; there are people of visit, and a home to attend to. When traveling, however, there is less opportunities. I can email friends but one-on-one contact is a challenge.
Thank goodness for the arrival of Emily and Abby. The service is to give them a good time; be a tour guide, listen to what’s going on in their lives, and enjoy the fabulous shopping that Florence offers. When I am here alone I tour the city every day; but I have no one to listen to, nor do I shop. Being of service ‘isn’t about me’ and yet it can bring out the best in me.
I did it again. I went to San Marco and took photos of Fra Angelico’s frescoes in the monks’ cells. Each scene from the life of Christ offers a metaphor for life: the journey from birth to death, from suffering to hope. Whatever is going on in my life, in the lives of those I know and love, or in the lives of the people in the world, transformation and hope in present in Jesus’ life, suffering, death, and resurrection.
A friend suggested that each year we chose a word to live by for the upcoming 365 days. I have chosen one for this trip: WONDER. So, here I am again in Florence, living into a sense of wonder as I walk around with God.
I’ve pretty much given up defining God—no words other than vague phrases: mystery, beyond words, a state of being, a sense of wholeness, contentment, deep peace in the soul, a feeling of that all is well. My experience tells me that knowing God comes to me when I am being in the present moment, no thoughts of the past or future, which is wise way to be when meditating.
As I wander the streets of Florence in a sense of wonder, I’m in a in a different kind of meditative state. I’m not sitting still with an ‘empty mind’. I’m aware of the NOW, but I’m also drawing on the past; my past experiences do matter. The future is also with me, but to a lesser extent.
Sometimes I can be rigid, but thankfully I can also be flexible. Today I decided that I don’t have to meditate for twenty minutes, just because ‘they’ say that’s the optimal length. ‘They’ also say that if you just have a minute, meditate for a minute. I have a friend who meditates for an hour.
This morning I set my timer for fifteen minutes instead of twenty, and that felt just about right. As I meditated I didn’t dwell on the time, nor did I sneak a look to see how many minutes I had left. I was more into the meditation itself, and was surprised when the timer went off.
Clearly there is no optimal length; try what works for you.
Again I want to share what I just posted on acottagebythesea,net blog. And, as usual, I have added something more at the end.
The other day a parent whose child was killed in the Sandy Hook tragedy took his own life. So many thoughts and feeling sweep through my mind/body/spirit. I will share one.
How dare I worry about my life! I’d better stop perseverating on the meaning of my life and start acknowledging all my good fortune. My faith tells me that my purpose is to be of service to others.
This should be simple. It can be done in silence and solitude.
The Christian faith is about service. Jesus tells us so through parables, direct teachings, and his own actions. Faith versus works has been debated throughout the centuries, but I need no debate here. If I don’t believe that my life purpose is to be of service, I have no faith. Although I’m mighty amiss at following through on this, my faith reminds me when I stray.
Belief in God opens me to compassion for others. I can hardly imagine what this Sandy Hook parent was facing every day after his child died. I have no judgment. I do know, however, that I face a God who calls me to be of service.
What follows is the post on my cottagebythese.net blog the other day. I want to add a comment about de Waals comment about the gratitude we ‘should’ feel when we take the time to look at God’s creation. Every little piece of lichen brings wonder at the infinity of creations. When I realize that I am one of those individual creations, I am filled with unspeakable gratitude, wonder and humility.
From time to time I write about being in the NOW; it’s one of the ways that helps me be conscious of silence and solitude. I’m pretty HDHD, although such a diagnosis was not “invented” when I was in school (very grateful for that), so I need all these little helps to keep my mind and body quiet and attentive.
Esther de Wall, in an article in Weavings (July/August 2002), gives a marvelous suggestion of how to stay attentive to the moment:
i carry with me a magnifying glass—nothing elaborate—one that I can put in a pocket or carry on a string around my neck. Then, whenever I can, I walk slowly and stop and look at whatever it may be, and I find a whole other world—in a leaf, in a small stone, in a twig. But it need not be outside. In my kitchen I enjoy the texture of an orange or the grains of a bowl of sugar.
What a marvelous time I had with my magnifying glass on my walk yesterday. In rereading her article on my return home, she told me more:
This is the practice of seeing with detachment—seeing without wanting to own or to possess. It is seeing with total attentiveness, with delight, with wonder, with love, and with reverence. Such a mode of seeing brings with it gratitude for the amazing ingenuity and generosity of a creator God—a God who gives us a world that is rich and filled with wonder.
I can’t wait to go out today. Or, I can stay in the kitchen.
Dwelling Place. A comforting word, a holy word. God dwelling in us and we in God. A home of comfort, safety, peace, hope, and love.
Here are a few scriptures call us to dwellings. I gathered them together for a 98 year old friend who recently called to my attention to the comfort of the word.
You who dwell in the shadow of the Most High,
Who abide in the shadow of the Almighty, will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.”
"You will bring them and plant them in the mountain of Your inheritance, The place, O LORD, which You have made for Your dwelling, The sanctuary, O Lord, which Your hands have established.
"I have surely built You a lofty house, A place for Your dwelling forever."
1 Kings 8:13
O LORD, I love the habitation of Your house And the place where Your glory dwells.
Why do you look with envy, O mountains with many peaks, At the mountain which God has desired for His abode? Surely the LORD will dwell there forever.
"In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have
told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.
The people who were dwelling in darkness have seen a brilliant light; and on those who were dwelling in the region of the shadow of death, on them light has dawned."
How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts!
My soul longs, indeed it faints or the courts of the Lord;
My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.
The other day a friend told me he had little hope. In reflecting on our conversation, I realize that he has more hope for world peace than for his own inner peace. He works for justice and peace, but he can’t let go the wrongs that happened to him as a child.
Faith, hope, and love. He is stuck on hope, the middle one, which is more active and comprehensible than faith. Can we have hope without faith? Probably not, because without faith, hope just floats about as a capricious whim.
Love is the easiest to grasp. I love my family, my home, and my upcoming trip to Italy. But love without faith is also capricious, depending on how other people, material possessions, and situations effect me at a given moment. It is easy to grasp moments of hope and love when things are going well. But what about those times of distress, when they are overpowered by despair and fear?
I want to tell my friend that if he pursues faith, hope and unconditional love will follow. But I can’t tell him how, other than to suggest what I and others have found helpful. The best I can do is listen to him and pray for him. Pray for God’s light and peace to shine on, through, and with him, whatever that might mean to him. I don’t know the details of his situation; in fact they can get in the way of my prayer. Let go, let God, is enough.