Saturday, 27 February 2016

A time to wait

I received a gentle reminder this week that I needed to write another blog.  In fact the person said your followers will be disappointed if you don't soon write again.  No pressure!  So as I was driving I wondered what to write so I looked for inspiration as I drove to and from the parish.  The best inspiration was the snow covered prairies, clear blue skies and grain elevators in the distance.  It was a beautiful day! The fields look undisturbed, under a blanket of snow, awaiting the arrival of spring when new life will bud and grow once again.

I suppose like the fields many of us are waiting...waiting for winter to end and spring to arrive.  It seems about this time of year more and more people are heard to complain about being tired.  Tired of winter, snow, all of the clothes, boots, waiting for the car to heat, shoveling and the list can go on and on.  Winter seems longer than any other season and for many it is a time of waiting, waiting for the re-birth of spring. Spring, where once again we will find new promises, new hope.  Where we enjoy the emergence of the fields and the flowers and celebrate new life.  In the meantime we are in a period of waiting and we can choose to make the most of this time, allow it to blanket us so that we emerge in a new and better way or we can get buried under everything and emerge less enthusiastic and hopeful of what the future may hold.

The other thing that I have noticed this week is that people are very keen to point out how cold Winnipeg is in comparison to other areas of the country.  This has been done by asking a seemingly innocent question, "What's your temperature there today?"  The response in the negative numbers is given and the prompt reply was "oh, its 7 above here today!"  In the words of one of my friends on Facebook ..."bite me!"  Or the other response is to tell me the last time there was a snow know at least a month ago and that the grass is out.  No we do not have grass yet!  But hope springs eternal and winter will pass, the snow will melt and the temperature will increase.  Now it is waiting time.  Spring will come, new energy and purpose will be discovered.  And if we look long and hard around us we can discover the beauty even in the blanket of snow that covers all that is around us because after all spring always comes in nature and in life.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Rhythm of Prayer

I have been most fortunate to have made the acquaintance of and had opportunity to stay with and worship with several religious communities.  Each community is lovely and unique with the various personalities that form it.  However, one thing that is the same in all of the communities is the rhythm of prayer.  Prayer is never rushed, words of the beloved psalms are never hurried, and it is quiet and contemplative.  The rhythm is intended to offer peace, comfort, and solace.  The familiar psalms and prayers are intended to be thought about, intended to make an impact. 

I have a great appreciation for this rhythm and its serenity and peacefulness.  Coming from a time of busyness and filled days that are zoomed through as I flit from commitment to commitment it realize just easy it is to lose focus.   And prayer time, as important as it is, can sometimes be lost.  Tonight, as I sat with the brothers of the Holy Cross for Compline I was reminded that even if I have not made time for or have forgotten to make time for quiet and prayer there are communities at prayer, remembering the needs of the many people in the world, praying for them.  This is a source of great comfort.  

Most of us likely give little thought to the fact that there is someone, particularly religious communities, constantly at prayer.  While my specific concerns or life may not be front and center in the prayers the general needs are remembered.  Someone, somewhere prays for us every hour of every day.  As we give more thought to that fact I am certain that we will find great comfort and solace in the knowledge.  While I have always known that there are communities at prayer and while I have shared in the life of the communities on a number of occasions, it was only today that I consciously acknowledged that someone, somewhere is praying.  Those prayers are intended for you and for me even if we never meet or have opportunity to worship in that community.  It doesn’t mean that we abdicate responsibility to pray for one another rather it is a reminder that prayer continues, voices are raised up and we are brought before God in prayer as we in turn bring ourselves and others to prayer. 

“I find it really beautiful when someone prays for you without you knowing.  I don’t think there’s any form of deeper and purer love.”                                                      (source Unknown)  

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

AND . . .

Have you ever considered the word “and”.  A simple three letter word that holds a lot of power, connects sentences and ideas.  It is a word that we likely give little regard, yet it offers so much to a sentence, a string of ideas.  It is the connector.  Once could think that this little word is insignificant after all a comma can be used instead.  Yet somehow “and” seems to add more power and emphasis to the words or phrases that it is connecting.  Take a moment to think about it, join two words or ideas with the word “and”, now ask yourself which word is most significant!

When we stop and think about it we realize just how significant that little three letter word is and just how much emphasis it adds.  Now if you are a scrabble player a three letter word is not your ideal, you want to use all of your letters, make a fabulous seven or eight letter word and hopefully get a bingo for using all of the tiles.  We also would not want our whole vocabulary to be only three letter words; it would be slightly more difficult to show off our true genius.  However, these little words help us make our writing, talking, speaking so much more beautiful for the significant role that they have to play.

I must admit that it is a word that I have never given much thought to.  It seems to just be there whenever it is necessary to use it in a sentence.  However, today’s meditation focused on the word “and”, not action or compassion or any number of other relevant topics but this word that so frequently pulls sentences and thoughts together.  The result, the realization that this word is a powerful word indicating that there is more.   

So when next you see two words or ideas strung together by the word “AND” consider which word is the most powerful, which word  holds a lot of emphasis, which word in its glorious simplicity can leave us hanging … AND . . . . . . . . . . 

Friday, 5 February 2016

These are a Few of my favorite things

This line from one of my favourite songs and musicals keeps playing in my head as I think about the marvelous opportunity that we just enjoyed exploring Italy.  Several friends have commented that it is the trip of a lifetime.  No doubt it is that, and Edmund and I have been very fortunate to have had several of these trips.  These comments from friends, I think, triggered the words of the song and made me pause and think about all that has been seen and enjoyed. So what were some of the highlights:

  • the history
  • the coffee
  • the pizza
  • Venice
  • Assisi
  • Sistine Chapel
  • the gelato
  • the beautiful art
  • the trains
  • Ostia Antica
  • Trevi Fountain
I am not sure that it could be limited to one or even a few things.  I also enjoyed the discipline of daily writing so that friends and family could be a part of our journey.  The comments and feedback were encouraging.  Just today someone said how much the blog was appreciated with the descriptions -- they felt like they were right there as well.  

Over the past four years there have been an abundance of wonderful experiences so I am not sure that the time in Italy can be looked at in a bubble but rather has to be considered from a much broader lens.  I think about four years ago, when I visited Manitoba for my first time, and being absolutely fascinated with its flatness and seeing the grain elevators. Then there were the Prairie sunsets which seem to go on and on.   The conscious effort it took, and still takes, to remember that you must stop at the train tracks and look for oncoming trains!  

The first trip to France three years ago we followed the story of Mary Magdalene and were able to visit many wonderful sights.  Several highlights that come to mind, the Basilica of Mary Magdalene, sticking my feet in the Mediterranean sea, Paris, Avignon and the driving! This past year we had opportunity to visit in the same area again but visited a number of different places.  Blauvac still figures as the most peaceful place that I have had a chance to go, there was something particularly restful about this place both in the chapel and on the grounds,

As I wrote in an earlier post I am slowly working through a bucket list and with each visit and encounter something gets checked off but there are generally so many other wonderful places that get visited along the way.  Favourite things result in beautiful memories to share and to treasure so pull out a few of your treasures, hum the tune and off you go to recall a few of your favourite things!

Monday, 1 February 2016

To have been so blessed...

Today was an awesome day indeed!  It started with the debate would we make an easy day of it or go to the Sistine Chapel.  Edmund keep going back and forth as to whether we would go, he worked it through and with very little said (by me) we made our way there.  It is  a most wonderful time to be in Rome as there are apparently not so many tourists (seems like lots to me)  and the end result is you get to spend more time in these special places.

We zoomed down the corridors barely pausing to take in any of the artwork along the way and then we walked through the doors of one of the most amazing places.  There are no pictures or videos allowed in the chapel.  We took our time and walked and looked, sat and looked.  The frescoes were floor to ceiling depicting a variety of the biblical stories.  The fall of humanity depicts a serpent with a face, the story of Moses is told over several frescoes and on the opposite side is the Baptism, Temptation, Evangelizing, Last Supper, Crucifixion and Ascension of Jesus.  Above that there were pictures of the prophets and some of the kings.  You can hardly take in the detail so it was great to be able to sit and look, switch sides and ends and look some more.  At the last Edmund spoke to a security guard to ask where the Conclave gathers to vote for the new Pope and where the smoke goes up from.  We sat right below the window where the smoke goes out and looked at the tile (now slightly browned) where the apparatus that sends the smoke up the chimney is set up.  It is all dismantled in between the election.  All in All pretty amazing.

The other amazing thing about this visit to the chapel was the opportunity to stand at the base of the altar give thanks for the wonderful opportunity that we have been afforded and to pray for the many people that have asked us to keep them in our prayers.  I can safely tell those who have requested it of us that you have been upheld in prayer in some powerful houses of God.  Powerful for what they represent, the beauty they hold but even more so because of the many generations who have been at prayer in these beautiful temples.

Look down, these are the floors

Look up at the Ceilings

Frescoes line whole corridors

Another Corridor

This little glass cross caught my eye with all of the etchings

A mural

the hallways are marble and frescoes as far as the eye can see

A prayer desk, very ornate and hard to appreciate behind the glass

Top of a table

Stained glass

A gate

Looking out at the gardens

Courtyard of the chapel

Pillared entrance

This globe circled around

A glance at the architecture 

The way to St. Peters Basilica 

The Apartments of the Pope

A mural in a corner building

the bells of St. Peter's ring out every 15 minutes

. . . and it will forever be 4:15 pm for us in Rome!

The Entrance Gates

Keeping a Sabbath

We have long been commanded, encouraged to keep a Sabbath.  The concept is an old one and can be easily found in the earliest biblical stories.   It is one that was not merely encouraged but commanded, note the story of creation and the Ten Commandments. The idea being, of course, that one would have a day of rest.  This day is set aside for rest, refreshment, worship; a time to just be.  How many of us avail of it?

I confess I find it hard to do nothing, to just be.  I find that any free time means I can read, knit, cross stitch, plan, do household chores.  It is not a time of rest where I am doing nothing.  So I am guilty of not making the most of sabbath time.  It could be the way that I am wired!  It could be the society that I live in.  It could be any number of reasons.  However,  as we walked  along the streets of Italy, I have noticed a difference in the pattern here.  Everything is closed, people seem to be in less of a hurry, even the trains are less frequent.  The pace of life is slower.  What people are actually doing on this Sabbath is anyone's guess but the temptation to shop and rush around the malls has been removed from the equation.  The result of all of this activity of course is that we get weary.  That leads to further issues regarding wellness of  body, mind and spirit.

While the Sabbath was traditionally set aside for worship I think it has taken on a broader aspect, it is finding the quiet space to breathe easily with no list of activities, it is taking the extra time to rest and allow for wholeness of the body, mind and spirit.  It is taking time to be in a quiet and holy place to breathe in the good and the positive and exhale all of the negative.  The Sabbath is about finding rest.

A slow walk along the grounds of the monastery to simply be in the fresh air, enjoy the surrounding beauty and a slower pace reveals many beauties of nature and what we are surrounded with.  To breathe in crisp clean air, smell the beginning of roses and see the beauty that lies before us.  To quietly be is a gift.  The Sabbath is also a gift, a gift to be so that we can renew and strengthen our minds, bodies and spirits further enabling us to go back to all that we encounter in life, ready to face it because we have taken advantage of our Sabbath.  Will you keep your Sabbath?

The Roses are blooming!

The Pomegranates are done for the season! 

Fig Trees at various heights

The Holly