Time well spent…

I had the opportunity this week to visit an exhibit on Leonardo da Vinci. There was a wide array of his work (paintings, drawings, writings and inventions across many subject areas) to see. I found the extent and diversity of his work fascinating. Without doubt, he was a true Renaissance man.

As I took in, and marveled at, da Vinci’s work, alongside and surrounded by many others who were also interested in the items on display, I could not help but feel amazed. Here was a person who lived so long ago, but whose work still has an impact and is undoubtedly the foundation for many works that came after. It seems clear that Leonardo da Vinci was Divinely inspired and that he developed and tried to use his God given talents to the fullest. I cannot imagine this being possible without him taking the time to discover whom he truly was. It also seems likely that with each work, whether it was an invention, writing, painting or drawing, da Vinci probably became more and more genuine, gaining an even greater sense of himself and in relation to his surroundings; making him a Renaissance man in every sense of the word “renaissance.”

Continuing to reflect on the exhibit and the man, Leonardo da Vinci, I think about how he not only had talent, but he also must have had a great deal of patience. As revealed in one of the displays, when da Vinci was painting The Last Supper, there were days when he would just stare at and ponder the painting, trying to discern the next step. Also brought to light was the fact that the painting, which was done on dry plaster (a new technique created by da Vinci) began flaking and cracking even before it was finished. Still though, it ended up being one of the most well-known works of art and throughout time it has not only survived but has also been much celebrated as a masterpiece.

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of da Vinci’s work is the spirit in which it was done. In it, one can see not only his brilliance, but also re-birth and reawakening over the span of his life. Leonardo da Vinci was both productive and contemplative. Again, he used his God given gifts and talents to bring the thoughts, feelings and ideas that sprung to life from within him out into the open, to be shared for benefit beyond him. Whether or not they were deemed a success or a failure at the time really does not matter, what matters is that they are a testament to time well spent.

As the month of December comes to an end and a new year begins, remember, “Time stays long enough for anyone who will use it” (Leonardo da Vinci).

the-last-supperbyleonardodavinciThe Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci

 

A Midnight Clear…Shepherds in the Field

We all have times in our lives that are opportunities for discovery, calling us toward movement and helping us to arise to a new level of awareness…to give witness to the truth and the light…to become more genuine. Depending on how we receive and respond, or not, these moments can become transformative and the grace that flows from them can continue far beyond one’s initial experience.

“Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them” (Luke 2:20).

One might imagine that the shepherds felt a sense of awe and wonder that night. What happened likely changed them in ways visible as well as ones hidden within. One might say it was a pivotal moment in their lives.

The shepherds were initially fearful at the appearance of the angel of the Lord, but like Mary and Joseph, they received the unexpected messenger and they listened with open minds and hearts to the message. In doing so, they were moved, in mind and spirit, and they responded.

They did not look away, but rather they took in, or embraced, the knowledge that had been shared with them and the experience around it.

“And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests'” (Luke 2:13-14).

It all started in the quiet of the night. What took place was powerful, moving the shepherds to leave their posts watching over their sheep. When they did, they went from entertaining an angel to encountering the newborn King.

With that, they experienced the hope and promise that comes with new life. An experience that could not be kept to themselves. “When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child.” (Luke 2:17)

In order for this to transpire, the shepherds had to step away from the flock…step outside of the norm. Only then could they witness what they had been told and spread the message so that all could arise from darkness into Light.

“Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock.

The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear.

The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.

For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”

And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:

“Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

When the angels went away from them to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go, then, to Bethlehem to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.”

So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger.

When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child.

All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds.

And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.

Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them.”

– Luke 2:8-20

 hope1

The Little Things…

I received a message the other day from a loved one that ended with the words, “It’s the little things.” Immediately I smiled as I thought, “Yes, indeed it is.” So much in society seems to shout, “Go big. Go bold!” Yet, so often, it is in the little things, or stemming from them, that big things occur.

Joseph had, “decided to divorce her (Mary) quietly” (Matthew 1:19). Quietly, the truth was revealed to Joseph in a dream through an angel sent by God. Just as, quietly, in “a light silent sound” the Lord spoke to the Prophet Elijah (1 Kings 19:11-12). The Lord spoke in the silence not in the strong and violent wind or the earthquake, although those certainly caught Elijah’s attention.

Sometimes life can get so busy and the voice of God can seem far away or even absent. Yet God is ever-present, even in the strong and violent wind, in the earthquake, and in the big, bold world in which we live. God is always with us, but we may not always be with, or be aware of, and tuned into God.

Sometimes, the best thing one can do is to take a little time. At times, we all need to pause…to step into the silence…to look around and listen a little more closely.

“What you seek is seeking you.” – Rumi

cloudssun

In a Word, at First Sight…

“God is watching out for me.” I saw this sentence earlier in the week and was struck by the way one word can make such a difference. There is something that seems so much more comforting about the idea of God “watching out for me” as compared to God “watching over me.” It is interesting how one word can transform a sentence and create an image that seems easier to embrace. God is not a hovering, “big brother” kind of presence, but rather with me. God is leading the way and protecting me.

Oftentimes it can be all too easy to turn away from something or be closed off to it because of the way it is presented. It can be interesting though, to rewind and replay, taking the time to explore whatever it is that seems offensive in some way. Not only revisiting it, but perhaps also replacing it with what fits or rings true for me.

For example, years ago, I was speaking with a cousin about a new computer she had received. In the conversation, she said something about it not being new, as someone had previously owned it. I think I just said, “Oh,” not knowing what else to say. There was a brief pause and then she said, “Well, it is new to me.”

Sometimes we can be caught up in semantics or, without even realizing it; we can look at things in black and white…with rigidity. When we do this, we are shutting out things that could be helpful in some way and we may be limiting potential growth and learning. This can be especially true when it comes to faith, whatever one’s faith or religion may be.

Yes, there are certain beliefs…practices…tenets to guide the faithful. However, none of them covers every possible situation that I may face. If I do not have some sort of understanding on a deeper, more personal level… an understanding in a way that I can relate to in addition to those beliefs, practices and tenets, then my faith is likely to become stagnant rather than a faith that is living and growing. This is something that is up to me though. I can choose to ignore or reject the things in the world that are different, upset or irritate me, or make no sense to me, or I can choose to look more closely, ask questions, pray, and to seek some sort of value in, or insight by way of them.

Just as, “every cloud has a silver lining,” everything that we may see, at first sight, as nonsensical, annoying, or as oppositional and to be resisted (including defeat), likely comes as a gift, or holds one within it. The question is, “Am I open to unwrapping, and receiving it?”

“We have an infinite amount to learn
both from nature and from each other.”
– John Glenn

earthblue-marble_nasa-earth-observatory

A Voice for all Seasons…

In the middle of a season where there is an extraordinary amount of “crying out” in the form of advertisements, promotions and appeals, it can be easy to get caught up in the busyness that often accompanies this time of year and for the voice within and the peace that comes with it to become muzzled or even disconnected. At a time of the year when many observe the season of Advent, a period of waiting, watching and preparing, Scripture cries out through the readings in the book of the Prophet Isaiah and through the words of John the Baptist in Gospel passages.

John the Baptist was “a voice of one crying out in the desert.” Each of us is also a voice of one…in our families, among our friends, and out and about in the world. Regardless of whether or not we share certain beliefs and practices, we all have a voice that is unique, and all of us have been given the gifts to use that voice through both words and actions. How do I use that voice? For what is my soul crying out?

John the Baptist had a strong sense of his mission to prepare the way for the Lord. That very same sense of purpose and direction from God is available to each of us. How often do I take the time to seek it?

John is also very clear about his role. He states, “I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

Oftentimes we can feel as though we are not worthy or up to the task in front of us. Yet there are many examples that we can point to, both in Scripture and through our life experiences, of God working through those who “are not worthy” or who feel they are not capable. John the Baptist states that he is not worthy, yet he was chosen to prepare the way for the Lord…he baptized the Lord. He is likely trying to make it clear that he is not the Messiah or on equal par with the Savior who is to come. His sense of purpose and his role is ingrained in him along with a vision that extends beyond himself. He is a child of God, doing the work for which God has chosen him, he is worthy and capable, as are we.

Take some time to think of people who have prepared the way for you. Just as God has placed those people in your life, God has also placed you in their life as well as in the life of others. What is it like to envision yourself in the line of those who prepare the way for others? What feelings and desires arise within you as you stay with this image?

Now take a few moments to think of or picture John, “a voice of one crying out in the desert.” He says, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths: all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” (Luke 3:4,6) John is preparing the way for the Lord. In the process, he is using the gifts God has granted to him.

God has blessed each of us with various gifts. Among them are talents. Think about a few of the gifts and talents God has given to you.

Next, think of or picture the Lord. What 3 adjectives or characteristics come to mind?

Sometimes in prayer, there can be a tendency to be more attentive to what we are thinking than what we are feeling. It is helpful to be aware of both thoughts and feelings and to bring both into prayer.

Take time now to enter into prayer. Ask the Lord to show you how and where you might use the gifts/talents you named above in ways that encompass more fully the 3 adjectives or characteristics of the Lord that you named. Notice what you are thinking and feeling as you pray.

After allowing sufficient time, bring your prayer to a close with a silent Amen or another gesture of gratitude and acknowledgment of the sacred exchange that you have had. Consider repeating this prayer in the days to come.

John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea
and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”
It was of him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said:
A voice of one crying out in the desert,
Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.
John wore clothing made of camel’s hair
and had a leather belt around his waist.
His food was locusts and wild honey.
At that time Jerusalem, all Judea,
and the whole region around the Jordan
were going out to him
and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River
as they acknowledged their sins.

When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees
coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers!
Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?
Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance.
And do not presume to say to yourselves,
‘We have Abraham as our father.’
For I tell you,
God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones.
Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees.
Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit
will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
I am baptizing you with water, for repentance,
but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I.
I am not worthy to carry his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
His winnowing fan is in his hand.
He will clear his threshing floor
and gather his wheat into his barn,
but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

Matthew 3:1-12