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Posts Tagged ‘christian’

Considering that my last blog post was about an ornate, massive cathedral, this one is going in a slightly different direction.  While the grandeur of a cathedral can lead me to worship, much simpler churches can do the same.

 

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We had the opportunity to attend a very old and tiny church near our cottage this past summer.  It was built in the 1800’s and has been preserved and kept as it was in the past.  There are old, wooden pews, oil lamps, and no heat or air conditioning.  The first time I walked into the church many things took me back to the church I attended as a young girl  (especially the hand-held fans with the picture of Jesus.)

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Everything from the picture of Jesus in the front of the church to the board with the attendance numbers felt very nostalgic to me.  On the back of the pew in front of me were old hymnals and a bible. As I pulled out the hymn book and began to leaf through it, I found this taped in the front.  The words to this song captures what I was feeling at that moment.

 

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If you like old-time music, here’s a link to the song.  

Church in the Valley by the Wild Wood

My eyes filled with tears as I though about how much my Dad would have loved this little church.  He would have enjoyed the old hymns as well as the speakers who really taught scripture.  My Dad passed away shortly after we bought the cottage last year so was never able to attend this little church with us.  Even though I know he is in a place that is better than any cathedral or old brick church, I still miss him.

Feeling nostalgic was touching, but then the service started.  A sweet, older man led us in singing hymns.  He wasn’t as refined and polished as most of the worship leaders are in many modern churches, but you could tell he LOVED singing those old songs an meant every single word–it was a beautiful thing.   As I sang the alto part to hymns that I had sung as a teenager it affected me in a way that it didn’t when I was young.  Having experienced 40+ years of life since singing them, the words had a much deeper meaning.

We actually helped to set a record attendance of 39 one week and as a person who usually attends a VERY large church, it was moving to be a part of such a small congregation.  People had either come because they have a cabin in the area or they were camping at the nearby campground.  Even though we were all strangers, we were united in our faith.

The church is only open from Memorial Day through Labor Day so I will miss that little church until next spring.  😦

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Front Entrance of Cathedral and View of Both Spires

 

One of the attractions in Basel that everyone recommends is the Meunster Cathedral.  I love going into Cathedrals and old churches so this was definitely on our list of things to see.

 

 

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One of the Stained Glass Windows

 

We were able to tour much of the Cathedral, which was absolutely beautiful.  This particular Cathedral has 2 spires and we were able to climb one of them – 250 spiral steps.  We stopped at several points on the way to the top and walked around the spire on a narrow walkway.  The view from the top was breath-taking.

 

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Just starting the climb

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Part way up and looking up at the other spire

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At the very top and looking directly across at the other spire

 

It was amazing to see the entire town of Basel from this vantage point as well as looking straight across at the other spire.  Luckily I have no fear of heights so it was sheer joy and pleasure for me.  The walk down was tricky at times, but we made it back to the main sanctuary safely.

 

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The organ…AMAZING!!!

 

After coming down we discovered there was an organ recital about to start so we took a seat and waited for the organist to begin.  As we waited I noticed an elderly gentleman sitting across the way talking and gesturing to himself and my first thought was that he must be a little senile.  After watching him for 30 seconds I realized that he was praying – having an honest, heart-felt conversation with God.  He was experiencing deep emotion and it was very evident that he does this often.  He didn’t care who was around him or what they thought – he was spending time with his Lord. It was clear that his prayer was very earnest and he was listening as well as talking.

As the organ music began he closed his eyes and I could see that he wasn’t just hearing the music, but he was FEELING the music.  He would lift his hands at times and move them to the music much like a conductor would.  He was still moving his lips at times and putting his hand to his head as if overwhelmed by a thought/emotion.  He was enjoying the music with the one he had come to spend time with.

At the end of the recital people began to clap and he put his hands over his ears.  Only the Lord knows why he did this, but I couldn’t help but think that either the sound of the clapping was interfering with his worship or he was offended that people were giving praise to the organist instead of the Lord.  As everyone began to leave I watched him slowly rise from his chair and walk out of the church holding on to his cane and he was fairly stooped over.  He had a look on his face like he had just had the most wonderful time communing with someone he loved very much—the God of the Universe.  He may be feeble of body, but he has an extremely healthy soul.

 

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Empty chairs after he had left

 

Often just being in a cathedral and sensing the Holiness brings tears to my eyes, but watching that man was more beautiful than any grand tower or stained glass window. I can’t help but think that I’ll never see a sight as beautiful as that no matter how many cathedrals I tour.  I hope to someday have that kind of relationship with God that I can freely worship in whatever way I am moved, regardless of what others think.  I guess when you are staring into the face of someone you truly love everything else fades away.  I’m going to keep praying that God will help me to feel that kind of love for him/her.  I hope you might pray the same.

 

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Never Say “Never”

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I can’t even begin to count the times I’ve said I would NEVER do something only to wind up doing exactly what I said I’d “never” do.  

  • I said I’d never live in a white house–I now live in a house with white siding.  
  • I said I’d never ride a bike–I now LOVE riding bicycle.  
  • I said I’d never like eating wings because it was ‘barbaric’.  Well, I now thoroughly enjoy sitting down to a heaping plateful of messy wings and tearing into them like a ravenous dog.
  • plus MANY more……..

 

One thing I said I’d never do was to have any kind of vacation place.  My husband had been talking about it for years and I’ve always said that was something I’d never do.  Well………yep, you guessed it, we now own a cottage in a nearby state forest.  As my husband kept showing me picture after picture of cabins, cottages and homes in the woods I continued to adamantly tell him that it wasn’t something I wanted.  Then, one evening he showed me a picture of a cottage that had recently been listed.  To call it ‘love at first sight’ might be an overstatement, but for some reason my attitude changed and I could immediately see our family spending time at this little cottage in the woods.  Knowing how much our kids loved camping in this area when they were young, I knew they would want to spend time at this little place.  We went to see it with family members and it was unanimous—everyone loved it.  We became happy owners of a little cottage in the woods.

 

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“Fern Gully” (aka Adelaide)

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Even though I loved the place and expected to enjoy it, I had no idea how much I was going to NEED it.  Just the time we began to spend time there things began to happen within our family.  

  • My daughter delivered our granddaughter 4 weeks early after an extremely difficult pregnancy.
  • My father, who had been ill, passed away suddenly.
  • Other things happened within the family that brought sorrow.

 

As all of this was happening, I found that spending time at our peaceful, little cottage enabled me to process some of my emotions.  Many nights were spent sitting on the porch praying and crying while coming to terms with some of the grief and fear.  Sitting on that little porch in the woods, listening to the sounds of the forest as nightfall came filled me with a sense of calm.  My soul began to heal as I rocked, cried, prayed and yes, sipped wine

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The “Special” Porch

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This cottage has been something our entire family needed.  We have had several wonderful weekends at the cottage with the kids/grandkids enjoying many things as a family.  

  • sitting around the fire
  • enjoying dinner together
  • falling asleep under the same roof and then waking up together
  • seeing our first bear
  • working on projects together
  • hiking
  • canoeing
  • etc……

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Nothing beats sitting around a campfire.

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One of our hikes

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When I first looked at the pictures of the cottage, I knew it would be a fun place for our family, but I had no idea how healing it would be.  Even though I didn’t know all those things were about to happen-God did.  He gave me something I needed before the need was even there.   I can’t help but wonder how often God does this and we don’t even realize it.  I hope I can become more and more aware of all the ways I’m cared for by my loving God.  

 

I encourage you to never say ‘never’.  You might be saying no to a special gift that God wants to give to you.  It might be something you never wanted, but turn out being exactly what you need.

 

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A Gift from Above

 

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Being sick is never enjoyable, but we can find ourselves with unexpected blessings during those times and Good Friday was one of those for me.

The week before Easter I developed a bit of a cough that eventually wound up developing in to a bad case of bronchitis. Not sleeping, coughing and feeling basically rotten isn’t something I wanted for this special time of year. I had hoped to attend the Good Friday service at our church. Unfortunately, I was exhausted from not sleeping and was still coughing a fair amount so I wound up sitting on my couch feeling disappointed—then I saw IT.

I was looking out our back windows at an absolutely gorgeous sunset. The sky was turning vibrant shades of pinks, blues & purples– it was truly breathtaking. My eyes fell on a clump of trees that are off in the distance and all of a sudden I saw an image in those trees that I’d never seen before….an unmistakeable shape of a cross. The longer I looked at it, the more meaningful it became. I saw it as God’s way of reminding me of the true meaning of Good Friday.

 

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I had my husband take this picture and yes, I posted it to facebook. One comment made by a friend stated my feelings perfecty – “Way, way more meaningful than a church service”. It seems that sometimes we think that the only way we can have a spiritual experience is to sit in a church sanctuary, but we need to be reminded that God can meet us wherever we are—even being sick on a couch.

God gave us the MOST incredible gift on the cross that day, but we continue to be given loving gifts . We just need eyes and a heart that can ‘see’ them.

 

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My Good Friday Cross

 

 

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Garden Labyrinth at West Shore Evangelical Free Church

Up until a year ago I had never heard of a ‘labyrinth’. During a session with my Spiritual Director, she mentioned that walking a labyrinth might be helpful to me. We drove to on that was nearby and it was beautiful– surrounded by trees, gardens and next to a pond with a fountain. I had no idea the impact that little ‘walk’ would have on me.

From the minute I took my first step across the entrance I began to forget about things outside of the labyrinth. One of the first things I saw was a rock with the word “Breathe” on it and I realized that I was tense and had been holding my breath. I consciously relaxed my body and slowly let my breath out. That simple act of letting go of my breath somehow opened up my heart.  I know it may sound a bit crazy, but as I walked the grassy path it felt like I truly was somehow entering into the presence of God. I’m not exactly sure why, but the simple act of walking that labyrinth started a process that has enabled me to be more open and receptive to spiritual things.

One thing I’ve done to continue that process is to be part of building a garden labyrinth at my church. (see pictures) It was a lot of work, but it felt ‘right’ to be doing it. It has been done partly as a memorial to those who are no longer with us and is a place where people can go and remember their loved ones and seek to find comfort and healing.

I often go to the labyrinth just as the sun is setting—in the cool of the evening. I walk up to the entrance, remove my shoes and begin to walk the grassy path to the center. Sometimes I have music and other times I simply listen to the night sounds. There is a tree and a little bench in the center and I usually find myself kneeling and allowing my soul to open up. As I pour out my heart to God a peace slowly begins to fill me. After a while I stand up and begin the walk back out. I can’t explain it, but I almost always feel comforted and a bit stronger to face the next day.

 

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Bench at center of Labyrinth for sitting or kneeling

 

Walking a labyrinth may not have this effect on everyone, but I am thankful that I have discovered one way that I can draw closer to God. I would encourage you to find whatever works for you. If you’d like to explore this further, Gary Thomas wrote a book called “Sacred Pathways” that talks about the different ‘paths’ to God that might be the way to help our souls open up to spiritual things. There is an entire spiritual world out there and we just have to find ways to become aware of it. For me, the labyrinth is one way I can do this.

 

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Me at entrance of Labyrinth (barefoot and ready to walk)

(for those of you who know me, I did make some jewelry with labyrinth charms

so that my jewelry can ‘feel’ right while I walk the labyrinth. )

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View of Labyrinth from gardens on hill

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Sitting area at entrance of Labyrinth–can be used to prepare to walk or to wait for someone who is walking.

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Window

As I have been focusing on spiritual things during this season of Lent, a trip to the National Cathedral in Washington did just that – it drew my eyes and heart heavenward.  If you’ve never had the opportunity to visit, I would highly recommend it.  This Cathedral is the 6th largest in the world and has 231 stained glass windows.  You can look at pictures, but there is something that can only be experienced by walking through the doors.

Rowan LeCompte, the cathedral’s foremost stained glass artist, compares stained glass to music.  ” Both are emotional and instinctively perceived. Like music, stained glass can stimulate the imagination, it can lift the heart, it can enchant.”  I found this to be true.  Music has the ability to touch my soul and I discovered that stained glass also moves me in indescribable ways.   The beauty of these windows as well as the architecture were awe inspiring and as I walked around I found myself in tears several times from the feelings that overwhelmed me.

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The amazing beauty of the stained glass, as well as the of the incredible architecture of building itself, caused me to have the distinct feeling that I was in the presence of something Holy.  The windows all have unique and specific meanings, some Biblical and some historical.  Seeing Jesus, Mary, other well-known Biblical figures depicted in these scenes reached out and grabbed my heart, causing me to simply stop and stare  with tears running down my cheeks .

The only thing I would do differently if I were to go again (and will be sure to do as I tour other cathedrals) is to have my ear buds with me to be able to listen to the music that ‘goes with’ the experience.  Unfortunately others were touring the building and even though my heart ‘heard’ music, my ears were distracted by the noises around me.  I can only imagine what would happen if/when I am in a Holy place like this and am listening to music that touches my soul in that same deeply moving way.

To get a sense of what I ‘felt’, click on the link below and  listen to the music as you look at the images of the cathedrals in the video.  It can’t do justice to actually being there, but if this is the kind of thing that can touch your soul, it will be a wonderful experience.  I have been fortunate to have a facebook friend who has posted various Youtube videos during this Lenten season and they have been special gifts to me.  This video is one that he posted.

Click HERE to listen to Allegri Miserere

If this isn’t what moves your soul, I would encourage you to look until you find what does—-it can be an amazing and overwhelming experience.

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Window

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