Quiet and Disquiet

20161108-dsc_0100

I’m wanting a quiet day – maybe a day to process all that has happened with the U.S. election. JB has asked a couple of times if I’m okay and I tell him I am. I know I am, although I feel a sense of disquiet. Maybe it is because my country is in turmoil and I like closure. I was looking forward to election day because I thought it would bring closure – but instead I find myself at the beginning of a long unknown.

20161108-dsc_0090

I have felt a need to write, because writing clarifies and expands my understanding while also bringing a sense of healing when my heart is unsettled. But writing is hard work – and my energy has been low while my chronic pain is annoying. Fatigue and pain create a foggy mist through which I see dimly. Life seems strange right now.

20161108-dsc_0092

For now I am finding joy in sharing some of the strangely beautiful orchids I found on my first visit of the season to the Naples Botanical Gardens on Tuesday. I am finding peace in enjoying all that is beautiful, all that is good and right. I find comfort in the ticking of the clock, the rising and setting sun, the rhythms of life. I was lifted up by the beautiful sound of 100 well-trained voices of the Naples Philharmonic Youth Chorus on Sunday. Yes, life is a miracle.

20161108-DSC_0093.jpg

Yes, I can fill the disquiet with the quiet of all that is beautiful and honest. I can respond with integrity and humility as I love others as I have been loved. In a world that so often seems loud and brash, I enjoy reaching out and being touched with gentle love.

20161108-dsc_0110

I will turn away from the disquiet of revenge, hate and anger, instead finding quiet peace within the teachings of my faith.

Spiritual Time with a Camera

Julie and I went on a photo shoot last Friday morning – a beautiful morning with low temperatures, cool breeze, and a blue sky. Because it is just after the Summer Equinox, we got an early start – but not early enough to get that magical morning light.

That didn’t bother us much as we set out to the southwest of where we live, south of Homer where there are Amish farms and a couple of good bakeries. If I am honest with myself and you, I will have to admit that we had a bakery in mind that directed our drive as much as our search for interesting subjects.

Decisions were made at each corner depending on what would move us towards the bakery and whether the road was gravel. We have a preference for dirt roads that we can drive slowly, watching for something to pull us over or just because it brings peace to slow down. And we talk about small stuff and important matters; we trust each other.

20160624-DSC_0106

We made a few stops, but nothing really exciting. And we found the Amish bakery, buying some goods to take home and a cinnamon roll to eat. We took some photos that will be featured in another post, but didn’t take the best photos because of the wish of the Amish to not be photographed.

After enjoying the roll, we hit the road again but by then the sun was really high in the sky and time was running out as Julie had an appointment in the afternoon. We had yet to find that special place where time stands still, we stop talking, and beauty is evident in everything. I was already looking forward to our next outing. We decided to head for home.

Then the dirt road to the right, with the sign warning of “road closed ahead,” beckoned us. There wasn’t much on it but it kept getting narrower and narrower, and very hilly and curvy. I could feel my excitement build as it does when I experience a new adventure. Just around that next bend would be something to excite our photographic eye. And we came to the end of the road – with a turnaround. That was it. I started back.

We went up the curvy, steep hill and there on our left side were some day lilies and soon-to-be-ripe berries. Not exciting but still they seemed like a good reason to pull over.

20160624-DSC_0112

20160624-DSC_0119

 

Without speaking we picked up our cameras and moved into our own world, into our personal sacred space. The birds sang to me while the breeze cooled my sun-dappled skin. I saw things that I normally would have ignored. But in this place and time they revealed the beauty of their existence. I almost captured it with my camera – but the beauty of existence can be elusive.

I love what I did capture, and look forward to finding another sacred place on our next outing. I look forward to finding another place where God and I can be together without words and I can see if I can come closer to capturing Her beauty.

What Will We Do in Our Tomorrows?

20160308-DSC_0062

Sunday I celebrated the Christian religious holiday of Easter. This is our most important religious day – the foundation of our faith. What I ponder today, one of the tomorrows after Easter,  is how does my belief in the death of Jesus for my sins and His resurrection to sit on the right side of God impact how I choose to live in my tomorrows?

What I ponder today should be relevant for all faiths. Passover will be celebrated in April by those who practice the Jewish faith and I would be interested in knowing what the celebration of God freeing the Jews from bondage in Egypt means for their life choices during  their tomorrows. I’m not familiar with the faith defining events of Islam – maybe some of my Muslim readers will tell my what they are. And whatever they are, do they make a difference in who you are and how you choose to live your life? Not everyone believes in a big-G but they still have little-g gods. No matter who this god is (maybe money, status, fame, power) or where this god exists (nature, humans), what does it mean for how you chart your future and what will be said of you when you leave this existence. Will you be remembered as a good person? Will you leave your community a better place?

I am pondering these questions. Sometimes my environment brings out the worst in me. As JB and I are dealing with several stressful circumstances, like condo politics and U.S. politics and church politics, we can sometimes feel ourselves wanting to get revenge. Sometimes we want to see bad things happen to people we perceive as bad. Sometimes we have a hard time figuring out who is the bad guy and who isn’t and sometimes we come across people who seem just plain evil. Sometimes they seem misguided because they don’t think like me and I know I’m right – right?

JB and I were driving from an Easter service that nurtured our spiritual growth to our usual breakfast at Blueberries and JB said he had made a decision. He said that he has decided that he is not going to let the bad behavior of the people around us impact on who he is as a person. He is going to strive to be the best person he can possibly be (and he is a really good person). I am with him all the way.

We had been struggling with how to be good people. When one or the other had slipped into fantasies of how to get even, of the bad things we would like to do to bad people, the other would act as a balance, a voice of kindness. Maybe speaking our fantasies was a way of purging the anger from our bodies, although I still kicked a fallen pine cone onto their side of the yard. That will show them!

We will continue to be kind and friendly to those who do wrong, but will not allow them to enter our lives enough to influence us to do wrong. We will live to be an example of what is good and right and just. We will surround ourselves with what is nurturing to our kinder, gentler side, like good people, wholesome entertainment and healthy food. We will seek out the beauty of the world and rejoice in it. Our faith has taught us that we should allow the love and grace of our God to shine through us. We believe that the death of Jesus gives us a new beginning so we can shine into all of our tomorrows. And we are confident that God will walk beside us to help us.

And what comes to mind is the commandment that we share with our Jewish friends – from Micah in the Old Testament of the Bible:

“He has shown you, oh [people], what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”  (New International Version)

No matter what God we believe in or where we look to for the values that shape our choices, I think that these words would serve us well as we come around the table to solve our world’s problems and live in peace with our neighbors.

(This post is linked to the WordPress’s  The Daily Post with the prompt of Perspective. Check out Ben’s interesting post.)

Strong & Simple: The Amish

We have a fascination with the Amish, maybe even envy the lifestyle they choose to live. Julie & I decided to spend some time on Amish dirt roads in northern Ohio a while back. When we stopped for lunch, I purchased a book, A Pocket Guide to Amish Life, by Mindy Starns Clark. She spent a lot of time living among and visiting Amish families in order to gain an understanding of this culture that seems so appealing. This book answered a lot of my questions and gave me a new appreciation for the strength it takes to maintain their lifestyle and protect their culture.

Amish 219Our curiosity about the Amish seems to be fueled by our longing for a supportive community and a simpler lifestyle. The Amish curiosity about our curiosity is reflected in this response that is found in many public places in Amish areas:

If you admire our faith, strengthen yours.

If you admire our sense of commitment, deepen yours.

If you admire our community spirit, build one.

If you admire the simple life, cut back.

If you admire the quality merchandise or land stewardship, then make quality.

If you admire deep character and enduring values, live them.

Amish 039

We long for what they have, but maybe we aren’t willing to pay the price. What the writer doesn’t say is that it takes a lot of strength to make the choices that lead to the lifestyle we would like to lead. It takes strength to develop the values that sustain and nurture both us and our environment, and then to be true to those values in the way we live.

Amish 174

The Amish settlements are communities of faith – but the demonstrations of faith are not obvious to us outsiders.I wasn’t able to photograph a church because they choose to meet in homes. The Amish expect their community members to lead a life that is an expression of their faith – in everything they do. If we want to build this lifestyle for ourselves, we need to understand the faith-based values their culture is built upon:

  • surrender the self-will to God
  • submit to authority, to the faith community, and to its rules
  • separate from the world and become a “peculiar people” by turning to the family and the faith community, by honoring history and tradition, and by turning the other cheek
  • simplify through the practice of humility, modesty, thrift, and peacefulness

When I reflect on these, my head and my soul say yes. But deep down, somewhere dark and hidden, there is some rebellion. Maybe this rebellion is the me I remember from so long ago, the one that wanted to belong, be independent, worldly, and most importantly accumulate symbols that said I’m accomplished and successful. I rebelled against the rules of how women should be. I wanted to be educated, have an income of my own, earn power in the public sphere so I could make the world a better place. Were my values self-centered or community-centered?

Amish 139

In many ways my life seemed to reflect the worldly values of the time, those that came from the Feminist Revolution. But in many ways, my life feels like it is similar to the Amish culture. I made choices for my life based on what I believed to be right, what I felt to be consistent with my faith culture, my knowledge of what God willed for me. I struggled with balancing my personal needs with the needs of my family and community. I dreamed of a better world – and I needed to be a part of that world if I wanted to influence it.

Each Amish settlement makes their own rules concerning connection to the outside world, based on whether the connection will compromise their core values of submission to God’s will, simplicity of lifestyle based on humility, modesty, and thrift, and maintaining a strong community that takes care of it’s members. Most Amish settlements believe that being connected to the electric power lines would compromise simplicity, but we saw many solar panels in yards that power refrigeration, some farm equipment, and washing machines. Their community rules stipulate how members can be a part of the outside world without letting these interactions compromise their values, and are decided by the religious leaders (who are chosen by drawing straws). These decisions take a lot of discussion and discernment.

Amish 118

I admire the strength of faith, character, and community of the Amish. And what I learned through exploring the Amish culture and writing this post is that if I desire the worldly treasures put before me, I need to question whether fulfilling this desire would compromise my values and faith commitment. If it does, I need the strength to say no. I need to be strong enough to be different, to not follow the trends. And when I’m unsure of what is the best way to live my life, I need to look to my God for answers.

Ailsa’s travel theme this week is strong. I hope you will be inspired to find your interpretation and join in by posting and linking to her blog. She gives instructions.