The snow has come ~ about 15" ~ enough for the puppy to frolic and the old dog to be immobilized. It is quiet, bright and cold ~ another perfect day for being still and enjoying the beauty (and the warmth of our little house.) As noted yesterday, after much cleaning (apparently my winter blues manifest themselves in sloppiness) I settled in with Henri Nouwen for some wandering and waiting. Two gems popped out at me.
+ The first was this: "Each human being suffers in a way no other human being suffers... and every brokenness can be befriended and put under the blessing" of God's grace. I resonate with this because Nouwen both recognizes the uniqueness of our individual suffering AND reminds us that God's love is greater. "Human suffering need not be an obstacle to joy and peace," he writes "but the very means to it. In a confused and dislocated world, bereft of meaning..." God's grace is very near. And very powerful, too.
+ The second insight builds on the first: the art of living well is to cherish the little light we have been given by God to illuminate our path - and not complain about what is still in the darkness. What we have in this moment is sufficient - not complete and maybe not all that we would like - but it is enough for this leg of the journey. This suggests to me that sometimes grace comes as a simple invitation to sit for a while and honor what is - there will be time for more later, but for now just saying "Yes" to the present is the best path.
Apparently, Nouwen used regular Bible reading to create "an interior gallery" of Gospel truths. He spoke of decorating his inner walls with images of God's grace so that where ever he went he could see reality mixed with God's presence. What a tender and helpful way to talk about the discipline of the Book: let it become our interior gallery of God's beauty, truth and light. This calls to mind a passage from Philippians 4:8: Beloved whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Not that there isn't anger, shame, fear, pain and injustice within and among us, of course; but rather how can I be present to what is real while resting and advancing the truth of grace at the same time? Like this day - filled with sun and snow, beauty and piercingly cold wind, sounds and silence as well as chaos, disruption and disappointments, too - it is all real. I'm going to try nourishing my inner gallery this year as a part of a Holy Lent. Nouwen writes:
Whenever I meet people during the day, I receive them in my inner room, trusting that the pictures on my walls will guide our meeting. Over the years, many new pictures have appear on my inner walls. Some show words, some gestures of blessings, forgiveness, reconciliation and healing. Many show faces: the faces of Jesus and Mary, the faces of Therese of Lisieux and Charles de Foucauld, the faces of Ramakirshna and the Dalai Lama. It is very important that our inner room has pictures on its walls, pictures that allow those who enter our lives to have something to look at that tells them where they are and where they are invited to go. Without prayer and contemplation, the walls of our inner gallery will remain barren and few will be inspired.