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The Storms of Life, Part 2

I want to invite you to celebrate with me. Life is a journey, and I have the privilege of sharing some aspects of it with you here. If you’ve been following my journey this year, you’ll have seen me move through grief, and a resentment of the pain, the mental scars, and all that stuff, into a place where I have begun to learn to accept those ‘imperfect’ parts of my life. Looking back over the past dozen or so posts, I can see that I’ve come quite some distance along that road. And I think I’ve arrived somewhere I thought I might never reach.

Which is a mite perplexing.

A point at which not only can I accept my past, with all its pain and scars, but I can even begin to rejoice in it.

The bible tells us:

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18.

I have often thought that was impossible. I do pray a lot of the time, if not continually; I find it hard to give thanks in all circumstances - though I am getting better at that. The weather recently has been very wet - in fact, it’s been horrid. But I am able to be thankful for the rain, because it means that our land is green and fertile, and we have no shortage of water for drinking, washing, etc.

The Storms of Life, Part 1

I'm not exactly old, but I’m not young either (though I have trouble remembering that a lot of the time). I’ve seen a lot of life. I’ve also seen a fair bit of death. It’s odd, the way life goes... In my twenties and early thirties, I seemed to go to a lot of weddings. Then for a few years I seemed to go to a lot of christenings. These days I seem to go to more funerals than anything else.

I've lost all sorts of folks - a son, my father, uncles, aunts, friends, and acquaintances. As I’ve said before, I don’t think we were designed to deal with death. In a way I wish I could say that I get used to it. But I don’t. And in some ways I don’t want to either.

When someone dies, it rips a hole in me. But I don’t want it not to matter; I don’t want it to be pain-free. I don’t want it to be something which just passes. The scars those losses leave are signs of the love I had for the person. If the scar is deep, and sometimes painful, so be it... It shows that the love was deep too.

Scars show that we are truly alive. They may, superficially, seem ugly. In a way though, they are like medals won for bravery in war; they signify that something horrid has happened, but they are also a testament to something far deeper and more meaningful.

Life in all its fullness - Part 2

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10

These thoughts are incomplete, and may not be entirely coherent, but I think I need to write them anyway, so I can move on to other things.

I have just returned from a week’s holiday in Rome. We stayed, once more, in the ‘religious house’ we know, run by a Polish Roman Catholic order - the ‘Congregation of the Resurrection’. What I love about staying there is the relaxed ‘family’ atmosphere, and the sense of peace and tranquility once you retreat behind the gates. Such a contrast to the hustle, bustle, chaos, and noise of Rome. The brothers (and the Benedictine sisters who come in each day to cook and clean for them) aren’t immune to life’s hurts and troubles, but they are remarkably content with their lot - and it shows - there is a lot of laughter and joy. That is such a contrast to travelling on the Rome Metro, where almost everyone looks either bored or incredibly miserable. And the level of misery seems to me to be inversely proportional to the beauty and ‘style’ of the person - most of the well-groomed ‘beautiful people’ look, at best, really unhappy. Clearly, good looks and fancy clothes don’t guarantee happiness or fulfilment.

Rome

We have just been on holiday to Rome. Given the usual sort of content of this blog, that may seem like an odd starting point, but please bear with me, while I try to explain…

As some of my regular, long-term, readers may have gathered by now, I have a long-standing interest in all things to do with ancient Rome. So visiting Rome is a source of great excitement - and almost any tiny chunk of Roman 'stuff', spotted whilst wandering around that city, has the power to set my imagination into overdrive… Even just walking the pavements, wondering what lies beneath!

On Friday, we visited the 'Palazzo Massimo', which is a museum filled, largely, with marble sculptures - some of well-known figures (emperors and the like), as well as unidentified people. On the top floor is a somewhat different collection - some truly exquisite mosaics (with the detail made of tiny, tiny, pieces of material, creating incredibly vivd scenes), and some very fine frescoes (wall paintings) from Roman buildings - most of which have had to be removed to preserve them after excavation. One, which I have wanted to see for a very long time, is the wall paintings from a complete room… That of a semi-subterranean triclinium (dining room) from the Empress Livia's villa at Prima Porta, about 12km (8 miles) north of the centre of Rome. The dining room was semi-subterranean presumably so that it would be a cooler place to eat in the sweltering heat of an Italian summer. It seems though, that the empress wanted to feel as though she was dining 'al fresco' (pun unintentional!), and this is the result - a beautiful, fanciful, garden scene of the most amazing artistry. It is exquisite.

Copyright Phil Hendry, 2016