Italian Lessons

Bells in Italy
Bells in Italy

I loved the church bells in Italy. They reminded me of the Christian tradition of praying the hours. In a tiny village where we stayed, the bells sounded every hour between 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. I didn’t need to wear a watch — after a short time, I relaxed into the comfortable rhythm of daily village life. As I heard the bells throughout the day they brought me back to the present moment — of waking, eating, resting, praying, praising, reflecting, preparing for sleep.

The 7:00 a.m. Bells

The village followed the rhythm of these hours. Before 7:00 a.m., the only sounds I could hear were the waves and the swallows. After 7:00, the people of the village began to move around —  sweeping the sidewalks, opening up the cappuccino shops, the baker loading the station wagon with warm brioche (sweet pastries) to drive to the nearby towns. The children started their hikes up the hill to the school. Listen to the 7:00 a.m. bells:

The 5:00 p.m. bells

The village quieted down for a siesta around 2:00 p.m.. Most all of the restaurants and stores closed for a 3-hour rest. During those hours, the bells continued to ring, but quieter. (I settled down for a nap.) Around 4:00 p.m., the men of the village gathered in the square to play cards.

Then at 5:00 p.m. the siesta time came to an end with rousing peal from the bells. By 7:00 p.m., restaurants opened back up to serve dinner. Here is a recording of the 5:00 p.m. bells:

I miss the bells of Italy and their reminders to stay in the present. What are the reminders that bring you back from the future or the past? What helps you stay in the present moment?

Learn More about Praying the Hours

Italia Top 10

Olive grove
The olive grove next to the villa

I just returned home from two weeks in Italy. I’m grateful for the opportunity and still processing everything I saw. Here’s the Top 10 according to me.

10. Olives — From olive oil to antipasto to the olive groves surrounding the places we stayed, olives were everpresent.

9. Clotheslines — Thank goodness for clotheslines — they add so much charm to the scenery of an Italian town.

8. Sculptors, artists, and artisans — Thank goodness for the sculptures and those who made them.

7. Cappuccino — Even I (not a coffee drinker) fell in love with Italian cappuccino. (My favorite bar in Vernazza put a smiley face on my morning drink.)

6. Siestas — Of all the Italian ways of life, this may be the one I’d most like to bring home.

5. Gelato — Of all the Italian ways of life, this may be the one I’d most like to bring home. 🙂

4. Church bells — from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. They reflected the rhythm of life — a rousing peal to wake up creation, quieter during siesta time, another rousing peal at 5:00 p.m., silencing after 10:00.

3. Symbols of faith — Icons, statues, reminders of faith were everywhere I turned. I’m always looking for signs of God’s presence. In Italy, the reminders were everywhere.

2. The evening light — the warm light of evening bathed the buildings with such beautiful color. I stopped each evening to watch the slow, beautiful progression of the sun.

1. Churches and candles — Nearly every church I entered had a place where I could light candles and pray for others.

Life after Advent/Christmas/Epiphany

Ordinary mushroom for Ordinary TimeI’ve been so social, so extroverted(!!!) since the beginning of Advent that today felt a little odd. On this day after Epiphany, I felt sort of like — “Where’d everybody go?”

I asked my Facebook friends about life after Advent and here’s some of their collective wisdom:

Bob: Yes, most certainly!!! I think it is something about discipleship.

Micah: Yeah, it’s called Mardi Gras!!!

Pam: I on the other hand think its about sleeping… until the Annunciation wakes you up.

Debbie: Absolutely, there is life after everything!

Ann: Good question.

Lynda: There are wonderful ordinary days which are relaxing and can be spirit filled. I remember our student preacher, Rachel, say in a sermon that God can come in the ordinary days of January as much as in December when we are overwhelmed with it all. Was comforting to me to hear this since I love the quietness of Jan. and Feb.

What about you? Tell me about your life after Advent.

Fall Colorado Book Tour

dsc_0978
View from the Ouzel Falls Trail

Ok — It was really a vacation with a book signing thrown in. But I did get to talk about The Uncluttered Heart, pass out some cards, and have a book signing (I even signed a few books). I went to Colorado for the first couple of weeks in September. While I was there, I attended a conference that was carrying my book in the bookstore. (I think that Advent/seasonal books are a bit hard to promote like other books. I mean, who really wants to buy an Advent book in July — or September?)

On the other hand, this is the time that church leaders are starting to think about programming for Advent and are wondering about what to offer for Wednesday nights or for Sunday school during Advent. Might I suggest an Advent book? Perhaps: The Uncluttered Heart: Making Room for God during Advent and Christmas, by Beth A. Richardson.

The website for the book has been launched. Take a look when you have some free time: http://www.unclutteredheart.org.

For any of you who have blogs, write for newspapers or newsletters, etc., if you’d like to review the book or interview me, please shoot me an email – beth@betharichardson.com. I’ve got books to send to the first 20 who contact me.

Blessings to you all,

Beth

Growing in Adversity

A potato -- growing in adversity

A potato — growing in adversity

It’s not an alien life form. It’s a red potato. I found it on the floor in the pantry behind the recycling bin. Who knows how long it had been laying there in the dark, sending out shoots, looking for life. It’s another image in my series of pictures on growing in adversity — how living things (including people) are able to survive and grow in the face of overwhelming circumstances.

Join Me for a Soul Feast

Worship at Lake Junaluska
Worship at Lake Junaluska, 2008

It’s not too late to register for SOULfeast, a spiritually nourishing event at Lake Junaluska, NC (July 12-16). I’m honored to be a part of the worship planning for this Upper Room event. Right now, we are in the throes of finalizing the services and the worship design.  The worship team includes Jay VoorheesKarla Kincannon, Trevor Hudson, Marjorie Thompson, Pamela Hawkins, George Donigian, and Stephen Bryant. It’s been great to work with this creative group to plan the 5 services of SOULfeast.

The preachers for this year’s event include Trevor Hudson, Jasmine Smothers, Vance Ross, and Marjorie Thompson. Music will be led by Elise Eslinger. Really — think about coming (if not this year, think about next year).

Here are some images from last year’s SOULfeast:

Naming Lake Joyce

Lake Joyce
Lake Joyce

This Spring marked the beginning of a year-long celebration of Penuel Ridge Retreat Center’s 25th anniversary. This special place is on 135 acres in Cheatham County, Tennessee. Backed up against a wildlife preserve, it’s a beautiful place. Two ridges frame the back edges of the center, and in the center is a beautiful lake. For 25 years, we’ve called it “the lake.” But at the first event celebrating the anniversary, the lake was named Lake Joyce. Joyce and Don Beisswenger were the founders of the retreat center. They had the vision, purchased the land, and called together a group of us who could help discern its direction. Joyce passed away several years ago. She lives on in our hearts and now in this beautiful lake, a companion to those who seek rest and solace through retreat.

Prayer of Blessing upon “Lake Joyce”

Gracious God, we come in remembrance of your child and servant Joyce Beisswenger. We recognize her love for you and all of your creation. We celebrate her devotion to life’s spiritual journey and her kindness to those who walk it. As a witness to the legacy of her love for Penuel Ridge and its purposes, we joyfully bestow upon this body of water the name “Lake Joyce.” To you be all honor and glory. Amen.