There is so much we can learn from children, innocence, wonder, joy, gratitude and faith etc.
The prayers of a small child are without equal. They have yet to discover it can’t be done.
Watching the ducks waddling across the thin layer of ice I thought how like this coming year. So much of the world seems to be walking on very thin ice indeed. Last year brought impending change, Brexit, the US elections, the worsening Middle East situation etc. etc.. Even my normally stable, cozy little island (UK) stands on the brink of flux.
Then I got to thinking. If the ice did brake its no big deal for the ducks. They can swim and they have warm greased feathers. It might be momentarily scary, but no big problem. So I thought are we like ducks? Can we swim?
Then I remembered we know the one who could walk upon the water and my apprehension vanished.
It’s a long story how we came to be in the old farmhouse in Ireland realizing our dream. We, little nobodies, had helped stage a Christian camp for youngsters. They’d come, some eager, some confused. and some rebellious. We loved them, pulled our hair out at their antics and prayed (oh how we prayed!) Now it was over. They’d returned, tiny flames of love kindling in their hearts, to their domains, leaving a great joy of satisfaction in their wake.
There was just one problem. It was almost Christmas and while we had food aplenty and a roof over our heads, we had no money left, zilch, nothing, and there were children there, mine included. We explained there’d be no presents that year, no tree or decorations. They were such troopers, not a single complaint.
We made our own décor, holly and fir branches from the forest. Silvery yogurt tops, kept from the camp, were cut into snow flakes and suspended from fallen branches dabbed white with left over emulsion. It looked wonderful!
Christmas Eve was still special. We read old Christmas stories by candle light, and I sang my guys to sleep with childhood carols.
I came down to see the two teenage boys who’d helped with the renovations were gone.
“They went to look for a tree.” My eldest whispered. Due to a lot of boggy ground fallen trees were common in the surrounding forest.
Our Texan builder/handyman was heading out too. It was he who first dreamt up the project. His tiny 5ft 6 frame harboring a personality that somehow gave the impression of a 6 footer.
I joined my daughter and the other teenage girl who’d stayed to help clear up the aftermath of the camp etc. We’d almost done when the boys dragged in an enormous tree. I restrained myself from checking for axe marks (their hearts were surely right and the forest was common ground I reasoned.)
They set it up in a bucket which the girls artfully draped and we went about gleaning all the décor we could find, painted fir cones, odd bits of tinsel yogurt top snowflakes. It looked beautiful even without lights.
I was just drifting off to sleep when I was roughly wakened.
“Come on mum. We need you to help wrap.”
Our Texan angel had been to see a friend who owned a small toy factory. He’d been hoping there might be a few “old line” bits and pieces for the kids. But the Irish heart never gives by half and the little van was crammed with toys, enough for several presents for each child and lots left over to pass on to others, there were even fairy lights for the tree.
Imagine the wonder next morning when the children were awoken by Christmas angels (my daughter and friend had raided the prop box) and brought down to the old living room. There they saw a huge tree blazing with lights and an immense pile of presents.
They didn’t think it was Santa. They knew who to thank, and their happy praises sounded all day long. The presents were special because they knew Jesus had sent them and that made His birthday “magic”.
We adults of course didn’t get presents, or did we? The gifts of joy, love, peace and intense gratitude filled our hearts in a way presents never could. Jesus’ love for these precious children and the hearts that had given so freely of time, goods and sleep were more than enough!
The most well known of Gaudi’s works and something I’ve wanted to see since my college days the Sagrada Familia exceeded my expectations. Probably the largest piece of environmental sculpture in the world (for that is surely what it is) it blends to perfection the best of sculpture, stained glass and architecture. No wonder he is widely known as “God’s architect” his love for God is expressed in purest form, a meeting of the arts, nature and faith.
The exterior is reminiscent of a mountain inset with caves and grottoes harboring scenes from the life of Christ, rough texture, like a landslide, contrasts smooth classical line and the dove bedecked Christmas tree, coloured fruits and vegetables that top the towers all somehow manage to blend in harmony. (The sketches and molds housed in the basement make it abundantly clear that his constant inspiration was nature.) Even the massive frontal arch of the Passion entrance are reminiscent of ribs and stretched ligaments. Every detail has meaning and I could well imaging living happily alongside it, daily finding more wonders.
Perhaps one of the most outstanding things was that far above the crucifixion facade, on a beam crossing between two towers, Jesus sits, bronzed, at ease, casually looking down on all.
Inside is forest themed. The great classical pillars at first look normal cathedral fare but a closer inspection reveals they are subtly different in size and hue, made from different stones. The roof imitates the canopy, the pillars branching out decked in formalized leafy foliage. The light pouring from the stained glass glimpsed between the “trees” echoes the forest at sunset. Amidst all this Jesus hangs on the cross, suspended below a golden canopy, not touching the earth but gazing up to where far above the roof opens in a glory of gold and silver light.
Something I didn’t realize is that the cathedral is not yet finished (hence the ever present scaffolding) the final towers are yet to be added. Gaudi began building as a young man and they hope to have it finished for the 100 year anniversary of his death at eighty something. It contains the collaborative work of many artists over several generations working in harmony to produce this incredible piece of art to the glory of God.
If you’ve yet to see it
I suggest you add it to your bucket list! (Unfortunately my photographic skills were not up to the glowing coloured light streaming in. The whole interior is full of light and colour not nearly as dark as some photos suggest but at least it will give an idea.)