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Tiger lilies are beginning to bloom. Talk of the Town, a popular species in our neighborhood, flourishes along fences and side gardens. Morning breezes excite their six-sculpted petals trembling with stamens and pistils; their orangeness ushers in summer’s brash colors. But in time, these rowdy adventurers will collapse their petals and wither and drop to the ground. Would that we could hold onto their beauty.

Looking deeper, we find this ordinary perennial rooted within the cycle of life and death. We, too, have a similar rootedness. How many springs have we experienced the pastel feathering of fruit trees, only to move into summer’s light-plays, followed by autumn’s chill and winter’s bluster? And quickened, yet again, with the return of kaleidoscopic color enlivening somber spirits?

So how can we relish such seasonal changes? Allow them to teach us? It seems to be about sacrifice: cutting away the unworkable for the fresh and untried.

Jesus talks about this when speaking of “the lilies of the field” (Matthew 6:28 +). He challenges his anxious listeners, ourselves included, to own their small-mindedness and to set their hearts on God’s Kingdom. Therein is experienced ultimate significance dressed in unchangeable colors, fresher than the first morning of creation.

 

 

 

 

 

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Church bells, monastery bells, garden bells, handbells, alarm bells, electric bells, cowbells, jingle bells, ships’ bells, ice cream truck bells, and so many more—seems like bells have always been around. And indeed, they have. In 2000 BCE, with the advancement of metallurgy in ancient China, bells began to appear, slowly infusing themselves into its culture, religion, and way of life. Neighboring countries followed suit.

In addition to various weights of metals, today’s craftsmen produce bells in wood, glass, pottery, and stoneware.

When struck, their sound quickens us, instantly modifies our worlds and rouses feelings: joy, sorrow, fear, dread, order, or inspiration. As the strains fade from awareness, we return to our familiar world, and, if wise, savor the intrusion and learn from it.

Why do bells affect us so? On a deeper level, we consider their symbolic meaning: a universal means of communicating truth—As if the bell’s tongue carries a divine summons to pay attention. And as the poet Mary Oliver reminds us, “Be astonished! Tell about it!”

Time is passing.

 

“Will you be my friend?” asked Raphael Simi who was confined to the psychiatric hospital at Saint-Jean-les-Deux-Jumeaux in Trosly, a southern suburb of Paris. Next to him stood Philippe Seux, both intellectually disabled and living in deplorable conditions. It was 1964.

A tall strapping professor of ethics listened. Already moved by visits to other institutions warehousing “idiots” and the unseemly, the question changed the direction of his life. Mindful of Jesus’s practical care for the poor, he bought a small house at the edge of a nearby forest and with his new friends set up housekeeping—a messy undertaking but one persevered in.

Daily, often humdrum, interacting dissolved barriers of fear and the customary manner of doing things, opened new inroads into the comic that they shared, and actualized the bedrock of their graced humanness: joy, love, tears, and freedom. From this experience evolved L’Arche (French word for The Ark—like Noah’s), and a quiet revolution was born.

After five decades, such radical care for the unlovely still inflames the psyche of its founder, Jean Vanier, now eight-eight years old. Others of like mind have entered into this movement and following prayerful discernment, developed other group homes in France and around the world. Today, L’Arche has over five thousand members who live in one hundred and fifty-one communities that are spread over five continents. Three of these communities are in St. Louis, Missouri.

This moving story has been captured in Randall Wright’s documentary, Summer in the Forest (2018) and can be seen at the Tivoli Theater in St. Louis, Missouri—another must see.

 

Available on Amazon

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