Saturday, September 30, 2017

Caturday: Find the Kitty

Not sure what this building in Paris is, but there's a large cat on top. Can you see it?

Friday, September 29, 2017

St Michael

A statue of St. Michael in the room at the end of the tour of Mont St-Michel in Brittany. Obviously there is a lot of St. Michael stuff there. I was intrigued by this guy in what looks like late medieval armor.

(See someone else's photo of the statue from the front, below. The dragon just isn't very impressive, is it?)

Happy St. Michael's Day!

Everlasting God, you have ordained and constituted in a wonderful order the ministries of angels and mortals: Mercifully grant that, as your holy angels always serve and worship you in heaven, so by your appointment 
they may help and defend us here on earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, 
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Thursday, September 28, 2017


Another gem from Chartres Cathedral. This is one of the many, many Annunciation scenes I saw in France. So lovely.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: Taking Pictures

The length we camera hounds will go to to get just the right shot .....

Taken along the coastal path of Brittany near Pointe du Van.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Medieval Hairdos

Obviously the long pigtail 'do was big at the turn of the 13th century....

Detail from the facade of Our Lady of Chartres Cathedral in France.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Lady Liberty

A copy of the Statue of Liberty stands near the entrance of the Musee d'Orsay in Paris.

She doesn't get a lot of attention there.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Responding to the generous landowner

Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Matthew 20:1-16

Money quote: "You have made them equal to us." This is the great offense of the generous landowner.

We do not want others to be equal to us. We do not want their stories to be as important as ours. Instead of practicing gratitude for what we have and in response being joyful for others' good fortune, we want to get what we deserve and want others to deserve what they get. We don't want them to have what we have. What an old, old story. And it's to our shame.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Caturday Dancing with Munch

Edvard Munch's Dance on the Shore

We saw this painting at the Musee d'Orsay in Paris, part of a special exhibition - Beyond the Stars: The Mystical Landscape from Monet to Kandinsky.  (It normally resides at the National Museum in Prague.) Note that there is a kitty watching the dance from the foreground.

Happy Caturday!

Friday, September 22, 2017

Friday fun at the beach

Personally, if I had to wear a wetsuit to go in the water, I would consider the water too cold 
in which to swim, but these folks enjoying the surf at a beach 
at Pointe du Van in Brittany were having a good old time. 

Happy Friday!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Pax tibi

One of the things I love about wandering around in European cities (and villages for that matter) is all the public religious art that is just there, on buildings, everywhere. 

Taking a break from France, here's am image from Venice. The winged lion holds a book that says Peace to you, something something something. It's over the door to a house on the Grand Canal.

Peace to you on this Thursday!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Charlemagne and his guards

This is a Charlemagne, along with his horse and two guards. The statue, which was created by brothers Louis and Charles Rochet in 1878, stands outside Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. The facial hair on these guys is amazing.  Here's a closeup:

Monday, September 18, 2017

A knight in shining armor

There are many knights and/or crusaders in the stained glass windows in the French churches we visited. Horses, armor, swords, etc. Fascinating!
This one is at Notre Dame in Paris.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Noticing Grace

Peter came and said to Jesus, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? 
As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times. 
“For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 
When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; 
and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children 
and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, 
‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave
 released him and forgave him the debt. 
But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; 
and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 
Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 
But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. 
When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went 
and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, 
‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 
Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ 
And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. 
So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother 
or sister from your heart.”

Matthew 18:21-35

You may not know this, but there is this thing called God Math. Human math is not my best subject, but even for those who majored in human math, God Math has some especially unfathomable properties. One in Three and Three in One, for instance, One plus one plus one equals One.

Some of the numbers in our Bible stories may look like every day normal numbers, such as 7 or 77 or 40. But they are not. They are more like the number Twenty-Teen. These numbers mean something different to God because God Math is different from our math.

So when Jesus and Peter are talking about the number of times Peter ought to forgive someone at church who cheeses him off, Jesus gives a number that has meaning in God Math, but Peter doesn’t really know what to do with that number. Because, honestly, the numbers that Jesus talks about whenever he uses numbers tend to mean “as many as there need to be” or “all the numbers” or “any number of numbers,” or my favorite, “infinity.” This is just one reason why we sometimes have trouble understanding Jesus. Because he uses God math.

On the other hand, we can figure out something about how much a talent is worth even without adjusting for inflation. The daily wage in the first century was one denarius a day. And there are about 6000 denarii in a talent. Six thousand work days equals twenty years. Even I can figure out that twenty times ten thousand is 200 thousand. That means the slave owes the king around 200 thousand years’ worth of wages, give or take. 

No matter what kind of math we use, this is an unbelievable and un-payable amount. And yet, in his mercy, the king forgives it all. All of it. Debt wiped clean.

When it comes to forgiveness, most of us strive to put some parameters into play. We talk in terms of limitations and conditions. IF the person who hurts me displays appropriate remorse, THEN I might forgive them, although I also might not because I am human and frankly, there are some things out there that I might never be able to forgive even once. Or, I know I should forgive, but then the person who hurt me will think it is ok to do stuff like that, so I just can’t forgive them, on principle. 

And things really get complicated when we start talking about Hitler or terrorists or serial killers. 

Forgiving is one of the most painfully difficult things we are called to even think about, much less do, in life. And yet we beat ourselves up for not being able to do what we feel we ought.

But how about, instead of guiltily puzzling over how many times we are supposed to forgive someone by way of human forgiveness, we consider what God Forgiveness is? Because what Jesus is really saying in the parable he tells Peter is that the amount of forgiveness we receive from God for even the most egregious sins is one of those numbers like 200,000 years worth of wages. 

Being righteous, or better put “in right relationship with God” is not about what we do, it’s about what God does. God makes us righteous. We don’t do this ourselves - that is totally beyond our ability. This is God Forgiveness, being restored, made whole by God no matter how unworthy we actually are. There’s no way we could ever repay God for all we have - the smell of loamy soil, the warmth of sunshine and glisten of dewdrops, our fantastic bodies and our complex minds, relationships, the softness of rose petals, the sounds of music, the refreshment of spring water, the taste of chocolate covered strawberries AND repay for all we do wrong, and you can fill in the blank about that one during the confession. 

None of us is deserving of anything, as harsh as that sounds. But you and I know it’s true. And yet we are showered with abundance every day. Simply because we are God’s beloved. 

What Jesus wants to point out here is this: 

We are not supposed to identify with the king in this story. How about instead we identify with the servant whose gargantuan debt has been totally forgiven? Which means, as theologian David Lose puts it: “[M]y first job isn’t to assume or insist that I must forgive incalculable debts, but simply to bask in the unbelievable forgiveness, acceptance, and grace that I have experienced and try … to live out of that. The failure of the first servant isn’t simply that he won’t forgive his comrade, but that he has just experienced an utterly unexpected, completely beyond-his-wildest-dreams, life-changing moment of grace and seems absolutely untouched by it. And for this reason, he lives devoid of any sense of gratitude. His whole life changed…and he didn’t even notice.”

That doesn’t mean, of course, that we don’t still have to consider the part about forgiving others. We do, and it is still hard. The thorny questions remain. But whether or not we can forgive in this situation or that one, because such extravagant forgiveness is possible for God, then it is a possibility for us. We can notice grace. 

Even if I am not able to fully live into the overflowing grace I have received, the possibility exists that things don’t always have to be the way they are. Things will not stay the way they are. My life has been touched by God’s forgiveness many many times, starting with the time I came back to church after many years away and spent most Sunday mornings just weeping in my pew, first because of guilt and then out of utter relief at the thought that I could be forgiven for all the stupid, dysfunctional, manipulative, mean, ignorant, and stupid - did I mention stupid? - things I had done in my life. 

And I can cultivate gratitude. I can stop and be touched by beauty, I can let go of the sack full of guilt I drag around behind me and accept acceptance instead. My inability to be generous does not have the last word. It is Love that has the last word, always. 

And so there is the possibility that because of love, someday I will be able to not only receive, but extend, God Forgiveness at a time when it will mean everything, at just the right time, and will change the world.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Caturday? This is probably not a cat, either.

Detail from the Fontaine Sainte-Michel in St. Michel place in Paris. St. Michael stands victorious over his victim while two of these mythical creatures stand watch and spit water. They're not lions although the faces are somewhat catlike. They're not dragons although there is a dragon tail on this thing. And then there are the wings. Perhaps these are cherubim.

Anyway, happy Caturday!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Friday Fun at the Beach

I took this picture at Omaha Beach in Normandy, the site of the D-Day Invasion of 1944. I know that some folks feel a little weird about people playing here in this place where so many people died, and I get that, but I think it's a kind of resurrection. We Christians believe that God brings life out of death, and so it makes me glad to see a happy doggie cavorting in the waves and people enjoying themselves on the beach and in the water. It is no longer a place of death, but still, with all the monuments (not to mention the massive cemetery) surrounding the area, there is no way that anyone will ever forget what happened on Omaha Beach. 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Holy Cross

The altar in the abbey chapel at Mont St-Michel

Collect for Holy Cross Day:

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross that he might draw the whole world to himself: Mercifully grant that we, who glory in the mystery of our redemption, may have grace to take up our cross and follow him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: Headless St. Denis

Here is St. Denis, who carries around his head, with his angel companion on the facade of the Cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017


Magpie hops through the grass on a knoll overlooking St-Malo. There were many of them, but the sun was very bright overhead and the birds, despite their large size which should make them more easy to photograph, stayed on the move. I love the glossy black that looks blue - like Superman's hair in the comic books. I wondered where they were nesting among the detritus left after the war.

Monday, September 11, 2017

War is Hell

This is the view from the top of the cliff at Pointe du Hoc, a point on the English Channel between Omaha Beach and Utah Beach. While many of the land that was pretty much ground zero during the D-Day invasion of June 1944 now only show some of the stuff that went down there during those days, Pointe du Hoc was intentionally left the same. The shelling and bombing left craters everywhere. And the barbed wire barriers (I imagine these are regularly replaced or they would be totally rusted by now) adorn the top of the cliff. 

All this to remember what happened, but not just remember. 
All this also to remind us that war is hell. 
War is hell.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Put on the armor of light

Statuary in the Cathedral de Notre Dame in Bayeux, Normandy

Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 
The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; 
You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, Love your neighbor 
as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.
Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. 
For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. 
Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; 
let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, 
not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. 
Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

Romans 13:8-14

Saturday, September 9, 2017


I don't suppose this gargoyle is actually a cat, do you? The pigeons certainly are not afraid of it!

This is part of the architecture in the village at Mont Sainte Michel. It was a very warm day when we were there, but the sky was very blue and one could see for miles. What a beautiful place.

Happy "Caturday"!

Friday, September 8, 2017

Friday fun: pool time!

There's a wonderful pool off the beach at St-Malo. I assume it's a sea-water pool. These guys were jumping off in all sorts of positions. This one did a back flip. Now that I look at the photos again, I wonder why I didn't go down there an get in the pool myself! 

Oh, well. Next time I go to St-Malo, I will.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Anybody know who this is?

I believe there are a number of saints who are usually depicted holding their decapitated heads. In France you see a lot of images of St. Denis, for instance. But this guy just lost the top third of his head. The image is in Sainte-Chapelle, Paris. Any idea who it is?

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Caption Contest:

I took this on the causeway to Mont St-Michel. My first thought was "Old Meets New," but then I decided that was a pretty tired phrase. Anyone got a better caption?

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Back to school

I saw this group of young people at Pointe de Raz on the Brittany Coast. I have no idea what they are learning/practicing (rappelling comes to mind - they're on a cliff wearing helmets) but I admired them while at the same time feeling happy that I was just going to walk the path and not jump off it.

All the children are back to school now here in Virginia (our public schools are mandated by law not to start the new year until after Labor Day). Go and learn, everybody!

Monday, September 4, 2017

Labor Day: pray for the common good

Almighty God, you have so linked our lives one with another that all we do affects, for good or ill, all other lives: So guide us in the work we do, that we may do it not for self alone, but for the common good; and, as we seek a proper return for our own labor, make us mindful of the rightful aspirations of other workers, and arouse our concern for those who are out of work; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

The Son of Man Coming into his Kingdom

The Sainte-Chapelle, Paris
Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands 
of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 
And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! 
This must never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! 
You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, 
let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 
For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. 
For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? 
Or what will they give in return for their life? 
“For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone 
for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death 
before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

Matthew 16:21-28

Lining things up

I take as many opportunities to make a fresh start in life as I can. So, this being "Labor Day Weekend," the unofficial end of the summer here in the U.S., I'm in fresh start mode. There are many things I need to do better, to quit doing, to start doing, and there's no point in even thinking one can turn over that many new leaves, but here's the plan for this particular fresh start:

First, today is cleaning out the clothing day. I have too many clothes. They take up a lot of room. I don't need all of them. So, with a brief nod toward Marie Kondo (because frankly there are some items I really do need to have in my wardrobe, whether or not they spark joy when I behold them), I will employ the three pile method (keep, throw away, give away) to every piece of clothing I own. I recognize that I will still have too many jackets and coats. I have a thing for jackets and coats.

Second, today begins my recommitment to posting photos on this blog. I have so many wonderful memories from our international travels of the last three years and the photos are just lying fallow on my computer. So, whether or not I am able to come up with a reflection to go with my posts, I will be posting daily, and perhaps randomly, a photo from our travels in Scotland, Italy, and France.

Today's photo is from Saint-Malo, the lovely walled seaside (on the English Channel) town in northwestern Brittany, which we visited in June. As we walked along the top of the walls, we watched a group of children learning how to sail. Here they are coming in after their lesson.

Happy September!


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