Starting sometime Wednesday afternoon, the winds have risen. “Gale force winds” one of the locals told me. Though I don’t know just what that means, he said this in a way that indicated it was significant. Windy doesn’t quite say it clearly enough. Constant winds and strong gusts. A quiet roar constantly outside the window. The occasional ding from a distant bell pushed into ringing by the wind. And birds still chirping.
Winds in the garden last evening – hard to see movement, I realize
Mind you, when I shut the window and fasten it, the noise is dramatically decreased. The walls are a meter thick on this level (5 1/2 ft on the level below), so the house will stand, like it has for more than 200 years. And I have kept my window open. The breeze that makes its way in refreshes me and makes the thin white curtain move in a sort of dance with each gust that tears by. And all the while, the traffic still whizzes by and the birds sing on.
In the evening Tuesday, I tried to reflect on Ephesians 1:3-14, where Paul shares complex and abstract concepts about how much God cares for us. When I found myself looking online for some resources on the text, I decided what I was beginning to do was not reflection and prayer, but study.
So I moved to Psalm 139 instead where the Psalmist explores how deeply God knows us, and how God is present with us always and everywhere.
“You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up. You discern my thoughts from far away.”
“Where can I go from your spirit? . . .If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me.”
Somehow, being here on a small island in the midst of the sea makes that passage speak even more.
countryside and the sea outside Xlendi Bay
I had originally planned to hire a bicycle while in Malta and Gozo. Then I learned that much of where I was going to be on Malta is more uban and would be very difficult to bike. So I figured I’d just hire a bike when I got to Gozo and use it to get around there.
Well, now that I have seen the roads and the traffic in both locations, I am sure I have no business on a bike in the midst of any of it!
In Sliema, there are narrow, buy streets filled with quick drivers, motorbikes and busses. The sidewalks are full of pedestrians and the side streets are not much wider than one lane. The roads between towns are probably more manageable, but there is plenty of city to bike thorough to get out into the countryside. There is enough walking and bus riding to keep me mobile and active.
I was holding out hope that Gozo would be the place to bike. There certainly is less traffic sometimes, but for the most part, the roads I am near are narrower, and there are still busses and cars and pedestrians and lots of motorbikes, and here there are more trucks! I realized there is not a line down the center of the roads here. The “lanes” adjust depending on who needs to share the road at any given time.
When I was walking back to Manresa from Victoria/Rabat on Monday afternoon, I watched the traffic out front of the Retreat House. When I saw these two cars pass each other just outside the building, I imagined myself on a bike in that tiny space on the right. That’s when I decided to walk.
Cars passing on the road outside Manresa Retreat House
(by the way, the usable road actually gets even narrower in front of the house – note the parked cars along the building)
I spent Tuesday morning and afternoon reflecting on the story of Martha and Mary in Luke 10.
Jesus comes to Martha’s house, and while Martha is busy with “many tasks,” Mary was sitting at Jesus feet, listening to him. Martha confronts Jesus “Do you not care that my sister has left me to do the work all by myself? Tell her then to help me.” I love the close relationship that allows Martha to talk to Jesus so directly. But Jesus doesn’t see things her way. “Martha, Martha. you are distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part which will not be taken from her.”
- Many tasks
- Distracted by many things
- Do you not care?
- Tell her then to help me
- Need of only one thing
- Mary has chosen the better part
- Will not be taken from her
I have a sister and am raising two daughters, so this story rings true for my life. But it isn’t only sisters who struggle with the challenges of demands and tasks and who should be doing them and who has made which choice.
Today, I hear the need to set aside distractions. To find the better part and tend to that.
In the Garden at Manresa Retreat House
It’s a beautiful evening sky from the veranda here. There are strong, gusty winds; the kind that push you around a little, but also let you enjoy the sounds of swaying trees without worrying about broken limbs too much. It is still comfortable outside and I’ve been enjoying the sights, sounds and feeling of the evening.
I spent the evening yesterday with a passage from Mark 6. In verses 30 – 33, the apostles have just returned from their work out and about, and the gospel writer tell us that they “gathered around Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught.” Then Jesus invites them to “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” A good place to begin.
I’ve been invited to find stillness in myself and listen to God. To turn to scripture and my own life and look for how God is moving and acting and, in my language, what God is calling me to be and do in serving God and those around me. It is restful and moving.
Since Jessa left, I was invited to join three sisters who are on retreat here at
dinner.Two of them are Sisters of Mercy and
the other is a Jesuit who is a medical doctor in Africa.They are all on retreat here, too, but they are doing silent retreats. I can still make the choice whether to do a silent retreat or not.
I had heard that there would be quiet music over dinner. We played a cd of some choral music in English. It wasn’t our first choice, but the Taize music
was not in its case.
Dinner was a little awkward for me. So often, I make conversation over meals; . . . with students, with family, with colleagues. Not this time. I did presume there was an absolute “NO
TALKING” policy, but clearly I was mistaken. There were little quiet interactions about music selection, silverware, bread, wine, tea and sugar – all gracious and very hospitable. I seemed to be the only one concerned about an absolute rule, so I was able to respond quietly when appropriate and shared the meal. We shared soup, fresh bread, chicken, potatoes, salad and fruit.&nbsp; I’m not going to go hungry, even with all the walking I did today.
After the cd came to the end and stopped, I heard outside all the birds
were singing and chirping in chorus, too. As twilight was falling.
It was an even more beautiful song, really.
We were delighted to reach Xlendi at last and put our hot, tired feet in the cool, clear water. One note, the water really is that blue. The camera didn’t manage to catch how much the water sparkled, but it was simply beautiful. There were scuba divers and people snorkeling and just swimming. We wished for our suits, but caught the bus instead.
Soothing our toes in the clear, clear water
We would have loved to hop in, but since we didn’t have our suits along and a bus was due in 15 minutes, we took that instead.
I rode with Jessa back to Mgarr where she caught the ferry. I took the bus back to Victoria/Rabat and Manresa. It was lovely to spend the day with Jessa here. When we had trouble finding the retreat house, it was a real gift to have her company. She is more experienced here, and better at communicating with folks who struggle with my English – seems she has learned to ask questions in brief ways that get results. And I really enjoyed hiking together in such dramatic settings as we talked about life. I was sad to send her back to Sliema. Thanks for coming with me, Jess.