Friday, April 27, 2007

Angelus & Amazing Grace!

It seems spring has finally arrived just today! And so have the barn swallows who swoop through our dairy barn and build mud nests on the rafters. Husband says they are already busy repairing the nests with fresh mud. What amazing creatures!

The week started cold and rainy, but by today the warmth of the sun seems to have overtaken the unspringlike weather pattern we've been in. That's good, because my perennials have been but timidly peeking out of their winter hiding places; they need the encouragement of warm sunshine in order to fully reveal themselves.

I mustn't sit here too long, but the following incident which took place last Friday is worth recording. I love it when cool little things like this happen! (First let me say that for several years I have had it in my mind to try and find a copy of the painting "Angelus" to hang in our living room. Not long ago I almost ordered a $40 copy of it from a catalog.) Anyway, on Friday evening, my high school freshman son asked if I would take him and a vanload of his friends to a neighboring town for a movie and bowling. I willingly agreed to do so, because it gives me a chance to get better acquainted with the friends he hangs out with. In another year or so, they will all be driving on their own, and I will no longer be asked to accompany them.

Anyway, when we arrived at the movie theater, we found that we were about 30 minutes early. The kids (4 boys and 2 girls) spied the Goodwill Store across the street, and decided to look around in there. I tagged along and browsed amongst the shelves of glassware and knicknacks, trying also to stay aware of the kids, to make sure they didn't get too noisy or goofy. You know how a group of young teenagers can be. My son and another boy found bowling balls to purchase for $1 each. I had spied a nice votive holder for 50 cents, and proceeded to the checkout counter. While handing over my two quarters, something on the floor behind the clerk caught my was two matching "Angelus" prints, oval, in metal filigree frames, the praying man in one, and the woman in the other. I immediately pointed at them and asked, "Are they for sale?" They were, and very inexpensively, too, so I became the proud owner of half an "Angelus". Why, thank you, Lord, I thought, for that little miracle, or serendipity, or synchronicity.......whatever best describes an experience like that.

Across the street, at the theater, another minor miracle of the two movies listed on the marquee was one that I actually had wanted to see, but I didn't think it was around in theaters anymore. It was "Amazing Grace", the film about William Wilberforce, the Englishman who in the late 1700's had been instrumental in ending the slave trade. The Parliament scenes were fascinating, with all the fervent debate and powdered wigs. I noticed that Patricia Heaton was named as one of the producers.....I think she had played Ray's wife on the sitcom "Everybody Loves Raymond". I once read an article about her Christian convictions, so it was good to see that she had been involved in the making of "Amazing Grace". This movie was named for that famous hymn written by John Newton, who was part of the story in the film. He had formerly been a slave trader, who after his conversion to Christianity, was full of regret over all the suffering he had caused. He lamented that that he felt as if he lived surrounded by 20,000 ghosts of the slaves he had so horridly transported across the Atlantic Ocean on his ships. He served as an inspiration for William Wilberforce's obsession with halting the slave trade. And then the way they finally accomplished that was amazing......Amazing Grace, I guess!

Now back to the "Angelus" painting for a moment. It was done in 1859 by a French artist, Jean Francois Millet. It depicts workers in a field standing with their heads bowed and hands folded in prayer. Way in the background is a church steeple. Evidently, the church bells had pealed to signal that it was time to pray the "Angelus", a prayer which was said three times a day. This picture is moving and inspiring to me, as it shows everyday people stopping in the middle of their everyday lives to pray.

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