Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.
Mark 6:31 (NIV)
One December, my husband and I took a river cruise in France. We were both very tired and looking forward to a relaxing adventure. Sometimes, all we need is a new location or a change of pace to find rest. Two experiences stand out in my mind from our trip.
The first occurred while visiting a church in Auvers-sur-Oise (oo-vare-su-wahz), that Van Gogh immortalized on canvas in 1890 (see photos). Our guide asked us to sing the first stanza of Amazing Grace as a way to demonstrate the incredible acoustics in the fairly small church. I was pleasantly surprised that everyone in our little group not only knew all the words but could sing beautifully. (If you have ever heard “Happy Birthday” sung in a restaurant you know that this is not always the case.) Singing this song, in that church, was an inspiring, uniting, and spiritual experience. The sounds of singing faded sooner than the goose bumps. What a wonderful and unexpected treat.
The second experience that was very meaningful to me occurred in Les Andelys (lay on-da-lay). We had just walked down the hill from visiting the ruin of a medieval castle built by Richard the Lionheart; I was a bit out of breath and tired from the walk (and the steep walk up the hill previously).
My husband and I went into the St. Savior Church of Petit-Andely, near the river, and after a tour around the church I sat in a chair in the front row. As I looked at the curved bank of stain-glass windows in the front of the church, I took slow, deep breaths. I wasn’t thinking of anything much, just soaking in the quiet, enjoying the architecture of the Gothic church. After focusing on the beautiful colors of the varying stain glass windows and continuing the deep breathing for a couple of minutes I checked my pulse. It was 69. My resting pulse runs ~74; it takes time for it to come down after walking up, around, and then down a steep hill. I am convinced that the stillness of the church, combined with the slow deep breaths, brought my pulse down faster, and lower, than usual. The quiet, “be still and know” time in the church combined with the deep breathing brought calm and relaxation.
I do not live near an ancient gothic church, nevertheless I am trying to incorporate time for quiet in my life amid the business of the day. I practice taking slow, deep breaths and focus on the beauty around me by walking outside several times a day and looking at the trees and flowers nearby, and the mountains in the distance.
Will soon be printed in the SAHP devotional. At the time of issue, the first 6 months of devotionals had been sent to the publisher. We hope to have it published in time for Christmas gifts.
Photos courtesy of L. Alipoon