The third main way of being and doing in my retirement is being a stained glass artist, primarily creating “Windows of Grace” for anyone who wants one…my gift to you and the world. After all grace is a gift, according to St. Paul. I figure the more windows letting God’s grace / presence into the world the better. Let me explain what I mean beyond the glass metaphor and describe the process.
Have you ever experienced a “whoa, that is amazing” moment? Maybe at a sunrise or sunset – like the one in the blog header. Often those moments happen when you’re in a special place – like by the lake or a special grove of trees. When you revisit that place in your mind or through pictures you again feel something special – peace, freedom, joy – some intangible emotion or body sensation. I’m sure you’ve heard of people who go to their happy place in times of stress…not with drugs or alcohol…but by picturing a peaceful scene in their minds, which helps them regain a sense of perspective or control, so they can make better decisions or simply cope with the crap going down.
Some folk understand these “aha” moments as “God moments”, a gift from the source of all goodness. One of my favorite spiritual teachers, James Finley calls them contemplative experiences, graced moments. In his book, The Contemplative Heart, (Sorin Books, 2000) he writes “By grace is meant that which is truly real and precious simple appearing prior to and beyond one’s own efforts to achieve or produce it.” Grace is the “awe-inspiring instant of sensing the inexhaustible nature of what is most simple and commonplace in daily living.” “…we glimpsed a great depth, which we intuit to be the hidden depths of the life we are living. ”(p.15, 16) You can’t make those experiences happen but you can find ways to be open to that “awe-inspiring instant”. It is an encounter with the Sacred which transforms your life, sometimes in big ways, more often in deep subtle ones.
A “Window of Grace” will be our (you and me) attempt to create something that will remind you of a graced moment you’ve experienced; that glimpse into the “hidden depths” of YOUR life. The process of creating it is very meaningful, for both of us. You recall a place and experience, then we talk about it and you help me draw it on paper. It can’t be a picture – I’m not that good an artist and stained glass doesn’t work like ink and paint. It will be more an abstract image of the place, designed to provoke memories and hopefully similar “awe-inspiring” feelings. Then we get the fun of finding the right colors of glass – which are never just the right
ones – but like you can’t force Spirit to grace you, you can’t recreate graced moments exactly – in life or glass. I have a lot of glass in my workroom and would like to use what’s there, if possible. However if there is a special color or texture you really want, you can buy it and I’ll be more than happy to include it. In all it’s a wonderful process of remembering, discussing, designing, creating. I feel blessed just writing about it. One of the main blessings for me is getting to know each other better through the piece of art we create together. I get to know the window pretty well too, cause I handle each piece of glass a lot, carefully and prayerfully. I believe I have been gifted to create “Windows of Grace” to help others be more open to the possibility of recognising the hidden depths of their lives, and the possibility of reliving an awe-inspiring instant, an encounter with the Sacred, having a God moment, revisiting their happy place – however they understand those unique life moments.
You can see and read about some of the windows I’ve helped folk create on the Facebook page…https://www.facebook.com/windowsofgrace512/ If you have questions, comments or want to discuss what a “Window of Grace” might look like for you, please email me email@example.com Blessings.
Let me conclude these 3 blogs, by writing that I believe I was made by God to let God love me and I want to love God back. I do that through loving all that God loves, especially Linda, and encouraging folk to find ways to let themselves be loved. Seems so simple when I write this and my mind regrets not being aware of this freedom and joy in my spiritual and religious life sooner. My heart and soul – nod, smile, sigh and say “just enjoy the grace in this moment” and I relax. I find myself joyfully anticipating continuing my pilgrimage as a retiree with a few things to do as I be Stephen Murphy. Thanks for joining me for awhile.
A supplement to this blog would be a slight modification to the three things I get to do / be in my life – love, listen, labor – which is primarily creating stained glass , along with household responsibilities and other stuff I do. The alliteration is nice and labor is the first rhythm in the rule of the Order of the Common Life. To learn about my connection with them check out https://listenwiththeearofyourheart.wordpress.com/?s=OCL&submit=Search