Seeking New Horizons at Home: Part Two

How do we invite change or transformation into our lives? Do we wait for things to come falling out of the sky like Chicken Little? or Do we learn how to advance the charge?  And where do you place God in all of your thinking? How does he speak to you? How do we recognize the path that is God’s will for our future?

La Princesse du pays de la porcelaine, James Abbott McNeill Whistler, 1865, oil on canvas, 79.3 X 45.7 in. Smithsonian Freer Gallery of Art, Washington DC
La Princesse du pays de la porcelaine, James Abbott McNeill Whistler, 1865, oil on canvas, 79.3 X 45.7 in. Smithsonian Freer Gallery of Art, Washington DC

The peacock will be our point of departure this week, and a surprising little day trip into DC to view the “peacock room” a little hidden treasure featured at the Smithsonian’s Freer-Sackler gallery, decorated by the famed James McNeill Whistler, named by the artist: Harmony in Blue and Gold.

The decoration of this room began as a way of displaying this painting  called The Princess of the Land of Porcelain  This painting, and the room that surrounds it, highlights the fascination of Victorian England for all things exotic and so a fitting meditation piece for our journey towards change. Take a moment to look at all the detail in the painting above, then click here to find photos of the room in its current decoration.

Ask yourself: What kinds of things am I attracted to and collecting in my life and what does this tell me about myself?

Because observing people from a different time period can help us to understand pieces of ourselves,  I want to share with you just a little bit of the history of this famous dining room as part of our devotion this week.

In the 19th century with the advent of the train and steamship, traveling to distant countries was no longer just a dream. Finding new landscapes to explore  became much more possible. This consequently brought to the social elite  of England, Europe and in turn the United States, new appetites for fashions of the East. These travelers longed to escape the hectic cities of the west and thought of the Asian countries as yet unspoiled by industrialization.  Capitalizing on this, composers, writers and visual artist of all kinds choose themes from China, Japan and India to highlight their work and appeal to current popular fashion. You need look no further than French writer Jules Verne’s classic tale Around the World in 80 Days written in 1873 to highlight the point.

As a result, people would insert these Asian influences into their homes. These art treasures from the Far East would be shown as a sign of affluence and cultured taste.  The peacock in turn,  with its beautiful feathers, began to adorn home furnishings and personal attire as a sign of a taste for all things exotic.

Peacocks and Peonies, Ngasawa Rosetsu, 1776, color on silk, 51 1/3 x 38 7/8 in. Imperial Household Collection, Tokyo Japan
Peacocks and Peonies, Ngasawa Rosetsu, 1776, color on silk, 51 1/3 x 38 7/8 in. Imperial Household Collection, Tokyo Japan

This majestic bird, however, has been used as a symbol of so much more in other cultures and time periods because of what has been seen as many eyes in its tail feathers. This idea of seeing things from many different angles gives this bird the mystique of transformation..of seeing many different perspectives anew…..and so this is the thread through which we will tie our devotion.

Now that we have spent time last week reflecting on the virtue of self-love,  let us continue to see ourselves with new eyes. Armed with the strength of knowing we are highly favored by God, let us courageously look at our weaknesses and ask ourselves…

Are there areas of our lives we have neglected?

Have I been afraid to let go of some long held beliefs?

Am I perhaps not willing to admit defeat in certain places and just move on?

What am I afraid to see in myself?

How am I treating those around me like fine porcelain?

and most importantly…What is God trying to show me about myself and the world I live in?

Remember there is a difference in traveling to far away lands as a means of escape and deciding to journey to a new place to allow for transformation.

As you consider this…enjoy the beautiful nature of the room that was painted by Whistler to showcase his painting as we will be using this armchair day trip in next week’s blog. There is so much to see in this room….

but for now, simply reflect on the idea of new eyes as found in Psalm 119:

vs. 18 “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.

vs. 36-37 “Turn my heart toward your statues and not toward selfish gain. Turn my eyes away from worthless things…”

vs. 81-82 “My soul faints with longing for your salvation, but I have put my hope in your word. My eyes fail, looking for your promise…”

And God answers us: “I tell you open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying, ‘One sows and another reaps’, is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.” John 4: 34-38

As we pray our prayer of new horizons…let us remember the lovely tradition given to us as young brides as we set out on our wedding day….Something old….something new….something borrowed…something blue. Remember how everything was set before you….and all things were possible…

Lord, hear our prayer….

as we come before you, we must confess that we are longing for transformation but we lack the courage required to take the journey. Help us to look towards new expressions of your love while honoring the memories of our past. Inspire us with the curiosity  to learn from other people and the creative energy to add touches of beauty to our experience. Spark in us the enthusiasm for your Gospel of love and let us learn to reach out and stretch ourselves into areas outside our comfort zone.

Have a Blessed Week!

p.s. I have a couple of little book recommendations this week that go along with having a change of heart. One is My Heart-Christ’s Home by Robert Boyd Munger which is a lovely little pamphlet that compares the rooms of your house to rooms in your heart and the other is by Joanna Weaver “Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World” both have wonderful insight into opening your eyes towards  transformation.

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