Saturday, July 2, 2011

All Roads Lead to Rome (by Judy)

I have just returned from the most wonderful trip I have ever taken, to Italy - quite a statement coming from a 66 year old who has been a consistent voyager since my 10th birthday when my present was a flight from Philadelphia to Washington, DC for lunch! My main reason for saying this is not the comfort of our accommodations, though they were exceptional; not the views and surroundings, though breathtaking; not the local foods and wines, though my waistline reveals the abundance and quality again; not the people, fun as they were. It was something different – the feeling of the presence of Jesus every step of the way.

Our first stop in Italy was in the hills of Umbria, where our house was surrounded by vineyards. It was there that I truly connected with the analogy that Jesus is the vine and we are the branches, often in need of pruning. Jack and I watched the farmer traverse the rows and rows in his vineyard day after day from sun-up to mid-afternoon, cutting recalcitrant branches, insuring that all the plant's energy and effort goes into the grapes and not in the wayward tendrils. We also noticed that though his vineyard paths were clear, weeded, trimmed and neat, a neighboring vineyard was a tangle along the ground, with weeds choking the vines, sapping their strength and vitality. The lessons that I can apply to my with my Christian walk are clear and I felt very close to the One making the analogy.

Then we traveled to Rome, a city filled to overflowing with activity, vibrance, art, architecture, and humanity. No wonder Paul was so committed to getting there, surviving a shipwreck, rebellious followers, illness and snakes. This is a city of cobblestone streets, convoluted rabbit-warren neighborhoods, piazzas with churches every block, frescoes and statues by famous Italian artists blurring the senses - smells, sounds and sights so close to when Paul sat in his small garret, housebound, writing letters to the struggling churches across the Mediterranean lands. I could close my eyes and feel that I was actually there - a concept not so obscure as we admit our limited human attempts to force a linear view of time - when we know that only God is the Potentate of Time, yesterday, today and forever.

At every piazza, both in Rome and in the hilltop villages of Umbria, there are faucets springing from the ground - not the beautiful fountains we see on post cards, but rather humble pipes, bringing cold, fresh water to passersby. I do not understand how they work, for there are no spigots, turning them off and on. They run continuously, simply offering water from a faraway spring, living water, for sustenance and to wash off dirt. Jesus made the same offer to the woman at the well - the offer of Himself - "whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” Isaiah said, "Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost." In Rome, I began to understand and even more, to want to share this trip with others.

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