Monday, December 8, 2008

Endings and Beginnings

Closing out the old year and beginning a new one is always lots of fun!  We run non-stop from Thanksgiving until New Years Day (which I usually spend in my Pajamas locked in my house, bone tired).  I usually spend some time that day looking back on all the things I have done in the year past and looking forward to the year to come which is a blank slate of possibilities. For an artist, this is similar to the excitement of a new sketch book, all white and empty ready to be filled with thoughts, dreams, plans, but also knowing that sometimes tears, anger or disappointment will fill some of the pages.  The thing I have found over the years is that when the sketchbook is full and you look back, you see the beauty of it as a whole, including the darker pages which creates what we call “contrast.”  See, you can’t really notice the “highlights” without the “lowlights.” I believe God set it up that way!  

Almost everyone has seen the work of Thomas Kinkade, “the painter of light”, I’ll tell you a secret, all in the world he does is balance his lights and darks to draw your attention to the light! He does it masterfully! You could also do the opposite and call attention to the darkness.  It is a balancing act to have both light and dark and not allow the darkness to take over.  Our reflections on our year and on our Spiritual journey are the same exact way.  We paint our lives in ways that draw attention to the Light of God or to the darkness of life’s journey.  For some of us, the ability to look on the light side of life comes naturally but for others of us, it takes much energy, discipline and practice not to fall head first into the darkness.  Which ever way you are wired, it takes practice and intentionality not to lean to far in the direction that is most natural for you.  You have to feel the bad stuff in life, you can not live life fully without pain, but you can't live a life of nothing but pain either. So learn to acknowledge the darkness in life, but also learn to glorifiy God in those times in which peace passes all understanding, not being thankful FOR all things you have to go through but thanking God IN all situations you find yourself.  As you learn to be aware of the balance of light and dark you will also find that you will glow with Light though the darkness.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Place to Sit and Watch the Path

Do you have places that are Holy for you? Places you can go and sit, places that when the path gets to long or difficult, confusing or scary that you can just go and sit? We all have to have them.  We all need a place of retreat, not to bury our heads in the sand, but to intentionally have time set aside for reflection, listening for God's movement towards the next step, and for good, old fashioned rest. This bench at Shaker Village in Kentucky is a symbol of that place for me.  I took this photo on a trip with a friend at a  time when I was in need of a quiet place to let my spirit heal.  This is a photograph that travels in my head and can be called upon no matter where I am, or what is going on around me.  

I have only been to this beautiful place twice before but for me it represents so many positive, life giving, connections with God that reentering it, even in memory, calms my troubled spirit.  I have spent time reflecting on why that is.  I think that one reason is the history of the place, Holiness has soaked into the very ground on which this village stands.  The years of worship and praise, prayer and service that saturate the property permeates the air the Shaker worship songs once filled.  Also those who now upkeep the Village add to the environment that is created, the artisans at work making brooms, boxes and barrels, those tending the land and tending to the buildings and animals,  even those who work in the shops and in the dining hall seem to serve with an integrity that is Spirit-filled.  

I really don't mean to sound like a travel agent for Shaker Village! For someone else, my experience may not be their experience of this place.  But I believe for everyone there is a place where you can stop and connect with God.  This is Biblical! God walked in the Garden with Adam and Eve, Moses went up on the Mountain to be with God, Jesus met God in real places, on the mountain with His disciples at the Transfiguration and in the Garden as his disciples slept, unable to understand Jesus' agony and unaware the events that were about to unfold.  God meets us all in places of healing, safe places in which we can sit for a while to gather strength and knowledge for the path ahead. 

Friday, November 7, 2008

In the Beginning

It is not always easy to sit down with a blank anything (paper, canvas, screen).  The possibilities are endless...but where to begin.  Oh I have been told many ways to start but it has never been easy for me because I feel that there is not one right way or place to start and I tend to get overwhelmed and just don't start at all.  What a shame when you think about it, endless possibilities and I am paralyzed by that!  That my dear friends is a Spiritual problem.  One I work on on a daily basis.  "How?" You may ask, and I would be glad to tell you, by starting...simple things one by one, one day at a time.  If I feel myself feeling a leading towards something, or feeling regretful about not having done something I head towards it.  

"Starting" has put a paintbrush back in my hand, has lead me to piano lessons and has lead me me towards a vocational path I could have never imagined.  "Starting" is so much scarier for me then it sounds, I have felt that I have lived a life based on staying still, staying quiet, behaving in a manor that draws as little attention to one's self as possible, keeping the canvas of life blank for fear of "messing it up" the problem is, what if you get to the end of this life with a still blank canvas? You have lived a life paralyzed by possibilities, and you in the end have nothing but a clean, safe, boring, uninspired life to show for it.  

So PAINT ON YOUR CANVAS!!!! So WHAT if you mess it up, you can learn from that and paint over it!!! There have been x rays done of old master paintings that show them having painted over one masterpiece to create another, totally different one.  VanGogh painted over a portrait of a woman to create a painting called "a patch of grass".  Have you ever covered over one layer of life to create another totally different layer of life that is just as beautiful but totally different from the one before it? Maybe when you passed from childhood to adulthood?  From Parenthood into a life with Independent Children? Or from a darker time in life into a life that feels more filled with light?  Our canvases can hold far more then we think as we stand before the pristine-ness of blank white and the layers we create do nothing but add depth and texture to the life that we the Creator's image.