A Place to Pray

 

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“North Shore Mountains” iPhone Photo DS

A French Lilac hedge, a grey stone house, and an upstairs window with a ledge seat overlooking the garden – these were parts of the place I had chosen as my prayer spot. We had viewed this house, loved it, painted parts of it, had our older daughter’s birthday party there, then lost it before we officially moved in. It was the house of my dreams. No other has matched it since. I could have prayed a lot of great prayers there, I am sure. But it was not to be.

A prayer can be uttered anywhere, of course, but a prayer practice is also important in our ongoing treasured relationship with God. It is about spending time with God – quality time actually enjoying, not just asking. Pastor/writer and retired professor from Regent College, Eugene Peterson, penned these words: “Intimate friends can feel comfortable with each other in silence and can say much even while exchanging few words.” This is so for time with our Creator also.

Today, the church service had been so life giving for me – the singing, the stained glass window, the smiles and the pastor’s words. I even felt like some words of comfort came to me from the Spirit explaining why there had been so much silence in guiding me this year. After a quiet lunch of beef soup and cheese sandwiches with my loved one, I headed off to the gallery.

At the Silk Purse Art Space I have one painting exhibited in the SPECTRUM Show. It is a piece of work that came to me in layers and layers over time. It is colourful and garden-like. I feel happy when I look at it. I wanted to visit the gallery – of course – to see if it was sold yet, but also just to replenish the supply of Shellseekers Art + Soul business cards I had left on the entrance table.

The gregarious volunteer at the reception desk introduced me as one of the artists to a couple of women sitting on chairs in front of the cozy gallery fireplace. They asked which painting was mine, commented politely, and went back to their conversation, deeply held.

I felt a little discouraged thinking that they were just using the gallery as a place to meet a friend and were not looking at the art at all. I smiled and left a while later and went to check out someone else’s show I wanted to see – Ann Kipling’s drawings at the West Vancouver Museum. I parked easily on this rainy day, walked up the hill and read that the gallery was closed on Sundays.

As I now had some unexpected time I did some reading in Vancouver pastor/author Ken Shigematsu’s modern monastic work “God in my Everything”. (I have offered book study groups using this book over the years.) Always attempting to keep the Sabbath I spent a few minutes in prayer in my prayer spot overlooking the North Shore mountains and read this:

“Though we can pray anywhere, the place where we spend time with God may affect our conversation with Him… we can transform an ordinary space into one that fosters prayer. Removing clutter, putting up a work of art, placing an icon or a candle on a table… people seemed more relaxed and lingered longer in that space. We are bodily creatures: art, beauty, and location matter, even if we are not always aware of them” (Bolded words mine).

In this way did God speak to me? Was I not to be concerned about people ignoring my painting in the gallery? I wonder – the gallery, although a quiet space (often), is not usually a prayer space (although I have prayed many a prayer during my gallery openings). Does the God of all whisper to us in ways that we barely notice? Does God love us that much? Like sitting on a bench at the beach with a friend, do we feel God with us in the silent times?

I have not thought of that grey stone house with the fragrant Lilac hedge for years. I now see God’s hand working through my life, bringing me to this place of my praying that overlooks a then unimagined landscape. I offer a breath prayer of thanks.

Remembering Summer

End of Summer

Woe is me

It is not going to be

The weather I want

You see

 

The rain will come

The rain will go

The snow will fall

I do not want it all

 

Although I am sure

A broken ankle will not

Reoccur

Memory stays

Of those long Physio days

 

When life was halted

Upon my bed

While visions of

Matisse and Degas

Filled my head

 

Life forever changed

On that black ice day

A swollen ankle comes still

When I try to play

 

But during that time I

Created small portraits

That six years later

Call me back

By their profits

And beauty raw

 

More tiny pictures

Of tiny people

Will come from my fingers

To inhabit my portfolio

For a time I do not know

When they will be seen

And live and heal

My broken memories

And summer will be back

Again.

DS

 

longing in the midst of a cold snowy winter

Remembering Summer DS

Esperanza 2017

 

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“Stephanart Studio New Years’ Eve” DS

The Vancouver Sun editorial, December 31, summarized that 2016 had been a terrible year: “Let’s file 2016 under miserable”. There were shootings, bombings, massacres, an assassination, murders, wildfires, viruses, protests, accidents, attacks and other deaths. And yet there were hopeful things too like peace in Columbia, the U.S. surprise win of Trump and popular vote winning for Clinton the first woman candidate. Queen Elizabeth celebrated her 90th birthday, Bob Dylan won the Nobel Peace Prize for Literature and the best hope of all – 44,495 babies born in B.C. in 2016.

On New Year’s Eve we choose to leave the old year behind and often sing Robert Burns’ Auld Lang Sine as a blessing on the year to come. It is a time of new beginnings. We sip and kiss and dance with this hope. We begin to wait.

Waiting seems at odds with progress… yet [it] is not passive but a vigilant and watchful activity designed to keep us aware of what is really going on. Isaiah evokes this radical waiting as a source of vitality: “Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength /they shall mount up with wings as eagles.” Such waiting is meant to engender a lively hope rooted in the physical as well as the psyche. It is an action, the ‘hop’ contained within the word. To hope is to make a leap, to jump from where you are to someplace better. If you can imagine it, and dare to take that leap, you can go there – no matter how hopeless your situation may appear… hope has an astonishing resilience and strength… it is not a tonic for wishful thinkers but the ground on which realists stand.

Acedia & Me – Kathleen Norris

The studio appeared dark and barren for weeks. The artist was busy elsewhere. Red summer roses gone, a blackened dripping vine silhouetted the sliding door.

An idea bloomed one morning. It was just yesterday, New Year’s Day. The lights were turned on, the heat checked, then brush strokes poured forth from the neglected tool. After a period of gestation the paintings had completed their birth. It was a gift freshly given for the New Year.

The series of “Lament” paintings, four canvases, 16” x 20”: acrylic primary coloured words softened by a pale blue and green landscape format. This work, stuck since the summer for continued inspiration, was suddenly finished. This creation about the challenges of our society forms the backbone of an epic art exhibition hoped for in 2017.

So my word for 2017 is ‘Esperanza’. What is your word for the year?

Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 

Book of Hebrews

Our Own Advent

Linocut

“Eastern Star” Linocut DS

 

IN SEARCH OF OUR KNEELING PLACES

By Ann Weems

 

In each heart lies a Bethlehem,

An inn where we must ultimately answer

Whether there is room or not.

When we are Bethlehem bound

We experience our own advent in his.

When we are Bethlehem bound

We can no longer look the other way

Conveniently not seeing stars

Not hearing angel voices.

We can no longer excuse ourselves by busily

Tending our sheep or our kingdoms.

 

This Advent let’s go to Bethlehem

And see this thing that the Lord has made known to us.

In the midst of shopping sprees

Let’s ponder the Gift of Gifts.

Through the tinsel

Let’s look for the gold of the Christmas Star.

In the excitement and confusion, in the merry chaos,

Let’s listen for the brush of angels’ wings.

This Advent, let’s go to Bethlehem

And find our kneeling places.

 

Even so, come Lord Jesus.

Book of Revelation

First Time Ever

An e-mail arrives to the in box with the subject line: No Service Tomorrow Due to Snow. The church is closed – what? No one can be found in time to clear the parking lot. It is unsafe. A contractor wrote: Even if we were able to plow today it would only expose the ice and make a very bad situation worse.

I guess it is good to know that the pastor has our safety in mind. Now it is on me to deal with the disappointment of the day’s festivities being cancelled – including the Blue Christmas service. It allows me to take stock.

These words came to me after breakfast: The service is cancelled for the first time in the 25 years I have been going there. This snow is too much. The driveway is impassible, the 30 steps a risk to ankles, and the car covered with ice again. It must be said though that we are warm, we have light, we are together and we have enough food. God knows the situation.

We are thrown back on our own resources. We must worship God on our own without the benefit of a worship team today and pray depending only on the Spirit’s prompting. I found help at youtube.com:

“When I’m with You” Citizen Way

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-A2jGZfgYH0

Ken Shigematsu’s book “God in My Everything” comes to mind. The next chapter focus in giving Spiritual Direction will be “Sabbath: Oasis for Body and Soul”. We need to rest from our activities. We are invited to ‘question our assumptions” about life and express our love to God. In doing this we trust that God will look after all that concerns us while we take a break. I work on making some Christmas collage cards.

It has been several days now since I have been ‘out and about’. I injured my neck and shoulder early in the week clearing snow from my vehicle. Ice and heat packs have been my intimate companions. I wait for our name to come up on the list for driveway clearing with a local company. We are certainly not alone in our condition of isolation.

A holiday of sorts has begun. I find myself thinking in different ways about many things. Who could really use some extra prayer today? Should I do some contemplative knitting with my sore neck? It is only fall; will we get through winter this year? Will the turmoil of my time commitments falling like dominoes make me draw back from being involved? Should we move to a place where the streets have better snow removal?

Yet the day, as it wears on, becomes a true holy day. I feel more at peace. I remember when God has looked after us in worse situations. I breathe. I trust. I pray. I pray for my family and for those who would have attended the Blue Christmas service this evening.

Hope arrives in the form of dripping snow. The trees are becoming less white as clumps of snow slide down the boughs to thump on the covered grass underneath. Like my knowledge of the green hidden under the white, my faith is there under the fears –

“All will be well and all will be well and all manner of thing will be well”

Julian of Norwich.

In Vancouver snow means recovery from trauma – that of realizing that we are not totally in control of our lives. I have faced one of my basic fears – being snowed in – and discovered again the real meaning of Christmas – that God’s Son is with us – Emmanuel.

I am OK. I am rested. Tomorrow will come with its health and work. God invites us as friends into the changing plans.

John 15:11-15 The Message 

“I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father.

iPhone Photo DS

“30 Snowy Steps” DS

 

 

Prayer and the Creative Process

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“View from Stephanart Studio” DS

 

The one thing I’ve learned is to always keep moving. Never let it all drop. Always be doing something for your project, even if it’s printing it out and crossing out words and writing in other words, or writing a plan. Stay in motion. Give it something.

Contemporary writer Alex Leslie

An unfinished painting stands facing the wall in the Stephanart Studio. The artist has not painted for months now. Her fear has been that in her angst to continue the work she will ruin it. Her work was interrupted by life and she lost the vision for its completion.

It had stood central on the easel for weeks while the sketchbook drawing was enlarged and redone on the 36” x 24” canvas. The foreground and background were thinly painted in. Three telephone poles had been erected in the image and Easter colours chosen for their completion but never applied. Their starkness in the landscape mirrored the artist’s wilderness experience of late.

Just now, in the middle of the night, after all this time technical ideas came to its creator. Shapes and colours floated through her dream. An inner excitement drew her to record it here. She will go out to the studio, unlock the door, and restore the work’s place on the easel.

The day before, the artist had received a visit from a colleague who had prayed for her to forgive a past hurt and for creative work to continue. An oppression has lifted. Inspiration is this odd, this ad hoc. The work stops, the work starts again – so frustratingly simple, so complex and profound. Who is this great God who calls and equips us to create, to forgive, to live inside the real work of art that is this world? Who is she that her work can be disrupted by her inner life, by her outer life? Why was her call answered so quickly when others are not?

Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous [person] availeth much.

Book of James

 

Performance Art

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“Resting in the Beauty” DS

Today, again, it comes to me that facilitating is a form of performance art. It was especially obvious to me last month as local teacher from Emily Carr University; Jeanne Krabbendam enlivened us at the Ferry Building Gallery with her banter. Her accent, so Dutch, alone brings a smile of delight to my eyes. Her inclusion in discussions welcomes participants’ eager responses to her useful material. We had a popcorn critique of two abstract paintings as follows:

The Elements of Art –

Shape

Size

Line

Direction

Texture

Colour

Value

And Principles of Design –

Balance

Harmony

Gradation

Alternation

Contrast

Dominance

Unity

The morning started well for me when we chatted at length as she walked by my chair.  As if I was her peer she shared with me her challenges of the recent art tours she led to her birth land. As a facilitator myself I identified with many aspects of group dynamics to be managed. As I listened with restrained awe to her readiness to offer painting and gallery visits from small boat tours again, I too knew the love of introducing people to the beauty and meaning of making and viewing art.

Her appearance exuded her taste. Short textured dark brown hair with a shock of mahogany above dark green spectacles – contrasting colours, and bright raspberry lipstick below darkened eyes kept the focus on what she was saying. On her tiny frame, a thin-striped black and white tunic topped black leggings and boots. Yet it was her happy playful eyes that attracted others to her pedagogy. She lives what she verbalizes. She lives an art life (as if you could distinguish to the two). Her life and her art flow seamlessly into one another. This is what attracts and keeps her followers: joie de vivre.

Although it is more blessed to give than to receive, there are exceptions. Although I could have led the group discussion myself, it was refreshing to receive a different style of leadership from someone whose platform and practice differs markedly from mine. I was not only receiving her take on how to view paintings but I absorbed and reflected her passion for teaching.

And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.

 Book of Psalms