Monthly Archives: January 2014

Spontaneous Storytelling

Image

“Apple Woman” DS collage book

Spontaneous Storytelling

Yesterday during the workshop one story after another came up as I presented the contemplation and collage material.  I got to tell quite a bit about Kurt Schwitters, the one whose philosophy of recycled collage I follow.  I even told the part of his story where a Scottish connection comes in.  In brief: he was in a prisoner of war camp in Scotland and created collages there out of found papers as was his habit.  When he was moved down to England the guards threw out his collages thinking they were garbage.  Millions of dollars in collages were lost to the arts community.  A few years ago I was privileged to see some of his small collages in the Vancouver Art Gallery – each one valued at over a million dollars.

Things went on from there to a partial history of collage going from a craft (Valentine’s cards) to an art form largely due to Schwitters work.  Into the conversation came “Spiral Jetty” an example of earth art in Utah by Robert Smithson.  Questions were asked about art, especially contemporary art and on it went.

As I continued to give direction in starting their recycled collage books I passed around my own book – one of several that tell the story of my life in coded/collaged form.  When I came to the page “Apple Woman” I relayed briefly about the time of spiritual encouragement when I broke my ankle and had a long recovery.

In these groups we contemplate many things about ourselves, about God and about our lives that are art-infused.  I think of the parable of the Ten Bridesmaids (Matthew 25).  We need to be ready; to be familiar with our stories – relayed as hope to others.  Sometimes it is only a few words about our own experience.

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”

I Peter 3:5

Advertisements

The Lesson of the Amaryllis

The older stalk balances the newer.

The older stalk balances the newer.

“Lesson of the Amaryllis” 2014 DS

This amaryllis plant that disappointed by not blooming at Christmas has provided entertainment in January almost as if it was a pet. In fact as someone with dander allergies, I have come to see that the way this houseplant is described in all of its aspects must be equivalent to the discussions of house pets. Comments about its appearance and activity have been numerous. No movement in growth has gone unnoticed. It has required care too. It must be turned toward the light each day so it does not lean too far one day and topple the pot. Watering is a regular delicate decision enacted on the hothouse soil just below the large rising bulb.

A couple of days ago I suggested that the older stalk be pruned. My spouse disagreed and wanted it left as it was. As in these days of much married experience I have finally learned to pick my battles, I left it. While finishing my breakfast I quipped, “You like its fading beauty?” He muttered: “Yes keep it – it adds to the beauty.” After further reflection over oatmeal and coffee I blurted: “Am I like that…?”

If truth be told, I did not want to watch the blooms lose their colour, crinkle and drop off – the messiness of it all I might have to clean up. This morning my husband informed me that the second stalk was getting a third bud. (We had expected a mere two.) Enjoying the pinkness of it all I suddenly realized that as the younger stalk gets its third bloom it needs the balance of the older stalk. Also, only with the old and the new side by side do we enjoy the continuum of growth across the lifespan of this dramatic plant. Birth and death and birth again – that is kingdom living. An amaryllis joins my collection of contemporary parables

A Year of Explorations

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.
T. S. Eliot

As I continue with reading “Sacred Pathways” by Gary Thomas I feel inspired to put some of his ideas into practice this year. One thing I realized as I read about the practice of an ascetic surprised me. I had not considered myself as being an ascetic, yet when I read the words: “In a crowd or at a party, sometimes I try to ‘sneak in’ a few moments of solitude… All I know that it is in those solitary moments that colors regain their brightness, truth regains its clarity, and reality loses its fog”, I see years of my own behavior come into focus.

Waterfront, Seattle WA

Waterfront, Seattle WA


“Arrival, Waterfront, Seattle WA” 2013 DS

Case in point is my recent trip to Seattle by train. I had wanted to make the trip for several years to visit the Seattle Art Museum
and the Chihuly Glass Museum

Finally last September it seemed like the right time. I had also felt a longing to take a train ride. I put the two together and off I went alone on an adventure. The things I saw and experienced there will fill my mind and heart all winter and hopefully give energy to the preparations for my contemplation and creativity workshops. When I returned from the trip of exploration a new depth of knowledge about art, the city, God and myself returned to Vancouver with me.

Sometimes it is difficult to separate the outer and the inner life. Yet when I study and reap the benefits of knowledge about God and God’s ways a little action can turn the learning into real growth as a person and in my lived relationship with God and others. The way we live our lives affects those around us. I read again in “Sacred Pathways: “Each Christian life of prayer…however deeply hidden or apparently solitary in form, will affect the life of the whole Body.” It might just be that one of the ‘Sacred Pathways’ for me is to be a modern day ascetic. I find this invitation exciting: “Let her find in the busy city the desert of the monks.”

New Year Blooming Amaryllis

 

Image

“New Year Blooming Amaryllis” 2014, photocollage, DS

This amaryllis is a symbol of all that is good about a fresh year starting.  However, I was having guests and was disappointed the plant did not bloom by Christmas.  Instead it broke forth today.

I was reminded of our own growth in Christ.  As I put the Christmas decorations away this week, Jesus, Emmanuel, is still with us.  He is resurrected.

A woman in one of my workshops before Christmas said with passion that Easter should be celebrated by everyone as more important than that of Christmas. The comment took me by surprise.  I gave her a hurried reply but pondered her words later.  I rushed to give her an answer where there was no need.  Her struggle with theological questions is a sign of her being in an environment conducive to wholeness.  She has made a choice that will give her life.  In her way, she sits at the feet of Jesus.  I had not recognized this before.

Gary Thomas in his book “Sacred Pathways: Discover Your Soul’s Path to God” writes refreshingly about the journey of the soul being the cultivation of our unique relationship with God.  We need to learn how to renew our spirituality when it has grown lukewarm or dormant.

 Rather than another discipline to add to our new year it might be fun to explore the “Nine Sacred Pathways” explained by Thomas: “[God] created you with a certain personality and a certain temperament.”  Just as the biblical Martha and Mary expressed their devotion to Jesus in different ways, we each have unique ways to contribute to the Body of Christ.

The flower bulb looked mundane yet it had its own way and it’s own timing to bloom.  It was not going to look like a gorgeous poinsettia with red leaf-like flowers, or a Christmas cactus decked out in hot pink.  It would be a spectacular salmon pink and white amaryllis showing as a surprise gift on this first day of a new year in our journey with God.

Whether we are extroverts or introverts, orderly or spontaneous, intellectuals or worship best with our 5 senses or imagination, we can find exciting ways to relate to God.  Here are some ideas from Thomas:

–       Pray to God beside a river

–       Worship with the senses: incense, intricate architecture, classical music

–       Study historical writings of Christians in earlier centuries

–       Spend time at a silent retreat center with pastors and artists

–       Work for societal change

–       Love your neighbor in some practical way

–       Show enthusiasm for your journey with God

–       In stillness, listen to God’s voice

–       Engage in theological discussions