Tag Archives: Book of Isaiah

The Spiritual Discipline of Letting Go

A lecture on ‘letting go’ had me riveted to the hard pew on Sunday morning. As my eyes glanced across the familiar tangerine and teal stained glass windows, my thoughts reviewed my inner life.   Purging has been a lifelong practice for me but has never caught up with my ability to acquire, to accumulate, to pile up possessions or offenses. Yet again I realize I need to weed out the garden of my heart. Some dandelions that seemed useful perhaps for tea drinking have actually become entrenched in my mossy green lawn. Their roots have strangled my grass and some of my reasoning about words and deeds I have heard and observed.

Some of my formative years were spent in my grandmother’s house in Scotland. Every spring and autumn what we called ‘McGuinty’s closet’ would get some spring-cleaning attention. This walk-in closet held layers of belongings decades old. Only the things close to the door were gone through and given away. These were mostly children’s clothes too small for the new season.

Last Sunday’s guest talk was no mere spring-cleaning or polishing up of what was there near the door of our hearts and minds. It was like our moving day to me. Long held possessions of hurts, and ways of doing things a certain way, were to be let go of or group life would fail. That was the message, yes.

My mind goes today to a large outdoor sculpture that used to be in Vancouver called “Device for Rooting out Evil.” It was a hut-sized 3D silver church sitting upside down on the landscaped lawn. The steeple had been dug into the ground. The first time I saw it I felt angry, was this an insult, I thought. As the work penetrated my thinking, as all good art will, layers of understanding emerged in my mind. I wondered, is this rooting out of evil, to be of the church by the church, can it be.

http://www.calgaryherald.com/news/calgary/Ramsay+famous+upside+down+church+uprooted+after+lease+expires/9382601/story.html

Let it begin with me, yes. I carry my hurts rattling along like tin cans on festive streamers attached to a wedding car. But this is not happy. Yes, I have a muffler silencing them, as any good Christian would, but what if I were to detach from them and drive along free, unencumbered to my future. Unencumbered, is this the freedom of forgiveness that the cross symbolizes, I muse.  I wonder if this is part of the power of spiritual disciplines: to hold sacred space for inner movements toward God.

I will be free of that which so easily besets me. I take out my steeple and dig it out, this memory of unintentional hurts. So, what if someone said this or did that. I choose to be over it by the power of the Spirit.

Book of Philippians

 I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally…

I feel spring-cleaned and ready for Easter. The intriguing thing for me, as one who holds a graduate degree in the art of spiritual formation, is that the church changes will come now by way of ‘new’ (but ancient) spiritual practices and disciplines (perhaps mingled with art practices) that have become my life’s work. God’s ways are of course higher than mine. I really love spring, especially the outrageous pinkness of spring in Vancouver’s Cherry Blossom Festival.

http://www.vcbf.ca/

Book of Isaiah

Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.

 

 

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Reading ‘Surprised by Joy’

There is so much I miss in reading books by C.S. Lewis. His writing is so intellectual, so dense with classic literary and philosophical allusions that it is overwhelming at times. Not so this time – as Luther wrote about being inspired to ‘pick up the book and read,’ so it was with me this month. Perhaps I was confused by Valentine’s Day and thought this was the love story of how Lewis and his wife met, not how he came to know and love God. (Now that I remember, that heart-changing story was told in the movie “Shadowlands”.)

The small yellow book lay near the front of my bookshelf as it had for several years. Maybe it was the blue sailor’s costume or the summer yellow sun behind the graphic of the boy on the cover that attracted me. I felt the desire to read another autobiography. This is a year of reading and writing memoir for me.

Clive Staples Lewis was born in Ireland in 1898. He had a comfortable childhood until his mother grew ill. He had heard that God would answer prayers of faith. So he prayed. When a miracle did not come the grief of his mother’s death and his gradual loss of faith were the marks of his childhood. In his father’s loss he was unable to relate well with his two sons. As it was not unusual for boys to go to boarding school in those days, each son was sent off in turn.

Deprivation and teacher incompetence rendered his boarding school experience harsh. Yet it was in relating to classmates and their hierarchies that he learned social skills to survive being an introvert. He was studious and found his way among them. Eventually he became a Professor of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge. His prolific writings have delighted people of every age.

The book goes on to give the reader a view of how his reading the classics and in arguing in discussion groups with mentors and peers he formed his ideas about philosophy and about life. Faith having been eroded by years of neglect seemed in the book to be a side project carried on by God (hardly noticed at times by Lewis). By music, by experiences and longings for what Lewis called Joy, the pages of autobiography are like taking a trowel with the author and participating in an archeological dig of his thoughts. Glimpses of how his worldview changed now and then are like peepholes into God’s work behind the scenes.

Layer upon layer, God worked on God’s reluctant subject, until Lewis had to acquiesce and admit that God is real, present, and loving. C.S. Lewis tells his conversion story as being the only logical conclusion.   Lewis relates a real spiritual walk at a local zoo with the great charm of his imaginative stories: “Wallaby Wood with the birds singing overhead and the bluebells underfoot and wallabies hopping all around one, was almost Eden come again.”

The experience of seeking Joy only pointed to and led the way. We are grateful for signposts on a journey but they are not the destination. By one intriguing story after another Lewis finds that his longing for Joy is not for a feeling but for a Person. He writes:  But what, in conclusion, of Joy? For that, after all, is what the story has mainly been about. To tell the truth, the subject has lost nearly all interest for me since I became a Christian…

God has taken me as blogger on a journey of discovery also. I was born in Saint John, N.B. and dedicated to God there (something that God seems to take very seriously!) My childhood of singing in a tiny Scottish church and watching adults being baptized by immersion, the celebrations of Easter and Christmas, the refusal of confirmation, the leaving of church for a decade, the comeback truly a follower of Jesus Christ and the Joy of Companionship along some dark rainy roads to reach some turquoise beach experiences come to mind. Now in Vancouver, art school and seminary practices and friends along the way are there to enjoy a way of life with overflowing meaning. What is that old saying? It goes something like: a joy is doubled and a sorrow is halved when shared.

Book of Isaiah

Precept upon precept; line upon line; here a little, and there a little… will he speak to [t]his people.

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Desk Photo Collage 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

After the Rain

After the Rain

“After the Rain” iPad photo DS

No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.

First Book of Corinthians

 

This morning as my red car climbs the driveway drips from the tall trees twinkled among the branches and fell in turn on the graveled tarmac. It seemed like a new washed world. The plants I had struggled to water with the kinked hose a few days ago came to mind. There was no way I could ever have watered the pink flowering bushes, white roses and purple viola pots the way last night’s rain had.

I watched through the darkening windows of my living room the night before in mild shock that in this week before summer white hail stones were piling up on the brown aggregate patio.

Later in the afternoon, the words, into each life some rain must fall, came into my mind as I thought about driving the short distance to my women’s group earlier. I did a mini-ponder about whether our lives were actually cleaned by the difficult times we go through. There can be harm in extreme events, but mostly the unpleasant pouring rain – like hard times, may not be bad for us. In fact, I mused, we may be helped by them.

I then wondered if a break in a relationship might be like days of pouring rain – that perhaps the sun might shine on that relationship again after events bring things into more clarity. The vivid colours after the harsh rain, might they be like positive qualities of the other person that may be brought forth after not seeing them for a while, I pondered.

Into every life some rain must fall, yes, most rain does not hurt. Some difficulties we can prepare for. I knew yesterday that the hanging fuchsia petunias would not survive the battering of heavy rain. I took them down and put them under the eaves where only the odd splashes of water would reach them.

It must be about contrast, about rest, about change, about arranging our points of view perhaps, I decided. Does the rain that falls in our lives help or hurt – and so we contemplate God’s care and intervention in our lives.

The white roses can escape harm from downpours by their inherent strength. I consider God’s complicated relationship with beauty in creating both the gorgeous intricate world for us to enjoy daily and also the shining angel, Lucifer, who would cause many to fall into ugliness.

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

Book of Genesis

How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations!

Book of Isaiah

Ella Fitzgerald and The Inkspots: Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PJ9IaplRrm4