Tag Archives: pilgrimage

Cancelled Art Exhibition

IMG_2944

“Pilgrimage Fragments: World” 2020 Deborah Stephan

This is a preview of my cancelled art show; postponed to 2021.  The exhibition that I have for 24 paintings in June will probably be put off until next year also.  Life is unpredictable – handle with faith!  The world is in lockdown; be at peace and look up.

“Pilgrimage Fragments”

Artist Statement

Postage stamps from various countries leave, return home and converge on hand-painted paper leftovers from art school projects.  Decade after decade the collection grew.  Postage stamps from family travels, from friends afar, and international homestay students, lay in a file waiting to be collaged and historicized for future generations.  Microscopic beauty portrayed pilgrimages and voyages of loved ones through war and peace.

Like the fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls Exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum of Toronto in the summer of 2009, they lie open for our viewing and for piecing together of the lives that created them.  The Qumran Caves hermit scribes, the family and business writers, and the visitors from Europe, Africa, Iran, Mexico, Spain, North America, all leave their mark as they inscribe life’s meaning.

They say that Jesus is like a red thread all through the Bible.  So too, the red yarn links each of the twelve art works here.  Prayers of our ancestors are still being answered throughout our lives through moves, relationships and hardships.  We can slow down, consider like daily laundry, how our quotidian habits of the heart form our life’s journey.  As we view the travel collages, perhaps we can invite God to travel with us, enjoy God’s company, and let God set the itinerary.  Others have set out in coracle boats like the Celts’ missionary journeys, others have walked the Camino de Santiago sacred route in Spain, or to Lourdes in France for healing.  Some are arm-chair travellers whose journeys are more inward than outward but powerful nonetheless.

The viewer embarks on a journey of self-knowledge, God knowledge, or even to seek meaning in life by studying people in other cultures.  Questions may come to mind, ought I to go on an expedition, what kind of passage, who will I invite as a travel companion, and even what will be lost or found if I set out on a spiritual quest, will there be enemies to overcome?  How much do we want to be changed?  We count the cost as we consider what we will risk for compassion and service of others.

Deborah Stephan

Vancouver, 2020.

Pilgrimage

tartanmountainb

“Tartan Mountain” Acrylic on Canvas, Deborah Stephan

Over the past couple of months, the subject of ‘pilgrimage’ has been on my mind.  I have started to do research on the subject for an art show I will offer in April.  I have been thinking about my own life as I read about the Camino, about the Celtic monks founding Iona, and about the men and women who travelled out of the cities to have a quiet life before God: the Desert Mother and father.  I consider Abraham’s pilgrimage and that of Moses.  I also consider the journeys of Hagar, Diana, Deborah and Anna.  I ask, what would it have been like to be Lydia with her journey into business in that day, what was her path, and of Junia, almost unmentioned as a female apostle, about Priscilla and her husband’s growth toward leadership?

I begin to notice the many pilgrimages of my own life.  Some are as dramatic and life changing for the people I love as the escape from my first marriage.  I traversed prairies and mountains.  (Perhaps this is where the “Tartan Mountains” painting came from.  It also reminds me of my son snowboarding.)  Others are lesser journeys of faith: a retreat, a conference, a walk on the seawall.  Actually, my whole life could be considered a pilgrimage with various companions along the way.

Today, as I consider Mary and Joseph’s journey as I read about the Camino with its hostels for pilgrims, I think about theirs as a deeper walk of faith as there was no room for them at the inn.

I recently discovered a new podcast which has become one of my spiritual disciplines as I look to the journey of another year of faith

Merry Christmas Everyone!  Enjoy the day.  The Light has come and I want to pass it on by recommending a new podcast:

#22 The Scandalous Christmas

Pilgrimage podcast

 

Writing as a Spiritual Discipline and a Request

Shellseekers Art & Soul IMG_2108

“Shellseeker Pilgrimage” two paintings and various shells, Deborah Stephan (copyright)

I have written as early as – swapping little biographical quote/poetry/comment books with 8-year-old Scottish friends in the school playground.  The poem beginning: Roses are red, violets are blue, was always a favourite as well as the skipping song: On the mountain stands a lady, who she is I do not know…  Composition books at school were full of the required writing and at one point I sat with a friend on a brick wall recording all of the license plate numbers of cars passing by.  The object of the daily writing exercise was to see who could fill her notebook first.  Various ways of writing have formed me over the years.  I now know that writing has been a spiritual discipline in my life.

As I do some research for my Shellseekers Art + Soul Life Writing workshops, I find these quotes helpful:

“[Writing] allows them to reach across the boundaries of geography and time to be in intimate communion with people they will never meet… it also requires that each writing project begin and end with others…”

“The God known by this woman is a God who writes, an author whose chosen parchment is the human heart.”

“The woman writing the letter seems to say that it is in the work of expression, in the struggle to unite human and divine creativity, that understanding begins.”

“We do not do these things because we know exactly what they mean.  We do them to find out what they mean.”

“Writing might be practised as a creative, meditative, intellectual activity that might gradually change our lives.”

Stephanie Paulsell “Writing as a Spiritual Discipline” in “The Scope of our Art”

Another writing project is inspiring my activity right now and I note a further idea from the book: it is not just that we write alone that is important but the work we do together.  I am wondering if you will join me in my “Pilgrimage Project,” the written part for an art exhibition I hope to hold in the spring by sending me a message in the comments section.  I am collecting examples of the main places where people have lived in their lives e.g. for me it has been – N.B, Scotland, Ontario, and B.C.  This is your chance to be part of an art project!

Please comment below with your ‘main places lived,’ so my writing can begin and end with you:

Workshop Ended Early

IMG_2833 2

“Coat of Many Colours” 2019 Pilgrimage Blanket DS

A ten-week Spiritual Disciplines course ended early – half way through.  Actually, only one person had registered for the course.  I wrestled with cancelling it due to low registration but she was keen so I offered her one-on-one times each week.  Her appreciation of my work (it took at least twice as long to prepare each week as it did to facilitate the two hours) made it more than worthwhile.  I concluded that it must have been a God thing as I had decided a while ago that I preferred to offer group Spiritual Direction over individual sessions.

Nearing the half-way mark she let me know she had been accepted full time into a study program and would reluctantly have to let the Spiritual Disciplines sessions go.  I had mixed feelings.  I was happy for her.  I had actually enjoyed preparing the agendas for the two hours weekly and could use the practice as I had not given this kind of workshop for a while.  I realized that the blanket I had been knitting for a while now, was meant for her.  On our last time together, it happened to be her birthday.  I gave her the Pilgrimage Blanket and she gave me some kind comments about the workshops and also a gift she had made.

Life is often lived in between what we have planned.  These blankets are often created and prayed over without knowing who the particular one I am working on will go to.  Knitting for me is a Spiritual Discipline.

PILGRIMAGE BLANKETS 2019 

Artist Statement

Each blanket is as unique as each life is.  There are twists and turns and places of mystery.  Colours change like moods.  Beads shine like prayers.  Materials, stitches, techniques come and go at random, un-ironed, uncounted, unplanned.  Appendages hang from here and there.  Yet a pattern emerges in the intuitive journey.  Our lives are cared for from above.  Even in the darkest of times faith moves us to continue our one-of-a-kind lives with strength and peace.  They cover as we study, rest, play, watch Netflix, pray or dream.

DS.

Reading About Cultures

IMG_2322

“Pilgrimage (detail)” Acrylic on Canvas, DS

There will be all cultures in heaven.  Rah provides a history of challenges and a way forward to embrace humanity in all of our colours.

Readings from Soong-Chan Rah’s Book: “Many Colors: Cultural Intelligence for a Changing Church:

Stories have the power to build and develop community on multiple levels. In Western approaches to communication, we tend to focus on facts and information. Truth is communicated through statistics, numbers, dates, and information based on cognitive knowledge and is usually expressed through logical rhetoric. In certain non-Western approaches to communication, stories that evoke feelings and draw out a more emotional response may be the norm. The difference between these cultural expressions is that effective storytelling may have different intentions and approaches arising out of these different cultural values.

Aristotle stated, “When storytelling goes bad, the result is decadence.” Society and culture cannot progress and be transformed without real, honest, and powerful stories. The church also loses its influence if it fails to engage in powerful storytelling.

A speaker will often close a sermon with a stirring and inspiring story. My earliest memory of public speaking was sharing my testimony before the entire church when I was a high school student since, like many American evangelicals, I was encouraged to share my personal testimony almost immediately after I became a Christian. Stories have the power to communicate elements of our faith in ways that a lecture cannot. When in doubt, share your story.

In our current American cultural context, some of our best storytellers are found through film. As a pastor, I found it fascinating that my congregants would connect to my referencing a movie more than a book.

Media have the power to transcend culture in ways that direct verbal communication cannot. Eric Law *explains the equalizing power of media by asserting that “verbal communication alone is a biased means of communication, favoring people who have a strong sense of individual power and verbal ability.

 It is important that a character undergoes credible and authentic change in the course of the narrative, keeping the setting in the forefront. A conversion story, for example, must not occur out of the blue—it must reveal the work and character of God, as well as the transformation that can take place in a man or woman. (3) Conflict Every worthwhile story needs an element of conflict. What difficulties is the character going through, and how do these affect change in him or her? As Christians, we are especially concerned about transformation. How is it accomplished? by a logical argument? through convincing rhetoric? No, true re-creation comes from the Spirit of God.

The Most Unpopular Topic Ever

 

Acrylic on Gallery Canvas8” x 8”

” Burning Hearts” Acrylic on Gallery Canvas DS

The Spirituality of Sin

Luckily I will keep it short if not sweet! (Oops, not short either.)

Sin is a bad word now. It is worse than all of the other bad words of swearing, cussing, foul language or whatever the term of the hour. The word ‘sin’ is so bad it is unmentionable. You will never hear it pass anyone’s lips, of any age, young or old – perhaps not even in a sermon if you hear one.

The Book of Romans says: “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” All – wow. Surely some of us are good. Sin in the Greek means ‘to miss the mark of perfection’. “Well”, we say, “no one is perfect.” Yet the Book of Romans continues: “The wages of sin is death.” Surely not really, we think.

What to do, what to do, we worry. Indeed, what is there that we can do, even if we wanted to? Sometimes life is like that. We get stuck. We become trapped. Like the web of addiction and denial, are our myriad failed ways to cope, to be free of pain. We need help from the outside – an intervention, of sorts – actually on a cosmic scale. Also like the person addicted to drugs, alcohol, sugar, porn or unhealthy relationships, we must say: “I need help.” and, “I need an interventionist.”

Through the love of society, community, family, we enter detox and treatment, then recovery of a life of freedom from addiction is possible. Through the sacrificial love of God sending his Son Jesus, we can be delivered from sin. We cannot do it ourselves but we can choose help. We look up and heaven sends deliverance.

The Spirit cleans, fills us and teaches us the things of Jesus. It is instant detox. Yet we must enter treatment – a public declaration that we need help and are surrendering to it. Some treatment facilities provide 30 days, some 90 days; some are entered for a year or more. Yet the wise person knows he/she must be in active recovery for a lifetime.

So it is with entering the Kingdom of God. This is the true Easter story. In baptism we symbolize dying with Christ and rising with him to become a new creature. Discipleship, mentorship, the contemplative life, the spiritual journey, the Way, are each labels for this lifetime process of learning to live a new life.

In a community of like people, the church, as members of AA do, support one another, socialize together and pass on the message to those still living in bondage to addiction or sin. We can live clean, free lives, trusting in the power of God. God’s love sustains us. What is it the AA big book says – We admitted we were powerless and became willing for a power greater than ourselves to restore us?

They say that addiction is a disease marked with relapse. As we learn to walk the new road we find ‘good Samaritans’ along the way to companion us. No one chooses to walk the Camino de Santiago alone. A life of pilgrimage is always walked in community even if there are periods of being hermits together like some of the Desert Mothers and Fathers of the 4th century. Even they would leave their cells and meet several times a year.

Sin; missing the mark – what is the mark we are missing anyway? The mark, I proffer, is the sign of the cross and a person living in peace with one’s Maker. This true peace is it the de facto opposite of sin? Life in the Beloved may be a life of continuing freedom to forgive, to love – even the seemingly unforgivable and unlovable. We are not puppets, we choose. We are persons made in the image of God.

Yet, as the newcomer to AA discovers, I relapse. I regress at times. I fail to pray, to forgive, to love, to be humble, to be a maker. Also true is that I now know how to be high on life – to sing and to dance, to have fun meaningful conversations, to smell flowers, to see a newborn child or view my completed painting. I find myself pondering the greatest high of all – Is it not to taste the very sinless, perfect, presence of God and to be the very person we are made to be, to love as we are loved? Once experienced can we be happy with lesser freedoms?

 

That same day two of them were walking to the village Emmaus, about seven miles out of Jerusalem. They were deep in conversation, going over all these things that had happened. In the middle of their talk and questions, Jesus came up and walked along with them. 

Book of Luke