Tag Archives: prayer

Easter Prayer

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“Good Friday Morning” DS 2017

As we stop to appreciate Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for us, we can also take the time to look at darkness – the blue darkness in our own lives. I do not necessarily mean sin. I take stock. I struggle. I want to recognize where I have been a good and faithful servant in enduring difficult situations – or not.

Sometimes I think of that saying, no good deed goes unpunished, as a way to laugh when there is opposition to our leadership. I think of times when our children take the road that we do not recommend. Like walking through mud uphill our attempts at friendship fail. The mere expressing of our opinions causes offence. Our apology brings no bridge. The way we live brings oppositions – yes, those times when we are just minding our own business and others resent us, try to trip us, do not value our efforts. When we ourselves slip, hurt others or become our own worst enemies, we can look at those areas of darkness.

But let us examine those areas as shadows, shadows of beings and doings that the light illumines. There must be light in our lives for the shadows to be seen. We go forward tomorrow in the day in between Friday and Sunday, not dwelling in the darkness but seeing the shadows, appreciating our own sacrifices and stumblings, for what they are.

So we follow Jesus not only on the Via Dolorosa some days, but meet him powerfully in the garden resurrections of our lives, as well as around the campfire where he has cooked the seafood, the writing in the sand that frees us, and the inviting of him to our houses both to speak and to wipe his perfumed feet.

In his name we offer a cup of water. If that is all we are asked to do, it is enough. For now we rest. Everything is an incarnation, a cross gift, a knowing that he ever intercedes for us at the right hand of the father. He asks to live in us by the Spirit to be salt and yes, light, shadowed light, to the world around us. I want to soak my shadows with Presence, his essence colouring mine. This is my Easter prayer.

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Eating Caesar Salad at Nitobe Garden

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“Nitobe Memorial Garden”  DS, iPhone Photo, April 2017

So I am a colourist. There’s no doubt about it. I like colour. Today I am surrounded by greens; layers and layers and shapes of greens at Nitobe, an Asian garden on the UBC campus.

Huddled in my knitted forest green scarf with clear and emerald hand-tied beads and navy hooded coat, I sit to rest. The planked bench is dry. I take the Caesar Salad container out of my grey felted bag and eat.  The lemon wakes me. I swish around the breadcrumbs in my mouth with water from a green gingham lidded jam jar I carry with me often since art school days.

Students crunch by walking on the path. They overwhelm my quiet peace for a while with their heated discussion. Photographers set up tripods in a couple of places in the distance; a waterfall rushes, bringing movement to the still water under the arced wooden bridge. In this day, when the rain has taken a break and the sunshine has not started, the greens clear the palette of my painter’s mind for the paint box of colour that will show up in this late arriving spring.

I breathe

I offer a prayer of thanks

I stop to write in the gazebo

Moss lichen bark

Tiny patterned ferns

Marsh green shoots

Yellow polka dot buds

On bushes

Small verdant mounds

Fill my eyes

The seagull

Calls to the rasp

Of the gardener’s rake

Wind on my face

I look forward with courage again. I continue on the grey pebble path accompanied by the unseen sfumato of soon coming Valley Lilies.

Drops begin to fall but the exit is in sight.

 

“Be still and know that I am God.”

Book of Psalms

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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.

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

 

15 Year Anniversary of 9/11

The black square in the 9/11 Memorial seemed to be bottomless. As I watched a documentary program this afternoon on the history channel about the events at the Twin Towers 15 years ago, tears came to my eyes. In this very room, watching the same TV in shock I struggled to take in the horror of the scene that day and its implications for them and for us.

We went elsewhere to fight. It was a given. Other countries were the sites of war, not the U.S. and Canada – especially not Canada. A loved one was in a hotel in Ottawa, having travelled from Vancouver there a few days before on business. My prayers went back and forth for her and for the victims and families of those struck by the attack – and for the firefighters and our leaders. Who knew if they would strike Canada next?

In June of 2014, in New York City on an art tour with the Ferry Building Gallery, I had seen the flowing water pour down that black square, into the very middle of the earth it seemed. I have never been so silent.

I almost did not make the effort to go there. I do not like to visit the sites of tragedies. An art history class about war memorials piqued my curiosity to see the sculpture in person. It was so big and so noisy with water rushing as if to cleanse and heal the land.

Today, as I watch the black square within the square, another tragic black square comes to mind. The “Black Square” 1913 of Russian artist Kasimir Malevich hung in an exhibition in a strange position in the room. It was in an upper corner near the ceiling. Gallery visitors at that time were well aware that this was where the holy icons of Jesus Christ were located in a Russian Orthodox home. One of the things this empty black icon came to mean was that God is dead.

The deep empty hole of a black square in NYC ‘s National 9/11 Memorial and the” Black Square” of Moscow’s First World War era, are they the same? Is God now considered dead? Could he not have intervened to prevent WWI and 9/11 or has human freedom meant freedom to do evil again in history? I think of this Proverb:

Do no violence to the place where the righteous live;
 for though they fall seven times, they will rise again;
 but the wicked are overthrown by calamity.

NYC rose again, Russia has gained strength, the Resurrection happened – such tragedy, paradox and mystery co-exist as does hope. All of these events drastically changed so many lives as well as history itself. Is the square really empty or like the ‘colour’ black, does it actually contains all the colours?

 

Rivendell Cross

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“Window at Rivendell” iPhone photo DS

On retreat at Rivendell this morning, I particularly noted the 18” wooden cross on the centre table. It was smooth and brown. I felt like holding it but I sat on my gold and pink textile bench and looked out over the fuchsia foxglove and tall trees to the white clouded sky. It was 8:00am and the spiritual day was well on its way.

I thought that in my burned out state I would be recovering passively but already a choice was upon me. The words: take up your cross and follow me, arose unbidden from my heart. I thought: this table cross would not be hard to carry. I remembered the movies I had seen with Jesus carrying his cross along the Via Dolorosa and this one in front of me seemed so easy.

The things that were my cross to bear came to mind. They were heavy – too heavy for me. I was on the verge of panic.

I began some meditative breathing, eyes closed, repeating the Jesus prayer. My thoughts went to a situation that had gone badly before I left home. It was not solvable as there was no cooperation. I sensed the words, let it go, and felt an opening of possibility. It came to me that in this area I was trying too hard. I was trying to control the outcome. What I needed to do was to support the process.

A bicycle entered my reverie. There were training wheels on it. You are the training wheels, I thought. The training wheels do not decide where the bicycle is going. They merely provide subtle yet strong support for the rider.

It became clear now, that I had gone too far. The situation that had brought me to the edge was actually not mine although I was required to play a part. I had fallen into the leading part, perhaps like the handlebars on the bike. I need to change my position, my viewpoint and get back to being the training wheels. The outcome was not mine.

Others at the retreat entered the round holy space sitting around the perimeter one by one. A candle was lit, a bell rung. I resolved to pick up that small hefty cross but it would have been disruptive. I would lift it; perhaps cradle it, another day this week. This is my cross, lighter than the one Jesus carried.

Then he told them what they could expect for themselves: “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat—I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. 

Book of Luke

 

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

Book of Matthew