Tag Archives: Scotland

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.

 

 

Blue Suede Shoes

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“Blue Suede Shoes” Collage DS

So yesterday as I walked the UBC campus a woman came out of a building wearing blue suede shoes. I had just written an in class test and was on my way to grab lunch at a nearby Italian café. My hand went to my bag to retrieve my phone to capture her feet. Then disappointed, I realized I could not take a photo of her feet without being observed. I thought perhaps it would be a violation of her privacy unless I asked permission. I was too tired for that level of sociability.

Today they are still etched in my memory. They were a lighter blue than expected – just a bit paler than blue jeans. They had chunk brown heels and matching blue fringes along the sides of the low rise boots. They complimented her pencil skirt in beige. She was a student of fashion.

Last week I had just gifted a light blue-framed collage I had created months go. It featured a cut-out of boots which I had coloured royal blue. The abstract surrounding magazine imaging of ochre and orange I supplemented with royal purple, green, red and white paint. The idea of creating those blue suede shoes low in the picture plain gave me great pleasure. I did not know why.

It came to me that they were a metaphor for dancing, yes. I have always, from my earliest days of doing the Scottish “Highland Fling” and “Sword Dance,” loved dancing. In recent years, after a catastrophic ankle injury, I do not dance – on the outside. Inside, however, I dance as much as I have always done. This, I see, is God’s message to me. He sees me, as I really am – a dancer.

David danced before the Lord with all his might.

Second Book of Samuel

Spontaneous Storytelling

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“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

Collage Art History Precedent

Contemplation and Collage on a cold winter's night

Contemplation and Collage on a cold winter’s night

ART HISTORY PRECEDENT: Kurt Schwitters – In the 1920’s a German Dada artist appeared of the scene with exciting personal expressions of collage made out of ordinary papers some even found on the street. He used household papers, bus tickets, string, letters – whatever he picked up. He was the one who made collage truly a fine art and has strongly influenced many contemporary art developments. A story is told of his passing of time creating collage in a Scottish prisoner of war camp during World War II. Thousands and thousands of dollars worth of collages went unrecognized and were thrown out by the prison guards and lost to the art world – DS.