Thursday, 23 March 2023

The Art of Prayer, Part 21

  "The Lord is my shepherd, I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows, he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name." Psalm 23:1-3

  He leads me, us. It's why I am sitting here this morning pondering the idea of bunny trails. It's an expression used to describe wandering off topic during a discussion or while writing. We often apologize for doing this but I believe there is a place for bunny trails in prayer life.
  We offer specific prayers for friends and family, for ourselves and in gratitude. Prayer is used in spiritual warfare and to give blessings. I have often found myself checking off the boxes to make sure the necessary topics or requests for the day were covered. Not that there's anything wrong with this, not one bit! God hears our prayers.
  The question is, do our prayers allow space for us to hear Him?
  The Art of Prayer is giving the space and time to have a conversation with God. 
  Bunny trails have a place here because I believe it's the Lord leading the focus elsewhere or on a particular idea that needs unravelling or discussion with Him. 
  But what if it isn't God? How do we know? 
  First of all, just ask Him. (Smile. That seems like a rather trite answer but seriously, just ask!)
  Secondly, trust that He will make your path straight. 

  I think back to when God called me to the drafting table and I obeyed Him for the first time. It was the beginning of using art as a way of learning about my new faith and this Jesus person who was only there because I figured I had nothing to lose. Sitting there, drawing, I began to recognize I didn't have to control what happened in the art. 
  Obedience has a bad name, doesn't it? Obedience is usually demanded by someone else who is in control. Enforcing obedience is about maintaining power. (Smile. No, don't drive 120KM/hr in a school zone. That's not what I mean.)
  Obedience to God is different because it's not about suppression. Obedience to God is a turning away from the evil in this world. 
  It brings joy and fulfillment. Not just for ourselves, but for others, too.

  Obedience to God is finding rest in the green pastures where the river slips slowly by. 
  The sun is shining here today and playing peek-a boo with the clouds. There's a couple of bunnies grazing on the lush clover just out of arm's reach. Jesus is here, too. He bends over to gently pat the soft fur. He smiles. He has plans for where this bunny will lead.
  I wonder where yours will take you? 

 Oh. The bunny's name is Curiosity.


Tuesday, 21 March 2023

The Art of Prayer, Part 20

 "Help us, O God of our salvation! Help us for the glory of your name." Psalm 79:9

  The driveway is surrounded by two foot snow banks except for beside the south facing side of the house. When blasted by sunshine the snow melts quicker here than anywhere else in the yard. It's sheltered from the cool March breeze, too. The soft green shoots of crocuses are making an appearance in this mini-tropical zone. Each year, these early signs of spring are a welcome sight! 

  My granddaughter and have been connecting for a weekly art lesson via Zoom. She is interested in fashion and would like to know how to draw her designs. It's the one area I have very little experience with so I told her I don't know much about it. 
  We didn't have a session last week due to March break, the annual school holiday here in Canada, but I spent some time sketching a figure in a ball gown. The figure basically amounted to a coat hanger with legs and a head and worked very well. It helped me discover that I had missed the point of fashion's about the clothes, it's not a portrait. I think I can help her find her style of drawing designs. Starting with the clothes hanger person. It's exciting to be able to open the door for her and see what happens!
  Since starting to explore the Art of Prayer, I have wrestled with sharing the artwork created during my own time with God. It's the old guilt/discomfort that it will make others feel badly about what they can draw or paint. (It would be better not to show it if that's the case.) It might stop others from venturing into this prayer format because of their own inexperience with art...yada, yada, yada....
  Is it arrogance and pride? 
  Or is it something different altogether? 
  This particular broken feather still has the power to tickle my conscience. Regardless, it's not of God so I will continue to share when led to do so by the Holy Spirit. His is the Voice I choose to listen to.
  There is no such thing as coincidence. 
  A Ted talks video came across my path the other night by Graham Shaw. It's a fun and lighthearted exploration about "Why people believe they can't draw."
  It's worth checking out!
  In the video, C's and sixes, dashes and short lines create the recognizable features of a face. Graham simply changes the size of the C's and lines to create a completely different face! It's fascinating how easy it is to depict emotion and expression by moving a line up or down, left or right. 
  Did you know graphic designers don't have to know how to draw? Trace, copy and paste is how they create.
  Did you know very few artists are celebrated as masters until after they are dead?
  Just sayin'.
  There was an artist, James Lumbar, who would do a landscape then superimpose a ghostly image from the past. His paintings started out as a powerful and poignant illustration of the passage of time. The popularity of his work caused him to systematically produce painting after painting along this theme. He lost something along the way. His later works, while technically great, lost the ability to stir the heart. 
  Maybe that's all art is: a way to stir the heart and the imagination. 
  If a coat hanger with a head and legs can invoke images of a tall, lithe model, anything is possible!
  (Smile.) And I have no problem waiting until I am in heaven to be famous. AMEN!




Monday, 20 March 2023

The Art of Prayer, Part 19

  Again, I offer a warning that the contents of this post may be disturbing to some readers.

 "What sorrow for those who say that evil is good and good is evil, that dark is light and light is dark, that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter." Isaiah 5:20

  This is what came out of the original giant thumbnail drawing. The original will not be published here because it is too raw and contains some disturbing graphic images. Honesty can be ugly some times. 

  All I could think as this piece evolved is how much greater Jesus' grief must be, a million times a million times anything I could ever, ever feel over the treatment of children past, present and, sadly, the future. 
  While I have used Roman Catholic religious clothing and symbols in the top part, Anglican church ministers also wear the collar and has nuns within its order. They usually wear blue. I want to make it clear, the Roman Catholic church is not alone in their responsibility for the deaths of millions of children around the world. I chose these uniforms because they are widely recognized as religious symbols representing Christian faith.
  As someone who belongs to a church still reeling from it's own sexual abuse scandal, in no way am I only laying this grief at the feet of one particular order. Governments facilitated the opportunities for predators of all faiths to go unchecked. Not only in Canada and the US, but Australia, New Zealand, India, Russia, Norway, Finland, Mexico...the residential schools were a globalized religious weapon of power and control whose sole purpose was the destruction and assimilation of "illegitimate" children, Aboriginal and native peoples. 
  The open book, a Bible, has red lightening flashing from it's pages because God's Word has been used to justify the abuse and punishment of the innocent. The Rosary, a symbol of prayer and devotion, has a shovel instead of a cross at its end even though the priests rarely did such manual was left to the children to bury their own.
  The nuns, whose hands are held in prayer, contain broken crosses because they neglected to teach the children about the love of God. A God who gave His Son so that anyone and everyone may live and know His unconditional love. 
  The broken feather not only represents the tens of thousands of children worldwide who were taken from their families, it is a symbol of broken innocence. It is a symbol of clipped wings and the destruction of the potential children have. In place of potential, the church and state laid the foundation for addictions, suicide, generational abuse, violence, prostitution, mental illness and more.
  The broken feather is also meant to represent God's spiritual wings, the ones the Psalmist wrote about; the place of shelter and comfort. God's wings were corrupted. Instead of offering shelter, they became a prison. Instead of protection, they were used to harm. Instead of grace and forgiveness, God's wings were used to justify the corporal and vicious punishment of the "sinful heathen child."
  Even writing about it, my heart fills with sorrow.
  The institution has a roof made of unmarked and forgotten graves. 
  The blinds and prison grade wire mesh on the building's windows hide the secrets of these church run, government endorsed orphanages, children's psychiatrics hospitals, and Residential schools. The interior is black except for the one red window...there are horrible things happening in that room.
  I am grateful the secrets have a way of escaping through the windows where the blinds are no longer completely closed.

  It all culminates around the kneeling figure of Jesus holding the dead, starved and broken body of a child. Although He was freed from His crown of thorns after His death and resurrection, the church put it back on in how they taught about Him.

  I am struggling not to judge the people who were part of this.
  How were and are such things even considered right? 

  Art is a powerful tool. 
  If I were to choose one image from this piece to explore further, it would be the broken feather. While I have used it as a representation of what the church has done, it behooves me to realize, as a parent, I also have broken feathers of a different kind in my hand; feathers broken through prejudice, sexism, ignorance and fear. God, forgive me for the harm I did to my children.
  I have also experienced someone breaking my own feathers. Lord, help me forgive them.
  Thank You, they are being repaired in my children's lives and my own. That's who God is: the repairer, the restorer, the Author of redemption and who holds a love for us that surpasses all understanding. AMEN! 

  Would you, dear reader, want to try drawing your own broken feather? Or maybe you need to draw a whole one. Sometimes the simplest of images speak the loudest. Don't forget to take a break every once in a while and if necessary, find someone to talk to about what you discover during your time with Him. Sometimes we need a little help or a person to debrief with. AMEN!