Art is Always a Suprise

Creativity, Imagination, Meditation, mystery, Secrets, Spirituality, Uncategorized, vision, Work

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Dropped by for new art supplies. Big sale at Michael’s. This tiny haul? $175–I only buy the best pigments & best quality tools. This is the way I was trained: like the old masters, to make my work last not just a lifetime, but for centuries.

We live in a throw away world now, however, so not too many care beyond today. Disposable plates, cups, relationships, and beliefs are tossed in favor of the latest pattern or desire.

My image may seem frozen in time, but on the wall in the changing light of God’s day and seen through the eyes of our changing hearts, it reveals something always new and fresh.

That’s the difference between art and a picture: you’ll get tired of a picture, but art is always surprising the viewer.

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TO LIVE IN A WATERED GARDEN!

Creativity, epilepsy, Fear, garden, generosity, Health, Imagination, Ministry, poverty, purpose, Spirituality, Strength, Stress, Uncategorized, vision, Work

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The various named storms of this winter season are piling up like the laundry in my baskets, but the cold weather and the bad roads are keeping me inside and away from the commercial laundromat that I frequent. Since when did we start naming winter storms like summer hurricanes anyway? I must have been asleep, but until this winter in Arkansas, I’ve not paid much attention to the weather channel, for our best predictions here are “wait five minutes and it will be something else” and “nobody ever gets it right.”

“Cold and dark” are the two best Arkansas winter predictions, followed by “unusually sunny and warm.” These will follow each other as sure as day follows the night, for I remember the weekend a decade ago when most of my people skipped church to go to the lake because it was 70 degrees in NW Arkansas. However, the very next Sunday we were inundated with 3 feet of snow at Mount Sequoyah Retreat Center and everyone who was on the mountain stayed there. The workers couldn’t leave, so Mount Sequoyah gave them rooms to winter over the storm. Some of the extreme cold shut down the heating systems in the old buildings and the repair crew couldn’t drive up the iced mountain incline, so the staff gave us newer accommodations at no extra charge. A sudden virus began to work its way through our retreat group, but we had a doctor among us who was taking a week’s retreat before she began work at a new clinic for the uninsured. She made morning and afternoon rounds of the incapacitated in their cabins and dosed them with a preparation she had made at the local pharmacy.

This must be what life is like in a tended garden. We are cared for while strong and when we are weak. We are fed, kept safe from invaders, covered when it’s too cold, and nursed when we seem to weaken. Our gardener not only loves us, but cares for us and provides what we need. We may want gilding for our lilies, but our gardener knows the difference between needs and superfluous wants. We will have “enough,” of that we need not fear.

More money will not make us happier. We would give all the money we have in this world to have our child returned to life from a too early death, our spouse brought back from the living death that is Alzheimer’s Disease, or to save a loved one from the ravages of some addictive substance. Money will not buy these things. Money cannot buy peace of mind itself, for if we focus on money, then we will get anxious. The value of money goes up and down with every sneeze of the president, the arguments of congress, and the ebbs and flows of our economy. Yet we who are people of faith “live in a watered garden,” tended and cared for by a gracious and good God and we “shall never languish again.”

“…their life shall become like a watered garden,
and they shall never languish again.” Jeremiah 31:12

SNOW CHANGES EVERYTHING

Holy Spirit, Imagination, Meditation, Ministry, mystery, purpose, renewal, Secrets, Travel, Uncategorized, vision, Work

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Classes get cancelled, teachers have to reschedule. Parents have to miss work and pay checks to stay home with the kids or go to work and pay extra for child care. Some people make it home by the grace of God and the angels that walk among us, while others abandon their wrecked vehicles on the icy roads and trudge their weary way home alone. Some of us heeded the warnings, slept late, and never left our warm houses. Some of the city’s homeless citizens froze to death on the cold streets last night even though multiple warming centers were open. They went with a warm coat and blankets, their need to be outside overriding their need to be warm. Some people feel safer in the open, even if it doesn’t make sense to you or me.

Most of the time we see winter in this way, like an old sumi ink painting: black and white with only a few marks denoting the strengths of the shapes and their lines. The rest we only imagine into being from what we remember to be true in the other seasons of the landscape.

So it is with our spiritual life, when we are caught in a time when things are out of sorts and nothing goes right. This isn’t what we signed up for! Maybe it’s a health crisis and now you can’t work at the job you love. Maybe you just got a pay raise, but now the company has been sold and you’ve been outsourced; life ain’t fair! Or the love of your life decides to leave, or your kid says that he/she wants to change to a different sex than the one you’ve loved this child as for all these years. Surely this is the winter of your discontent!

God asks the following question of his suffering servant, who seems to unjustly be the victim of woe,

“Have you entered the storehouses of the snow, or have you seen the storehouses of the hail, which I have reserved for the time of trouble,
for the day of battle and war? What is the way to the place where the light is distributed, or where the east wind is scattered upon the earth?” (Job 38:22-24)

Of course not. Job hasn’t visited these unknown places! They are known only to the good Lord himself. The lesson God has for Job and us is that calamity falls upon both the good and the evil of this world, but God is always with us. We want to be spared from all harm, just as we want to spare our children from any distress, harm, trial, or pain. This keeps our children from growing strong, however, so just as we endure trials in life, we grow stronger spiritually with God by our side. Either that, or we freeze to death because we didn’t want help. One of the most frequent names for God in the Old Testament is Help or Helper. When Job recognizes God speaking to him, he reframed his thinking:

“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge? ’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you declare to me. ’ I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you;
therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:2-6)

Sometimes we need to see the black and white world in the beauty of God’s colors.