Called and Kept

I am coming to the end of what seems like a long journey towards ordained ministry in the Baptist Church of Great Britain. A month ago, my college went on a 24 hour retreat together where we spent time thinking about what it meant for each of us to be called and kept by Christ.My reflection and response was to create a picture… (See end of post for artwork info)

  
  
  
Although for me, my reflection was particularly about what it means to be called to ordained ministry, all those who believe in Christ are called and kept. 

My picture shows a representation of the risen Christ, a human yet divine figure, who cherishes a heart in his arms. The heart is patched to show that it has scars, it has been broken and patched up and that some pieces have fallen away. The lamb at the bottom of the picture illustrates the sacrifice that Jesus made in order to catch the pieces of our hearts and bring them to himself.

For all those who follow Jesus, we are called to enter into the same sacrifice and the same response to love, affirm and cherish the hearts of others. My call to ministry has meant sacrifice in many areas of my life but through it all I have been kept by Jesus. I have been vulnerable and my heart has been exposed to knocks and hurts but Jesus has faithfully patched it up and continues to hold me close.

My calling is to love and affirm God’s people – that everyone has value in God’s eyes. My sacrifice is to be vulnerable, to be open to being hurt, and to continue to be vulnerable no matter what. My identity is in Christ, where I know I am beloved and kept safe.

Do you love and affirm everyone as God does?

Are you prepared to witness to Jesus’ sacrifice by being vulnerable?

Do you know how much you are beloved by God and kept safe for Jesus?

… Then may mercy, peace and love, be yours in abundance…

“To those who are called, who are beloved in God the Father and kept safe for Jesus Christ: may mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance.” Jude 1:1b-2

The artwork
The blue and purple background was painted using water soluble felt pens – just cheap children’s ones – and then painting over them with a brush loaded with water. The colours are vivid and vibrant and the paint effect is like that of chromatography. I then cut out and collaged the rays around the head and the pieces of the heart from paper that I’d painted using ordinary watercolours. The remainder of the painting used watercolours, coloured pencils and felt pens including the lettering which I drew freehand then painted. Finally I picked out details using a fine liner pen.

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Happy Easter

Yesterday, three young people in our church led the Easter Sunday service. It was based around a ‘butterfly eucharist’ written by one of the group.  The idea was to use the transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly (via the cocoon), as a metaphor for Jesus’ death and resurrection. I was so proud of our young people who were aged 13, 14 and 15. 

During the service they encouraged us to think about how we could be involved in God’s plan to transform the world and as symbols of this we took part in two activities.

Firstly, we made this beautiful cross from butterflies decorated with drawings, prayers, words and names…

  

And then we potted sunflower seeds to take home, nurture, and then to plant somewhere unexpected in order to transform.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first earth had passed away ….  And the one who was seated on the throne said,”See I am making all things new … It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.”‘ Revelation 21

Where have you seen transformation? in your community … in the world …? what part could you play in transforming them?

Have you experienced personal transformation?

May the risen Christ transform you today.

The Red Poppy

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[mixed media art journal entry]

Today is Armistice Day here in the UK, when we remember those who have lost their lives in military service. We use a red poppy as a symbol of remembrance because after the First World War, poppies grew across the fields of Flanders where previously people had fought and died.

It’s often a day that provokes mixed feelings. I know people who are uncomfortable wearing the red poppy as they see it as promoting and glorifying armed conflict.

I understand this point of view but I am sad that people feel this is the case. The poppy bloomed across the fields after the war was over. To some the visual display of red was a reminder of all the blood that was shed in that terrible conflict. But at the same time as the red might be reminiscent of blood, the fact that poppies grew on these fields is, I believe, a symbol of renewal and restoration. That something beautiful can again grow, where once there was pain, suffering, loss and despair.

Over the last few days, two news stories have stood out for me. The first item; a Marine has been charged with murdering an enemy combatant who had surrendered. The second; through social networking sites, hundreds of people gathered at the funeral of a 99 year old World War II veteran who they never knew, but whose life they felt it was important to honour.

These stories for me stand alongside each other as an illustration of the divided and dividing nature of armed conflict.
We live in a broken world, and there are often no human solutions to our very human problems, and life is messy.

And it was into this broken and human world that Jesus came. He came to bring reconciliation, and peace, and liberation from the brokenness of this World.

And so while I hate armed conflict, war and violence, for me it’s not an option to just let Armistice day go by without marking it.

I wear the red poppy to remember …
To remember, but not to celebrate.
To remember, but not to glorify.
To remember, but not to be triumphant.
To remember, and to acknowledge the loss, the pain and the sacrifice.
To remember, and to be grateful for peace.
To remember, and to keep alive the horrors of war and armed conflict, so that we do not take today’s decisions lightly.

I take comfort in the vision for our future depicted in the book of Revelation …


Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth,’ for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away … And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling-place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. “‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death” or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ Revelation 21:1-4

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[Digital image produced using Paper 53 for iPad]

Simply praise

I think the content of this one is self-explanatory …

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The process however …

I found a beautiful book of fairy tales in my local charity shop. I bought it because I wanted to do an altered book and turn it into a journal (more of that some other time). I needed to remove some pages to make room for things to be stuck in or painted on, and I’ve kept these pages to use for other things.

I was really taken by this image, originally of Cinderella. The illustrator of the book is artist Jane Ray whose work you can see here. I love her style. Please go and have a look at her work as she is truly brilliant. I have a book of the Christmas Story that she illustrated and I particularly like the fact that she has painted middle-Eastern looking people (one of the things that annoys me is a blonde, blue-eyed Jesus!).

Anyhow, back to the journal page. I tore up some text and borders from the book as well as the picture of Cinderella and pasted them on the page. I then gessoed most of it leaving the picture of the girl with the dove. On top of this I used acrylics and permanent promarkers. I thought the image of the girl and dove really lent itself to this quote from Psalm 63. So here it is, just a declaration of praise and thanksgiving.

Oh and this is going to be my contribution to Paint Party Friday so hop on over there and check out some other artist awesomeness – I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.