“‘May those who love you be secure.
May there be peace within your walls
and security within your citadels.’
For the sake of my family and friends,
I will say, ‘Peace be within you.’
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek your prosperity.”
Today’s reading from Psalm 122 made me think of the recent US election. I find I am deeply disturbed about all its implications and concerned about the future for both those within and those of us outside of the US. And so my response was to draw the dove as a symbol of both the Holy Spirit and of peace, and to include the Stars and Stripes of the US flag.
It somehow seems ironic that this is a time when we are looking forward to the birth of a middle Eastern baby, born into a refugee family, and someone who stood against Empire, and who taught us to love our neighbours (pointing out that our neighbours are those who we might see as foreign and not like ourselves). Jesus came for the poor, the oppressed, the marginalised, the minorities. He challenged the comfortable and sought justice for those whom this world has crushed.
And so I feel shocked and helpless and want to dissociate myself from those who claim to be Christian and yet supported a candidate who is the polar opposite of all that Jesus was and is. And the only response I have is to pray. I pray that despite how things are, the work Jesus came to do might still go on; that despite the hate-mongering, ALL people in the US might live safely and securely and that peace would reign. This is my prayer for all our sakes.
I am attempting an artful response to some bible passages during Advent this year. They are taken from the church’s 3- year programme of readings for each day (called the lectionary).
Three years ago I attempted something similar but with passages identified from a different source. If you click on ‘Advent’ in the tab on the right you will see all of them. This year, as in 2013, my medium will be the Paper 53 iPad app.
I will read the passage and reflect before drawing my response. I hope that you might join me in reading the passage and perhaps use my picture to help reflect on the words. Or perhaps you can make your own picture using whatever medium you prefer. I may on occasion also offer some words of reflection.
1 Endow the king with your justice, O God,
the royal son with your righteousness.
2 May he judge your people in righteousness,
your afflicted ones with justice.
3 May the mountains bring prosperity to the people,
the hills the fruit of righteousness.
4 May he defend the afflicted among the people
and save the children of the needy;
may he crush the oppressor.
5 May he endure[a] as long as the sun,
as long as the moon, through all generations.
6 May he be like rain that falls on mown grass,
like showers that water the earth.
7 In his days may the righteous flourish
and prosperity abound till the moon is no more.”
This psalm looks forward to the time when justice will be done. The afflicted, the poor, the needy and the oppressed will be saved and defended and Jesus will be the rain that waters them. The coming of Jesus heralds a new era when everything is made new, justice is served, and sickness, poverty and oppression are no more.
Yet whilst during advent we anticipate Jesus birth, and we wait, we also recognise that he has already come and is even now living as the risen Christ and so those of us who call ourselves Jesus followers need to seek to imitate him. And so I ask myself -how am I also bringing justice and healing to the afflicted? How am I saving the children and defending the poor?
I recently wrote to my MP to express concern over the unaccompanied migrant children in Calais. I find myself very dissatisfied with the answer I received whereby the government are only focussing on under 12s. I have a 13 year old and a 17 year old and the thought of them being alone in such a place fills me with horror. I can only call myself Christian if I am prepared to stand up for these children and so I need to find ways to pursue this.
Perhaps you too could ask yourself the same questions ‘How, this advent, am I bringing justice and healing to the afflicted? How am I saving the children and defending the poor? ‘
I pray that as we anticipate the coming of Jesus, God would show you how you can be part of his plan.
O come, O come Emmanuel – God with us.
“The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.” Psalm 126:3
“Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Saviour, and my hope is in you all day long”. Psalm 25:4-5
I’ve had some conversations recently about Creation. And evolution.
It seems that as with many things in life, these two things have become polarised. If you’re an atheist or a ‘liberal’ Christian you believe in evolution. If you’re a ‘conservative’ Christian, you believe in Creationism (for those of you who don’t know, this is the view that the first couple of chapters of Genesis are the literal way that God created the world).
I like to think of myself as none of these. I don’t like or accept the labels of liberal or conservative and I believe in a God of Creation at the same time as accepting that evolution is currently the best theory we have to fit the evidence that Is available to our God-given intellect.
Genesis is not a science textbook, it’s an affirmation of who God is … the Creator of all things. I’ve no idea how he did it. I’ve no idea at what point in our evolution we developed a soul. I’ve no idea if Neanderthal humans had souls and why God let them die out (or maybe he didn’t since most of us have a small amount of Neanderthal DNA)…
“Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.” Psalm 139:6
But as the tree poem expresses, our attempts to describe can never do the reality justice. Just as the poem about the tree is never going to be as beautiful as the tree itself, so are our explanations of God only a nursery rhyme to the orchestral symphony that is God.
Just as my pink splodges of watercolour can only give a vague but pleasant impression of cherry blossom trees, so can our imaginings only ever be a pale shadow of the true Creator.
And so, I am content to live with mystery. I acknowledge the Creator God who was and is and will be, whatever our scientific endeavours reveal about the ongoing processes of life.
This is my lovely Moleskine sketchbook which I’ve only recently started so I can play with watercolour. I deliberately tried to keep this loose by allowing the colours to run and by flicking blue paint afterwards. In case you find it difficult to read the poem, I’ve reproduced it in full at the end of the post.
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast
A tree that looks at God all day
And lifts her leafy arms to pray.
A tree that may in summer wear,
A nest of robins in her hair,
Upon whose bosom snow has lain
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
I think the content of this one is self-explanatory …
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.