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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Creation

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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.

The artwork:

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.

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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.
Joyce Kilmer

Today is your day

I love Dr Seuss. On one level many of the books are just fun rhymes teaching about phonetics. But some of his writing is really inspiring and I particularly like the book ‘Oh the places you’ll go’. The quote for this spread in my art journal came from this book and I guess it resonates with the action-oriented person I am.

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I’ve thought about painting this on a canvas for my children. I want them to grow up believing that anything is possible; that no matter what mountains life puts in their way, they have the ability to climb them.

I am reminded of some encouraging words in the book of Habbakuk.

The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights. (Habbakuk 3:19)


Sometimes we have the resources within ourselves to tackle the mountain. But often one appears in front of us that seems too big for us to conquer. It is then, for me, that God gives me the strength, the sure-footed ‘feet of a deer’ so that I might not spend all of my time in life’s valleys, but sometimes be able to ‘go on the heights’.