One: Intimate

wonder, cocreation, neomosaic, contemplation, whole,
View from my kitchen window

Our world is filled with wonder. Perhaps the vocation of artist allows me to see the extraordinary in the ordinary. Gazing out my kitchen window, the beauty of the spaces between things and the occasional spectacular sunset leave me awestruck.

A quote

“When we contemplate the wonders of evolutionary history in both its smallest and greatest dimensions, through a microscope or a telescope, what we grasp is a concrete experience of awesomeness … Suddenly to see some aspect of creation naked, as it were, in its elemental beauty, its thereness and suchness, stripped of all conventional names and categories and uses, is an experience of transcendence … This possibility is before us in each and every piece and part of creation: it is the wonder at the world that young children have and that poets and artists retain. It is to experience the ordinary as extraordinary. This is experiencing the world as God’s body, the ordinariness of all bodies contained within and empowered by the divine” Sallie McFague, The Body of God: An Ecological Theology (Fortress Press: 1993), 194.

Experience of transcendence

If only all people could see with eyes of wonder. Sunsets or sunrises tend to get most people’s attention. They are reminders about the extraordinary world in which we live. This blue planet in a sea of darkness. Unfortunately, we tend to shake off the experience of transcendence too quickly. We dismiss it as unimportant in the busyness of our imagined life.

More than a copy

Precious are the hours spent in contemplation as I nurture an image into existence. More than a copy of a place or a moment in time, they attempt to convey the integral nature of the Creator. Intimately entwined in all she has formed, she beckons us to the wonderment before us. She calls us to stop the frenetic pace and just stand or sit for a moment in silence before the ordinary. If only we could see her in everyone and everything.

If we could see

Should our eyes be opened to her presence in all things, we would be less likely to wage war. God suffers terribly when we do. We would be less likely to clear cut a forest for the wealth it contains or gouge the earth for gold. It would be akin to rape.

Stop for the wonder

I long for the day when all eyes will see the wonder before them, when love reigns and peace abides. Let’s take a moment to appreciate the sparkle on new snow or the green of a blade of grass. A full life demands simplicity, contemplation and the desire to serve others. Let us begin today.

Events

Do drop in at the Edmonton Convention Centre on Tuesday between 4:30pm and 8pm. I will be in attendance along with all the artists who submitted their work for this event. Featured artists (who stay for the year) will be announced at 5pm. Would love to see you!

Share

One: Separation

creative, separation, contemplation, love, harmony, one

“Irenaeus (130-202) intuited … that to neutralize matter, to teach that creation does not come from holy substance, would lead to the abuse of creation. [creation ex nihilo, creation out of nothing] was a convenient “truth” . . . [meaning] … Matter was not holy. … It was essentially devoid of sacred energy. So, every imperial mind could ravage the earth’s resources with impunity. … Religion had become the accomplice of the state’s subordination of the earth. It had sanctioned the separation of spirit and matter.” John Philip Newel, “Irenaeus of Lyons: The Early Church Fathers”, pg 150

Separation allows accusation

When there is tension in the air and as the situation destabilizes, human beings tend to separate into camps of belonging, accusing the other of all wrongs. We see it all around us today. Separation allows us to ignore the marginalized, the ostracized, the abandoned. Blame easily focuses on the other when we feel superior. This notion of separation has allowed us to wage war for millennia.

Everything is one

On the other hand, should we embrace the notion that everything created is from the very being of God, everything fashioned from love with love, there can be no separation. We are all of one substance. Our beingness becomes one with the Creator and the only way life works is within the parameters of its foundation: Love.

Enter into nature

Leaving the plastic behind we need to fall in love with a blade of grass, a pebble, a puddle. The following is a suggestion taken from Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditations for yesterday.

I encourage each of you: Go to a place in nature where you can walk freely and alone. …Begin your wandering by finding a threshold (perhaps an arched branch overhead or a narrow passage between rocks). Here offer a voiced prayer of your intention and desire for this time. Step across the threshold quite deliberately and, on this side of your sacred boundary, speak no words, but watch and listen for God’s presence.

Let the land, plants, and creatures lead your feet and eyes. Let yourself be drawn, rather than walking with a destination or purpose in mind. If you are called to a particular place or thing, stop and be still, letting yourself be known and know, through silent communion with the Other. Before you leave, offer some gesture or token of gratitude for the gift nature has given you.

When it is time to return to the human world, find your threshold again and cross over—and now you have learned to watch for God in all things.

Time for harmony

With a little openness we might re-establish the long lost symmetry between matter and spirit. Separation is a lie, a convenient fiction enabling greed, exploitation and scapegoating. It is time to become one in harmony and balance. Life is good.

 

Share

One: Second Coming

second coming, blog, messiah, sharing, responsibility, love

”If Christ were to come back to complete his work today, I’ve thought, what would he think of the world we’ve created? And what would we think of him? With these thoughts tumbling around in my head, I decided to start looking for messiahs.” National Geographic, Messiah Complex, August 2017 p86, Jonas Bendiksen

Finding new messiahs

Mr. Bendiksen spent three years following seven men self-proclaimed to be the Second Coming of Christ. The Second Coming has occupied the minds and hearts of many over the millennia. There have been all sorts of predictions from long ago and they continue today. The End of the World is nigh, they say. Perhaps.

What if we are the second coming?

On the other hand, what if the second coming has already happened? What if the second coming is you and me?

Easier to wait for magic wand

Surely it is much easier to wait for a magic wand to fix everything we have broken. Instead, perhaps it is time we took up the responsibility of owning our mess and changing our ways.

We know the way

Certainly, Christ showed us the way to build heaven on earth. Indeed, he spent time in prayer every day, alone. He welcomed outsiders, women, children and the marginalized of his world. Encouragement replaced judgement. He refused to take up arms even to defend himself and he told us to do the same. Imagine a world without guns or weapons of any kind; swords turned into ploughshares. In this new world everyone has a place, is respected and safe.

Time to take up the cross

Given our circumstances, it is no wonder we are looking for an easy solution. Let’s find another messiah with a magic wand. We cannot do it alone. This is an impossible dream. I suspect it is impossible without God. It is time we admitted our limitations and took the risk into the unknown. Perhaps we can fly after all if we surrender to the plan.

Words matter

So, each person can contribute to the betterment of the world, here and now, by choosing kind words, speaking truth with love and sharing the load. It does not matter what we do as long as we fill the doing with much love and gratitude. Being thankful is another key element.

Second coming comes to us all

Finally, Christ will come, quietly, in the dead of night or in broad daylight. At his Second Coming I hope to be ready to move on after a life well lived. I hope to have been part of the creation of Heaven on Earth. In the meantime, I have work to do.

Share

One: Becoming Whole

blog, becoming, whole, healing, love

“Personal transformation and social transformation are one piece. . . .

The true spiritual quest is not that I become whole. Informed by the belief that the world is birthed by God and is precious and sacred and one, the true spiritual quest is that the world become whole—and we along with it.” Jack Jezreel quoted in Daily Meditations 8 July 2017

Becoming whole is not about me…

Becoming whole. To begin with I thought it was all about me. I needed fixing. Many seminars, retreats and expense finally brought me to the conclusion that my attitude remained in my court. It is a choice. I have choice. Always. Shifting from the negative into the positive is not an instant exercise.

Healing is dissolving into the whole

As I said, I thought it was all about me. The more I discovered about myself, the wider my field of vision broadened. “Me” moved further and further from centre stage. In fact, I found that healing is about dissolving into a union with the whole of creation, becoming one with God.

The dance

So far I have not made much progress… Awareness is the first step in the process of change and I am aware, sometimes. In my aware moments I relax and flow, enjoying the ride and stopping to smell the flowers. The universe lifts from my shoulders and I enter the dance to which she calls me. It feels complete, peaceful, abundant.

A rushed weekend

The dance faltered this weekend. We just came back from our once-per-year family camping trip. It felt rushed. The schedules had collided, time compressed and we enjoyed separate togetherness. Busyness does that. We become compartmentalized, isolated in our various activities. Another obligation completed.

Becoming whole

Becoming whole involves everyone and it cannot be accomplished separately. Time is an essential ingredient. Letting go of our ordinary responsibilities to build relationship and discover who we are as a family lays the foundation for world peace. Love smooths the ride. Without love others never meet expectations.

Releasing expectations

Expectations tend to mire the waters. One person asked how she might cope with her growing irritation. I suggested loving the person and letting go of how she might help improve things. Loving without conditions, loving the person just as he or she is, that is healing. Love heals the deepest wounds if we choose to release our expectations to the universe.

Learning to love

So becoming whole means learning to love, joining hands with those who irritate us, forgiving and moving forward. This action heals us, everyone around us and will eventually bring the whole world into paradise. Let us begin today.

Share

One: True Theology

en plein air, theology, contemplation, awe, natural order, painting,

“In the early Church, there was a clear understanding that we needed to advance from the self-understanding or self-contemplation that taught us to discipline our greedy instincts and cravings to the “natural contemplation” that perceived and venerated the wisdom of God in the order of the world and allowed us to see created reality for what it truly was in the sight of God—rather than what it was in terms of how we might use it or dominate it. And from there grace would lead us forward into true “theology,” the silent gazing upon God that is the goal of all our discipleship.” Rowan Williams, The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Address to the Thirteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith,” 5,

 http://rowanwilliams.archbishopofcanterbury.org/articles.php/2645/archbishops-address-to-the-synod-of-bishops-in-rome.

The Wisdom of God

Venerating the wisdom of God in the order of the world is what “en plein air” painting is all about. In the chaotic jumble of branches and bushes there is order. The artist contemplates the jumble and discovers how it holds together, how it flows and how it dances in natural rhythm. Contemplation is really the key to true theology.

Artists have a head start

Although artists have a head start in this practice, anyone who ventures into a natural setting will discover the sacred if they open themselves to awe. Mother Nature is God’s first bible. Allowing oneself to leave behind preconceived notions and personal agendas opens the door. The opportunity is offered to everyone. Not everyone chooses to partake.

Two perceptions

While gazing at the green kaleidoscope across a lake one sees beauty, peace and the love of God. Another sees an investment opportunity for lumber and condo complexes. Our national parks are essential to maintain the possibility of getting beyond ourselves. City parks and green spaces feed the soul.

Nature no longer respected

However, some deny the idea of soul and God largely because our perception of nature changed during the Middle Ages and the Enlightenment. No longer a source of consolation it became the enemy to subdue, the source to exploit. The Industrial Revolution sealed its fate as something to use rather than respect. The Information Age has removed us from the natural world and placed us in the virtual where there is little to respect and much to exploit.

Awe is the door to true theology

As a result, we have lost the art of contemplation. It is time to reintroduce moments of silence in our frenetic world. Take a walk in the wood. Gaze at a flower and behold its intricate beauty. Make a bouquet of dandelions and find dinosaurs or castles in the clouds. Engage with a baby. Be awed. This is the beginning of veneration and the door to true theology. God awaits our response.

Time to paint

Now where did I leave my brushes?

Share

One: Reason

reason, blog, contemplation, art, landscape, painting, pathways, beauty,

The hiding place

Matter is, and has always been, the hiding place for Spirit, forever offering itself to be discovered anew. Perhaps this is exactly what Jesus means when he says, “I am the gate” (John 10:7). Francis and his female companion, Clare, …somehow knew that the beyond was not really beyond, but in the depths of here.

…Heaven includes earth. …There are not sacred and profane things, places, and moments. There are only sacred and desecrated things, places, and moments—and it is we alone who desecrate them by our blindness and lack of reverence. It is one sacred universe, and we are all a part of it.” Richard Rohr, Daily Meditations, 15 June 2017

Something deeper

The most popular genre of painting is landscape. Everyone can relate to it. This is part of the reason for its popularity. While the beauty portrayed by artists explains our fascination superficially, I suspect something deeper attracts our interest .

The reason

Landscape is a mirror of the divine. With increasing urbanization we are losing our connection with God. As more concrete and asphalt cover the Earth our understanding of fundamental truths grow increasingly fuzzy.

Humility harvest

One such truth is: in order to produce a rich harvest, the seed must die. (Matt). Farmers know this. Today even farmers have trouble relating this truth to human existence. It holds true nonetheless. Those who have managed to get over themselves gift our world with the greatest insights and discoveries. Putting our ego aside is a form of dying based in humility. Humility is essential to connection.

Beauty’s secret

Landscape artists connect with spirit. Anyone who has spent time with nature knows there is something more, something hidden in the beauty and in the dying. The secret to life is there, right before our eyes.

Revelation

Unless the paint reveals the secret, my fascination wanes. Revealing the secret is my reason for painting. If the artist has lost his or her way in the dehumanizing world of money it is evident in the long words describing process and the justification for the use of materials. It all sounds very important. In the end the words echo in the emptyness.

Check out the events page for what is happening this summer.

Share

One: Meditation

blog, meditation, contemplation, spirituality, one, Jesus

On occasion, I hear accusations against the practice of mediation. Some believe it is foreign to the Christian faith. Not so.

Jesus had Eastern roots

We must remember, Jesus was Jewish. He came from a solidly Jewish background. His religious teachings and thought processes were decidedly Eastern.

Christian contemplation 

In the beginning years of Christianity, the practice of withdrawal form daily activity was routine. Early Christians did as Jesus did. (Luke 4:42, 6:12; Mark 6:31, 6:46 etc.) They took time to contemplate the presence of God in their world.

Hermits and mystics

Christianity became the official state religion during the fourth century. These quiet practices were lost among the games of political power and social climbing. The Desert Fathers and Mothers took to the hills unable to stomach the change in focus. The shift caused by the move from persecution to prestige had lead many away from following Jesus’ teachings. Contemplation and meditation soon became the property of hermits, mystics and the occasional solitary monastery.

Rediscovering our own

Perhaps that is why the Holy Spirit did not allow St. Paul to go east in his evangelisation. He went to Macedonia instead. (Acts 16:6-10) In this way, the religious groups of the East  preserved the crucial practices of contemplation and mediation. Today Buddhism and Hinduism inspired an opportunity to reconnect to our own traditions.

Following Jesus

Only recently, in the past fifty years or so, we began to use these important tools again. They are essential in the process of surrender. Emptying ourselves and allowing the Holy Spirit enough room to linger brings us closer to God. We began to follow Jesus again instead of worshipping him. After all, following him, imitating his practices, is what he asked us to do. (John 21:19)

Guided Meditation

Here is an example of a guided meditation: I love you.

Remove yourself from the hubbub of normal life. As you sit in meditation, quietly focus your attention on your breathing. Each time you realize you have drifted off into thoughts, memoires or sensations. Simply return to your breathing.

As you inhale, hear God’s silent words, “I love you”.

Exhaling, breathe out a silent “I love you” back to God.

Inhale and be aware of the air as God flowing into you.

As you exhale, allow your “I love you” to be your very being, flowing back into the depths of God.

James Finley (Center for Action and Contemplation)

Share