LANDSCAPES OF LIFE, Retirement, Seasons of Life, TRANSFORMATION, Transitions, Travel

TWO FRESH PERSPECTIVES FROM THE DESERT AS AN AGENCY OF CHANGE

Desert in Utah
Desert in Utah

A trip across the wide-open spaces and deserts of Utah and Arizona and the mountains and nature of Colorado helped to clear the patterns and cobwebs of old thoughts of the past year. Sometimes all we need to move forward is a fresh perspective. This family trip, after a year of being shut-in with little opportunity to travel, was what was needed to give fresh ideas and impetus to my planning for next year’s work and creative efforts. Watch this space as the plans evolve!

Desert scene, Utah
Desert Scene, Utah

CHANGE TAKES TIME

As I looked out at the vast open plains with only dry scrubby bushes here and there, I wondered what it must have been like for the Israelites to wander through the wilderness for forty years, not reaching their Promised Land. What would their perspective on God’s promise have looked like? Day after day, they trekked their families and herds hoping to find water to sustain their flocks and themselves. They sat wearily by their campfires at night using up the last of the manna for that day. Tomorrow morning they would be up again early to collect the manna. Same old routine year in and year out. This last year has certainly taught me about the mundaneness of the same old routines, when you get stuck in your head.

EVENTS MOVE US FORWARD

At times like this it is good to be reminded that God is still at work. In Isaiah 43 , He says “See I am doing a new thing.” Like geological processes are slow, sometimes we just need to know that God is still working even though we can’t see it.  He said, “I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the desert.” Providing water requires an ‘event’, be it a rainstorm or snow in the winter, the impetus of the volume and the flow create the stream and makes a way.  The manna collected daily with the dew in the morning was sufficient to sustain life for the Israelites, but not enough to thrive. We need ‘events’ to give us new perspectives to help move us forward. We get stuck in our old ways, living in ‘auto’ mode, not really having to challenge, or thinking or ways of doing things. An ‘event’ like COVID had the desired effect of waking us all up to having to do things differently.

DO NOT DWELL ON THE PAST

The passage in Isaiah 43, tells us to ‘forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.” That is really what must happen for us to move forward and create new ways of doing things, responding to challenges, and relating to God and one another. How easy it is to fall back into old patterns, if we don’t cultivate new patterns and sustain them. What was God’s plan for the Israelites? He rescued them from oppression in Egypt to go to the Promised Land where they were to become His chosen people who could proclaim His praises and become a kingdom of priests, ushering in God’s Kingdom on earth. What would our perspective on God’s Kingdom on earth look like?

WE ALL CONTRIBUTE TO CHANGE OVER TIME

Did that happen? Not right then, but it still forged the way forward to when Christ would come to complete God’s redemption plan for all the people and nations of the world. Remember the geological processes – it takes a very long time. As I looked up at the steep rockfaces of the buttes and the weathered surfaces of the rocks where wind and rain had cut through the softer layers. How long had they been standing there? Perhaps we could look at life from the perspective of God’s agents of change. Our lives are like the wind and rain, each one slowly working out the plans God has for our lives, doing the tasks He had planned for us long ago, so that over time we each contribute to wearing down the old ways of thinking and culture. Eventually, God’s kingdom will come on earth.


“The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord; Make straight [a]in the desert A highway for our God.4 Every valley shall be exalted And every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight And the rough places smooth; The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, And all flesh shall see it together; For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” Isaiah 40:3


OUR RESPONSE TO CATACLYSMIC EVENTS

As the last quarter of this year approaches, lets us ask God for a fresh perspective on living out our mundane days. Refresh our vision for the approaching year to see new ways of looking, doing and being, that are part of His redemptive work of making all things new. “Now it springs up: do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the desert.” It is God at work we are merely some of the agencies He uses besides the elements and cataclysmic events. It is our responses to those cataclysmic events that will be used by God to wear down the old and create the new.

The timelessness of the rock face
The timeless, fortress-like, face of the rock

Leaving the mountains and desert behind, I returned to the city with fresh vision and hope for the future. As the Psalmist said in Psalm 121 “I will lift up my eyes to the hills—From whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” My perspective had changed. We are not alone in this struggle through life with its complexities and problems. The God of the mountains is still our God who is asking for our co-operation as agencies of change in this time frame we have been born into.

LANDSCAPES OF LIFE, Seasons of Life, TRANSFORMATION, Transitions

MY ART JOURNEY FROM BLACK AND WHITE TO RAINBOW COLORS

Transformation 2

My art journey began at a young age with a red hibiscus flower drawing, thus started my botanical themes and colors. My desire to go to Art School was frustrated at the time I left school, so I started my career as a Geological Cartographer by learning to map and do calligraphy. I enjoyed this job as I learned to map with black ink on tracing linen and color up the beautiful geological prints!

I never lost the desire to paint, but family life interrupted my creative practice. It was only later, when the children were older, that I could continue studies at the local community college in Cape Town. During this period in history, Nelson Mandela was released from prison and gave his famous ‘rainbow colored nation’ speech.  At the same time, I had felt very frustrated with the oppressive and pontifical rhetoric coming from the pulpit at the church I was attending. My husband and I decided to participate in another more liberal church and found it was like a stream in the desert. This congregation was creatively inclined, and it permeated their services and the way they did things. They also used to be involved in their neighborhood and social justice issues. My artistic vision became much clearer, and I could use the metaphors of black and white blocks as integrations and transformations, so I started doing some more black and white drawings. I continued with botanical illustrations and other experimental artwork as well. I had two paintings accepted for the New Signatures Exhibition at the Bellville Art Center and other exhibitions run at the center.

Transformation1

Several years later, when I was working in the UK. I continued with botanical painting, but this became less satisfying as I wanted to do more experimental art. I had access to some of the most famous galleries in London, so I continued experimenting with a bit more abstract art.  When I moved to the USA, my local church was also a creative space and social justice advocate. One of the areas they were addressing was the inclusion of the LGBTQ community, and so once more, the rainbow flourished.  I now saw black and white structures that needed to be dismantled, and although there were particular frameworks, the edges were no longer sharp but could be more fluid, so I started working in blocks.  I like to have a framework within which to work; sometimes, I need some structure in my life, but it certainly is not set in stone.  Where fluidity is required and allowed, transformation can be attained.  It indeed became more apparent to me with all the Black Lives Matter and other issues of the day that this same fluidity and space for rainbow-colored transformation was needed. So, I started painting transformational symbols such as the butterfly within the fluid black and white linework.

BW Greyvillea

During my sojourn in Australia last year, I could not travel, so I spent my shut downtime painting some beautiful Australian flora and fauna. I was motivated by the fascinating shapes and colors of the tropical plants and local trees striking bark and shapes.

My art is informed by what is going on around me and how I perceive it. Any solution I may feel to the current integration and transformation of our society at this time, I will try to express through my art. I will meditate on what the Spirit is trying to convey through my artwork and hope that it inspires people to look deeper. Transformation is a process, and only when we take the time to meditate will we find the deeply embedded truths of the Spirit.

Transformation is a process, and only when we take the time to meditate will we find the deeply embedded truths of the Spirit.

Like geological sedimentary layers, we may have a lot to dig through to find the golden nugget of truth that we can embrace and use to transform our thinking and actions. I hope my paintings will be a catalyst to help you on your journey to find the golden nuggets of truth spoken into you by the Spirit.

Seasons of Life, TRANSFORMATION, Transitions, Uncategorized, Widowhood

TRANSFORMING THE BRIDE

transformation2.jpgJesus used many parables and examples from nature during His time on earth. The book of Romans tells us that we are without excuse because since creation His attributes have been clearly seen and understood through what was created.  This has caused me to look at spiritual concepts and view them through nature and thus enrich my understanding of them.

Look at the Church, the Bride of Christ, we all understand that concept. We see the denominational diversity, divisions and competitiveness – how can we really become the one Bride of Christ?  Jesus said they shall be known because they love one another!  The conflicts and religious wars of history have shown that that hasn’t happened.  How can we accept one another’s differences and love one another at the same time? Let us look in creation for a metaphor and see if we can find an answer.

A tree has four components, a trunk, branches, leaves and roots. Without these it cannot live each being dependent on the other as a whole and the spirit (life-force) within that maintains its cycles.  If we look at each part and compare them to denominational or religious philosophies, we can see how much we depend on one another and therefore need each other to prepare the Bride of Christ.

The trunk, solid and immovable on what is right or wrong, black or white, no shades of grey. The Word of God is the Truth; we need to be reminded that this is so, that our focus is kept on the Triune God and that no other philosophy can woo us from this Truth. Trunks are covered with bark, that bark can be smooth or rough, striped, ringed or covered with thorns, and depending on how our Truth is projected or told to others can either protect or harm them. Fundamental Truth and belief systems.

The branches represent those who teach the Intellectual and Practical outworking of this central Truth.  Their programs reach out like the branches; they offer shade and shelter to the weary and to passersby. They reach out to causes like prisons, missions and good works.  They bear fruit; they feed the hungry, comfort the sorrowing.  They are always reaching out, even in winter when the branches are bare.

The leaves are seasonal and colorful. You know the wind is blowing by the rustling in the leaves. Jesus compared the Spirit to the wind; no one knows where it comes from or where it will go.  The leaves flutter and give trees their glorious colors.  In the Psalms it says the trees in the field will clap their hands in joy, charismatic movement.  We need the joyousness of the leaves to lift our souls in worship above the heaviness of life and to know when the Spirit is moving.  The leaves are there for a season, then drop to the ground where in due course they provide food for the roots.  The young leaves are then formed for the next season’s growth. There are seasonal patterns in our spirituality and belief systems.

We cannot see the roots, but we know they are there, they draw the nourishment and water up from the soil to feed the tree. There are people who set themselves apart to pray, those who withdraw from the world, contemplatives and mystics where meditation and prayer are central; the prayer warriors, monasteries, convents and communities.  Even if we do not see them, if these people stopped their function in the Church it would become very sick and maybe even die. We all need their prayer and deep connection to the Creator

Nature has given us a solution to the problem of religious and denominational difference and diversity.  We must accept the place God has assigned for each of us individually, whether it is the trunk, branches, leaves or roots and fulfil our function with all our hearts, minds and souls. This may be for a season or for a lifetime. We then must accept that God has assigned different people to different places and they are there to create balance, diversity, color and strength to His church so that the Church Universal can fulfil its function.

If we each maintain our own identity and function and accept everyone else’s identity and function as God given and as part of the whole, together we can transform the Bride of Christ because the Church will be known “because they love one another”. A tree will not survive if any one of the four components are missing so we need each other to grow in love and unity so we may be THE Bride and not many brides.

Grief, Retirement, Seasons of Life, Transitions, Widowhood

THE WHEEL HAS MADE A FULL TURN!

 

January is the month we usually set our goals and resolutions for the year. One of my goals during this season is to find my artistic voice. I was looking back through my old sketchbooks and journals, to my amazement I came across a sketch I had made in 2001 of black and white geometric patterns, with a rainbow through the center, with the words “Transformation” and “Integrations”. A few years ago, after I had been widowed, my church had been going through a program of transformation and reconciliation, and responsible renewal in which they examined scripture in the light of today’s societal problems, updating their thinking and policies accordingly. This had inspired the sketch.

Fast forward ten years, I have been through nine years of working in a new country attending another church, which was not as progressive in their thinking and teaching. I knew I had to get back to the place spiritually I had left in South Africa. Moving to a new country yet again, I had the freedom to be discerning as to where I would worship, I was blessed to have found a local church that stood for all I believed in. I still had places to go in my past to clear up wrong thinking about God, which I dealt with.  I was invited to answer “My Most Difficult Question” at one of our church services to tell my story. I was also participated in writing a chapter for an Anthology “How Seven Women of Faith Manifest Godly Success Through Spiritual Intimacy”, The name for my story was ‘From Black and White to Rainbow Colored Thinking’. So, why was I so surprised when found my old sketch when looking to find my artistic voice?

With many interests and being able to enjoy drawing different styles, objects and thoughts I had not been focused on developing any specific style.  It now dawned on me there was a common theme to many of my pictures, geometric patterns, both abstract and natural, I liked my pictures to tell a story. God’s story in my life has taken a long time to unfold and is still unfolding. Perhaps I was not focused on following His lead to where I should be or maybe I was following Him through the forest and could not see for the trees!  Why do I want to write and paint on this theme of black and white and rainbow colors? Black and white rigid thinking only within your known parameters can seriously hold you back from experiencing the best God has planned for you. I want to be able to share my perspective and perceptions with people who struggle to let go of fundamental thinking.

The starting point is the character of God, I had been indoctrinated at an early age of a God who was always angry and only wanted to punish me, reinforced by family and church discipline. So how could I possibly know Him as a God of love when this was not demonstrated to me? My journey through life has taken me through divorce, widowhood and loss of homeland. It has been a long journey to get from black and white to rainbow colored thinking. To work through the belief systems that did not serve me well, to come to a place of rest in the God of Love. That is why I write and paint what I do, inviting you my readers and viewers to participate in this journey, hoping that if you too have struggled trying to find that God is Love, you may also have the scales from your eyes removed so instead of seeing everything within rigid black and white lines, you can see the radiant burst of color and light that emanates from Him through His creation and eventually be able to appreciate that He is Love and loves you with an everlasting love.

Divorce, Grief, Retirement, Transitions, Widowhood

WE WILL ALL BE CHANGED

2019-01-09 14.22.23

Winter is a time for deep thoughts as we wait out the cold months to take up our lives again in Spring. I was inspired walking through the cold, snow covered graveyard in Pennsylvania looking at the headstones of people long gone from this life. I came across two headstones, marked just FATHER and MOTHER.  Whose Father and Mother? What were their names? Why had they been buried here? Many stories popped into my imagination at that time, of an adventurous couple coming to an untimely end and being found by strangers and buried in the nearest churchyard?  I left them sleeping there with their untold story.

Death changes us. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15 “we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed”. We are told we shall have new and glorious bodies at the resurrection. That gives us hope for our loved ones who have passed on.  But I thought that verse has a deeper meaning, we shall all be changed, those who are left behind also face major changes in their lives.

What happens when your spouse dies, or a child or your parents or beloved friend? Each of these encounters with loss, changes you. How you deal with the loss and how you walk through the grief process. When my late husband died, it left me with difficult choices to make.  Should I remain in Cape Town where I had plenty of friends and support?  Should I move to be nearer to one of my children living overseas? Did I want be left alone to grow old on the African continent when all my closest family lived in America?  How was I going to earn enough for my retirement?  There were a thousand questions I had to answer as a result of my husband’s death.

The answers to those questions led me to a career change, a move to the UK and finding my feet again at age 62, that experience certainly changed me, it stretched me in every direction. I was able to grow again, instead of being settled in the mundane existence that a married couple can fall into over time. I found myself excited about life again. We are so resistant to change and yet it is the very thing that proves our limitations and our character.  I found a new joy in being able to explore my new environment, I learned a whole new skillset, I made new friends and I was able to travel to places I would never have been able to had I remained in South Africa.

Was I afraid of the unknown? You bet I was!  Yet I knew deep down that things could not remain the same, and I would have to make changes whatever I did.  Have you been placed at a crossroads in your life by loss? Are you afraid of the giant leaps you may have to take on your own?  I have travelled this path and am happy to walk beside you as you make this transition to a new place in your life.  If you would like my map and let me guide you, please contact me via my webpage ww.crossingmybridges.com