The Creator is Like…

23 06 2018

…What the Creator creates.

I was attending an event at a small, private art gallery.  Works were displayed from floor to ceiling, beautifully framed and lit.  There were walls at various angles within the space, also with paintings arrayed on both sides.  I was enamored by a large Suerat-like scene of Oak Street Beach on a sunny day, crowded with people and activities as varied as the shades of blue in the water and sky, with the Chicago skyline in the background.

My friend loved, and in fact purchased, two city streetscapes of busy Chicago intersections on a winter night, created with bold sweeping strokes evocative of wind and traffic and excitement.

There were also:  minimalist abstracts; lush landscapes; pastels of flowers; cubist-style depictions of objects and settings; a gentle pink and purple-swirled piece to my right; a straight-stroked black and red work on a far wall.  When I peeked into one of the tiny back rooms, there were hundreds more of this artist’s works stacked against the wall, waiting for their turn in the spotlight.

“This man is amazing!”  I thought.  Even in extensive collections of great artists in fine museums I had never seen one so active in so  many styles.  He is prodigious–an overwhelming number of paintings are collected there, likely not the whole of his work.  He is bold.  Curious and willing to experiment.  Interested and interesting.  Full of energy.  Hard-working.  Discerning with the presentation of the work, complementing the pieces with unique and detailed framing.  Gentle and loving of beauty-none of his works were dark, jarring or upsetting.  I looked for the artist, Minas.  He was surrounded by people, talking animatedly, wrapping a picture to travel to a new home.  I didn’t get to meet him last night.  But I did get to know him pretty well.

People say we can’t know God the Creator (or Supreme Being, Divine Intelligence)–the force that generated the grand universe and its inhabitants.  But, just as some aspects of an artist can be known by visiting their gallery and seeing their artwork, so also can a world-maker, THE world-maker, if you will, begin to be known by visiting the gallery-world around us and considering what they have made.  The Christian psalmist said, “Taste, and see that the Lord is good.” (Psalm 34:8).  Given my fondness for the flavor mangoes, and the abundance and variety of food seen at a farmer’s market, I would concur with the psalmist.  What else might we deduce about our artist-creator, based on  just a thimbleful of all we see in our field of vision, our spot in the gallery at any given moment?

Varieties of leaves and grasses.  Oaks growing from acorns. Sunshine through the trees.  Birds singing and music playing.  Animals small and large, from bacteria to whales.  Snakes and birds that travel without using legs; centipedes that coordinate 100 legs to walk.  People of all shapes and sizes, families and tribes and nations.  Plants that protect, nourish, heal.  Flowers with no apparent purpose other than beauty.   Rain, puddles, streams, rivers, lakes, oceans.  Consider with me just this last-mentioned creation:  water.  Amazing, ubiquitous, essential water.

We can clearly see clouds, water in vapor form.  Water vapor can be enveloping even, as fog, but is  nearly intangible–we move through it as if it’s not there.  In liquid form, it’s infinitely flexible.  Cleansing and comforting like a warm bath.  Offering relief like a cooling mist on a hot day.  Refreshingly quenching thirst.  Constant and steady as the tides.  As gentle as a raindrop and as powerful as a flood.  Displaying a few “special effects”–the colors of the rainbow; the bright sunlight sparkling on a rippling lake; the reflection of my face on the calmest surface.  As ice, water is solid, massive, usable even for shelters and roads.  Essential for and sustaining all life.  Everywhere.

What is the creator of this multi-faceted work like?  I am thinking this artist-creator of water may be incredibly vastly beyond my comprehension, yet is as approachable as a raindrop.  A lover of beauty and a nurturing soul.  Strong and gentle.  As common as a glass of water, yet as stunning as a glacier.  Generous with me.  Sustaining, nurturing, life-giving.  Close to me…and yes, good.

Too far-fetched?  See what you think, with your own place in this world-gallery, possessing your own history, perspective, and beliefs.  Whether thinking of the Creator in a Christian context, Native American tradition, or any other perspective, as you take time to linger in the gallery, to even consider one of the works displayed here, you may catch a glimpse of who the Artist is, become acquainted with their nature, get to know them a bit.  Sort of like I got to know Minas.

Advertisements




Woman, Behold Your Son – Part 2

11 04 2018

[Dear Readers, This is the second post about bringing an awareness of Jesus’ mother Mary’s presence into the Christian observation of Lent, to augment her centrality to Advent and the Christmas story. The Bible leaves much untold, and I love to imagine scenes that might have happened, which is what these posts do.  Please read the first post before this, if you haven’t. Imagine with me!  Knowing how much I love to be with and look up to my adult son, it was easy for me to picture this scene…]

It is said that the hardest thing in life for a parent is to have a child die before them.  Mary, as any mom would be, was present, observing—no, sharing—her son’s suffering, over hours.  And hours. Not in a sickbed, but at a crucifixion, publicly humiliated, tortured and bleeding and in pain, excruciatingly dying.  And yet he was still actively caring:  forgiving his murderers—and his fearful friends; making sure she had John to go to after Jesus had died, saying, “Woman, behold thy son,” referring to his disciple and friend.  I have used this sentence as my title here, to ponder Mary looking upon her first son as well.

When did she first get to see him alive?

He may have appeared in the room where she sat in grief, surrounded by her friends and relatives sitting shiva, gathered for a week of mourning and accompanying the bereft.

An audible gasp from the mourners—in unison—then silence.  Someone whispers, “Mary, look!”  She lifts her eyes and sees her son, standing before her.  There was no small reaction!  A scream of joy.  Tears.  Disbelief, belief, jumping up, hugging, bowing down, touching him from head to toe, taking his hands, solid but different.  Looking into his eyes, crinkled in a smile of joy and gratitude.  “Isha, mother, it’s me.”  Her knees give way.   “Here.  Sit by me.”

They all speak and move at once.  Shouting, hugging, touching.  Touching.  As so many people did before…that.  Bring him food!  Of course.

He sits next to her and she holds his arm and won’t let go.  He pats her hand, and lets her.  For a bit.  She can look at nothing else.  She sees nothing else.  He whispers, “Mother, I can’t stay long.  There is much I need to do.”  He is not only referring to this reunion visit.

After a time, he gets up to go.  “I have much to do,” he announces to the now-animated group.  “But remember me here.  It’s really me.  Alive–not a ghost.  Prophecies fulfilled.  You all did not have an apparition together,” he grinned.  “May I take some of that bread to the brothers in Emmaus?”  And like that, he is gone again.

Mary gets up in the middle of the chatter—you can imagine the questions!  How?  Why?  Mary, all this time you said he was special.  Dead.  Alive.  The buzz will echo centuries later.

Mary pulls off the black veil of mourning and replaces it with her best, brightest shawl.  “This will tell everybody!”





Woman, Behold Your Son

31 03 2018

At Christmastime, we see Mary, the mother of Jesus, front and center.  Beautiful depictions of the Annunciation; the birth of the baby swaddled in the manger; mama’s joy as the shepherds bow and wise men worship.  At the Christian observance of Lent, we are aware that yes, she is still very much with Jesus during his last days, but she is mentioned only briefly in the gospel stories:  Jesus from the cross giving her into the care of John as he nears death.

But I think, who better than Mary could help us put all the pieces together, in the hours and days before and after Jesus’ crucifixion?  Imagine with me, if you will, a mother’s heart as she now walks with her adult son during his last week of life, wondering, reflecting on the  troubling, strange, wonderful, ominous happenings, day by day…

The angel Gabriel had said, “He will be great and will be called the son of the Most High.  The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”

The shepherds shared what the angel had said to them, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people….a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ, the Lord…” and hosts of angels praised God with these words, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

Mary “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

Simeon said, “…For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the gentiles and for glory to your people Israel…This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of may in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.  And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

Bethlehem.  Egypt.  Wise Men.  Herod.  At age 12, Jesus lingered in the temple instead of staying with the family, sparking his mother’s worry and rebuke.  He went with her to a wedding, where she appealed to him to be of assistance—did she know he would procure the wine from the water jars?

Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

He healed people.  He spoke in the synagogue in Nazareth and was run out of his hometown.  He preached Good News.  He healed Peter’s mother in law and raised Lazarus from the dead.  He accused church leaders of hypocrisy and disregarded the religious practices of the day.

Mary pondered…

She was probably there when he rode the donkey into Jerusalem, people scattering palms and giving him the respect she knew in her heart he deserved.  I imagine her heart swelled with pride and she remembered the words about the king, the kingdom, the references to Savior as she heard the hosannas—“Save us!”  And surely the other things she had held in her heart, the moments shared, conversations, miracles, antagonism, close calls, all welled up.  Did she think, “Maybe the sword Simeon mentioned was figurative.  Things here—my son, the king—are as they were foretold…”

Then came Monday, and Tuesday, and Wednesday.  Rumors of opposition.  The disciples, men and women, choosing their paths through the city carefully.  The crush of crowds.  Tension.  The holy celebration of the Passover.  Her son was no longer mixing with the people, publicly and joyously accepting their attention.  He was encircling himself with his closest friends, his brothers and sisters, his disciples.  He washed their feet.  He spoke of wine and blood and flesh, suffering and death.

The ponderings must have welled up.  What was it they said?  He said?  CRUCIFIXION?  Never!  That was never in the mix!  How is this possible?

In that moment, those hours of his torture, as she watched him, humiliated, bleeding, dying, she and his other followers and friends, totally helpless, I can’t imagine anything but pain and devastation filling Mary’s heart, mind, soul, no matter the treasured moments, prophecies, memories, miracles.  She pondered, all day that Sabbath, that Saturday, her heart black as night, and heavy.  Her women friends clung to her, to each other.  The men, devastated, each with their own thoughts of what they might have done.  Possibly sharing a memory or two.  Or not.  Perhaps brooding in silence, having seen the end and given up all of what they thought they knew, what they had staked their own lives upon.

Gone.

And yet…There was the promise.  Perhaps at that empty moment Mary unpacked that treasure in her heart.  Held them all together, Peter, John, Magdalene, alive, barely, with Gabriel’s words:  “Do not be afraid.  With God, nothing is impossible.”  “Savior.”  “Kingdom forever.”  Clung to the treasure, to a shred of hope, to each other, even as they wept, until…

Easter.

[quotes from NIV Study Bible, Zondervan, ©1985]

                                                                          




Thanksgiving

29 11 2017

They say gratitude brings joy.  That there is always something to be grateful for.  Sometimes, my preoccupied mind says, “Yeah, but…” and I think of all the struggles I am having, and others are having.  Even at Thanksgiving time, there is as much written about how difficult it is to manage time with families, cook a turkey, get everything done.  Then, Christmas preparations encroach, and if we are not careful, we CAN lose our joy.

I am sharing a video I had saved on my desktop so long I had forgotten its contents.  I clicked, and I know why I saved it.  I can’t encourage you ENOUGH to click on it.  I GUARANTEE your day will be better because you took 5 minutes to look and listen to it!

 





The Flowers in the Flowerboxes

14 09 2017

 

Every morning in the summer, we bring our coffee outside and sit on our deck to gradually wake up, greet the morning and savor the birches and pines that surround us. This year, we added some flowerboxes to the railings. The bright gerbera daisies and hummingbird-shaped purple petunias have been a welcome addition.  Our family and our guests all comment on them—a “pop of color,” my niece Deidre says. “You can enjoy them from inside the house, too, as you look out.”  They also get a daily visit from hummingbirds, who savor their nectar, or sometimes seem to just pause to admire them. The bees are happy for our new arrivals as well, loving their new pollen sources. We humans and animals alike have so much more joy and beauty in this space because of the new flowers here.

The weather forecast is for several clear, sunny days, with warm temperatures—auspicious for me, but requiring extra attention for the flowers, a new responsibility to me. The forest around us pretty much takes care of itself. Reminder to self: “Water the flowerboxes!” Because they are located in these small containers with alien soil and a limited amount of space, they aren’t well-established with deep roots; nor is there a watershed beneath them to store moisture for the long-term. Even in mild weather, they need attention.

The forest wildflowers, the trees, ferns, even water lilies, are in their native habitat, where their roots are sunk deep, their seeds are released, and they awaken every spring and follow the natural cycles and rhythms of their home. They are watered naturally by the dew and rain.

The plants in the flowerboxes, on the other hand, are no longer in the place they were first grown.

I wonder where they originally came from—a greenhouse far away, or the wholesaler in town? Where/when/how did they get put into individual pots for transport, which eventually wound up in the store where we purchased them, to be relocated into these flowerboxes? They are planted in potting soil. (Supposedly better for their growth). They are fed fertilizer (to make up for their past uprooting, deprivation, transport). They are restricted to these containers with limited depth and no surrounding forest resources. (I hope they thrive in their new home!)

Fortunately, they are shaded by the forest trees so that they are sheltered from blazing sun that would rapidly evaporate their limited water supply. Yet, I need to water them. Check on them. Tend them. Ask someone else to check on them when I am away and it doesn’t rain for a while. I’ve been diligent (pat on the back), and the plants have grown larger and stronger, with new flowers and more ‘pops of color’ too.

As the summer days, the visitors, and our mornings on the deck have continued, so has our enjoyment of the flowers, which have bloomed and thrived.

They make me think of immigrants.

 

 





The Bullfrog Bell Choir

6 07 2017

Sunset in the North Woods is like having season tickets in the front row to the gentlest, most beautiful production around! Almost every evening, the Sunset Show starts, well, at sunset. If you want to see whether there’s a show on any given night, just look to see if the lights are on. (The rain needs a chance to clean up the theater!) No schedule, no email notices, just look toward the west and check the sky.

On this night, there was enough of a breeze, a day of just the right weather, to keep the mosquitoes at bay. (Sometimes, one must make extra preparations for the optimum experience!) Tonight I just settled on the pier to enjoy the show. It is always enhanced by the lake, its reflections and its surroundings. That crew really knows how to set the stage!

My eyes and ears perked up as the sun was dipping low, the light dimming to the perfect pastel pink-blue. I was ready for the opening number. “Ladies and gentlemen, critters great and small, we present The Bullfrog Bell Choir, for your listening enjoyment,” an announcer should say.

Each frog had its own note, one single croak. Each was slightly different, like notes on a scale, and interestingly, it sounded to me like the lowest, deepest tones were to the left along the shore, with middle tones in the center, and higher tones to the right. As with a human bell choir, each individual gets a note (humans 2, for 2 hands; bullfrogs one, for one voice. This may be obvious, but it always amazes me how the humans holding the bells play in perfect sequence as one instrument to bring forth their songs.

The bullfrog choir, similarly, played in their exquisite sequence: Low, middle, high; middle, high, low… Sometimes 2 or 3 formed a chord, sometimes they sang a fun froggy arpeggio. Often, an emphatic bass note interjected.

One nature-related issue—they were so far into the grass that I couldn’t see them! I’m sure it was planned—I needed to enjoy the music with my ears, while I watched the sunset with my eyes. (No doubt, Nature required this for bullfrog safety as well.) But I was SO curious!

I wonder if the sun, so low in the sky, was their spotlight? Do you suppose they wore bowties? And from whom did they each get their individual sounds, as well as their cues to sing together, each at their own time and in order? And for whom did they sing? Me? Wow!

I wonder…maybe, ultimately, we each have a single note to play in the choir of life in our communities. We don’t have to sing all the notes or know all the songs. Maybe we just need to sing our note when it’s our turn. Maybe that is enough.

So thankful to the Creator-Producer of the evening shows; for nature-music. For making me a part of this wonder!





Raindrops and Grass Roots II

14 03 2017

Note to self…

Self, you are a blade of grass, in the whole scheme of things. Thinking about the vast universe, galaxies, our solar system, our little earth in that solar system, the pinpoint that is you…

Yet, make no mistake, here, in YOUR universe, YOU are important to all the other life around you—in your home, your family, your community, state, nation, people in developing and developed nations—in this amazing created garden you call home.

What a paradox! [paradox-a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition that when investigated or explained may prove to be well founded or true.] How can I be both so tiny, seemingly insignificant, yet so unique, valued and important?

I told you last time! But, given the trends in this garden we call home, it bears repeating. Each other. Community. I will give you a “demonstration” of the lesson from nature; the human blades of grass and what they can do when they come together.

The world-wide demonstrations the day after the US elections: Millions of people in dozens of countries declared the messages of hope, mutual support and unity.

One person + one sign = 1 blade of grass

1 million persons + 1 million signs = a vast field holding the earth in its roots, refusing to let it erode.

1 person + 1 post on social media = 1 drop of rain

1 million persons + 1 million comments of unity and encouragement = a powerful flood capable of washing away the trash of lies and bitterness and leaving behind the freshness of positivity and caring.

DON’T BE TRIPPED UP, SELF, BY MISUSING THE “EAT, DRINK AND BE MERRY, FOR TOMORROW WE DIE” ATTITUDE! Yes, it appears in the same Scripture book as the blades of grass thought. It is not applicable here. It is found in the chapter titled “Lamentations.” The destructive forces around us, spiritual and temporal, would love it if you do not root yourself and grow.

What if half the blades of grass didn’t come out? What if there was only a brief shower of public comments? What if only one blade of grass appeared or one raindrop rained?

A judge who refused to retreat to his home and party today, die tomorrow, halted the immigration ban, supported by people and states who followed suit.  Thousands of demonstrators over months called attention to the issues surrounding the Dakota Access Pipelines, and continue to do so.

Yes, you are a single blade of grass, a drop of rain. But never, NEVER say “I’m only”! When a voice (lying, destructive voice) in your head whispers that to you, just speak back to that voice, “YOU ARE LYING. HERE IS PROOF.” Say, “I AM meant to be a part of one grand larger field, flood, world!”

A world in which we need each other to be fully—and uniquely—who we are and who and where we were meant to be.

Love, YourSelf

Thanks. I needed that.