Friday, March 6, 2015

Exploring The Beauty We Are Drawn To Through Collage {Art Exercise #1}

In Monday's post I discussed the idea that our true purpose is to enjoy beauty and to create as a response to that beauty.  Fashioned in the image of the One True Creator, we each have a creative "bent", regardless of how it is lived out.  We each are an artist!  Yes, receive that!  Each day you are creating something - an atmosphere for your family in your home, the clothes ensemble you are wearing, each meal you prepare, the garden you tend.  Some of you have picked up drawing utensils, paint brushes, fabric, clay, even dance!  Whatever you are doing, aren't you dreaming of doing it beautifully?

This art exercise is designed to help you explore the beauty that is in your heart.  It may still be hidden.  You may have already begun to release it.  Prayerfully, we will propel you further in your exploration of beauty!

1.  Go through magazines (or online images), pulling out/cutting out ones you like.  Don't think too hard about this - this is the time to be impulsive!  Just a quick thought of "that is neat" or "I might like that" is enough to act on.

2.  Once you think you have enough, arrange them loosely in front of you (on the floor or on table).  Decide where you may need to trim, how you want to layer them, what looks pleasing to you.  There is no "right or wrong", just what pleases you. When you are satisfied, glue them on to a piece of poster board, or digitally arrange images in a drawing program.
The above is a collage I made to demonstrate, but also to explore my own inclinations to beauty.  You see, lately I have been using more and more pink, and I notice that I always "reblog" pink floral images on my tumblr blog (which I neglect often), yet I never wear pink or have it in my home...and I notice pink found its way here. I love silver trays and vases and I do have them in my home - simple elegance is one thing they convey.  Silver is also a symbol of redemption into this beautiful life by our Lord Jesus. Deer speak of a gentle spirit, peace and calm.  Keys always symbolize going into previously closed off areas, permission, and that is something that comes to pass when I work with people, they let me in to their "closed off" places and we explore them together.  Snowflakes represent our unique individuality, eggs and feathers come from birds, and birds (especially sparrows and swallows) always speak to me of faith and abiding in Him...lately, bokeh lighting in photographs just draws me!  The soft beauty, yet brilliant light, is speaking into my spirit - how I want to let His light shine through me...of course words shape my inner world, so strong words of encouragement, of looking at common things in new ways, and of inspiration would find their way on a collage about beauty...this may be a springboard to a more defined, thought out art piece.

3.  Spend some time reflecting on your collage.  Write your thoughts in a journal.  You don't have to use complete sentences; you can just jot enough words to capture your thoughts.  Use these questions to start the insights flowing (omit any questions that don't apply - add questions that come to you as you work):

Which image(s) seem to dominate?  
Which image(s) seem to retreat?
What is the overall emotion you feel when you look at the collage? 
What do the images on your collage symbolize to you?
What color(s) do you notice?  What does that color mean to you?
What metal(s) are evident?  What does that metal "say" as you look at it?
Is there anything that seems missing from your collage?  What is it?  Where would it go?
Is there anything on your collage that seems a surprise?  What does that say to you?
Are there any beautiful items that need to find concrete expression in your life?  How can you make room for what that item symbolizes into your daily routine?  
Are there things on the collage that need to be expressed more?  Less? Brought into balance?

Are you surprised by the amount of beauty your collage holds?  Why or why not?

4.  An interesting additional step is to make a collage every day for a week, and document any internal shifts that occur.

5.  Or make a beauty collage every week for a month, and document any internal shifts that occur...

I would love to hear about your explorations - come share them on my facebook page here!

Monday, March 2, 2015

"What about beauty?" He asked.

I’ve been wrestling with getting words out of my mind and onto paper –There are reasons: 
  • I’ve wanted them to come out perfect so I don’t have to rewrite
  • A little worried about “going against the mainstream”  
  • Foremost:  I believe in what I am about to say, and want to word it well so that it is received well, but really, so that others begin to tap into what Jesus is saying - at least to me - for this hour…

So I’m just going to “dump” and see how it goes.

Last fall I began to create a class on "Finding Your Life Purpose", the one God wrote about you before you were even born (Psalm 139:16) .  I know, I know – my thoughts ran like yours probably do: “so many are out there already, do we really need another one?”  "What do I have to say that is different than any of the gazillion published?"  "Why don’t you just find the one you refer to the most/like the best and endorse it?But I’ve never seen one like what I did in my internship.  “You cannot use what others have done, you have to make it your own”.  “I want to share this path I learned; hurting people (all people!) could benefit!”  “No one will care.” (I still have to fight with an inner critic!)

An interesting thing happened as I sorted through these ideas.  I found a heaviness underneath.  When buried under the confused jumble of all thoughts (the fears, the motivational, the inner critic) I had mistaken this heaviness for resistance to my path.  With the fog of thoughts dissipated, that “heavy” feeling had a different meaning – I found that my soul, my spirit was weary.  Weary of the words, the “how-tos”, and the promises of men that mean more work.  

Is the issue really that we don’t know our purpose, 
or is it that we don’t know the meaning of having a purpose?   

Intuitively it felt like there was something…that God really meant something "more”… than what many “find your purpose” promotions deliver.  All the “steps to…” and  “how tos…” just seem to lead to more “to dos…”. 

Finding our purpose is wrapped up in which gifts of the Spirit we have, along with skills, talents, and passions and ultimately what we are supposed to do with them (and this is right track to be on).  Sometimes, and I am sure inadvertently, it is communicated that the reason God gave us gifts is so we can serve others  while on earth, or at the very least, to evangelize.  But wouldn’t God still give us these gifts if everyone was a believer?  If I was the only person on earth, Jesus would have died for me, and He would have given me spiritual gifts – so what would they be for, if evangelism was taken out of the possibilities? 

That is when I heard that familiar whisper

 “…and what about beauty…?” 

What was that He said?  But I felt my spirit leap – the voice of the Lord will do that! 

In some Christian circles, there is so much emphasis on having a servant heart and evangelistic mindset that we forget that the first and foremost purpose of our one unique life is to enjoy fellowship with Jesus.  Everything else flows from that.  God created an incredible world for us to enjoy as well as to explore and in doing so we discover aspects of His character.  Since all things have been created by Him and for Him (Colossians 1:16), beauty must be a characteristic of God.   

Beauty is inherent in the creation; reflected in what has been created.   
Beauty is to be enjoyed and explored.   
Beauty is a facet of the holiness, the wholeness, of God.   
Our hearts, created in the image of God, long to create beauty, to pull forth the seed implanted within and allow it to warm, germinate, blossom and flourish.    
In all ways, the created is meant to reflect the Creator.  

Adam and Eve walked with God in fellowship. They were also given the task of tending the garden – before sin entered in - why?  Because love needs to be expressed!  

Creativity needs to be released.   
Intelligence needs to be exercised.   
Beauty needs to be enjoyed.   
The treasury of God’s attributes imbedded in nature wait to be unveiled.  

If the fall had never occurred, these activities would still be desired and required!

I am thinking that I want to define our original purpose as:
  • discovering and loving God.
  •  responding to God’s creativity.
  •  reflecting His design.
  •  becoming who we were created to be.

“Sigh” – I sense the peace here, replacing the burden of “doing” as He lifts it to His shoulders.  Maybe I am the only one whose spirit gets confused about all this(?)…it could be a by product of that old man of perfectionism!

I have come to understand that the fruits of the Spirit are the nature of Christ, expressed through us and the gifts are the power of Christ expressed through us.  How would we apply these passages if we read them as a restoration of what was lost in the Garden and not a proving that we are  working out our salvation” (Ephesians 2:10)? 

Even in this passage, when we understand the language, God is laying the foundation of His work in us (not our work for Him) by calling us His workmanship, His “poemia”.  We truly are His “poetry in motion”, a living poem…!  I love how the New Living Translation and the Message puts it:

For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus,so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
New Living Translation

7-10 Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing. 
The Message

The Spirit exhorts us to be transformed and that transformation is by beholding His glory, (not by working out our salvation) -  transformation is a work that He does  as we spend time in His Presence (not a work we achieve in our own efforts!)   And that is exactly what this word “transformed” means! It is metamorphóō (3339 - from 3326 /metá, "change after being with" and 3445 /morphóō, "changing form in keeping with inner reality" – properly, transformed after being with; transfigured.  (Metamorphóō is the root of the English terms "metamorphosis" and "metamorphize.")

Just think – we are being transfigured!
Perhaps this re-alignment to beauty IS what drives the current reclaiming of the arts by the body of Christ! Because I am an artist, I tend to frequent art-related sites while online.  Everywhere I look there is encouragement to release creativity; to “be present” to your surroundings by noticing the small moments of every day wonder, the changing light patterns as the day marches on, to allow our eyes to see things as if it is the first time; to be brave to try new things, or to express what is truly inside our hearts.  

Art both captures the beauty that is around us and expresses the beauty within us.  

 This sounds like “purpose” to me.   

Each one of us is creating the life that we have been gifted with.  The tools of our artistic endeavors are the gifts of the Spirit; 
we paint with the color of the Fruits of the Spirit. 
Our “muse” is the Holy Spirit. 

When we approach our purpose as artists, walking in the image of the Creator, the resulting joy, freedom,  lightness of spirit, passion and spontaneity is attractive, drawing in those who are hungry to discover and explore and experience the beauty that God imbedded in all His creation.   

Wouldn’t this be the best kind of servant evangelism?

 From eternity to eternity, the beauty of God is pervasive and practical. Ask him to open the eyes of your heart. Give your life to this quest — seeing and savoring more and more of the happifying beauty of God.    ~John Piper  
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