The bible verse that caught my attention this morning was from Isaiah chapter 43, verses 18-21. I have highlighted the words that spoke to me:
Isaiah 43:18-21 Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. The wild animals honor me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the desert and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.
I love the imagery of streams of water – living water, as Jesus would later come to offer – flowing, bringing life to God’s people. We often go through desert periods in life when we feel dry and dusty, in need of refreshment. Although I have not been feeling like that recently I still seek to experience more of God’s new life flowing in and through me, especially in the parishes where I serve.
I went to an art and spirituality group this afternoon. It was a long journey (over an hour of driving each way) and I did wonder if I should go, or if it wold be a better use of time to stay at home. I decided that if God is doing something new in and through me, and if my desire to bring together art and spirituality is of God, then perhaps I should go. I am glad I did.
They were a friendly group of people who have encouraged me to continue on this road. At first I didn’t know what to paint, but remembering the words from this morning’s prayer time I decided to do a picture of a desert and streams of water coming from a rock. It didn’t work out mainly because I was using water colours and lacked the skill to produce what I imagined. So that was put on one side. Instead, being encouraged by the leader, I simply played with the paint and dabbed and daubed with 3 bright acrylic paints: red, yellow and blue. The result elicited positive comments, one of which was that it was like a stained glass window. As each layer, or step, dried I worked on another piece with the words: Behold I am doing a new thing.
Reflecting on the afternoon I realise that I need to continue building up skill so that I can express myself in paint and lettering. God is doing a new thing but can only go as fast as I have time and energy to put in the necessary practice. On the way home I pulled over to listen to Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue with one of the parts being played by Bernstein. It was a brilliant performance. The presenter told us that Gershwin spent many years writing various different types of music before he got to the point of writing that. When I was chatting with the artist leading us this afternoon she said that she did her training many years ago – and another member of the group had also gone to art college. I have not had that grounding so I need to be more patient with myself and allow myself to play, to make mistakes, to discover what works and what doesn’t. I feel that this period of my life is one of preparation for what lies ahead – as well as being busy in parish ministry, which of course has to have a higher priority than the art.
It isn’t exactly a masterpiece, and there is no right way up, but for what it is worth, this is the picture that resulted from my playing with paint this afternoon: