I used this morning’s prayer time to get back to the mindful art to explore how I have changed over the years. See yesterday’s blog for more. I used Psalm 139 plus the first part of the Northumbria Community morning prayer then the reading from the #Live Lent for today.
In 1 Peter 3 he tells us, “If someone asks about your hope as a believer” – about your faith in God, in other words – “always be ready to explain it.” So we need to prepare to do this well, and as Peter reminds us, with gentleness and respect. And the Action for the Week is to take time to think about how God has changed you. Have there been particular moments when you have known God has been at work in your life? Collect your thoughts in your notebook or journal.
It was a peaceful time of prayer with a period of silence within it. As I got my art things ready for the mindful art journalling I ask God to guide me. I use the method provided by Rachel at Workshop Muse.
My painting started with a cross and then I gradually added the other elements. I tried not to think about any meaning to it nor about how God had changed me, but to be open to my inner promptings for the colours and where to put them. However I did consciously decide I wanted the cross to stay visible. When it was almost finished, with a couple of minutes to spare, I thought about making the cross more prominent. But decided that it should stay not to obvious to the casual observer, but there nevertheless in the background.
Here’s my writing on the opposite page – where I take 10 minutes to give the picture a voice. If it could speak, what would it say to me?
I realise it doesn’t fully answer the question, so the following paragraphs are from my further response.
Taking the underlined statements I conclude that I have been changed into knowing God’s presence with me through life’s difficulties and this has brought me joy and peace. Having my sins forgiven by Jesus’ sacrifice has transformed me. Reading the #Live Lent activity for families’ suggestion of looking at the hymn Amazing Grace I thought of And Can It Be? That is my favourite hymn of that type. The very first time I went for formal confession with my spiritual director and offloaded stuff from my mis-spent youth, I felt a great release. Although I knew that God had forgiven me because I had talked it over with someone else who had prayed for me, I had never had a formal absolution. It was as though I’d put the rubbish in the bin bag but left it by the door. Hearing the absolution made it go in the bin and get taken away. She suggested I read through that hymn as my ‘penance’. I am bold to approach God because I know he loves me, I know he has forgiven me, and I know that he will always welcome me no matter what I do.
- And can it be that I should gain
An int’rest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain—
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
- ’Tis myst’ry all: th’ Immortal dies:
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine.
’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.
- He left His Father’s throne above—
So free, so infinite His grace—
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race:
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For, O my God, it found out me!
- Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quick’ning ray—
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
- No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th’ eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
I have become more bold and confident. I have learnt that in God’s economy nothing is wasted. Every experience, even the painful and bad ones, has contributed to the person I am now – compassionate and empathetic to those who have suffered in a similar way. I now have an inner peace that I lacked before encountering Jesus, and I think that is the biggest change. Before I was always worried – at one point I was treated by the doctor for anxiety and depression. If I did’t have something to worry about then I would worry that I’d missed something! Now if something concerns me, yes I do worry a bit perhaps initially, but not excessively because I have learnt to trust Jesus to carry me through whatever circumstances I find myself in. I now take my concerns to him and in return I find peace.
When praying through Psalm 139 and got to the verses about hating my enemies, I paused and wrote in the margin. I have become forgiving and more loving. It hasn’t been easy but I think I can honestly say that I feel no hatred at all against anyone, even those who have hurt me.
The question posed was also about any particular moments, so what does the picture and the writing bring to mind? The big moments of change have come through a regular annual retreat and various quiet days over many years. Often I would find myself re-visiting the same issues – going back and forth, or round in circles, but always moving forward or looking at it from a different angle. It was like peeling away layers of an onion till I got to the core. I try to go to retreat houses near the sea as I find it draws me. God has taken me to the edges of what I could bear but no further. Retreats and visits to my spiritual director have been safe places, where I am held like the frame of a picture.
There have been complex issues to face and often it felt like a big bag of odd bits of wool or string all knotted and twisted together. To tidy them you have to work on one bit and then another before going back to the first bit. Healing and wholeness have come to me like that. I have also changed through various times of professional counselling (not specifically Christian). I believe that prayer aids and works alongside the counselling.
There have been many memorable moments of imaginative prayer using the Ignatian methods of imagining yourself in a gospel story that have helped me to be aware of Jesus’ presence. I have included those in my book currently at the publishers, Are We There Yet? It accompanies and gives the back story to the pdf of poems/prayers and pictures that are on this site.