Sunday, March 27, 2011

Out of darkness...

As the darkness of winter passes into uncertain spring, we are having days that are neither winter, nor yet spring. Yet there is a changing of the light. I suffer a bit with seasonal depression; a winter malady that I seem to share with several friends and family members, and countless creative people, past and present. As the season changes, we are not yet clear of that darkness of mood, but I am beginning to feel some hope.

I do not know whether I am an artist because of my fascination with darkness and light, or if that fascination exists because I am an artist. It matters little which came first; like the silly chicken/egg debate. But my fascination with the contrast of darkness and light extends beyond the physical. It extends as well beyond the psychological; it extends furthest into the spiritual realm. The contrast between good and evil in the Bible is often referred to as a battle of dark vs. light. There is so much spiritual darkness in the world. Even those who are not attempting to look through God's eyes feel it and know it to be real and powerful. My grandchildren are just beginning to enjoy the Harry Potter books. I am certain the popularity of that allegorical story is because we can all understand that the battle between good and evil, or light and darkness, is a real one, and we all want to see the darkness overcome.

The photo above is one of many that I have taken where the subject matter is the contrast of dark and light. It was taken on one of the Boston Islands, in an old underground fortification. I felt a very heavy darkness there that was from more than just a lack of light. It was a relief to be able to keep an eye on distant light. Sometimes, the light does feel distant, and not nearly bright enough. But I keep my eyes on it. I stay as closely as I can in it's presence. And I make the attempt to let it shine through me, so that others are not left in the darkness we all fear.

It seems very important to me right now, with so much pain and suffering and disaster we cannot control in the world, to keep focusing on that eternal Light. Thus it has always been, and thus it will be forever...

Light Shining out of Darkness

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.
William Cowper

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Young sixteen-year-old Patrick of England was kidnapped, taken to Ireland, and sold as a slave, much like Joseph was. After six years of slave labor, herding livestock for an Irish chieftain, he escaped and made his way back to Britain. In spite of his hardships, as Joseph had done before him, he believed God had a hand in not only his deliverance, but also in his captivity. When back home, he began his studies to become a priest. During that time, he had dreams, in which God told him to go back to Ireland, to forgive and help the people there. After he was ordained, he spent 30 years in Ireland, spreading his faith and establishing churches, and spending time in solitude, retreat, and prayer.

I am fascinated with how God repeated Joseph's story in the life of Patrick of Ireland. Here is a prayer that is attributed to Patrick:

Christ be with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

May this be your prayer on this St. Patrick's Day, as you strive to replace your small life with the large life God has planned for you! As Joseph, son of Jacob, did, and as Patrick of Ireland did.

And don't forget the 'wearin' of the green' or some stinker will pinch you!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Be still, and Know...

Life is not easy. There are so many difficult things we have to deal with; seemingly more as we get older. Death, disease, natural disasters, and the evils humans inflict on other humans in the name of politics and greed all become 'daily news' to us. In the midst of this, it is only natural to wonder about where and who God is. In an unpredictable world, we want predictability and understanding, so we can have the peace of feeling in control.

Our church congregation is watching a popular video series on Sunday nights, then breaking into small groups to discuss what we have seen. I won't mention the name of it, because we haven't seen it all yet, and I am trying to keep an open mind. But the point of the series seems to be for us to prepare ourselves to explain, defend, and prove the existence of God to those who do not believe. Personally, I do not think that is a task we are called to do. For those who need scientific, historic, or physical proof that there is a God, we can but fail miserably.

God asks us to "Be Still," and to, in our stillness, KNOW that He Is (Psalm 46:10.) We are asked to find Him in our hearts, and He is there, if we are willing to diligently seek Him. I am certainly not saying you won't find God in nature, science, and history. In fact, I cannot help but see God in all of those places. But that is because I already KNOW Him. I didn't find him, He found me. God is not a concrete being, but a spiritual being, so we must find Him by spiritual means. That may sound all mystical and even evasive to many, but that is what true faith is. It is a knowing, a believing, in the unknowable and the unprovable. To 'know God' is not an intellectual exercise, it is a spiritual surrender.

John 14:17 tells us, "You already Know. The Spirit is with you and the Spirit is in you." God didn't leave us to find Him all on our own. He placed the knowledge within us, by joining our spirits to His own Spirit. If we will listen, we will find what we seek: the peace that comes by giving up the need for control.

Listen. Be still. Those inner urgings; those moments of knowing you are not alone; that knowledge that there is more to life than the chaos we see on the daily news... these stirrings will lead you to know that God IS.