Monday, November 5, 2012

Nativity Tapestries

This is the Nativity Tapestry that will hang on the right side of the church's lectern. It has a nativity image of Mary, the Mother of Jesus. I especially wanted Mary to be in an intimate, motherly pose, as I have seen so many images of her not even looking at her child. I love the words in Kathy Mattea's song, "Mary Did You Know?" that ask if she knew that  'when you kiss your little baby, you kiss the face of God?"  I have felt that I kissed the face of God when I have kissed my own children or my grandchildren, and even our foster babies. But that would have been even more literal for Mary. I wanted to show a mother's wonder and unconditional love in this image of Mary. 

Included in this tapestry are lilies, which I was told are a flower that is symbolic of Mary. The color blue was also chosen by the church as a color identified with her. Most of the symbolism in this tapestry is in the border. It includes a dove of peace, which is also a symbol of the Holy Spirit, which 'came over her' at her conception and 'filled her' during her time of pregnancy (Luke 1).

The border also has a grape vine, for He is 'the vine' and we are 'the branches.' (Luke 15:5) I wanted this to give us inclusion in the story. We are not alone on the vine. We are to live in community, with other branches and grapes, and with the vine itself.

The banner proclaims Peace, as He came to proclaim peace. This was very important to me to have included, as I am a pacifist, as are the couple who commissioned these tapestries for the church. And, of course, this is also something we share with Jesus, who was a pacifist and peacemaker. (Matthew 5: 9, 39)

This tapestry will hang to the left of the church's lectern. Each of the tapestries are 20 inches wide and 40 inches long. This tapestry is of a man whom I have always referred to as "The Shepherd," though the commissioners see him as Joseph. The images I have always seen of Joseph are of an old man, alongside his very young bride. I did not want that image, though it may have been somewhat accurate for the time. So I have left the identity of the man ambiguous, to be whomever the viewer wants him to be; Joseph, or a shepherd, or the Great Shepherd, or a grown Jesus.

There is more symbolism in this tapestry. The man is a symbol himself, of a gentle shepherd whom creatures trust and love. Alongside Him, the fox and the sheep can live in harmony. The fox is a symbol of the son of God's humble humanity. Jesus reminded us of that when he said " "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." (Matthew 8:20) The fox reminds me to have compassion on those who do not have a 'place to lay their heads,' for they have much in common with my Savior. Jesus also told his followers to 'go tell the fox' of all He could do. (Luke 13:32)  I also chose to include the fox because I want the images in this tapestry to be familiar to the viewers. Red foxes are one of the animals we delight in here in the mountains. The foxes keep the moles and the mice down, and there is nothing more delightful to watch than romping fox pups!

The sheep is a common image in religious art. We are the sheep, He is our Shepherd. We hear His voice and He knows and cares for us, so we willingly follow Him. (John 10:27)

The Mule-eared deer is also a familiar sight in this part of the world, and one of my favorite animals for their beauty and gracefulness. There are a number of scriptures that reference the deer, but the one that made me include a deer in this tapestry is Psalm 42. It has been turned into several of my favorite hymns. One can be heard here,   and another one here. These two songs truly make me thirst for what the world does not have to offer, as the deer thirsts for the water. We go down to the lake almost every evening when we are at our mountain cabin, to watch the deer going down to quench their thirst. The deer is to remind us to go to the One who can quench our thirst, as well.

There is another dove in this tapestry. It is a mourning dove. In fact, it is a specific dove whom I have been privileged to know for a number of years. She sits outside my studio window. The image I used in the tapestry was from a photo I took of her through my studio window. God wants us to be 'wise as serpents,' while out in the dangers of the world, but also 'as innocent as doves.' (Matthew10:16) The dove outside my window does no harm. She even manages to live in harmony with those she should fear. Here is more about my dove, in an earlier post.

The blooms on the tree branches above the figures are dogwood blooms. There is a religious story (not Biblical) about the symbolism of the dogwood tree. I included the blooms partly because of that story, but mostly because I love the blossoms, having first seen them when visiting my son in Boston. (Also, we lived on a street called Dogwood Ct. for 17 years, so I included them as a piece of personal history. Hey, I can do that: I'm the artist!)

In the border, I included a branch of Rose of Sharon blooms, as they are a flower which symbolizes beauty and purity in the Bible. And the border also includes the anchor, which is something to cling to, to hold us 'steadfast and sure' in our faith. (Hebrews 6:19) I posted more about the tradition of the anchor here.

 I have previously posted about the Grace banner here, but I think this bears repeating from that post: I hope those who view these tapestries as they worship will be ever mindful of God's Amazing Grace.

Thursday, August 2, 2012


Imagine what it would be like if those who sing "They'll know we are Christians by our love..." on Sunday morning acted with love towards their fellow-men  the rest of the week, even those they disagree with or who live or look differently than they do.  Love does not dishonor others...

Imagine that those who say they have total faith in God left the political process alone, and trusted Him to choose our leaders, rather than ranting and raving about politics, supposedly in the name of Christ.   Love is not self-seeking; it is not easily angered.  Or imagine if they would stop yelling that we are a 'Christian nation' and would vote in a way that made us look like one; protecting those who are in need, caring for those who have less than we have, whether it be in material goods or in other ways that they need our care.

Imagine if we put our Love where our mouths are, and our tweets and messages and posts and words always reflected Christ's love in us.  If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

Imagine political ads that did not lie, did not brag, did not blast the opponent, but  doled out hope for the future.  Love keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

Imagine if we were committed to living the love of 1Corinthians 13 in the same manner that the great Olympic athletes are committed to their sport. Love always perseveres.

Imagine if we all lived in true non-violence, not allowing weapons of violence in our lives and home, whether in virtual or real form.  Love is always kind... love does not retaliate.

Imagine that our churches are as attentive and supportive of the people who walk through the doors, and who do not, as they are of their traditions.  For where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. But Love never fails.

What I see around me, and I am mostly surrounded by those who claim the Christian life, does not always reflect love. Sometimes, I just have to Imagine....

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Flower Moon

I confess that I have been fretting and worrying lately. I have the quite wrong notion that I am able to control life by worrying about it, I think. Of course, I know better, but I often forget. Sometimes God reminds me in lovely ways that He is in charge. Tonight there was a full moon, the closest this year to the earth. The news called it a "Super Moon." The Algonquin name for the May full moon is the "flower moon,' and I prefer that name.

I went outside and photographed the moon from my yard, coming up over our old trees. It was as big as it could be, and feeling very close to the tippy-tops of my trees. It reminded me of the verse I learned as a child: "While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease." (Genesis 8:22) It has always been one of my favorite verses, especially when I feel like life's events are spinning out of my control. It reminds me that Someone is in control, and that the moon will keep shining, as will the sun, and seasons will come and go without my having to program them or fret them into being.

The moon is lovely and bright here in Colorado. I'm sure if you look up, you will find that it is lovely and bright and that it will continue to shine where you are, as well.

Thank you, Lord, for this Flower Moon, and the for reminder it is of your control over our seasons and our world.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

There but for God's grace...

In the past week there have been several tragedies in my community that I am indirectly concerned with. A young man was murdered, for an unknown reason, and he was a friend of my dear friend's son. So my friend's family is deeply grieved and mystified.

On last night's news I heard that a homeless man was found dead, having drowned in a culvert. He had been 'heavily inebriated.' I knew this man briefly. He came to my door one day, distraught and wanting me to make a phone call for him for help. I made the call, and sat with him on the porch, as we drank a cool drink of water together and waited for his help to arrive. He was a quiet, seemingly gentle man. He also seemed to be very intelligent, educated, but overwhelmed by life. He had family in the area, and seemed to be homeless by choice. Our conversation only lasted half an hour or a bit longer, but I felt a connection to him. I have also felt overwhelmed by life, and felt a 'there but for the grace of God go I' reaction. I have prayed for him since that day last summer. So it was a shock and a source of great sadness to hear the news of his death and the sad circumstances that surrounded it. He had expressed a determination to keep away from substance abuse when we visited, and the call he had me make was to someone who would help him keep that resolve.

In both of these situations, there is a sense of having failed. My friend expressed to me that her son, and her whole family, wondered if they had done something differently, would the young man who was murdered still be alive. And I wonder, with the death of the homeless man, should or could I have done more for him than just pray for him? I truly don't know the answer to those questions, but I do feel that we have an obligation, a commitment, to the people around us. Jesus taught us that in the parable of the good Samaritan.

At this point, we can just grieve for these two men. But maybe that grief will, at least for a time, cause us to be more attentive to the people around us, to really attend to them; to see them and hear them and to see if they have needs we can help meet; to try to understand why God put them in our path, and to discover if there is a purpose in our interactions with them. We can attempt to be God's servants in our relationships, not just with those we are close to, but with each person we come in contact with. Who knows where that would take us, or what it would require of us? But I am sure it is how God wants us to live.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Need a Hero?

Ferdinand, who chose the Better Way

Wherever I turn for heroes these days, I am confronted with glock-wielding, explosion-happy, blood-curdling violence. Why do we admire those who create more fear and promote a Might is Right dogma? The violent way is the easy way. The hard way, the narrow path Jesus encouraged us to take,  is always the way that leads to peace and to love of those around us.

In His life on earth, Jesus told the story of a Samaritan who helped a Jew. They should have been natural enemies, but the 'enemy' was treated with kindness and respect. I don't know what others take from that parable, but I take a way of behaving that would always promote a heroic action of love in dealing with our fellow men, no matter who they are or in what situation we find them.

My Jesus is a pacifist. When those who would (and ultimately, did) do Him harm came to take him with force and violence, He reacted peacefully, even taking a sword from Peter, who wanted to react in the more common human way. Being the commander of an army of angels, He did not call on them to defend and protect Him, though He could have done so. Can you even imagine Jesus pulling a handgun from the folds of His robe in the Garden of Gethsemane, and saying, "Make my day!"?

So why, when we look for heroes, do we look to those who can carry the biggest weapons and blow the biggest holes in their enemies? Why do we not turn for our heroes to those who refused to return violence for the mistreatment they received? Why do we not lift up those who knew what Jesus meant when He said to 'turn the other cheek,' or to "love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you"? Why do those who can get so up in arms about abortion (which is something to get up in arms about) not get upset when those children are born, and raised in violence, and sent off to war to kill and be killed?

We need some heroes who will lead us and our children in the ways of peace. If we cannot learn to overlook our disagreements and differences, both in this country and in the world, and live with each other reacting and acting in loving and peaceful ways, we cannot help but continue on the path we are on; one that will lead  to a world none of us wish to see.

"Every war is both won and lost, and that loss is a pure high note of anguish, like a mother singing to an empty bed. No kind of bomb ever built will extinguish hatred." Barbara Kingsolver

Need a Hero? Go here to see who these are...

Note: I just looked back and see that many of my past posts are about peace. I don't think I will apologize for that, but I do have my reasons. I am still weaving the Peace tapestry commission. And also, I truly am concerned when all of the 'heroes' I see promoted, even in church situations, are those who have embraced violence in some way. How can I keep from begging us all to rethink our own actions and even whom we memorialize?

All we need is Love...... Love does not do harm to those around it.