Walking on water (Matt 14:25-31) is God’s invitation for me to move forward in life, through thick and thin. And it works very well as long as I am staring into the face of Christ. At that moment, I am not thinking about what’s going on around me or whether this is possible or not. I am only gazing intently into the face of the One whom I love so deeply, Christ Jesus.
This realization came about because I was having difficulty managing my own reaction to bad news. I am deeply affected by how we humans treat Father God; how we humans treat one another; how we humans treat the gift of our home, the Earth.
Oh, and I need to tell you that when I use the phrase, Father God, I am referring to all three persons of the Holy Trinity, not just God, the Father, Almighty.
What so often happens is that I allow myself to become focused on the problem and seem to forget the solution which is my Beloved Father God. I allow myself to become focused on what’s amiss and is paining me instead of moving into an intimate embrace of Father God.
Meditations of Quiet
I can step into His embrace simply by stopping my fretting and doing a quieting meditation on a particular passage of scripture. I often use Psalm 46:10 or John 14:6. I focus specifically on the words of action. For example from Psalm 46; Be STILL and KNOW that I AM GOD. Or from John 14; I AM the WAY the TRUTH, and the LIFE. These meditations help to bring me back to a focus on Father.
Meditating upon Father reminds me of several important things. First, that this world and her people aren’t my personal problem. The world is Father God’s project. The best that I can personally do is to speak to people one at a time through the artwork we make. Talking to people’s hearts is what the art that Father and I make is all about. Each book that we write, each painting that we make, each has an audience. It is Father’s Holy Spirit who prepares the hearts of individuals to receive His invitation of love. These preparations are Father’s role, not mine.
Second, and especially useful to me, is the power of just being still and quiet. That’s the terrific gift in Psalm 46:10 – “Be still and know that I am God.” This particular Psalm has several invitations into Father’s embrace. Whenever I am out of sorts, to be still is perhaps the most crucial inner state of being. To know – not in my head, but in my heart – is a confidence builder for me. It’s a commitment to trust Him; that Father has everything under control. I can relax and get on with my walking on water.
Writing & Journaling
I can also move into His embrace by writing in my two-way journal in which I have meaningful conversations with Father. What I enjoy about these times is the free exchange I have with Father. It’s as if we’re both in me – well, we actually are – and we’ve met at a heavenly coffee shop, and we’re chatting about what’s on our hearts.
Again, this communion with Father brings my eyes off the water upon which I am walking, and the many fish below who are living their lives, and it draws me into the loving eyes of Father God. When I am writing, just as I am right now, it’s as if I am transported to another place and time. It’s only Beloved and me with no one to disturb our peace.
Writing is, for me, the equivalent to ascending and seeing in the Spirit. That’s what I mean about being transported. It is in these states of being that exchange happens. It’s an intimate exchange, spirit to Spirit, a mystic union if you will. In these states of seeing and ascending, I can bring whatever is of concern to me and seek Father’s counsel.
The bottom line for me is that anything, whether writing or meditation, which draws my gaze and attention to Him is all that I need to continue walking atop the troubled waters of life. Gazing into His love and beauty reminds me that these matters aren’t my personal problem to solve. Falling into His embrace reminds me of the God-given gift that I am to the world and that the one thing I can do to make a difference is praying through the art that Father God and I make every day.
For more perspective on dealing with life challenges and difficulties, see my two-part post on the Crown of Thorns; Enduring Hardship; Love and Dignity.
When I was a youngster, I was just like all kids seem to be. I was energetic and impatient. When I was supposed to do a “project” I’d rush through it as fast as possible. I’d then gather up my “creation” and toddle off in search of praise despite the dripping glue and paint.
Even in college I was still working fast because in this American culture of ours; fast is rewarded. In my work in film & theatre, there were time crunches and budgets to maintain. The mentality was for high quantity, and the quality just needed to be “good enough” for the job at hand. My creative work was always pressed by either a budget, a deadline or both. It’s no wonder students of the creative arts are always asking the “old pros”, “So, where do you get your ideas?” The pressure to produce continuously is enormous. But alas, I digress.
Years later when I was in theatre leadership, I was the Production Designer for the company and its primary builder as well. I took my time on the designs because I had to enhance the context of the story. A good set does that, but our low-skill novices needed to be able to assemble it quickly. So there’s the dichotomy; meaningful beauty in a matter of a few hours of intense construction.
In these current years of not working for others, not working in a production context, I’ve slowed down a great deal. I’ve gradually moved from impatiently wanting to see the thing done, to actually savoring each and every stroke of brush, pen, or pencil. It’s been a wonderfully long journey that takes further steps every day.
The majority of this shift has been a movement away from a paradigm of quantity over quality, to the reverse; quality over quantity. I savor quality (or qualities) over quantity any day. I’m no longer a tin can being kicked along the road by the driving forces of production. For me quantity is so meaningless that I simply won’t tolerate it in myself.
As recently as this year, I’ve even stopped making quantities of Coptic-bound journals; why? because in the end it’s nothing more than a pile of product about which I have little care. What enjoyment did I get from that experience? Well, I enjoyed the collection and processing of upcycled papers and paste-board. I enjoyed ironing the paper and cutting it into sheets, and then folding them into signatures. I enjoyed the design elements I’d use on the covers; covering the boards and folding each corner with a binder’s fold. In short, I loved the process. But in the end, I was left with a pile of journals that I liked, but very few people wanted (or would buy). It was pleasant, repetitious, and productive. And while I’ve ceased making them for sale I still make all of my own journals and sketchbooks for personal use mostly. I don’t buy journals or sketchbooks anymore.
Instead, I make art books – that is books as objects of art. These are one of a kind, filled with meaning, and certainly not repetitious. With these “books”, anything goes, and I’m no longer making them for others. There’s no pressure to “produce” quantities of “product”. Each is filled with meaning and story.
The beautiful collage quilt blocks I used to make were also product. I began making single blocks, having researched thousands of quilt block patterns, and while each was unique, it soon became a production line effort.
It wasn’t until I began reincorporating story into my work that a far deeper satisfaction emerged. It’s what I was creatively hungry for but had so quickly forgotten. As a faith-driven artist, I just couldn’t see much of my relationship with God in the quiltblocks. I’m not knocking quilts or quilters, I love both. I’m simply saying that quilts just aren’t my medium, whether made in paper on masonite or in fabric. What I am knocking is my own impatience, and lack of savoring each moment of making. I was rushing to get the thing done and missing the point along the way.
How is it that I allowed myself to be pushed and shoved into a production mindset? What is it that I temporarily let go of? What did I forget about myself, who I am, why I make art, and for Whom?
I’ve had to relearn why I got into this “art-thing” in the first place. I’ve had to return to the foundations of what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. That’s why I remembered that I’m into story – I’m a storyteller and that is the kind of art I need to be making. I needed to quit listening to the “good advice” of well meaning others, and remember who and what I am before my Lord God.
I’m drawn to art that contains story. At minimum the work must contain some evidence of human beings. I don’t care if it’s a paring knife on a plate with a half-eaten apple, there’s a story in it. Someone’s been there. This development of story in my work has caused a dramatic slowing in my making. I “listen” more to the materials, to the piece being made, and to God’s insights in the making. I’ve come to the point of savoring every brush and pencil stroke; every knife cut and trim; every architectural element to be included in the work. I’m even savoring the mental planning process of thinking through how it’s going to be assembled; something of an old friend from my scenic design and stage directing days.
For me process, the acts of making, of thinking about making, of considering the meaning of what’s being made all merge into a kind of meditation or at least a contemplation. That’s the major reason I’ve slowed so much, and savor each moment of process so much more. I don’t want to miss anything, not a “flavor”, or a “smell”, or the whisper of insight God’s Spirit might share with me.
To my mind art, like faith in God, is not an intellectual/mental “thing”. Making, the process of making, is intimate, dynamic, deeply personal, uncertain, “messy”, but oh so precious. God and I commune in process. I worship Him in process. Sometimes I even feel a bit like John the Revelator who, being taken away in the Spirit, was shown things, deep things, and told to share what he’d experience with the world. It’s a privilege, a celebration, a joy.
It’s all in the process.