Creating Encounter in Colour: Gold

turtle-2081273_1280

I keep on digging, paddling my way into the wet demerara, this sea-soaked sand, hurriedly flinging it away with my flippers. Must dig, must dig, must lay eggs, must lay eggs. This is the only time I feel like a human, with their never ending desperation to get things done so that the next task on the list can hove into view, each one humming away, bee-like on a never-ending Caucus route, crossing things off in hopes of one day finding the finish line, unaware it is immovable and inevitably the casting off of this life.

It is a rare thing that is truly time-constrained. Birthing is one of them. And so I work hard to bury myself in this deep golden grain, the soft and yet abrasive descendants of Abraham remaining defiantly countless, but so many fewer than they ought, by rights, to be. I am sure God, who no longer counts sins, counts these little ones and knows each mustard seed by name.

Having hollowed this hallowed place, I would like to lie down here and die, I am beyond every resource. There is nothing left, but the work only half done. A few shallow groanings, and I divest myself of what has been waiting, all this time, to become treasure. Gelatinous albumen the casket, calcium crust the mantling lock, and inside the gold that will feed each tiny cold-blooded life.

Exhaustion is burning every cell now, and still the work must be completed, the children buried, the brown caramel topping covered and smoothed down. There must be no x marking the spot, that enemies can find them, and no way for this mother to return to the nursery. Here I must leave my heart, and these small beginnings, and hope with everything that is good and holy to encounter familiar seeming tiny turtles when I am traversing the ocean, seeing and recognising the glint in my own eyes before me. Somehow, I lift myself, and turn.

Text © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt  Photo from Pixabay

What Lies Beneath

yellowstone-953835_1920

When the undercurrent is forced up through cracks in the mantle, we act shocked, dismayed, as though it had not been us pouring our detritus into all the caves we found, pressing it down, forcing it in. As though we thought that our quarrying would never lead to collapse, and our fracking to fracture. As though our landfill might remain out of sight and mind and somehow disappear into another dimension, where we would not ever have to deal with it. And under all this too, radioactive cubes pulse and threaten. Contained in concrete, they nevertheless cry out in pain, singing their atomic song, living half lives beneath the seabed.

When the carpet cannot take any more of us walking over it, tripping us up with the bulges of everything we have swept underneath, when we find our heads brushing against the ceilings, we are so surprised. As though every ball of dust and angry word, every oppression and lie, were not one day going to ruck up and seek us out again. Had we not heard of karma, or understood the cyclical nature of things? We heard the gospel of seeking and finding, of reaping and sowing, and thought half of it only applied to other people. So, we bought ourselves treasure maps from charlatans, and the latest drilling equipment. We left our swords as they were, and invested in combine harvesters and pesticides, counting on technology to save us. Or else we stood in our glass palaces and scrabbled for as many stones as we could find, perfecting our throwing arms, keeping ourselves safe.

And now? And now, all the mouths we taped, the voices we silenced, the rivers we dammed, are coming to find us. Their words and songs are rising up and pouring out, and we do not have enough fingers between us to stop up the dyke. The ones who are not like us are coming, and they are strange and frightening. Because they are not all screaming, as we would. They are not all shouting for blood, as we would. They are not many, suing for damages, as we would.

They are softly shod and treading careful, they are listening to one another, like trees rustling messages through leaves and roots. They are letting the truth out, and cocking heads to one side in order to hear the bubbling flow that runs beneath every façade. Some of them are laughing. Actually laughing! And we do not know why. And when one of them stands up, they are quickly surrounded by others, holding hands, lifting hearts, raising roofs. And we do not know why. We cover our ears, because this seems a good policy. We call our brokers, and we lean on the movers and the shakers who have always taken care of us, because this is the only thing we know.

This other kind of power is annoying, like the buzzing of a thousand hives. We don’t know what it wants or what it might take from us. We will fight back. We will shoot in self-defence. But still they keep on coming. Rising up from the depths we sent them to. Writing their stories, singing their protest songs, firing up new generations with voices and guitars, with drums and pipes.

When they smile at us, when they reach out with work-worn hands, but gently, when they see the pain in our eyes and recognise it as a tiny reflection akin to their own, when they show us compassion, as though we might need it, when they talk to us in calm, loving tones of every man-named colour, and some we do not recognise, then, maybe then, we might take one step closer, for there is something here that smells of fresh water, something that sounds like birdsong, something connecting to our hearts like baby’s breath. Our tears begin to fall, and we do not know why.

© Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Pixabay

Creating Encounter in Colour: Gertrude’s Cloak

Heather

This winter cloak is cerisely the colour of cherry pie innards, loganberries and deep Scottish heather. A long, velvet brocade that drips with the heaviness of too much wine, dizzy with its own lushness. When she sits on the gilt throne, it drapes grape-ishly along the floor, curls coquettishly into heaving shoulders of patisserie layers, as though folding in on itself in mille-feuille delicacy.

Such lightness with such weight, and the King’s silver clasp that holds it on my lady, joining across hard sternum, is thorn to its roses, ringing bells discordant at mourning, a wedding feast too close on the heels of funeral meats. A heady aroma rises and falls here, undulating like the cloth, akin to Jesus’ gambled garment, which knows no seams.

Let us not be caught unawares by the forceful fragrance of crushed petals, the impassioned poisoned perfume of ambition. Not unsexed but fully rounded, seductive, the spell of a persuasive smile and the perfectly timed drip-dropping of venom into one’s ears.

So much read that is not there, even betwixt the lines, her character moulded and imagined by so many male players and professors over the centuries. Sister to Magdalene, even she does not know how she has been played, and enfolded in plans long laid out, enveloping more than her body, cloaking her in foul deeds.

 

Text © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt  Composite art by R R Wyatt  © used with permission.

Creating Encounter: In the Waiting

fledgling-2384598_1280

Today is Pentecost Sunday when we remember the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples gathered in a house in Jerusalem, traditionally thought to be ten days after Jesus had ascended to be with the Father. Ten days and nights of waiting must have seemed a long time. It must have been a strange time, too. It was so generous of the Risen Christ to spend time with them all over a forty day period before his Ascension to make sure they were all certain of the truth.   I wonder if he had only given them fleeting glimpses, there might have been moments or hours, especially when they were trying to sleep, when this band of people would have wondered separately if they had been deluded. Had they really seen the Christ risen from the dead? He made sure they had had ample opportunity to test it out for themselves, to see and even feel his wounds, before doing what he must have longed to do, to take those hard-won battle scars home.

It was almost too amazing to contemplate. And yet, that is exactly what they had time now, to do. To think it all over, to mull, cogitate, meditate on all that had happened during their time with Jesus, and to think on how the Scriptures had been fulfilled. It must have been a time filled with the wisdom of hindsight.  “So that’s why he said that!” “I wondered what he meant by that, and now it is becoming clear!” A time of sharing wisdom and ideas, a time filled as well with “What now?”  Because they all knew they’d been told to wait for something, but they didn’t know what.

Jesus had told them, “ ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.  For John baptised with water, but in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.’ “ (Acts 1: 4-5)

The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is when we say the Church was truly born. But I find that short gestation period when the worshippers all met together and prayed, just as fascinating. Those in between times, those waiting times, those times when we are holding on to faith that God will act but have no real idea of what he will do. Those times probably tell us more about where we are spiritually than how we react to outpourings of blessing.

I’ve read a sermon recently where Peter was criticised for backwards thinking in using some of this time to replace Judas with another disciple. But I think that if nothing else it showed great faith, because he was already preparing for the existence of the Church. He was already acting so that all he could do was in place. He knew that this was just the beginning.

In my life, it is a time of waiting on God. It has been for years, but right at this point there are a number of things which may or may not bring great change. Whilst it might seem like living in Limbo, or being sat motionless in the doldrums, the best way I can hold on to my faith is by preparing. I don’t know what for, any more than Peter truly did, but I can put as much in place as possible, so that when God moves, I know I won’t be totally ready, but I can be getting there. Like an athlete who knows there is going to be a competition, I can exercise and practice. Like a chick who has no idea what flight is, I can still follow that instinct to prepare to flap my wings and start venturing out along branches. However still the wind might be now, God is always about to breathe.

 

Text © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt Photo from Pixabay

Creating Encounter: Pots and Pans

water-flow-2464417_1920

My husband is the washer-upper in our house. I used to be able to do a bit now and again to help him, but at the current time am too weak. I can’t stand at the sink or repeatedly lift or wash the crockery. It’s hard for me to not be able to help him, but it is also a lesson in being grateful for him and all the ways in which he takes care of me and our home.

Washing up is hardly a creative pursuit, and like so many things in our daily routine, it is just a chore that has to be done. Even if you have a dishwasher, it needs loading and unloading. So, what does it have to do with creating encounter with God? Is he interested in us to such a degree that we can even meet him in a boring, repetitive task? I believe he is, and Brother Lawrence, a seventeenth century French Carmelite monk believed this too. He said, as did his Carmelite predecessor, Teresa of Avila, that God could be found “among the pots and pans.”

Don’t think that if you had a great deal of time you would spend more of it in prayer. Get rid of that idea! God gives more in a moment than in a long period of time, for His actions are not measured by time at all… Know that even when you are in the kitchen, Our Lord is moving among the pots and pans.” – St Teresa of Avila

The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament.” – Brother Lawrence

It is a question of devotion, of giving every moment and action, thought and deed, over to God, all about where your heart is focussed. It is something that needs to be practised, a gradual process, and a deliberate act. Even in the act of washing dishes, we can choose to meditate on God as potter, on treasures in clay jars, on the act of cleansing and forgiveness, the washing away of sin, on baptism, and so a common chore becomes a gateway into prayer, of setting one’s mind and heart on God. And even if we are not putting in any effort with such thoughts, but simply opening the activity and the time up to God, it is made holy.

And I make it my business only to persevere in His holy presence, wherein I keep myself by a simple attention, and a general fond regard to GOD; which I may call an actual presence of GOD, or to speak better, an habitual, silent and secret conversation of the soul with GOD, which often causes me joys and rapture inwardly….” – Brother Lawrence

As we make this spiritual practise every day which Brother Lawrence called “the practice of the presence of God” (also the title of the book in which his thoughts are collated), so we work through frustrations and it becomes second nature to us. We discover a wondrous thing, which is that even Fairy Liquid can become a sacred unction, and dirty dishes the holy articles of the Tabernacle. God is indeed everywhere, and all things belong.

text © by Keren Dibbens-Wyatt Photo from Pixabay

Prayer Shawls

229950_10151258457993665_1621351923_n

One of my ways of ministering is intercession. It started off with lists. Over the years I’ve tended to drop them, because whilst they mean I don’t forget anyone, they do tend to become a bit of a drone, without too much compassion behind the words. Instead I listen to what or who is on my heart and pray for one or two people at a time, though to be honest, the last few years have been so tough, there has probably been as much petition as interceding!

Crochet is a hobby of mine, when my arms are up to it, and when I discovered a book on making shawls for people whilst praying for them, it seemed like two of my favourite things had collided serendipitously. Prayer shawls seem to be more of a North American thing, but it would be lovely if they began to take off here in the UK too. There are various ways of going about it, and of course they can also be knitted (I’m far too uncoordinated to manage more than one hook).

Some people make shawls in a group, some alone. Some pray general prayers over their work and then ask God who it is going to, or wait for an opportunity to arise. They might hear of someone in need of comfort, someone grieving, or spending a lot of time in hospital, for example.  For my own practice, I ask God beforehand who the shawl is for, he and I pick a colour together, and then a pattern, which often have symbolic meanings. I pray very specifically for that person and their loved ones as I work. Because this takes some concentration, it is rather slower than making a normal piece of work, and so I am only on my fifth in about 8 years!

What’s been really interesting is the depth of the prayers when you are working like this with one person’s life specifically on your heart, and also the fact that God chooses, in some cases, people I would not have done if left to my own devices. He knows better than we do exactly who needs our prayers, and so it is good to feel that he Holy Spirit is leading the choices and entering into what might otherwise just be a hobby.

The finished articles might be less accurate than my usual work, even though everything I make tends to have wobbly edges (counting isn’t my strong point), but the recipients are always astonished that someone would do something so time-consuming and thoughtful, especially for them, and that God might have them on his heart.

One friend was diagnosed with bone cancer shortly after I had finished her shawl, but before I gave it to her. I know she has sat wrapped in it many times both at home and during treatment.  My current project, which is turning into more of a blanket than a shawl (I really should have looked more closely at the pattern), is for myself. I was extremely surprised that God wanted me to make one just for me, but although it isn’t quite finished yet, I think all those prayers have definitely helped me through a very troubled time, which also seems not quite over. Maybe without that concentrated petition, it would have been even harder.

Text and photo (me with my first prayer shawl) ©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

If you live in the US or Canada, your church may already have a prayer shawl ministry. Otherwise, this seems a good website, and there are any number of books out there with prayers and patterns.

 https://www.shawlministry.com/

Creating Encounter with God

called small by KDW

Our main theme at Lakelight Sanctuary for this year is going to be how we make space for God in our lives. This will include creative and artistic practices, but also how we invite God into the ordinary daily activities of our lives, like eating a meal, walking the dog, doing the chores.

If everything is indeed holy, then we can be sure that the sacred is willing and waiting to inhabit every part of our days and nights, as well as the works of our hands.

We want to be thinking about how to give everything over to God, whether big or small, and whether it is of our choosing or something that has been thrust upon us. We want, in essence, to explore what it really means to become “living sacrifices,” and to “pray without ceasing.” We hope you will join us on this learning journey.

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship.” (Romans 12:1 NIV)

“Rejoice always, 17pray without ceasing, 18give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18 ESV)

 

Artwork and text © by Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

On Being Six Months Old!

6 months

Our Lakelight website was launched half a year ago on July 21st 2017.  The first blog post went up on 5th August, and we’ve been posting a weekly piece ever since (bar one week due to the dreaded ‘flu!). It’s a good time to stop and think about where we are headed, and to thank all our readers, who have dropped in from as far afield as Canada and Vietnam.

To begin with it became clear that Lakelight is a place for truth-telling, where in our Foundations series we examined with grace, the things we as Church and as individual Christians, could do better. And by better, we mean, with love at the centre. A place, too, for building up good practices now that we have cleared the way by being transparent about our ethos of standing with the poor and downtrodden, and eschewing the comfortable and self-satisfied.

Secondly we feel, with Paul, that it is time to embrace being “scum of the earth” apostles, to be concerned more with heart and soul, and less with the fascia of things –  the shiny white teeth and perfect Powerpoint presentations. Instead we want to focus on being counter-cultural by the virtues of reverence, slowing down, listening, holding space, creating encounter with a loving God, and being aware, even as we say what we believe in our hearts needs to change, that this too, should be done in a spirit of good humour and of edifying one another.  This is our focus now in our “Building Lakelight” series, as we begin to explore positive goals.

Sadly, Keren’s own health continues to decline, and it seems she has less and less strength and stamina than ever. This makes the task of creating Lakelight as a charity, adding more to the website, and planning for the day God makes our sanctuary a reality, a difficult one. But that vision remains in her heart, and we will continue to work towards it, albeit in tiny increments.

We thank you all for your commitment and support and ask for your prayers in growing Lakelight into what it is called to be, by the grace of God.

Keren and Rowan, January 2018

photo from Pixabay

On Endings

river-3039546_1280

As the year draws to a close, I am conscious that the Lord has been showing me over the last few months that endings are just as important as beginnings. Indeed we cannot have one without the other, just as we cannot have spring unless the winter precedes it.

Like a relationship, perhaps the old year is also something to end well, before we can begin a new one. Sometimes we have a tendency to run headlong into making resolutions and saying good riddance to the year gone by without having processed things that have happened, or examining where we stand.

Maybe it would be a good practice to keep stillness and silence for a while and look back over the year, taking it all to God in a prayer of examen, seeing what needs to continue and what may be safely left behind, learning before we leap onwards.

This is why we had 14 pieces on how we were not going to run Lakelight, before we started looking in this blog at what we are going to be doing. It is important sometimes to clear the decks, set things in readiness, dig out the foundations, and take a deep breath, before anything new can be set in motion.

This is especially true in our spiritual lives. How can we begin to love, if we have not ended hate? And how can we live peacefully, if we are still suffocating in anxiety? Of course, because the world is cyclical, love itself, along with peace, will help drive out hate and fear, but we have to begin with the (beginning of the) ending. There is no resurrection without crucifixion. I have found this palpable in my preparation for the writing ministry I believe I am coming into. I have had to let go of my intelligence, in order to receive wisdom. To loosen the hold on the strings of my ambitions, in order to begin desiring God’s will.

At the heart of all this talk of endings and beginnings is the idea of kenosis, or self-emptying, which Jesus lived out for us by taking on human form. It is another way of talking about humility, of realising who and what we are, in relation to an infinitely wonderful God, and then taking our very small place in the scheme of things.

So, 2017 has been a year of ups and downs, no doubt, for all of us. There have been beginnings and endings. Some people or animals we loved are no longer with us, this year has been the year of their passing. We will carry that heartbreak the rest of our lives. Some problems have started to show their faces, a diagnosis perhaps, or a troubling crack in a relationship, maybe even a doubt in our faith. Many things will never be the same again. Others are just beginning, a new love, a new venture, a new way of seeing.

2017 is the year that Lakelight began to take shape, becoming a website and blog alongside the vision in my mind. I don’t know what the Lord has in store for it or us in 2018, but I will trust in the God who knows our beginnings from our endings, rather than myself, who has trouble telling my elbow from, well, other anatomical parts. Thank you for being a part of this beginning. I pray that you will have a great ending to 2017 and a wonderful beginning to 2018. God bless us, every one!

Happy New Year!

On Christmas

nativity-1898554_1920

It’s Christmas Eve, and all over the house, not a creature is stirring, apart from parents desperately trying to wrap everything, get as much prepared for the feast as possible, not wake the kids and make sure everything is perfect. They might flop into bed for a few snatched hours before the children rise bright eyed and expectant, sweet for a little while, but soon to become sugar-fuelled tornadoes.

Christmas has become a sort of monster, a festive mouth yawning wide with tinselled teeth, waiting to devour all our time, money and energy. For many in the west, it has become a time when we are surrounded by abundance, and yet cannot find the peace or the joy at the heart of it all. We know it’s there somewhere, maybe it’s the present that is buried right at the back of the tree, under all the piles.

For others, there will not be enough this year. There might be fewer presents. Someone who should be here is not. A job, or an opportunity may have got lost somewhere along the year, and honestly, it’s a miracle there’s even a bag of sprouts. Others are all alone, facing another special day with only the tv for company and a ready meal for one as their feast. Still others are too ill to enjoy anything, or are in hospital or deployed in another country.

Even for those who seem to have it all sorted, no matter how bright the lights, how big the turkey, how tall the tree, something is not quite right with all this. There is an emptiness at the heart of it all. We’ve forgotten why we are doing  it, and we all feel as though we are missing out.

I think we have been got at by the spirit of Anti-Christmas, which seeks to wrap nothing very much in a swathe of santa paper and glitter, to con us with tinsel, to distract us with bargains until we are dizzy with the meaningless expense of it all.

Oh, we all know what it’s supposed to be about, the joy of the saviour’s arrival, a little baby born in a stable, we know the nativity story and we might even be singing, or watching our children sing, some of the festive carols. We bluster about keeping Christ in Christmas and we bristle when we are made to say Happy Holidays or Season’s Greetings, but do we have any real idea why?

The real scandal of Christmas, the truth that the enemy cannot stand, the reason that he tries to draw our eyes away with schmaltz and sparkle, is that the Christmas story is about the upside down kingdom of God. Christmas is about the impossible made real, the scandal of God incarnate screaming his new lungs out in an animal trough, the scandal, really of God’s grace, the foolishness of giving the world his heart on a plate, the unspeakable risk of it, the audacious vulnerability of birthing himself into poverty, into a place where the world will seek almost immediately to murder him: the pouring himself forth into our poor, stricken, greedy, violent lives.

It is ludicrous, and yet it makes perfect sense. Our holy God, accepting such smallness, the infinite restricting himself to the tiny. The Word becoming a speechless child. It paves the way for the Prince of Peace to be violently killed. It tells us that we serve a self-emptying, obedient, impossibly loving God who will risk everything, suffer everything, with us. Immanuel, the incarnation, born of a poor maiden, into a world that can’t even be bothered to make room for him.

The wonder of it is too much for our hardened hearts to understand, most of the time. We never come close to grasping it. We could meditate on it all year round and still be left shaking our heads in perplexed awe.

I don’t know how we can pass up the trappings and frippery of Christmas in order to actually focus on the real gift we are being given. Maybe we don’t need to, some of them, after all, are fun, and Jesus is certainly something worth celebrating! “What about the children?” or “We are doing if for the children!” is what we cry out in defence of our traditions. Well, that’s fine. But lets’ do the right things for the right reasons, for our children. Maybe we can simplify things a little, so that there is more time. Maybe we can give gifts where they are really needed. There are a million blogs out there today that will tell you how. I’m not concerned about that. We can all celebrate how we would like to.

All I want for Christmas is for people to be released from the pressure of the fantasy of the “perfect” Christmas, and into the truth that God is with us and God is for us. God is prepared to burst screaming onto a hay-strewn floor, prepared to learn to walk and talk, prepared to spend time with us, prepared to be vulnerable, patient, loving, kind, generous, in the face of our selfishness, prepared to suffer, prepared to die for us, prepared to give himself up for love even if nobody ever notices or even thanks him. He is prepared to be the child born to a couple far from home behind a hotel. He is even prepared to be the unseen miracle at the heart of a winter feast. May we each of us catch a glimpse of his holy humility this Christmas.  God bless us, every one.

 

”In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

 

Who, being in very nature God,

did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;

rather, he made himself nothing

by taking the very nature of a servant,

being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man,

he humbled himself

by becoming obedient to death—

even death on a cross!

 

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place

and gave him the name that is above every name,

that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,

in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,

to the glory of God the Father.

 

(Philippians 2: 5-11 NIV)

Text © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt, photo from Pixabay