Creating Encounter in Colour: Sunflower

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A golden amphitheatre, a cloud of witnesses to the movement of the sun, charioting its way across the heavens.

Such an eye, and what seeing, beholding with your compound vision, the wonders of the above, and then folding in on yourself once the light fades, to contemplate all that has passed before you, storing the treasure up for later.

As you age, you learn that facing the right way is just one aspect of life, and you may safely receive whilst gazing even at the ground. Everything is, after all, soaked in the sacredness of sky. Countenance shining from holy transference, glowing with God, a Mosaic face, blessed by glory.

Spiralling seeds begun here will feed us, and flocks of birds, with concentrated wisdom. The sun’s sagacity caught and held, the wisdom of a blooming marvel. All of this within a head that knows when to adore and when to bow, how to let inner green and beauty go, thence to shrivel into ingredients for angel seed cake, still captivating every painter’s heart.

Text © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt  Photo from Pixabay

Creating Encounter in Colour: Rainbow Trout

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Speckled rainbow breathing water and knowing better than we do how to let it flow, gills gently moving in and out. Skin that reminds me of the surface of puddles settled under cars, driven off and leaving swathes of oily colour. Did God paint you to remind us of his promises, made to all life, no exceptions? Or have you just absorbed so much of the spectrum in your swim, bathing in pools kissed by sunlight, that it cannot help but ooze out?

Gliding in places we cannot find, secret eddies and glittering ponds fringed with the long tears of the willow that tinge and tickle your spotted hide with olive green, you spend your days gilded by mystery. You flick your fronded tail at disgruntled anglers, speeding past them with your raspberry stripes, making me glad we are now fishers of people, and can let you wend your rivery way onwards, supple and gleaming.

© Keren Dibbens-Wyatt  Photo from Pixabay

Creating Encounter in Colour: Gold

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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

Creating Encounter in Colour: Yellow

yellow by Kate Kennington Steer for colour blog

Clutched tight, all that treasure, in the bud, now blooming as you open up and let go, and realise that all that gift is for giving, and none of it is worth a damn holed up, sepalled shut and lightless. The worth is in the shining, the reflection, the golden glow of a countenance brightly lit, prayer dripping from you as honeyed light

At first it seems that you will never be done with opening. Row upon row of eager sharkish teeth, pointing up delicate satin flintish arrows to indicate the way. Circles falling over one another to begin. Green transformed by the sun’s sacred alchemy into gold as it passes from the centre ever nearer the precipice of edge, fearlessly dancing further and further out.  Living with such abandon, the brightness of your seamless mandala changes us too, as we gaze on glory ever changing to glory.

 

Text © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt  Photograph by Kate Kennington Steer  © used with permission.

Creating Encounter in Colour: Fireball

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I hold in my hand a ball of flame so hot and fiery, so vast and powerful, that it is rightly to be marvelled at. It is all your troubles, my beloved, called into flame. For just as a candle melts away as it burns, matter will always be transformed into different energy.

In the same way, all your sorrows and tears will become light for the world. Inside the white-hot sphere, at the centre of this new sun, swirls the rainbow that makes up the spectrum of your sufferings, and the hues hewn from hurt become a dance of joy, colliding colours in a kaleidoscope of changing shapes and patterns the universe has always known.

You read the desert father’s advice, “Why not become flame?” and you heeded it. Rest your weariness here in the palm of my hand, and grow with my powerful love even as you are rightly consumed.

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

Creating Encounter: Sculpture

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I have an unlikely ambition for someone as weak and disabled by chronic illness as I am; I should like to sculpt. I have ideas for wood, stone and bronze, that would be pieces of interactive art. I don’t know if they will ever be a reality, and if I ever did have the space and resources, it would be most likely that someone else would have to do the lion’s share of the work. Nothing is impossible with God of course, but some things do seem so far removed from likelihood as to be, not so much pie in the sky, but as we say in our house, flan on the moon.

What is the appeal of sculpture, and how might we let God teach us through it? I think that the idea of carving a substance until it is exactly the shape it ought to be, the one we envisage in our minds or imaginations, is a great analogy for understanding how our Father shapes each one of us, if we will allow ourselves to be moulded by his artist’s hands. The Bible speaks of him as the potter, with us as the clay, and we can take great hope from this idea, knowing that when God throws a pot, no matter how it initially splats on the wheel, or how lopsided it might look during the spinning, when the master is done with us, we will be perfectly ourselves.

The same is true if we see God as the great sculptor, finding us as a slab of marble and hewing us into some kind of rough shape before chipping away and then smoothing us out into the shape that was hiding in the grain of the stone all the time. Michelangelo said, “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” as well as, “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”

Perhaps when we learn to see with God’s eyes we might be able to perceive the angel that is standing before us in the marble of our fellow human beings, and even occasionally to glimpse them in the mirror. For some reason, God has decided that our true selves are worth setting free, and however hard it is to let him keep on working upon us until that image arises out of the raw material, it will be worth it in the end.

Maybe we might even consider the work of kenosis or self-emptying as giving God free rein with the chisel, and accept that a great deal needs to be let go. Once our outer defences and ego are chipped away, maybe an angel might step out into the light. For God, that beautiful person was there all along, and the layers that trapped him or her, were no barrier to his sight.

For the first forty years of my life, I doubted there was a writer hidden away in me. For the first forty-four, I had no idea I was an artist. Do you think one day God might uncover the sculptress too? What wonders are hiding in you, that might be set free by heavenly hands chiselling away at your earthly rock?

 

Text © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt Photo from Pixabay

Creating Encounter with God

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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 Not Trying Very Hard

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A number of times lately I’ve seen memes or quotes on social media telling me that God can sort my life out if I knuckle down, keep at it, or work hard. Transformation, it appears, is totally in my hands. But this just isn’t true, because, here is something a little shocking to some: the work ethic has no place in Christianity. That rocks our insides doesn’t it, that place deep down that’s been brought up on “God helps those who help themselves”?   What I have found, both in my own spiritual journey and in my reading of scripture, is that one of the things most likely to get in the way of our maturing in the faith is our own striving. Striving absolutely negates the power of grace in our lives. It’s not that God wants us to be lazy, this too is to miss the point. He wants us to understand that anything we try to do out of our own power and capabilities is doomed to failure, or will simply lead us further into the mire. “Apart from me you can do nothing,” Jesus tells us (John 15:5).

One of the Parables Jesus tells that most confuses and upsets people, including those he told it to originally, is the Parable of the Vineyard Workers. We find it unfair and unjust that someone who has only done five minutes work gets paid the same as those who have been slaving away under the hot sun all day. It grates. But this is to misunderstand the nature of mercy, and the quality of God’s generosity. It is part of his loving perfection to give without counting, to bestow without expecting anything in return. He gives, and we receive. That is the only heavenly transaction. For what do we have to give that can enhance the maker of all things? And what do we have to offer that didn’t first come to us by his hand? We only choose to love him with hearts that he fashioned, and to work with time and effort that were originally given to us. All of this is flow, and it begins in love, moves in love, has its being in love and returns home to love. Talk of rewards and wages, of deserving and entitlement have absolutely nothing to do with it.

“Trying is the first step towards failure,” Homer Simpson famously said, and he is, in so many ways, spot on. We don’t become more holy, more in tune with God, more like him, by any effort of our own, but by giving ourselves up to him. We grow into God by letting go, not by grabbing hold. We must decrease, he must increase, just as John the Baptist described. And so, it is not about trying, but focussing on the one needful thing, setting our eyes, hearts and minds on the threefold unity that is our Trinitarian God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. To sit and gaze adoringly, to learn at his feet, to let her move us to her tune. If it were solely about putting the hours and the effort in to reap kingdom results, then pastors and ministers would not suffer from burnouts and breakdowns.

We must learn to live in the flow of God. If we give him our empty cups, he will fill us to overflowing, though probably not in any way we were expecting. If we are only pouring out from our own resources, there will be no abundance, only exhaustion. Think of how this applies to prayer. If we screw up our eyes as tightly as we can, and really try hard, will that get us any closer to the Lord? We are more likely to give ourselves a headache. Better to relax, to say, “Your will, not mine,” and surrender to the gift of his presence. Hearing the still, small voice is not about straining to hear, but about becoming open and aware enough to notice it beneath the roar of the world. When we release all our neediness, we will find the one thing we truly need.

© Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2017 Picture from Pixabay

On Not Being History Makers

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There are lots of self-discovery books and courses out there in the wide world. Some of the Christian ones are worth a look. When younger, I found John Ortberg’s “The Me I Always wanted to be” helpful as well as Bruce Wilkinson’s “The Dream Giver,” Joyce Meyer’s “How to Succeed at Being Yourself: Finding the Confidence to Fulfil Your Destiny” and Rick Warren’s ubiquitous “The Purpose Driven Life”. But I would caution people against getting gung-ho about pursuing their identity and purpose in the Lord. For just as it worries me to see churches investing so much time and energy in mission statements and vision steering committees instead of studying Acts and investing in unity, discipleship, mission and prayer; so it worries me too that many spiritual writers seem to think that we need to ask God for a mountain to climb, a hard path to travel or a monster to slay. Besides which, I want to be the me God wants me to be. That might be something quite different than I imagine. And my “destiny” might be to just sit in this room and pray a couple of times a day. It’s not often stuff that would make Cecil B. De Mille drool, is it, this life?

No, the Christian path, it seems to me, is quite hard enough as it is. The Lord and his guidance are easier to find if you approach them with a humble heart, meekly and in the knowledge that if there’s a mountain to climb, he will show you the way to the foothills first. Likewise, if there’s a great task to be accomplished, it will begin most likely in frustration, with a need for faith and trust. Let’s not rush things and ask for great things to do, we shall only fall at the first hurdle and feel like idiots. God shall say gently, “See?” and pick us up from the dust. Only give him your heart and your will, and all shall become clear. These are small and difficult enough beginnings.

Besides which, our destinies may end up looking from the outside, far less dramatic than some modern texts would have us believe. Let us not forget that Jesus described our role in the world as that of yeast and salt; unseen and unnoticed influences for the most part. Yeast works slowly and steadily to change things, it does not announce its presence from mountaintops.   Christians are most noticeable, for the most part, by their absence. A wonderful exposition of this point is found in Dennis Lennon’s book “Weak enough for God to use.”

We are inclined to look over the head of the commonplace, searching for divine fireworks in the night sky. But the Creator loves his Creation and honours it by coming to us clothed in its familiar ordinariness.”

For some of us, the heroics of the day will be getting our elderly mother onto the commode, or biting our anger back when she accuses us of eating the dessert she had half an hour ago and now cannot remember eating. The legacy we leave the world might be the patience and kindness we show when our alcoholic brother has snuck out of the house with our credit card for the fourteenth time. The good example we lead by could be the silence we choose not to fill with raging expletives in front of the children when their new puppy has shredded the cushions again. These might seem like small things, but they are not. It is in these holdings and gentlings, this giving space and forgiveness, that we are being Christlike, rather than in any great visible achievement.

This is why real love is our greatest teacher. Not the romantic ideal of fairy tales, or the apparent perfection touted on the cover of Hello magazine, but the down-in-the-depths, dealing with chronic illness, trying to do our best by people who will never appreciate it, thinking of small kindnesses, saying prayers for which no-one will ever congratulate us, sitting with someone we have never seen before or will ever see again whilst they wait for an ambulance, listening to the same story ten times in one hour from a loved one with Alzheimer’s and smiling with them each time, kind of love. These are opportunities to be ambassadors for Christ, and when we miss them, we miss some of the greatest chances we will ever have to grow in love.

Each tiny act of kindness, of calming our own inner turmoil before replying, of counting to ten and smiling, these are the stones, or even pebbles* on which Christ builds his church. I do not find it helpful when we are made to feel failures because we have not become missionaries in Lesotho or surgeons working for Médicins Sans Frontières, or when we read something that makes us feel like we missed our vocation in life because we didn’t get ordained or write a thesis on transubstantiation. Whilst all those things are wonderful, most of us aren’t going to be doing that. And that’s okay, and we didn’t necessarily get it wrong or miss the way.

We have ample chances each day to live out the love of God, and some of them we’ll miss. Others we’ll hit out of the ball park and no-one but him will see. It is not about being seen. It’s about the loving. And in that loving, we become the Body of Christ, a very real ordinary flesh becoming sacred “transubstantiation” ourselves. We may never be mentioned in the history books, but our names are written in another book, and that one will turn out to be far more important.

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt Photo from Pixabay

(this piece was adapted from a section in my 2015 book, “Positive Sisterhood”).

 

*When Jesus renames Simon as Peter, he uses the word petros, meaning a small rock or pebble, such as might be found along a road, but then goes on to use the word petra, meaning a mass or foundation of rock, in the same sentence, as the base on which he will build the Church. “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” Matthew 16:18 NIV

 

On Not Knowing

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At the present time, I have to have some medical tests. I’m not looking forward to them, or the results. When I get them, then I’ll discuss a way forward with my doctor. For now, I am living in a place of not-knowing, full of “what-if?”s and “how-will-we?”s. Like for those poor folk in the Caribbean and Florida waiting to see what devastation Hurricane Irma continues to wreak, the outcomes are all unknown. But I’m finding that being a contemplative is good training for this. I am used to living with unknowns and uncertainties.

“The cloud of unknowing” is the name that one anonymous mystic in the fourteenth century put to the experience of trying to get to know God. Prayer is full of our own ignorance. It has to be, else there would be no room for coming to know God, who is fundamentally unknowable.

Two small paragraphs in, and already we seem tied in knots of contradiction and even paradox. But that’s what living the Christian life with any dedication is like. The depths of our ignorance, when plumbed, can awaken in us a desire to know God more fully. Faith can only really begin to grow in a place empty of our own sense of certainty. It needs space to grow, its own plot or belly in which to gestate. The knowing of God spreads out its wings into that emptied space, and makes itself comfortable. It nests.

We can only make room for obedience when we self-empty and embrace humility, and even suffering, like Christ, who “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2: 6-7 partial ESV). We can then, beginning this process, say to God, “I do not know what is happening or what will happen, but I choose to trust you.”

All of our not-knowing comes down to the fact that we acknowledge that we are not in control of anything. Control is just another illusion in life, like success and power. The fact is that we do not know what is going to happen in our lives in the next five minutes. And when we first face that, it seems scary. But in actual fact, it is quite a freeing thing, as is getting rid of any falsehood.

We can then see, or decide to believe, that there is only one thing that is by any means certain, and that is the goodness of God. That’s it. His being, his eternity, his character, these are the foundations of any sure and certain hope we have. The same goes for all the wondering on why things are the way they are. This is the reason I spend my whole life attempting to make way for his truths and spend hours of my day rooted in stillness to get to know him better. Because right at the core of everything, whether I have bad results or good, it is the only knowing that matters.

© Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2017 Picture from Pixabay