Creating Encounter in Colour: Fireball

Fire Sphere

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 in Colour: Mud Bath

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God calls me into the loam pit, and I wonder at its name. Here is a place that sounds like home and is full of nutrients to drink up through my roots, to softly connect into with my mycelia. I sink and softly twist into the mud, as though I were truly the tree that I am being called to be, or perhaps a holy hippo, ready to roll and languish in the squelching goodness.

Brown the cool earth, the colour of everything mixed together, all skin colours and barked armour broken down into a melted pot of delicious oneness, so that none can claim difference to lord it over others, nor does anyone feel they do not belong.  Here we partake of the crib and the cross, the stillness of forests, the ages of oak and olive, the rotted matter of long gone leaves, we revel in the richness of all that has fallen apart, and prepare for resurrection.

Text © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt  Photo from Pixabay

Creating Encounter in Colour: Honey

Hunny Bear

They are gentle souls we slip into like a gateway to that idyllic childhood we never had, always patiently waiting. He sits spooning hunny from one pot into another, often missing by way of his mouth.  A bear does need to eat after all, and there is quality control to think of.

Like Jonathan in the forest, your eyes will sparkle anew on eating the sacred gathered gold poured from flowers. Tea and story time is all a-drip with butter, honey and imagination, running and plentiful, deliciously treacled on toast, drizzled on scones and sustaining us through the reality of being grownups, which, frankly, is bothersome.

And in the middle of Rabbit’s rabbiting and Owl’s pontificating and Eeyore’s gloom, unperturbed by Tigger’s bouncing and Roo and Kanga’s family, holding hands with Piglet’s blinching, is rotund saffron Pooh, calmly joyful and serene, reminding us that wisdom and tolerance are better than even just a little brain.

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

 

Creating Encounter: Story

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Two writer friends, Amy and Fiona, asked an interesting question on social media this week. Will there be books in heaven? My first response was to think, of course, but no Jeffery Archer. Which just goes to show how quickly our instincts fly to exclude those we don’t deem worthy. But I think that probably it is God who chooses the stock for the libraries of heaven, just as he decides who gets to sit where at the feast.

As a writer myself, and someone who was an avid reader when I was well, I can’t imagine an existence without books. When I was tiny, nothing was so magical as sitting cross-legged on the library floor, transported to another world. We are wired for story, and it has a deep and presiding influence in our lives and learning. We learn about good and evil from fairy stories, whilst myth and legend help us to understand life by stretching overarching narratives across it, like skin on a drum frame.  Archetypes, heroes and villains are all helpful tools for navigating reality, and story can be both fiction and non-fiction. We talk, don’t we, about Bible “stories” and we read about the lives of famous people and saints formulated as story in biographies and autobiographies.

How we narrate our own lives, how we tell our story to ourselves and others, is a hugely important thing. We might see ourselves as victim or hero, and more often than not, write a triumphal narrative into the facts, whether it exists or not, because we need to have hope that it all works out in the end. Meaning is the mainstay of a human life, and story gives it to us.

What heaven is like, is something we can have great fun imagining. I feel sure that whilst we are coming home to God when we die, and finding union with his loving being, that we are also going, on some level, to keep becoming more truly ourselves, and that implies that there will continue to be an element of growth. Story, learning and creativity will always play a part in that.

When God has been gracious enough to give me glimpses of my heavenly future, I have always been doing something creative. Embroidering altar cloths as I minister to the broken, or kneeling on the back of a lapis lazuli sky, etching intricate patterns and words into its surface.  We serve a creative God and I think this reflection of who he is in our beings will be part of what is next. Added to which, I truly believe that the stories I have written have been given to me during the stillness of deep prayer. They sadly have the mark of my human expression that cannot capture God’s heart well, but they feel like a holy endeavour.

If we ever, like Richard Dawkins, begin to think that story is superfluous, and that fiction is about lies, rather than heavenly magic, we might do well to remember that Jesus chose to teach us, not by dissecting the universe into facts, nor by preaching clever theology, but by telling stories.

Text © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt Photo from Pixabay

Creating Encounter: Birdwatching

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Having a sedentary life enforced upon me, and being very rarely able to leave the house, even to venture into our small garden, the birds that visit our feeder outside our kitchen window are a spiritual lifeline and blessing of huge proportions.  I don’t think that that Jesus told us to consider the birds only as a lesson in God’s provision and deep care, but also because they are joy-bringers. Our hearts lift and soar as we watch them flying, and to see one of the Father’s bright and beautiful creatures up close is an encounter that opens our heavenly eyes.

When we can look at a bird, however small, and however dull its plumage, and see God’s handiwork, we enable an encounter with the maker of heaven and earth that is transformative. The subtlety of a sparrow’s myriad of brown hues, or the breath-taking iridescence of a starling or pigeon’s neck feathers, or the stunning colours on a goldfinch, are gateways into wonder. This awe has only increased as I journey deeper into being an artist, for the ultimate artist has his masterpieces gliding all around us, and his skills are phenomenal.

Watching birds is also something that pretty much everyone can enjoy. If you have access to a view of any kind, even just one small window can be an entry point for the song and the sight of our feathered friends. Here is one of the pieces from my book “Garden of God’s Heart” to illustrate the point I am trying to make:

Blue Tit

 

“A bubbly sing-song bird, bright and true, sky blue and sunshine yellow, your only hope of camouflage is high against a summer cloud. But who would hide such a treasure, a darling bud, a chirping, lively flitter between trees, between worlds? Heaven painted you with a lapis hood and cloak, and clothed you in a buttery jerkin, to bring cheer and loveliness to any dreary heart, and hope in goodness to any unbeliever.”

text © by Keren Dibbens-Wyatt Photo from Morguefile

Creating Encounter: Poetry

 

Poetry books

A lot of people think of poetry as a sublime art form, a reaching into the metaphysical for eternal truth. They think of Shelley and Keats, of Plath and Bukowski, perhaps not of Pam Ayres and Roger McGough. Poets really ought to be lounging in smoking jackets with eyes shut in imaginative ecstacies, or writhing in the throes of suicidal depression, not normal people with, say, toddlers running around their feet, or standing in the kitchen gazing out of the window at geraniums.

The truth is that poetry is always sublime, even when it is ridiculous, and that absolutely anyone can be a poet, just as anyone can be a writer. It is harder to be a good poet, of course, and completely subjective. One of my very favourite poems consists of two words, is entitled “Fish” and by Ogden Nash:  “Wet pet.”

When it comes to using poetry as a place to create encounter with God, we have some wonderful precedents. I would urge you to take a look at Daniel Ladinsky’s translations of spiritual greats, “Love Poems From God,” which gives us truly beautiful renderings of the verse of poets, mystics and saints.

I personally often write poems at times of great personal distress or ill humour, because I find the writing process cathartic, and prose just doesn’t seem able to contain depths of pain in such a concentrated way. At the same time I ask God to meet me in that pain, and the words therefore often feel like the results of encounter.

Writing poetry can be a form of prayer, and in fact, the central point of this series is that everything can, though perhaps creativity in particular.  If we are ever in doubt that poetry is a holy endeavour, we might read some Gerard Manley Hopkins. For me, he was the master of spiritual poetry.

Poets who frame pain in beauty, like Alice Walker and Maya Angelou (two more masters) are talking in spiritual language for me, even where they are deeply grounded in earthly happenings and visceral words. My husband and co-founder of Lakelight, Rowan Wyatt, is a wonderful poet and I hope he will share something of his process later in this series.

The writing of poetry can also be open to God in the sense that we are trying to find the words to form order out of chaos, matter from the void. Trying to clothe with the flesh of words, things that seem unsayable. We worship the Creator God and the Great Redeemer, who can help us shape our clay even as we work with feeble fingers. Giving God the process, asking him in, dedicating the words that form in the silence to him, all make space for encountering his character and his truths.

To illustrate that I’ll end this piece with one of my absolute favourite poems,

SAINT FRANCIS AND THE SOW  BY GALWAY KINNELL

The bud

stands for all things,

even for those things that don’t flower,

for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;

though sometimes it is necessary

to reteach a thing its loveliness,

to put a hand on its brow

of the flower

and retell it in words and in touch

it is lovely

until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;

as Saint Francis

put his hand on the creased forehead

of the sow, and told her in words and in touch

blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow

began remembering all down her thick length,

from the earthen snout all the way

through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,

from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine

down through the great broken heart

to the sheer blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering

from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking and blowing beneath them:

the long, perfect loveliness of sow.

 

Galway Kinnell, “Saint Francis and the Sow” from Three Books. Copyright © 2002 by Galway Kinnell.

Creating Encounter: Pots and Pans

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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

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 A Word for the Year

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Lots of Christians now participate in this practice, which began as a non-religious idea. The gist of the whole thing is that you pick a word, just one, that is about what you want to focus on for the year, rather than making a whole list of resolutions that get left by the wayside along with the diet. First mooted by the One Word 365 team, it was then picked up by the Church. In the Christian version, called My One Word, set up by Mike Ashcraft and Rachel Olsen, the blurb goes as follows:

The first step is to simply take some time and decide what kind of person you want to be at the end of this year… What are the qualities of the person you want to become? Once you have a list of the characteristics, simply pick a word..”

We choose a word, and use that as an intention for the year.  I’ve done this every New Year since 2015, but with the proviso that the word is chosen, not by me, but by God, and communicated to me by the act of listening prayer.

This year I wasn’t going to do it, but my word came relentlessly anyway. It is “broken.” This highlights the first inherent danger of the practice, which is that without listening in, leaning in to the word that we are given, or choosing it for ourselves, we might miss what it is really speaking to us. There was a heartsink moment with this word, I admit, until God told me that it was about being broken open, about breakthroughs, about hatching.

I’m all for anything that helps us learn to be still and listen to the Lord, and I think this aspect ought to be highlighted in the materials, rather than people choosing their own word, however prayerfully.  Because another danger is that we may well end up choosing or even hearing what we want to hear (and this can happen via our subconscious even in contemplation if we are not vigilant). We might choose a lovely, positive word like “Blessings” and not really let it lead into any soul work.

This given word can be a wonderful point of reference if we approach it with maturity, aware that another potential problem with such focus is that we can end up limiting what God wants to do, and also the time he wants to take to accomplish it. Because, let’s face it, God is rarely in a rush.  Healing and shaping and refining his loved ones often takes decades, if not a lifetime.  So, I go into this New Year knowing that the word God gave me this time last year (and probably the ones before that) goes with me. He’s not done with them yet, and probably never will be, but he understands that I’m a tiny, fairly helpless being and focus can bring good results.

For many people it is a help to have that one word to keep in mind and heart and work or struggle with. When it is done well, God-centred and prayerfully, I’ve seen it be powerful.  But we must also bear in mind that it is a very, very small part of the picture. If you are going to participate, my advice would be, if you are a Christian, to do so slowly, carefully, in prayer and knowing from the start that the focus on this word is meant to be more of an aide-memoire, a remembering of God’s promises for this year, an idea about what HE is doing, not what YOU are achieving. Because control may well be the most dangerous thing of all in this for those following Christ. If we begin to imagine that change is all down to us, as if it were an exercise program or a special diet, we will end up deluded and certainly disappointed.

I think the My One Word movement has the potential to also be an exercise in focussing so hard on one thing that it misses the ONE NECESSARY THING. And whilst I will not discourage you from participating (nor should you feel obliged to take part), I would urge that you take it for what it is, and let the Lord lead you, not despairing if you hear nothing, not being surprised if the year ahead is about more than just one issue in your life, and not limiting God in any way whatsoever. Be open to all that he has for you, but by all means, ask for a point of focus if you feel that one is needed.  If nothing else, your one word may be the conversation starter that you and he need.

Text © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt, photo from Pixabay