god

God’s Eyes Speak Acceptance – Cold Wax Painting

God’s Eyes Speak Acceptance – Cold Wax Painting.

God’s eyes speak of his acceptance and love. Meanwhile this is the most natural thing for me, but this was not always the case. What is your inner picture of God?

Gottes Lächeln * God's Smile

Most people project their negative experiences with strict and overly critical parents or teachers on to God. In front of their inner eyes they see somebody who always watches them with a strict frown, or they hear with their inner ears an inner critic, believing that this must be God.

Come, let his love heal you!

Even though I never consciously had a negative image of God, in the sense, for example, that he watches me with a strict frown, just waiting to catch me in the act, it was still a long journey until I realized his love and acceptance more fully. Not just once in a while, but constantly.

One thing that helped me a lot in this was a simple line drawing of God’s benevolant smile. For a long time this drawing hang in my bedroom as a daily reminder of what I knew in theory. Through it, it trickeled slowly into my subconscious that God is indeed on my side and that he loves me just as I am. His love and acceptance was the most important factor for my transformation and inner healing.

This painting is an imperfect attempt, to picture this inviting expression of God’s eyes, that expresses his perfect love and acceptance.

◊◊◊

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Cor 3,18

Safe in God’s Hand – Cold Wax Painting

Safe in God’s Hand – Cold Wax Painting

Pictures or sculptures, where a baby lies in a large hand have always touched me deeply and triggered a strong longing. I longed for this safety in God’s hand, but thought somewhat subconsciously that there might not be enough room for tall people like me.

In God's Hand - In Gottes Hand
In God’s Hand – In Gottes Hand

Come, let go of yourself and relax in my hand!

If we have met, you know that I am fairly tall (5′ 11″ / 1.80 m). As a result it happens quite often, that when I am in a group and I look around, I notice that the majority is much smaller. On the other hand, it happens not very often that others perceive me as weak, need, feel led to help me or put their arms around my shoulder to comfort me. Although I need this as much as most other people.

This impression I projected onto God and subconsciously had the idea that I have to always be strong, because God is busy comforting small and delicate people.

Some of you might know these sculptures where a baby lies in God’s hand, or a child puts his head in a protective hand. They have often triggered a lot of longing in me, because I somehow thought that there is not enough room in such a hand for tall people like me. Until one day God gave me this inner impression that showed me that there is certainly enough room – even for tall people like me.

 

And I have put my words in your mouth and covered you in the shadow of my hand. Is 51:16

Trinity

The draft for this painting was done a long time ago. Several other paintings were studies in preparation for this one. Actually, this is not yet it. – I want to divide it on three canvases. This means I am still preparing for the ‘real’ one. This one was done with watercolor but the final one will probably be done with acrylic.
Trinity
Trinity
50 x 40 cm
Watercolor on paper

Perichoresis

Perichoresis is a theological expression that describes an aspect of the trinity. Many years ago, I heard a sermon on this topic and the speaker tried to describe it as a form of dance, combining harmony, individualism and yet perfect consideration for each other. This was in the back of my mind when I painted this picture:
Perichoresis
Perichoresis
30 x 40 cm
Acrylic on paper

Developing Intimacy with God

Aronis, Alexander Basile. 2003. Developing intimacy with God : an eight-week prayer guide based on Ignatius’ “Spiritual exercises”. 1st ed. Makati City, Philippines: Union Church of Manila. (book review)

The book has developed out of the author’s dissertation about Ignatius’ “Spiritual Exercises” as a model for spiritual direction 20 years before writing the book. During this time the author refined his understanding and teaching about ‘Devotional Prayer’ by serving as a spiritual director for many people.

The book includes prayer exercises for every day of the eight-week period, teaching and using different types of prayer and skills necessary to reach the goal:

“increase your love for Christ, broaden your self-understanding, connect you with vital spiritual principles, intensify your desire to become more like Jesus, and strengthen your commitment to serve him by serving others.” (1)

It can be used by individuals or by groups. Ideally an individual working through the book could have a mentor or spiritual director for feedback, but the book is written in a way that it can be used as the only spiritual guide.

The author defines ‘Devotional Prayer’ as the objective to develop “intimate knowledge of Christ that I might be with him, become like him, and live for him.” This theme of “with – like – for” him helps to keep the perspective. The threefold perspective is reflected in nearly every exercise.

The book is divided into five parts:

Part I – seeing yourself as God sees you (week 1)
Part II – the life and ministry of Christ (week 2-6)
Part III – the suffering of Christ (week 7)
Part IV – the resurrection of Christ (week 8 )

Every week starts with some introductory teaching about different prayer styles and related topics, which are then practiced during the exercises of the week. Each daily exercise focuses on a biblical passage using different ways of reflecting on it.

For example, in one week the author explains the different types of prayer, such as preparatory prayer, meditative reading, imaginative contemplation, heart prayer, prayer of petition, prayer of adoration, prayer of rest and infused prayer. In another week he introduces the reader to four types of insight – principle insight, attachment insight, interior insight and detachment insight. Another time the author expands on themes such as the “Four Degrees of Humility,” why we experience desolation, or how to rest in the Lord. Every week finishes with experiences from “Friends on the Journey” which can help answer certain questions or responds to problems many people have.

Listing these concepts may sound very theoretical and overwhelming, and it can be difficult to remember the different terms. However, since they are introduced gradually and practiced for one week before other new concepts are presented, one is able to grow into them and absorb them into one’s personal practice. Not every style is for everybody but practicing all the styles for a time helps to discover new approaches to prayer and find out which ones are most beneficial for oneself. The goal is not theoretical knowledge but real intimacy with God so as to reach the objective:

“be with him, become like him, and live for him.”

The book has been a real blessing to me and I recommend it highly. I believe that every individual working through it will grow in their relationship with Christ, even though the effects will be different for each person.

In closing, I want to mention and underline one aspect that I found especially interesting:

When reading the Bible or listening to a sermon most insights fall into four categories – principle insights (general principle, fundamental truth), attachment insights (something that inspires me to love God more), interior insights (increases self-understanding), and detachment insights (things that we need to let go of, that hinder our devotion to God). We need all of these types of insights, but it is the Attachment Insights that we need most because they motivate us to become more like Christ. Many of us, especially pastors and teachers tend to focus on Principle Insights but spiritual principles will not lead to increased delight in or intimacy with the Lord during prayer, and therefore not have the same transformational effect as an Attachment Insight. The reality of Christ’s love and presence shines best through people who know how to cherish Attachment Insights.

Does this surprise me? No, not really but until now I had not made this connection. It is nothing new that rules and principles rarely lead to transformation but relational modeling and healthy attachment can do that. Therefore we are more likely to grow in our relationship with God and be transformed into his image when we let our hearts be attracted to the person and work of Jesus than when we just focus on general principles.  In practical terms, this means if a text triggers different types of insights in us, and we sense no special guidance by the Spirit to focus on one of them, it is best to focus on an Attachment Insight if you want to become more like Christ.

Giving In

You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England

~ C. S. Lewis

read more quotes on C.S.Lewis Daily

God, Speak to Me

God, Speak to Me

The man whispered
“God, speak to me”
and a meadowlark sang.
But the man did not hear.

So the man yelled
“God speak to me!”
And the thunder rolled across the sky,
But the man did not listen.

The man looked around and said,
“God let me see you”
And a star shone brightly
But the man did not notice.


And the man shouted,
“God show me a miracle”
And a life was born,
But the man did not know.

So, the man cried out in despair,
“Touch me God and let me know that you are here!”
Where upon God reached down and touched the man.
But the man brushed the butterfly away and walked on.

Don’t miss out on God’s blessings, just because they aren’t packaged the way you expect them to be.

~ author unknown

Practicing God’s presence

Practicing God’s presence

The term Practicing the Presence of God goes back to Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection, a Carmelite brother, who was born as Nicolas Herman in French Lorrain in 1611 (or 1614?) and died in February 1691. Some call him the ‘kitchen saint’ because he worked in the monastery kitchen for most of his life. Despite his lowly status, many were attracted to him by his passionate relationship with God and came to him for advice. These conversations and letter exchanges with people of his community were later collected and published by Father Joseph de Beaufort. [The quotes and pages numbers in this post refer to the book ‘Practicing His Presence‘ by Br Lawrence and Frank Laubach]

Br. Lawrence defines Practicing the Presence of God as living consciously in God’s presence every moment of the day by continually talking with him, and “referring all that we do to Him” no matter which task is at hand. In the beginning this practice needs diligence but after a while

we shall find His love inwardly excites us to His presence without any difficulty. (46)

As a result Br. Lawrence admitted that

My set times of prayer are not different from other times of the day. Although I do retire to pray (because it is the direction of my superior) I do not need such retirement nor do I ask for it because my greatest business does not divert me from God. (47)

His interaction with God was marked by simplicity, a desire to please God in everything and never let himself be diverted by thinking “of trifles and foolish things.” (42) It resulted in a holy freedom and familiarity with God, and a deep assurance of God’s presence and goodness.

According to Br. Lawrence devotions are only the means to an end where being in God’s presence is the end, which makes devotions useless once you are living in God’s presence. He goes even so far as to say that

I have given up all forms of devotion and set prayers other than those to which my state obliges me. My only business now is to persevere in His holy presence. I do so by simple and loving attention to the Lord. Then I have the experience of the actual presence of God. To use another term I will call it a secret conversation between my soul and the Lord. (77)

Frank Charles Laubach (1884-1970) in his search for a more complete surrender to God developed a similar praxis 200 years after Br. Lawrence’s death. He was a missionary among Muslims in the Southern Philippines when he started at age 45 the practice of abiding in Christ’s presence. He chronicled his personal experience in letters to his father, which were later published as “Letters by a modern mystic.” Like Br. Lawrence he testifies that it is possible to continuously live in and experience God’s presence. Laubach’s efforts seem rather legalistic and forced at first when he tries to think of God every few seconds but fails for most of the day. However, eventually the effect made it all worthwhile:

This concentration upon God is strenuous, but everything else has ceased to be so. I think more clearly, I forget less frequently. Things which I did with a strain before, I now do easily and with no effort whatever. (15-6)

I remember how as I looked at people with a love God gave, they looked back and acted as though they wanted to go with me. I felt then that … I saw a little of that marvelous pull that Jesus had as He walked along the road day after day ‘God-intoxicated’ and radiant with the endless communion of His soul with God. (19)

Laubach recommends in the beginning to

try to call Christ to mind at least one second of each minute. You do not need to forget other things nor stop your work, but invite Him to share everything you do or say or think. (30)

Which is why he called his fresh approach to Br. Lawrence’s “Practicing the Presence of God” also “Game with minutes” and gives very practical suggestions on how to go about it. He assures people that

the results of this effort begin to show clearly in a month. They grow rich after six months, and glorious after ten years. (30)

Good or evil?

Good or evil?

The following quotes are part of the conversation in “The Shack“ (pp 134-136) that I intentionally left out in my last post. God explains there to Mac why our parameters for deciding what is good and what is evil are often wrong.

“Evil is the word we use to describe the absence of Good, just as we use the word darkness to describe the absence of Light or death to describe the absence of Life. Both evil and darkness can only be understood in relation to Light and Good; they do not have any actual existence. I am Light and I am Good. I am Love and there is no darkness in me. Light and Good actually exist. So, removing yourself from me will plunge you into darkness. Declaring independence will result in evil because apart from me, you can only draw upon yourself. This is death because you have separated yourself from me: Life.”

I have contemplated this a lot and found it really helpful. As long as we discern good and evil based on our subjective feelings and perception, we will often get it wrong and miss how “bad” things can be “good” for us. And this in turn will undermine our trust in God. Only when we understand that God’s presence makes something good and his absence makes something evil, can we understand that “in one instance, the good may be the presence of cancer or the loss of income – or even a life.”

It is often the hard things that drive us into God’s presence, mold our character and transform us into his image. Unfortunately, difficult times seem to be the only way we learn and experience transformation.

This also sheds a different light on our pursuit of independence. Being independent from God removes us from the Vine. We are called to remain in Him, abide in Him, because apart from Him we can do nothing. (John 15:5) A well known passage, but how often do we manage to put it into practice? 🙂

What does it mean to practice it? Here is what Mac heard God say to him about this:

“You must give up your right to decide what is good and evil in your own terms. This is a hard pill to swallow; choosing to only live in me. To do that you know me enough to trust me and learn to rest in my inherent goodness.”

So this brings us back to the issue of trust. If we decide on our own what is good and bad, we easily come to the conclusion God is not trustworthy. Or as Wayne Jacobsen puts it – we practice a “Daisy Pedal Christianity” (He loves me!) going back and forth between “God loves me” and “God loves me not” depending on whether things happening in our life are “good” or “bad” according to our subjective perception. Whenever we don’t like what is happening to us, we conclude that God does not love us, instead of looking for the good God intended with it.

I know, it is not easy to apply this in some extreme situations, but why not start with every day situations and try to see them through God’s eyes? I have been mulling over this topic for some time. It was a pleasant surprise recently, when I experienced a very disappointing situation and in the middle of it was able to hold back on my subjective judgment, but trust that God has good plans for his children. (More about it in a future post)