God Awakens the Dawn with Light

God awakens the dawn

God awakens the dawn

As I sat in the presence of God this morning the sun was rising. The mountains outside my window were tinged with red and the setting moon glowed in the light of the pink hued clouds.

Moon setting in the dawn light

Moon setting in the dawn light

 

This is one of the delights of the shortening of the days at this time of the year. In summer I am unaware of this awe inspiring slow change from dark to light. But this morning as I watched the changes I was was overwhelmed by the faithfulness of God – light always follows darkness, dawn will always come and often, as I experienced this morning, the longer the period of darkness, the more spectacular the breaking in of God’s light. 

Setting moon tinged with morning glow

Setting moon tinged with morning glow

So often we rail against the darkness. We feel depressed because God’s presence is hidden in our world and in our lives. The coming of dawn reminds me that God’s light is never far away. It will break in to every darkened night. And the bright globe of the moon this morning reassured me that even in the midst of darkness God’s light shines. 

God's light shines even in the darkness

God’s light shines even in the darkness

I must confess that I did not get to the reading of scripture this morning, or to my usual prayers. All I could say to God was thank you, thank you, thank you and within my heart the joy of God rose like that light giving sun. May it do the same for you this day. 

Eyes of the Heart by Christine Valters Paintner

Eyes of the Heart

I don’t often do book reviews, but when Sorin Books contacted me about doing one on Christine Valter’s Paintner’s latest book Eyes of the Heart: Photography as a Christian Contemplative Practice, I was delighted. I love Christine’s contemplative books and this one did not disappoint.

I am a keen photographer but this book’s appeal goes far beyond that. Its contemplative exercises adapt the contemplative practices of lectio divina and visio divina into a new form of spiritual observation. Through the lens of a camera we can not just take images but receive them.

By bringing the camera to the eye and allowing an encounter with the holy to open our hearts, we have the possibility for a transformative potential from the photographic encounter. Look through the lens and imagine that is a portal to a new way of seeing. (15)

Christine redefines photography as a receiving rather than a taking skill. She points out that the traditional perspective of photography is aggressive – we shoot or take photos. Yet really we are receiving an image, the transmission of light from a scene or object that God has created.

I love this fresh approach to photography and its application to the way we look at the world as we walk, talk and interact. And I love the provokative questions she asks: What is hidden and what is revealed – a question not just in a photograph but in all of life. What is mirrored back? Traditional SLR cameras use mirrors to create images and in life we need polished inner mirrors that cultivate our capacity to see God more clearly in more places and experiences.

You can probably tell that I loved this book and found it both challenging and inspiring. I would heartily recommend Eyes of the Heart: Photography as a Christian Contemplative Practice, to all my friends, photographers and non photographers alike who desire to have the eyes of their hearts opened to a deeper and clearer experience of God.

The True Light Is Coming Into the World – by David Perry

The True Light - photo by David Perry

The True Light - photo by David Perry

This morning’s post is a second contribution from David Perry. The powerful images that he incorporates into this reflection spoke deeply to me as I read through it this morning. It was first posted on his blog as World, Life-space and Enlightenment. Dave is a Methodist Minister in Yorkshire England. He enjoys fell walking, rambling, running, reading, art, photography, model railways, red wine and watching movies on DVD. Dave is married to Sue, who is Deputy Head of Dietetics for the Hull and E. Yorkshire NHS Hospitals Trust. They have two daughters, Bekki (online merchandising designer) and Judy (final year Communication and Media student).

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To Christian eyes the work of Spanish artist Jaume Plensa, on display at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, provides a wonderful insight into the sheer expectant joy which Advent promises. The shapes of being he crafts deliberately speak into the body and soul of humanity.  This intention is apparent as we look at and through the mesh ‘portraits’ of the two girls Nuria and Irma who live near his home, or in the close-up photographs of one ‘person-space’ in the dual figure work ‘Spiegel’, which is formed from the letters of eight different alphabets.
These remarkable artworks display the contours of our being and becoming; they invite us to see the meanings which define us and which shape our day to day experience of being alive. The interior space of our personhood is revealed and becomes accessible. Light, space and meaning show us who we are, and in the act of understanding we connect with our deepest longings and our darkest fears.

And as we do this in Advent, God’s word in Christ becomes the open life-space of love which enlightens our being, just as the warmly vibrant colours of sunset seem to bring Plensa’s rooftop children into a cherishing focus of pure wonderment. Born from stardust, the light enlightens the truth that our transient lives are suffused by and eternally held within the love-light of God’s presence, the one who is, as we see here, closer to us than our own breathing. The true light gifts this intimate life-giving truth that the love which is at the heart of the universe invites us to inhabit the life-space of grace shaped by love’s meaning.

Word became flesh

Word became flesh - by David Perry

And the joy of Advent arises from God’s enlightening word which became flesh in Christ Jesus, the one who beckons us to enter within the freeing Godspace of humanity which his life defines. Plensa’s ‘Spiegel’ speaks to me of how the word embodied in Jesus uniquely reveals to us the image of an authentically God-shaped life. The gospel alphabet of forgiveness and compassion graces us with the promise that everyone can enter into this precious experience of Christ-likeness and make it their own. Jesus was born into our humanity; Advent promises us that we will be reborn into his divinity, and there become really and truly human in nothing less than the image of God.

As night took hold Spiegel was illuminated from within and began to draw a steady stream of fascinated visitors. Some stood outside and beyond and gazed. Others were more adventurous and entered within the enlightened life-shapes. With the eyes of faith this was such a beautiful sight to behold. All the expectation of Advent is held for me in this one image. Standing within the tangible promise of the word’s beautifully enfolding truth and love, our intangible yearnings are illuminated and transformed by a gift-space we neither expect or deserve.

Living within the Light

Living within the Light - David Perry

Who Says It Always Rains in Seattle – the Sunsets Just Get Better Every Day?

Nothing speaks to me more powerfully of the awe inspiring nature of God than an beautiful sunset.  In the last couple of days we have had the most beautiful sunsets in Seattle and I wanted to share their breathtaking beauty with you.  Notice not just the sun but the amazing cloud formations too.  Enjoy!

Across the Blogosphere

This morning I was wandering the blogosphere after reading my morning email reflecting on faith and everyday life.  To be honest I was feeling a little frustrated.  my inbox was full of memorial day ads telling me I needed to buy more in order to save money.   And even some of my favourite sites seem to have sprouted new and tasteless ads since I last visited them.  I realize that like us, many are struggling with the challenge of keeping their ministries afloat during tough financial times, but do we really need to buy into the ways of mammon in order to survive?

Fortunately there were a few posts I came across this morning that turned my world around… most of them incorporating beautiful visual images or about gardening, both of which always brings refreshment to my soul

Dave Perry at visual theology has some beautiful photo reflections that I would highly recommend.  Like this one (though it is much better with Dave’s photos)

At the foot of the market cross in the Yorkshire dales village of Askrigg a genuine bull ring is set into the cobbles. Dating from the eighteenth century or earlier it is a chilling reminder of public brutality, for here bull’s were tethered and baited by bulldogs to ‘entertain’ the crowd. Something which is unthinkable now was normative then. The bull ring reminds us of how cruel and callous we once were. Yet the politics and judicial system of the time scarcely treated the poor any better than the beasts. Read the entire post

And to help me relax this article from Year of Plenty in Spokane

It has always intuitively made sense to me that spending time out in the garden is good for my health and general well being, especially for reducing stress. Well, it turns out that there may be a scientific basis for such a claim. A recent study on the effects of exposure to a common soil bacteria (mycobacterium vaccae) shows a strong correlation between the bacteria and improved learning and lowered anxiety. read the entire article

Its now time for morning prayers so hopefully I will be able to share more reflections later

Life Is For Sharing

This morning I was browsing some of the blogs that have linked to mine and came across a couple of great ideas that I wanted to share.

First thanks Andrea for sharing this great video – the T-mobile add from last year

Second thanks Craig for this great suggestion for those of us that want to follow the progress in our own garden and in the gardens of others

Andrew Sullivan the uber-blogger has a series on his site called “The View From Your Window” where he invites readers of the blog to send in pictures of their view from a window. It has become a staple of his blog and provides a fascinating perspective of people’s lives from around the world. I’d like to propose a much more humble version of this concept, called “The View From Your Garden.” I spent a good bit of blog space last year sharing about our journey of tearing up our lawn and putting in a vegetable garden. I’d like to open it up for the readers of Year of Plenty and the DTE series of blogs to submit photos of the view from your garden. Show us your veggies and flowers as they evolve through the growing season. Send your pictures via the “email me” link listed to the right.  Read the entire article

And on a slightly different theme – what do you think of this article?

Genetically Engineered “Enviropig Waiting for US Approval Thanks to Jason Fowler at Sustainable Traditions for this link

Mothering as a Spiritual Practice

Another beautiful day in Seattle and Tom and I are getting ready for a few days vacation up on Mayne Island, one of the Canadian gulf islands.  The weather is supposed to be good and I am really looking forward to a few days off – hoping that the blackberries and apples are ready like they were last year and that I can get my fill of apple and blackberry cobbler (Yes I do enjoy my food and I wish someone would do a post on Eating as Spiritual Practice – so much of our faith revolves around the dining room table

Today’s post in the What is a Spiritual Practice series comes from Tara Malouf a professional photographer who has gifted us with beautiful photos from both the garden seminars and our recent Celtic retreat.  Tara blogs at Storyformed She is currently working on a calendar for the 2009 – 2010 liturgical year which she calls the Story – Formed calendar.  Her last year’s calendar was one of the most beautiful liturgical calendars I have seen so I am really looking forward to this year’s

Ricci Kilmer and Gabriel at Celtic Retreat - photo by Tara Malouf

Ricci Kilmer and Gabriel at Celtic Retreat - photo by Tara Malouf

It dawned on me this morning that my mothering is a spiritual practice!! Though much of what I do on a daily basis is mundane, tedious and repetitive (and will never get its own reality TV show), everyday those repetitive actions lead me into a deepening of my walk with God.

As I watch my children from a distance, I smile at who they are becoming and am amazed at their creativity and abilities. And so I enter into the delight of a Parent Whose eyes sparkle at the very sight of His children.  Read the entire article

Art to Change the World

Well I missed Earth Day, but it is never too late to enter into the spirit of going green. Here are some powerful images by Chris Jordan that relate to the statistics of consumption & help us to recognize the extent of the problem.

This series looks at contemporary American culture through the austere lens of statistics. Each image portrays a specific quantity of something: fifteen million sheets of office paper (five minutes of paper use); 106,000 aluminum cans (thirty seconds of can consumption) and so on. My hope is that images representing these quantities might have a different effect than the raw numbers alone, such as we find daily in articles and books. Statistics can feel abstract and anesthetizing, making it difficult to connect with and make meaning of 3.6 million SUV sales in one year, for example, or 2.3 million Americans in prison, or 410,000 paper cups used every fifteen minutes. This project visually examines these vast and bizarre measures of our society, in large intricately detailed prints assembled from thousands of smaller photographs. The underlying desire is to emphasize the role of the individual in a society that is increasingly enormous, incomprehensible, and overwhelming.

The series begins with an image of 1 million plastic cups – the number used on US airlines every 6 hours.

1 million plastic cups - the number used in US airlines every 6 hours

View the rest of the series here, and thanks to Anneke Geel for making me aware of this

Explorer sinks

Here is an amazing photo of the ship that struck an iceberg in the Antarctic yesterday.  Sure makes me glad I don’t live on a ship anymore.

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Christmas Cactus in Bloom

We spent this morning in the garden weeding, planting bulbs and tidying up but the real treat was when we came inside. My Christmas cacti are in full bloom delighting my heart with their beauty and variety. The glory of God truly does shine through such creations. Enjoy

Fushia Christmas cactus Red Christmas cactusClose up Tangerine cactusPink cactus close upFusshia cactus

And orchids too – what a wonderful sight

Orchids too