In recent days the enflamed conflict between Israel and its neighbours has been a great cause of concern and a real sense of frustration that there is nothing that one can personally do in response (apart from financial support to aid agencies), and that this is a situation that has existed for decades. It is easy to lose hope.
A while ago I read a memoir by the former US President Jimmy Carter (1977-81) in which he briefly related the lead up to the Camp David Accord signed by himself, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin in September 1978. It was a personal achievement, after much effort to get the two leaders together. I do wonder how Jimmy Carter must feel as the current situation makes his efforts pointless. As a seasoned politician, I am sure Jimmy Carter has weathered many other significant disappointments in his career and life, but there seems to be much more, as this was a mission for a whole region of the world torn apart by animosity and violence while personal political ambition did not seem to feature.
Jimmy Carter is known as a man of strong Christian faith and here one finds the motivation for his political life and what he was seeking between Israel and its neighbours. It is also the source of hope which, I am sure, takes Jimmy Carter beyond his disappointments to something more positive that lies ahead.
Reflecting on these things, I found myself moved to paint a portrait of Jimmy Carter and discover something more of the hope that is found in Jesus Christ. The image is of him celebrating his 75th wedding anniversary to Rosalyn at the age of 97 (he is currently 99 years old) and I trust reflects his attitude of hope and expectation in the future.
It is something we all need to discover and grasp.
I have recently come across the work of artist Sandra Carvajal (www.sanstarling.com) and my attention was caught by a couple of triptychs, with videos demonstrating how the three elements in each are interchangeable. This enables the viewer to move the elements around to create a new painting and decide which configuration they find the most pleasing.
Perhaps because the images seem to echo leaves and stones respectively, the words of Charles Wesley's hymn sprang to mind.
Finish then, Thy new creation; pure and spotless let us be; let us see Thy great salvation perfectly restored in Thee. (Charles Wesley)
A reflective exercise could be for a viewer to reconfigure a triptych to their satisfaction, while also pondering the changes to personal life/society/creation that might be most pleasing to God.
I am challenged to create a similar triptych (I discover this is no easy task!) with an image more obviously related to creation. Watch this space!
In the face of much rather negative and depressing news of events it seems vitally important and necessary to spend some time reflecting on those things that bring joy into our lives. A series of paintings has been my way of distracting from the negative and I invite you to identify those things that delight you and find some way in which these might be shared with others.
Click on a thumbnail for the full image
A full collection of images can be viewed here
What for? How long? Where are you going? Who with? What baggage are you carrying? Who are you talking with? What is your mood?
All these are questions that might be asked of this painting, as they might also be of ourselves in any moment.
The Isle of Sheppey lies in the Thames estuary (outside the flood barrier) and is low-lying. It is a place of vulnerability, threatened by high tides and shifting coast. The image is of some wooden 'shack' properties (actually holiday lets) situated right on the edge.
The edge is representative of several aspects of this situation - the beach/land divide marked out by a fence - the beach/sea relationship punctuated by the wooden groynes that seek to maintain some stability - the horizon marking out the sea/sky boundary along with the hint of what it is that lies beyond - the dawn light which marks the transition between night/day offering a future hope, while the 'red sky in the morning' gives a warning of possible threat to come.
For Sheppey residents the sharpest edge that they live on is likely to do with climate change with rising sea levels, but the new day always offers hope. The red sky may offer a warning, but this can be a spur to action.
For those of Christian faith the brightening horizon and all that is hopeful beyond it are a reminder of what it is that God promises. The sky may be seen as a call to a change of heart, so that God's promises, seen in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, might be real for us within the present time. The sharpest edge here is that between this world and life and the next, but this is not an edge to fear because God is on both sides!
The musical creative process centres on the performers, but begins with the composer and continues within the audience. This image based on Sheku and Isata Kanneh-Mason with Rachmaninov.
Each creative process is only a prelude to what happens next in many different settings and ways.
In the case of this musical performance, I was inspired to undertake a painting of the passion of the Kanneh-Masons, Who knows what other outcomes came about within the audience?!
I was invited to contribute, under the theme of 'Conversations', to this annual publication with material for Holy Week and Easter Day. These relate to the Biblical story which is referenced, so these can be read alongside. In addition there are two further contributions that have been my own choice - around the themes of dementia and creativity.
All the material can be found here
I feel safe and secure in my cave, my home, while the world rages and only enters via the screen in the corner of the room. I have happily excluded myself from engaging, other than from a distance, glad that Covid restrictions enable me to feel I am doing the right thing.
However, I do feel a discomfort, even an anger, which I trust is righteous, because what I witness is far from the good creation that was God's in the beginning. There is great need for salvation, yet people listen only to themselves and what seems good to them.
Outside, firestorms, floods, hurricanes, earthquakes - political argument, armed conflict, virus - all bring our world towards a breaking point and I know that change needs to come.
There is much in crises, natural and human, that seems to speak of judgment, yet God's voice is not heard in them alone.
Attention is drawn to our human failings, but it is the still small voice within that we must listen to. It is the Spirit within which moves us to the creative that lies beyond judgment. God will not add to our sense of despair and impotence at the chaos of the world, but rather encourage us with his gifts.
God's still small voice called Elijah from his cave of retreat and security to anoint kings and prophet (1 Kings 19). When we feel at the end of the road, not able to do anything significant to change the situation, are we, perhaps, called to the same - to anoint those who are in positions to act and bring change - those with particular gifts, those who seek to govern or lead, those who seek to shape our human life and those who will speak for You in our world.
What then does it mean for us to anoint others? It begins with the recognition of and an appreciation for God's gifts in them. Then to bless, encourage and share in, as far as we are able, this move towards the new creation.
Practically it may mean things such as:
Engagement in the political process, enabling our voice to be heard between elections.
Support and affirmation for causes bringing change that we understand to be from God - climate action, building peace, enabling the less able .....
To support those who seek our deeper understanding of God's purposes, giving attention to the prophetic voices speaking into particular situations.