Here we are, another Sunday will be soon over, and July too is gone. It’s now August and a new season is upon us. As we approach this upcoming week together, I wish you a productive and joyful experience- no matter what turmoil and fear is outside our doors. Spiritually, may we maintain focus and inner peace.
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Scripture for artwork “Wings of Heaven”: Psalm 36: 5-7 “Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies… You, Lord, preserve both people & animals…. People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.”
– from book “50 Oil Paintings Inspired by my Christian Faith” by artist Natalie Buske Thomas
Update to the above story…
In this situation, the only “story” was to attach my art plan to Scripture to complete another project for the book collection. But, as often happens when we create something, even if we intend for that creation to have no significance to our lives- just another assignment, just another project, just another idea… the art evolves and we become connected to it personally in ways we might not expect.
For this project I used different paints. I was experimenting with alkyd fast drying oil color, as I wanted to see if this could help when doing live shows. I used some of those paints for “Wings of Heaven” and I was not loving it. I felt like I was fighting against the paints to get them to move the way that I wanted them to.
For me, painting is like dancing. I expect the paints to perform with me, as if we are gliding, texturing, shaping, and forming stories to music. These fast drying paints didn’t perform with me as I’d expected. It was like dancing with a different partner and I was frustrated by the experience.
However, I managed to get through my project and for the most part was pleased with how it turned out. It was smoother than I wanted it to be in the landscape, but the effect was interesting and kind of surreal looking, especially since the trees ended up positioned in an odd spaced out row with simply shaped tops. I considered the new paint experiment to be a success because it pushed me to paint in a different style, and therefore I painted something interesting.
Regardless of the somewhat happy outcome, the paints failed to solve my original problem (faster drying paint for using during live events). Alkyds were not my solution, as the paint didn’t perform the way that I wanted it to. I didn’t want to permanently alter my signature painting style. But maybe this experiment identified a different problem that I wasn’t even thinking about, and solved it?
And here’s where the metaphor comes in… sometimes in life we have one set of problems, and in trying to resolve those we stumble upon the solution to a different problem, one that may have been more important to identify and resolve. It’s interesting that this particular art referred to a verse that refers to “shadow”. The problem that these paints unexpectedly solved relates to shadows.
Sometimes my projects become muddy and I’m forced to push my next layer off to the next day because my shadows are too wet and when I layer up, they run into other areas and/or can’t be successfully overlapped with another color. I discovered that if I use an alkyd black for shadows, I can speed up the drying process between layers and finish my projects sooner. I still like to switch back to a traditional oil black before the final finishing layer, but using the fast drying paint in the earlier stages helps push the project through with fewer days between layers (in a heavily shadowed project).
We might identify and resolve problems we weren’t even thinking about when we’re open to trying something new and seeing where it leads. I’m speaking now of course beyond trying new paints for work. In my personal life I also try new ways to resolve problems and I sometimes identify a different problem in the process, one that wasn’t entering my awareness before. But once I see the area of my life I need to change, I also see the solution… and life elevates. All things are connected. One elevation begets another. Nothing is too trivial. One small thing leads to great things.
When thinking about God’s faithfulness and refuge in the shadow of His wings, I see that comforting image like the loving protection that a (good, healthy) parent has for their children. As parents, we don’t want to manage our children’s lives, we only want to shadow them from the harsh rays of the sun. When the world is cruel and unforgiving, we are faithful to them. They can always take refuge in our home.
When we believe that we have a safe spiritual refuge, we have courage to live daringly. We take risks. We seek honest assessments for problems, and strive to work hard for solutions. We invest in our personal energy by guarding and strengthening our bodies, minds, and spirits as our most treasured resource. We do all of these things in full confidence when we believe that we are protected.
Surrounding ourselves with quality loyal people and believing in a faithful God makes life’s journey much easier. It’s not that troubles don’t come or that challenges and grief never break us, but we are more resilient and faster to heal. Our understanding about ourselves and our place in this world expands in direct proportion to our seeking of it. Be strong and courageous, my friends. We are more powerful than we know.