Friday, May 13, 2016

Ever After ....

I don't blog much and even less about art or craft these days, but there is a new class coming out headed by Tamara Laporte called Ever After.

I am in the midst of doing LifeBook 2016 and planning a complete reorg of my art space (as I can't move it into the larger guest room) but it's not the fairytale aspect of the course that appeals to me (although, you know, that can be fun and pretty), but being introduced to new artists, new ways of doing things, and in addition, there's a module on developing one's own style (which I'm pretty convinced comes with time and repetition).

One of the artists teaching is Effy Wild, who successfully hooked me on gel pens last year. You can click on her name to enter the giveaway too!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

God's Love Stories May edition

Here's another round-up of thought-provoking stories, hopes, prayers, and discussion on current issues that are worth a read:

And most importantly, Today We Take Back Mother's Day fundraising for refugees in Europe and homeless youth in the United States at Momastery.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

What I learned in April

Here's what I learned in April.
  1. My plans are not God's plans.

    Okay, technically this fell on the first of May but as I do these so rarely, I figured you wouldn't hold that against me. I had it all planned out: a relaxing cup of tea before finishing packing and preparing my room for departure and then heading off to Eucharist (I was on retreat here). I am enjoying my cup when the Mission bells start, shortly followed by the monastery's bells. Hmm, I think, I wonder if Br. Timothy is checking the clapper again? No, it was the one day all week when Eucharist was at 9 instead of 11:30am because Sunday.

    So much for the lazy cup of tea and serene packing.

    Fr. Adam's sermon was all about going with God's flow of life instead of imposing our will upon God/life. Yes, God, I heard you the first time.
  2. A lack of fresh air and not sitting with nature leads to me feeling depressed and unworthy.

    It's amazing how 15 minutes sitting in the shade and enjoying a cool Santa Barbara breeze and watching the woodpeckers swoop will clear my head of that AND inspire creativity. I already knew I had to sit in a place of beauty but now I can add "outside" to that.
  3. Believing in the resurrection of the body and what that means for THIS life.

    Resurrection is new transformed life after life after death. Heaven/Paradise is a halfway stop. Meantime, Christians are outposts of God's new kingdom breaking into this earth. Ok, so I believed in the resurrection of the body, but I had never before considered what that meant for now. (My retreat reading was N.T. Wright's "Surprised by Hope".)
  4. The Hamilton cast's reworking of their opening song to pay homage to Sweeney Todd is sheer genius (and 16 Tony nominations! Wow!)

    Here's the link to YouTube to watch it.

  5. I found a salad I 100% like.

    Carrot and jicama slaw. And I really don't like salads. (Similar to this recipe, but swap out jalapeƱos for dried cranberries. And add cilantro.)

  6. What knocks out fresh skunk smell?
    This stuff. All natural Lime Mate mist.
  7. Meditation works you guys.
    I was getting antsy as I always do waiting for the time to leave the retreat house, bags packed and everything and I thought, no, let's stop and be present to now. And I sat, and I breathed, and prayed the Jesus Prayer and imagined God's light coming into me ... And managed to not be anxious for 15 minutes.
#6 thing that I learned
(And yes, there could be prettier pictures from my retreat that I could share but who needs an image heavy post?)

I am linking up with Emily's chatting at the sky's What I learned in April linkup! What did you learn in April?

Saturday, April 2, 2016

God's Love Stories -- Listening for God

What's next? What's the right choice? Is this what I'm called to do? Is this all?

If those are your questions, hopefully, the following links will be helpful.

And on another matter (as Passover is coming up):
What interesting articles have you read lately? I still have a stack in my "Pocket" app so there may be more to come.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Listening with Love

When wisdom or ritual occurs across traditions, I tend to pay attention. 

Listening. It seems like a lost art. I think I've been less skilled in this recently. For example, I used to listen really really well. But my husband keeps talking about the Leicester City football team, so ....

No, seriously, I was a good listener mainly because I was an excellent introvert. Not having to talk was great. But that also meant that the person doing all the talking never got a response out of me. Now, I'm a trained extrovert so I talk more.

Recently, my church's bishop came to speak to us and one of the things I got out of it was that we need to start modeling dialogue, not these polarized opposites where we fling insults and sneers (and worse) at each other. That we need to come together and learn to listen to each other, really listen, reflect on what we have heard, and move forward together in a way that is life-honoring. There may be an agreement to disagree, but we are still honoring the other person by hearing them out, and they have honored us by hearing us out.

And it's a process. I admit I can be easily triggered into a defensive mode, should anyone cast aspersions against, for example, immigrants (as I am one). Part of what I am trying to do these days is to actually try and listen and share my thoughts without starting with "you're wrong ..." or rolling my eyes. 

These kinds of conversations are not easy, and are very difficult for me to begin (see introvert, above), and I'm not even sure I'm doing them correctly, but we have to make some sort of start to listen to each other, to get beyond the surface claims of whoseever corner we are in, and understand what is truly going on and how we can find solutions and ways forward.

There is a technique called active listening where one reflects back to the person what they have said in a non-judgmental way. "I hear that you are saying..." Sometimes hearing it can cause a "that's not what I meant!" and sometimes it can lead into a deeper conversation. Imagine if a conversation had two active listeners, taking turns to hear the other's point of view ....

It does takes two, however. As a friend of mine commented on Facebook recently (and I'm greatly paraphrasing), boundaries need to be set. If the other person isn't willing to listen, or insists upon verbal attacks, you don't have to take it on the chin in the name of love. (Or turn the other cheek.) And she's right. Nothing will be achieved unless both parties are willing to listen and respond in love.

This is not something that can happen instantaneously. I have a feeling that it can be quite the journey and investment in time to get to a place where two people can listen and respond in love. It can be as little as an act of kindness to leave the door open, or talking about a less explosive subject as a means of practicing.

Humble connections is an article by Nicole Chilivis about such conversations. 

As I mentioned at the beginning of this piece, I start to pay attention when multiple traditions start saying the same thing. Listening, really listening, has been a call for many centuries. 

In the Jewish tradition, a prayer called the Sh'ma is said daily (traditionally). Two years ago I learned the Sh'ma, which was easy, but also the V'ahavta, which was a lot more Hebrew to learn.  The first word in the Sh'ma is the word "listen" or "hear". "Hear, O Israel, the Lord is Our God, the Lord is one." (read more about my learning it)

It's not simply a "listen up, folks". It also requires a response, an action. Most of what follows is a pleading by God to remember this simple precept and to live by the laws that they are about to hear (in the context of Moses giving the commandments to the Israelites). 

In the Christian tradition, the first word of The Rule of St. Benedict is "listen". Again, Benedict is not writing down this word for the sake of it. The rule is also a call to action, also requires a response, and points to a way of life (in this case, communal monasticism).

Passive listening is not enough. For if you do not hear (mark and inwardly digest, to steal from a Book of Common Prayer collect), really hear, then you have not heard it at all.

Do you ever catch yourself not listening? Why? What do you do about it?

Monday, March 7, 2016

Icon: Jesus Pantocrator

This was the first time I had finished an icon on my own. I wanted to experiment with using Golden fluid acrylics as opposed to the recommended Jo Sonja paints as well as using a Claybord instead of a more traditional (and expensive) icon board.

I started at the beginning of 2015, so I was very focused on using what I had and being able to write an icon.

Which is why I used the blue tracing paper I had rather than getting proper carbon paper. The blue marks melted into the paint, so no worries there.

The background went down gorgeously in many many layers. My first attempt at mixing the hair color turned out red and it was looking really streaky although is only two layers worth. I decided to fix that later.

My concern with the Golden paints is that they are shiny. The parchment mix with the Titanium White shows just how shiny they can be. Would it stand out as super-shiny against the other not so shiny colors?

Sankir, the shadow color down. I just love sankir (and it dried matte!) In icon writing you go from darks to light.

Oh my God. The Halo Red is supershiny too. The shinier the paint, the less it is interested in sticking to the layer beneath it. This is teeth-clenching, patience-inducing (presumably). Oh, this is going to be interesting....

Storm blue was the hardest of the colors to reproduce from the list of Jo Sonja paints that I was figuring out equivalences for. As you can see it was swinging from too green to too grey to finally storm blue. (And then I ended up buying a storm blue in the Jo Sonya anyway.)

Generally in the recipes, each color in the mix is half as much as the color before. I think I need to work on Second Flesh a bit more, it came out pretty pink (as you will see below).

Golden Paint icon color recipes:

Sankir: Burnt Sienna, Jenkins Green, Hansa Yellow Light, Titanium White
Second Flesh: Burnt Sienna, Napthol Red Light, Hansa Yellow Light, Titanium White (think I'll try flipping the yellow and red amounts next time)
Yellow White Mix: Hansa Yellow White (50%), Titanium White (50%) [I may have added more white eventually]
Hair: Bone Black 60%, Red Oxide 40%
Halo Red: Violet Oxide 50%. Napthol Red Light 50% (start with less red, else it gets really red, really fast)

The translucency of the Golden fluid acrylics means less is more especially with the Napthol Red.

The inner robe is Violet Oxide.

In February I started the shading. First, the hair:

And there the icon sat for months until early December when I decided to test if I really needed to buy real gold or stick with the composite. My test run is below (and yes, I used a church bulletin to catch the drips.)

I bought real gold. There was something not quite right about the composite, cheap stuff. Below, Jesus finally has a face and the robes have shading. I did an idiot thing with the robe shading. I had picked up the Jo Sonja "Storm Blue" and used that instead of the mix I'd gone to all the trouble to make (and in the months since mixing the paint had totally dried out.) It still worked although my outer robe folds aren't as subtle as the inner robe folds. Also as you can see, Second Flesh is too pink so the formula needs some tweaking.

The shiny parchment worked in my favor as I redid the scripture phrase three times and each time it easily wiped off with a Q-tip and water. Thank goodness.  

You can see places where the gold didn't stick to the adhesive.

Leftover gold. Mainly because I brilliantly dropped a sheet of it.

So Jesus gets a nose job in order to use a compass to swing the halo. The halo above is still wet (and has issues, I blobbed some in the corner and had to go in with some more gold repair when I was done.) I think I ended up swinging it three times. The last two icons I painted were a single swing.

The very liquid red halo paint sits in the wee gap there near the point.
Here is Jesus Pantocrator, finished at the beginning of January. As by this point, I knew to whom it was going, I had a deadline and worked to a timetable. Completed with the varnish on and everything. You can't tell that the red crossbars and parchment are any more or less shinier than the rest of the paint. He went as a gift to my church's interim rector at the end of his time with us.

So, what's next? Well, LifeBook proved to be a massive time-suck last year and I'm doing it again this year but if I can get some dedicated weekend times, I would very much like to do Rublev's Trinity. We shall see.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Gift of Presence

Written 12/21/15: Apologies for the sudden stop in posting. I got caught up in finishing an icon (it's still in progress) and finishing up LifeBook lessons for the year. I'm taking the class again in 2016 as there's a cool new crop of teachers.)

Written 2/27/16: I finished the icon and will post about it later. I got obsessed with Hamilton (the musical). I forgot all about blogging. But found this post, last edited in December with "READY TO GO" written next to it in my Notes app so here's as good a place to re-start as any.

"I will not be driven by perfectionism or performance - because I was formed by Love, for Love. I will simply Enjoy the Ministry of Presence today: God's presence, people's presence, the present moment, the gift of now. The greatest gift I can give back to our great God is to let His love make me glad." - Ann Voskamp.

This is on the card for December 2 of Ann Voskamp's Advent reflections, which is also in her book The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas. I've had the book since it came out and do you think I've set aside time with these reflections during the Advent season? Nope. Maybe next year as this year's Still Forming Advent Meditations is enough. Ann shared this on her blog during Advent and the quote really caught my attention.

Being present to each other is an act of love. We are so easily distracted today by our small electronic devices (myself included here!), or by worries and concerns (oh, look, I am describing myself again. Preach it, sister!). It's hard to be present: present to the other people in the same room as me, present to God's presence. On my last retreat, it was so hard for me to make space for God's presence. I should have locked my phone away somewhere.

The act of being present to others is allowing them to be seen, to be heard, to be loved. 

When was the last time you let God's love make you glad?