Friday, October 14, 2016

Thoughts on creation and wisdom

Dogwood in front of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church; Lansdale, PA

I have been asked to reflect upon it at my church this Sunday (10-16-16). So I better get some thoughts flowing.

I have always struggled with the "created in God's image" bit from the first Chapter of Genesis:
God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
 Why us and not the Northern Shafted Flicker, or a virus that fractures a tulip in a dazzling array of colors, or a Dogwood Tree? Does God not resemble trees, diseased plants, and Woodpeckers?

Thirty years ago I gave a talk on Nuclear Winter in front of fellow biology students and biology professors. I was asked one question: Are you depressed now?

I remember my answer: No, because even at our most destructive self, we humans apparently cannot eliminate life on this planet.

And 30 years later, might I add: if you leave God a critter or two, God will be use the laws of science to recreate the image of God, which we see as a mirror.

And that is one of the things that has caught my eye about Sophia in the seventh chapter in the Book of Wisdom:

26 For she(Lady Wisdom, Sophia) is a reflection of eternal light, a spotless mirror of the working of God, and an image of his goodness. 
27 Though she is but one, she can do all things, and while remaining in herself, she renews all things...
Creation is a mirror and God's light shines off of it in the most amazing reflection. We see creation when a photon of light enters the lens of our eye and sends an electrical impulse into our brain. All of it. The good, the bad, and the ugly is all creation. We are meant to open our eyes and be moved by what is seen.

Don't ignore the good or the bad. Beauty fades. Ugly transforms. Creation is not static.
Creation unfolds with time and space. The master of understanding this relationship was Albert Einstein who said:

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. To whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: their eyes are closed.

which sounds like a fine transition to my most recent post.

Then to make an ending in which I motivate all to be like God, be creative.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

A Bishop's Gift changes the tides

The seven prayer mandala by Wayne Stratz

What does it take to change the tides in your life? Once pulled away it takes a shift to bring us back to a place where we were progressing. This summer as we had far less rain than normal, I spoke of the need of a weather event to knock that prevailing dryness for a loop. Apparently my blog needed the same thing and it came one day at my church, when a friend asked me to create a gift for the new Episcopal Bishop for southe east PA

When I pray, awe in the studio, this is it what I mean: When friends and people I have never met, trust that I will create beauty; I am awed. 

When we are awed by God's presence, a flower, a bird, a piece of music, a meal, or a story; we are called to be aware of how amazing creation is, to be awed." 

When I am trusted to create a piece of art that will be seen as beautiful, is a gift of trust that I don't want to ever forget. So I keep reminders in my studio to keep me aware that God's presence is there. 

When someone sees my art on their computer or phone, they may or may not know about the spiritual side of my studio; but my friend has listened to me lead discussions to adults and youth at our church and so he knows me in ways that others may not. He trusted me to not only to be artistic, but also spiritual. 

The tide shifted. And that is why this commission meant so much to me. And I felt a need to write a post.

Here is what I wrote to the Bishop:

"Dear Bishop Gutierrez

It was an honor to be asked to create a piece of art to celebrate your visit to Holy Trinity Lansdale. Welcome.

When you look at this you may or may not see seven circles, but at one point that is all that was on a piece of paper. The circles represent what I pray each Sunday after I receive the Holy Eucharist.

Love in my home
Awe in my studio
Beauty in my garden
Music in my church
Joy in my classroom
Grace with my friends
Hope in all things.

I wrote these down at a silent retreat at The Jesuit Center in Wernersville, PA in 2014. Over time they have not changed, except switching out music for jazz, however, show up on a Sunday when I am setting up coffee and you will hear some jazz.

However, I have seen them changed and how they flow from one place into another. My experiences of God in a sunflower help my eyes to see beauty everywhere. A hymn bringing tears to my eyes, only reinforces my desire to play music in my studio.

If I try to understand why I wrote down Grace with my friends, I am not sure, but maybe one day it will be clearer. A conversation at a memorial service yesterday seems to be a piece of the picture.

And maybe it is the blending of these circles in my life, that shaped the design in front of you. As I listened to Clark Terry play ballads, the circles that I wanted became blurred. It was not my plan, but luckily I let it unfold into what it became.

And a thought about the colors: The colors were chosen from memories of a trip to New Mexico in the late 90’s and the landscapes of Cezanne. I started with the green and chose a variety to flow through the mandala. That left 14 pieces. Seven for a red created by the Youghiogheny glass company here in PA and a deep amber that took me to NM and Cezanne.

Again, welcome to PA. My day job prevents my presence today, but I do hope to meet you in the near future."