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Tag: peace

Creative Lent #6: Gilded

The astute among you will have noticed that Lent has finished.

In point of fact, not only has Lent passed, but Holy Week and Easter weekend as well!

It’s fair to say, therefore, that this post is a tiny bit late…however, better late than never ūüôā

For those of you who have just joined us, I have been writing a series of posts over the last few weeks, as part of my personal reflection during Lent. I don’t normally write things which are quite so overtly Christian, but hopefully this hasn’t created a barrier for you as the reader.

The themes I was focussing on during this period were: Restoration, Repentance and Rest and I set myself the challenge of creating something new each week, which responded to one of these three themes. This is the final piece and although it’s a couple of weeks late, I hope you’ll still find it interesting and useful.

Having already done two pieces on Restoration and Repentance, I decided to revisit Rest for my final piece, and I must admit it was a tricky one for a while. I just couldn’t figure out what I wanted to do, or what God might be saying to me…

During this period of pondering, I happened to be on my way to Portsmouth College for one of my weekly Chaplaincy visits. I’m part of a small project in Portsmouth Deanery, called the Youth Chaplaincy project and I use creative practice to engage staff and students in discussion about all sorts of themes including spirituality, mental health, equality, terrorism, communication, gender…basically anything!

My route takes me through various neighbourhoods in Portsmouth, including Baffins which has a beautiful pond with waterfowl. Normally the swans, geese and ducks stay within the confines of the pond boundary but on the day I was driving through, a pair of swans decided to find somewhere else to have a nap…

It was a very pleasant Spring day, with wonderful sunshine and the swans had wandered away from the pond to find a patch of grass on which to sleep. As you can see from the photo, they were right up alongside the path and people were strolling fairly close by and walking their dogs.

Dog walkers detoured around them and people walking by were respectful of the swans and kept their distance, although a fair number of us did pause to watch them for a while and take photos!

The swans never moved. They didn’t raise their heads to watch us. They were happy resting. They weren’t alarmed, edgy or nervous; they were confident that the place they had chosen was safe and secure and that no harm would come to them.

The swans felt confident and safe enough to rest just where they were.

Something about that really spoke to me: something about them feeling safe, secure and at ease, in a space which could have made them feel vulnerable and in danger. There were no fences, nothing to stop anyone coming right up to them, or a stray ball hitting them. They felt confident and safe.

How often do we feel like that? Can we list the places or people with whom we feel safe? Safe enough to let down our guard? To allow ourselves to be vulnerable, to cry? To shout out the rage and grief which burns within, without fear of rebuke?

This notion of being at peace, of being able to rest in safety and confidence, without feeling vulnerable, rolled around in my head for a few days after that, and it occurred to me that for us as humans, the feeling of safety often coincides with trust and the sense of ‘being known’. With our life partner, very close family or friends, we feel like we can tell them things which really matter¬†because they know us. They are trusted and safe.

I have a habit of falling asleep when riding in someone else’s car. Not always, but fairly often. I apologised to my friend once, having drifted off while he was driving. But he responded by saying it was a real compliment, because I’d obviously felt safe enough to completely let down my guard and fall asleep, trusting him to keep me safe.

Rest means allowing ourselves to become vulnerable.

Which brings us to the sixth and final piece I have created for this Lent reflection. It is called¬†Gilded¬†and it’s a mixed media piece involving embroidery, beadwork and paint.

In the picture you can see five vertical coloured bands, descending the paper, each with their own corresponding embroidery and beads. The bands might represent different people in your life, or perhaps different seasons – childhood, adolescence, adulthood and so on.

Each band of colour has beads sewn into it, and these are the things which I want to give particular attention to because these represent our flaws, mistakes and foibles. These are the hiccups in life; the failures and mistakes. The things we regret or failed to do. And these things can feel like huge lumps, like boulders in our lives; things we carry and can never quite be rid of.

These are the things which mark our lives.

They’re the kind of things which perhaps only a few people ever know about. The kind of thing where you look at the stranger standing in front of you and think ‘Oh, if you only knew what I’m really like…”

But here’s the really amazing part: as ¬†Christian I believe that God sees and knows all these things. Every bead, every knot, every mistake, every mis-spoken word which can’t be taken back. He sees and knows all of them.

Across the whole piece are black splodges -things which marr and spoil the overall affect. These also represent things which we can’t undo.

But instead of punishing us, instead of pushing us away and saying that we’re not worthy, God does something quite remarkable and completely undeserved.

He gilds our sins and makes them beautiful.

By his grace, made possible through the events of Easter and Jesus’ death and resurrection, God makes the ugly things beautiful and the broken things whole. He takes our mistakes and blemishes and paints them with gold.

You are redeemed. You are beautiful. You are loved. You are precious. You are accepted. You are whole. You are mine.

 

 

What this means is that we can rest: we can let down our guard and allow ourselves to become vulnerable, just like the swans did, because we are safe. ¬†We can relax and know that God already knows everything about us – and he still loves us. We can rest, knowing that he sees all our flaws and achievements and he still likes us. No extra effort required. No pretending that it’s all ok, when ¬†it isn’t really.

Rest is allowing yourself to be truly honest and vulnerable, because you truly believe and know that you’re safe.

 

This may feel like a lot to take on board, and in the interests of honesty, I will admit to you that I personally don’t find this concept particularly easy. That’s not to say I don’t think it’s true for you: I have no difficulty believing that God feels this way about each and every person I meet. I just struggle sometimes to believe it for myself.

So maybe rest takes practice. Maybe we don’t have to throw down all our walls at once – maybe we can do it gradually, slowly, bit by bit and piece by piece until eventually we feel the same sense of security which those swans felt.

May you come to know rest in God, as a place of peace and safety. Of being known and accepted. Understood and cherished.¬†May you know the comfort and peace from knowing you’ve been Gilded.

 

 

 

Remembering to breathe

A singing bowl

Today was the long awaited Creativity Conference, which took place at St Thomas’ Cathedral in Old Portsmouth. It was a legacy from the Creative Partnerships programme, which I used to work for, as a Creative Agent and you can look back through previous posts to find out more about that work.

For more coverage of the conference itself and the excellent speakers, please look here: http://www.facebook.com/creacon12 and here: http://creacon12.tumblr.com/

However, it was something that happened during the afternoon that I want to reflect on here, and that was the address given by Kristen Birkland from the Kaospilots.

She talked about creativity and ways of nurturing creativity. She used a creation story to illustrate how and where creativity can be seen and understood, and the commentators and people on twitter quite rightly commented that she ‘mesmerised’ ¬†and ‘captivated’ the audience.

Having visited Aarhus and the Kaospilots school myself last year, I was forcibly reminded of my visit there, and it felt to me like suddenly breathing in again after having held my breath for a long time. I don’t know if you’ve ever done that: held your breath without realising it, because you were concentrated or absorbed by something. Not for any length of time, but just a few moments, until you suddenly realise what you’re doing – and you breathe in again and feel that life-giving revitalising air swoop into your lungs.

Spending time with the Kaospilots and with other people who have been there – all dreamers in their different ways, is life-giving to me. Food for the soul. And there were a lot of moments in those keynote speeches, when what was being shared really resonated with me…which brings us to the singing bowl.

I daresay you were wondering why I’ve included it? Maybe by now you were inventing your own reasons and theories as to why? The answer is two-fold:

Firstly because Richard Sant, the Director for Creative Enterprise at the University of Portsmouth had one at the conference today, and he chimed it whenever a session was due to finish. And it struck me what a fabulous illustration it is of the second and more important reason:

About how a singing bowl actually works:

The tone is caused by the bowl vibrating. You can see this fairly clearly in the first section of the video when the large bowl is struck. The way in which the bowl is hit or rubbed makes the bowl oscillate Рthat is it wobbles in a oval shape, and that is what causes the sound. It is a very clear sound and it carries very effectively across a large space.

Much of what I heard today – and particularly in Kristen’s talk, resonated¬†with me. It caused an answering vibration which I heard, felt and understood. And yet I hadn’t appreciated how much I’d missed it, until I heard it again.

 

The challenge of any conference, training or retreat is: how are you going to apply what you’ve learnt when you get back? How will you make it stick? I think for me, I need to action some things I’ve been mulling over for a while, including writing my paper on education entitled: ‘The Writer, The Illustrator and General MacNamara’, which I’ll post here when its finished. Another action is to work harder at making time to reflect. Making it a priority to create space for daydreaming, doodling, meditating and reflecting. It’s too, too easy to get caught up in the ‘doing’ part, but always far harder to employ the discipline of stopping, pausing and being still.

Perhaps I’d better invest in a singing bowl while I’m at it…?

 

Chris T. Ingle

 

As part of our church preparations for Christmas, I volunteered to write a story about the Christingle and what it means. At bedtime tonight I was trying to encourage my children to finish their bedtime jobs – tooth-brushing etc and began a countdown.

At first it was in English and then I decided to countdown in ‘alien’ creating a string of nonsense words, which they found utterly hilarious!

Needless to say it didn’t speed up the bedtime routine at all, but it was rather good fun!

That then inspired me to think about the Christingle story and 3 hours later here is the result. I don’t normally post a piece of work in its¬†entirety, but on this occasion I will, and if you like the story then please share it with someone else, and hopefully it will help them find a bit of peace this Christmas.

Chris T. Ingle

Chris T. Ingle will be performed at Sunday Sanctuary, Wilmcote House Community Room in Portsmouth on Sunday 4th December. Visitors are always welcome.

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