God is in the darkness

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I was painting the background for a space picture. This alone is a new thing for me. I’m trying to learn that it is OK to work on a project over the course of time. I’m trying to learn to do things in stages. I don’t have to do the whole thing at once.

I’m not sure where I got the idea that I had to finish a painting all at once. I have wirework projects that I can’t finish all at once. The work is too hard on my hands and wrists to complete it in one day. There are certainly beading projects that are sitting in plastic bags in bins right now, half finished. I may never finish them.

Perhaps part of it is that acrylic paint can’t be worked with once it is dry, and it dries very fast. Beads don’t care. With beads, I can take the whole thing apart and redo it as many times as I want. Paint isn’t forgiving like that.

But I keep reading about image transfer and collage, and I keep thinking it is cool. I’ve got all the materials I need (I think) and I’ve read quite a number of books about it. I still don’t think I know what I am doing, so I haven’t tried. But I’m trying to convince myself that if I don’t try, it is worse than trying and failing. Not using art supplies for fear that I’ll mess them up is worse than using them and not getting what I was aiming for. At least when I use them, I’m learning how to use them, and I’m learning what works and what doesn’t.

All the image transfer and collage techniques are multi-day projects. You have to paint the background, and let it dry a day. Then you paint a layer of clear glue on it. And let it dry a day. Then put something else on. And let it dry a day. You get the idea. Lots of waiting. Lots of days.

Part of my issue is that I want results now. I’m trying to get over that. I’m trying to use these kinds of projects to get over that. I always have “quick” projects to give me that “I made something” buzz, in the meantime.

So, back to the painting. I needed a black background, but I didn’t want to use black. That is too easy. So I used a really dark grey called Paynes Grey, and a really dark purple called Dioxazine Violet (Hue). I squirted some of each on the canvas and swirled them around and together. I really like the color I got. It isn’t traditionally black, but it is plenty dark. I figure space isn’t black, but more purple/grey, if it had to have a color.

In reality, I figure it is the absence of light, and that doesn’t have a color at all.

But then I didn’t like the lines in it. Because I use my fingers to paint, there were large lines in it. No matter how I swished and flicked my fingers, the lines were still there. I don’t want lines, because they will draw attention to themselves. This is a background. Backgrounds are supposed to stay in the back, right? They are the supporting role, not the main character.

So I started “writing”. I have a friend who does “light language”- which is really the gift of tongues. It can be done with the voice or with writing. Her coming out about it has reminded me of the fact that I’ve done this for years. I stopped doing it because it felt silly. I got really self conscious of it and stopped. I never showed anybody what I was doing. I guess there was some shame in it, because I felt like an oddball.

You aren’t weird if there are other people who do the same thing, though.

So I’ve started doing it again, intentionally. I’m letting the Holy Spirit work through me in this new/old way, and it is really freeing. I’m still really aware how unusual it is so I don’t do it all the time. I’m mindful of my audience.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget that a minister told me to stop talking about how God was talking to me, was waking me up at night to give me messages. A minister, telling me to stop talking about God. In church. To church members. Isn’t that the place where people who have those kinds of experiences go? Isn’t that the place where people seek to have those kinds of experiences? Isn’t that the place where people read about other people in the Bible having those experiences?

I’m glad I chose to leave that church rather than to be silent.

So when I started to write on this painting, I learned something. I didn’t write down or record my experience. I spoke the words out loud and “wrote” them in my light language shorthand. When I write this way, I write left to right, then right to left. I kind of make an S across the page, going back and forth, until I am done.

Here is what I remember of it:

Under the sea, and deep in space, it is very dark. The darkness is vast and silent.

There is potential in darkness.

Babies grow in darkness.

The seed is the same way, swelling, stretching.

And God is there in the darkness.

This reminds me of Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

Which then leads to Psalm 139-12-16
…even the darkness is not dark to You.
The night shines like the day;
darkness and light are alike to You.
13 For it was You who created my inward parts;
You knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I will praise You
because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made.
Your works are wonderful,
and I know this very well.
15 My bones were not hidden from You
when I was made in secret,
when I was formed in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw me when I was formless;
all my days were written in Your book and planned
before a single one of them began.

I was afraid of darkness when I started this project, and now I am at peace. I’ve gotten the message that God is there, at work, even if I can’t see it. I’ve gotten the message that God has a plan for my life.

Then this leads me to Jeremiah 29:11-13
11 For I know the plans I have for you”—this is the LORD’s declaration—“plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. 12 You will call to Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.

What an amazing message to come from just painting the background to a piece that I don’t even know what it is going to be.

Thanks be to God.

seed

An apple seed, sprouting.

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On Light Language, and uncovering myself.

For years I’ve suppressed who I am. This may not seem like a true statement to people who know me. They see me as a free spirit, an artist, a creator. They see me as someone who isn’t afraid to speak her truth.

This is true, but there’s more. In this past year of writing I’ve opened up more. I’ve gotten looser. I’ve stretched far enough to reach parts of myself I’d forgotten, or chosen to forget. I’ve suppressed my true nature because it isn’t socially acceptable. It’s weird. I’ve feared I’ll be looked at strangely – more than I already am.

However, in these last few years I’ve found new people who see the world like I do. I’ve found visionaries, seers, misfits all. I’ve found folks who hear a call that others don’t, or won’t admit that they do. We are finding strength in our friendships. When we share our stories, we know we aren’t alone, we aren’t crazy.

If others hear the same call, you know you aren’t making it up. Part of being different is being brave enough to speak your truth, in part so that others can speak their truth. When one person admits that they see the world differently, it gives others permission to admit that they see it that way too.

It is as if the rest of world is colorblind. I’ve tried to speak of other colors, of the vibrant fire of red and the cool healing of green, and the world just looks at me like I’m a sweet little child to be humored. They can only see yellow and blue. They don’t know what I’m talking about. They’ve patted me on the head and said “That’s nice” and gone on their way.

For years I thought I wasn’t seeing correctly. Now I know better. I’ve met others who see these colors too, and paint in them, sing in them, dance in them. I know, that we know, that this is a reality.

This painting is speaking to that.

This is the final version. Fortunately I’d taken a picture of a previous version to share with you.

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(I apologize for the dark corner – I’ve included a better picture of it later.)

It started off as an accident, but we know there are no accidents. Accidents are just events that we didn’t plan for. It doesn’t mean that they aren’t meant to happen.

I was painting something else and had a lot of paint left over. These days, I paint by putting blobs of paint right on the canvas and mixing it with my fingers. It is very fun, but very messy. I didn’t want to waste the paint that was still on my fingers. There was a lot, and it had swirled in really interesting ways. I’d hoped to keep the project going in a new way.

I took another canvas out and wiped the rest of the paint off my fingers onto it. There wasn’t enough paint to cover the canvas and I’d already put up most of my paint tubes. I then decided to paint over it with white so I could use the canvas for something else later. Then, after covering it with white, I scribbled on it. I did something that I’ve done for years but not known what I was doing.

It looks like shorthand, but it isn’t. It doesn’t look like any language I know. It is quick, and free, and it just feels like it needs to be this way. There is a rhythm, a pattern that happens when I write like this. It isn’t really scribbling. It feels like writing, but I don’t know what it says.

One of my new friends has introduced me to a term for this. It is called “light language.” It is like speaking in tongues, but it is visual. The fact that she is writing a book about it using information from many other people who do this too makes me feel better. It makes me not feel like a weirdo. There are YouTube videos of people speaking and signing in light language as well.

It looked like this.

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I really liked how the color from the first application of paint showed through the white. I didn’t like how the canvas showed through though. I decided to let it dry and think about it.

A few days later I painted over it with a lot of beautiful dark colors. I loved the swirls and whorls. One side effect is that the first example of light language showed through. I’d not planned on that. I’d hoped it would be filled in and covered up by the paint. This is deeply meaningful. Once again I’m trying to suppress myself, my true nature.

I almost didn’t want to go on with the second part of the project because I liked the color paths I’d created. But, it is just paint. Part of my practice these days is learning to accept change and that I can’t keep everything to myself. I’ve got to let some things go.

Part of my practice is also learning that some things can’t be done in a day, or a week, or a month, or a year. Some things take a while. You have to let something dry. You have to wait until you have the right part. You have to wait until you learn a new technique. You have to wait until you are ready for the art to be created through you.

I’m learning the balance between action and inaction, and that inaction doesn’t always mean sloth.

I painted over this but left the bottom right corner exposed. I wanted to show the beauty underneath. I didn’t want it all hidden. I also like that you can see the light language I covered up when I painted over it.

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This piece speaks to my years of hiding myself and my abilities. It speaks to self-censorship and of fear of ridicule. It speaks of finally finding my voice and delighting in it. It speaks of the joy of knowing that I’m heard in a compassionate way. It speaks of a new community of people who see in full color and aren’t afraid to admit it.

I’ve dated it, because the day I finished it is St. Brigid’s feast day, and the day before Imbolc. It is a day of new beginnings, and of the new and the old merging. It is a day of unveiling. This bodes well for a new year of new discoveries.

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Signs of the Holy Spirit

We have lost touch with the Holy Spirit in many churches. Many people don’t know how to recognize when the Holy Spirit is present and active. We hear about the Pentecostal idea of speaking in tongues, of handling serpents, and of drinking poison. These are scary things. Most people think these are otherworldly actions, and they shy away from even wanting the Holy Spirit to come into their lives.

But we need the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the force that makes the whole thing go. The Spirit is the gas in the car, the fuel in the rocket. Without the Spirit, the Body will not get anywhere.

Here are the verses in question – Mark 16:17-18 “And these signs shall follow them that believe: In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues. They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” And Luke 10:19 – “Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.”

Handling serpents and drinking poison sound freaky, and they are. I honestly don’t think that those actions are meant to be intentionally done. I think that scripture means that if we are filled with the Spirit, nothing can harm us. That snakes and poison will not affect us. I don’t think you are supposed to test God by taking these things up. I think that what this means is that if you are filled with the Spirit, you won’t be harmed if these things were to cross your path.

I do wonder why these churches seem to focus on the less useful signs like handling snakes and drinking poison rather than the more helpful sign like healing. Wouldn’t it be amazing if their worship services were all about healing people? And I don’t mean the TV evangelist who puts on a big carnival show of bopping someone on the head and they fall to the floor. I mean real healing, deep to the core. Healing that comes from a person letting go of their fears and their doubts and their pain and their loss. Healing that comes from letting go, and letting God.

Who is to say that “speaking in tongues” isn’t the same as being fluent in another language? It seems like being able to speak to people in their own language would be helpful. It would let the other person know that they aren’t alone and they are understood. We have so much miscommunication going on right now even with people who do speak the same language. It would be great if we could access the ability to really connect with other people. We can, through the Holy Spirit. We just have to remember how to reconnect.

Now, understand that the Holy Spirit isn’t really mentioned in most churches. It is mentioned in Bible readings as a historical thing, but not as a real, right now kind of thing. We certainly aren’t taught how to call it down or how to recognize it or use it. God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit are seen as kind of real, but not really accessible or present right now, to us.

So I’m going to try to muddle through and tell you what I’ve figured out. It isn’t expert at all. It is feeling things through, step by step. But it feels right. I don’t know how to call it down, but I’m starting to recognize when it is present, so I’ll start with that.

How do you know that the Holy Spirit is present? We can’t experience it directly with our senses, but the Spirit affects things around us in unusual ways and we can notice those changes.

One of the ways the Spirit reveals itself is in unusual weather, especially water. God is within water, and a pervasive mist is a beautiful sign of the Spirit. It reveals to us that we are totally within the presence of God. We can walk through mist, and it gets in our hair and on our skin. We breathe it in. This is exactly the way that God is here on this earth. God is everything. Everything is from God. From the smallest fish in the ocean to the largest tree in the forest, all is from God. We are all condensed light from the source. If the mist is icy, it is all the more a sign. It calls attention to itself. It is unusual. It almost creates a feeling of electricity on your skin.

The Spirit also lets us know that it is present through wind and sound. Strong winds can be a sign. Bells, whistles, chirps that are unusual are of note. Odd, pleasant high-pitched sounds. Windchimes. These are all to be noted if they are sounds that are pleasant yet call attention to themselves. They aren’t background noise, but they aren’t annoying.

The Spirit also lets us know it is present through smell. The smell of incense or roses, when there are none around, is a very good indicator of the presence of the Spirit.

People who have been touched by the Holy Spirit often have a feeling of more energy. They often don’t need as much sleep as they normally do, but they still feel rested. You might not get as much sleep as you wanted, but you’ll get as much as you need. This gives you more time to do the work of the Spirit. You’ll have more time to pray for others or to volunteer.

When you notice the signs of the Holy Spirit, give thanks for it. It likes to be noticed. If you notice it, it will come more often. If you ignore it, it may pass you by and seek out someone else who can benefit from the immense power that it has to offer.

Jesus tells us in John 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” We must get reconnected to the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit, otherwise the Body will die.