How do you start your day? I guess we all have rituals we fall into. In 2019, I started some thoughts for the day for some friends, but actually I was the greatest beneficiary of these thoughts and prayers for others! One suggested I might consider a blog, so here we go, in 2020 stepping out-upon-the-water, lets see where this goes!
31 May 2020
Here we are in week 11 since the pandemic was declared by WHO. It seems like another world those days in March when we were glued to the news daily, to see what we could and couldn’t do. What about you now; if you are like me, I am not fixated to the news anything like as much as I was, I am rather overwhelmed with wonder as to, how did we come to this and what does the future hold for the world now, will we ever be the same again?
It struck me, that we have all become ‘responders’ to the rules, perhaps some more ‘compliant’ than others! But what does that make us? If all we do is ‘accept’ what is offered, what have we become? So, today may I encourage you to ‘make your future’ the ‘future of your dreams’. Don’t simply say ‘cay sera sera’, whatever will be will be, but rather, ‘what would you want me to be, Lord’, then go out and ‘start to make it happen’!
I am at a weird stage in my life, in many ways it’s like being a teenager all over again or having a midlife crisis! But my overriding call is simply not to be tossed and blown around with every tide and every wind, but to set sail and see how far we can go! Paul, setting his heart on Rome, Jesus setting his eye on Jerusalem. What will you set your heart on today?
Why the Chris Hull painting? Well, take a look, the track winding forward, taken up by the river, all drawing us into the sunshine in the distance, there is most certainly a journey ahead in this scene. It is most inviting, most exciting. It fascinates me to think that a painting can evoke so much more than a photograph of reality. Nearly half of 2020 has been spent, what can we look forward to in part two?
26 April 2020
What do you see in this watercolour? I don’t expect everyone to like Flint’s style as much as I do but let me use it to tell a story tonight. My wife and I just ‘came back from church’ (online). We watched one of our pastors, Chris Mendez, preach on ‘Unshakable Faith’. His thoughts certainly shook me!
It has been nearly a month since my last post. At the time I could not imagine what it would be like today, none of us could, our world has become so unpredictable. But one thing I have noticed, I have become more introspective, more detached and more isolated. A month ago, I was imagining myself as the eternal optimist, the man of faith, pointing the way toward hope, but I am sorry to say the month past has taken its toll.
Chris’ preach was built on the book of Job in the Old Testament. He recounted the sufferings of Job and highlighted three things Job did, despite his circumstances – he did not stop worshiping, he did not change his confession towards God and he did not allow his distress and sufferings to cloud his perspective – he was continually trying to lift the spirits of those who should have been seeking to bring him comfort.
So here we go, my post is simply this. In stressful circumstances, and I can imagine some reading this may be in a very dark place; I want to lift your perspective, to encourage you and perhaps ignite hope. Back to my painting, yes dark clouds are rolling in across even darker mountains. The autumn colours herald the coming of winter, but the sun is piercing through and highlighting those homes in the center, built on the top of a sheer rock wall. Is that you today? I pray that the warmth of the sun will connect with you today and lift your spirit. I pray that you will know, deep in your spirit, that these days will pass and even today, you can sense the coming easing.
Perhaps the lesson I take from Job is this. Even though so much has been take, so much liberty captured and so much freedom denied; yet will I praise God; yet will I keep my positive confession and yet will I keep a clear perspective.
My perspective is this. Earlier this year the world responded to the threat the best way it knew how. In many parts this was extremely draconian, but as more and more data are collected and more and more minds turn to objective realities rather than fearful foreboding, I believe that the measures will become more targeted, more refined and more appropriate. I pray for the leaders of the world that they will lead well and lead with wisdom. Above all, may you find peace!
Arthur Streeton (1867 – 1943) Hawkesbury Landscape
Yesterday, my wife and I did a little excursion from our home; we drove up to the Hawkesbury, to Wiseman’s Ferry and on to St Albans. When I got back, I found this painting to mark our trip and to reopen my Thoughts for the Day.
Here we are in a time and space where the world is practically paralyzed. Some are in house arrest, some in isolation within their homes, some encouraged to stay home and some in official lock-down. I find the impact of friends and family perhaps harder to manage than the official line from governments, as those we love simply want to protect us. All this has got me thinking about ‘what atmosphere are we creating?’
Take Streeton’s painting, the hint of sunshine in the left center and the hope of the blue river, while to the right there seems to be the glower of an impending squall. I am not advocating we should seek to create something that is not, no rather simply that we should check our ‘output’, what mood ‘are we’ creating?
In all our lives I suspect we have never lived through such weird times as these. I have heard so little discussion about the psychological impact on us; its all been about, see if we test positive or not. What about the great divide between the gregarious and the isolates? What about the great divide between the thinkers and the doers, the cerebral and the tactile?
Let me finish with a couple of suggestions for today. I am a planner, I love to make plans and love timetables, I love to dream dreams and then work towards them. I can’t cope with being carried along on a conveyor belt to an uncertain future at someone else’s dictate. So, I am making plans, things that can be done and projects completed even if I am literally banned by the police from leaving my home.
My second suggestion involves this blog. I really miss people and the honest interaction I have with friends and family, so I offer this blog as a ‘digital lounge room’ if you will, a place to share and a place to come for a drink of en-courage-ment. Please feel free to post your comments below or if you have a little piece you would like for me to post in my blog, feel free to email me.
Last week I made a little video at work with two of my students, the goal was more than information sharing, it was designed to ‘en-courage’ by letting us see each other’s faces in these isolated times, my goal was to create a positive mood, I hope you think we did, have a watch AC Education and COVID19.
14 February 2020
Maximilien Damico – Amalfi Coast
I love the energy of this southern Italian. He came to watercolours later in life and loved it. Today, looking into the sunlight inspires me, the way that the shadows falling towards us play with the light, the clusters of people getting smaller into the distance. The optimistic blue of the sea despite the grey of the distant sky. Perhaps what inspires me most is the energy of the scene. There is so much industry here in its many forms, the buildings clinging to the cliffs, the fishing industry and the sheer energy of the painting.
I am about to go into a big meeting today with our award accreditation people. So much of life is beyond our control, we simply have to give it all to the Lord and trust him. May I encourage you today to turn and face the son and take the encouragement and inspiration he gives us; I am sure he will never run out on us.
W Russell Flint – Le Bar sur Loup, Provence, 1962
I do love the style of W Russell Flint! He managed to create a mood, an atmosphere with such simplicity. Perhaps painting is the ability to see complexity and translate that into simplicity for the viewer to recreate the complexity in their mind. Take this village for example, Le Bar sur Loup, the overarching features for me are the colours of the walls, the occasional hint of red rooves and perhaps the suggestion of some sunlight hitting the lower buildings. The viaduct is a wonderful focal point, a narrow gauge railway link, partly destroyed in WW2 and now out of service, today a cycle and foot track. I love the upper most boundary of the hard greens against the sky suggesting the foliage of trees and the sense of depth created by the stronger tones in the foreground.
Today, I am writing from home. My reflection is all about the process of simplifying complexity and creating something new, something beautiful for others to see with our lives. How do our lives respond to complexity? With more complexity or with calm resolve and a smile! I am currently seeking to align my life, into a calm focus on the big picture while resolving to manage the detail without exploding into a million pieces! Its hard, but I have seen it done! I can see, that if W Russell Flint can do it, so can I!
Rachel McNaughton – Snowbound Flock
Over the weekend I was reading about the historical geography of Judea, where we can find Jerusalem today, on the limestone backbone of Israel. Soil is not plentiful here as the rocks project to the surface everywhere, so, not surprisingly, sheep farming has been the order of the day for millennia. Then I go to read about the habits of the shepherd with their sheep. The limestone Geology and the climate conspire to offer very little water for man or beast, so frequently for morning tea, groups of shepherds would bring their flocks for a communal drink to one of the very few wells or cisterns (rainwater tanks). When they were done the shepherds would set off, up their various valleys, calling their sheep to follow. It struck me so profoundly that these sheep simply knew their masters voice and would never follow a stranger. Each morning, when we arise, do we know the master’s voice and follow him into the day or do we sometimes drift off after a stranger as we got talking to another sheep at the well last night?
5 February 2020
Jeff Turner – Manly Sunrise
If God doesn’t build the house, the builders only build shacks. If God doesn’t guard the city, the night watchman might as well nap. It’s useless to rise early and go to bed late, and work your worried fingers to the bone. Don’t you know he enjoys giving rest to those he loves? (Ps 127:2).
Yes, last night I was blessed with good sleep and today I rise refreshed. On my walk to the bus the sun was rising giving an optimistic lift to the atmosphere. Last night was torture for me, 20 degrees colder than what I was used to here in Sydney, so the sight of the sun was such a blessing to me!
I love the dawn, there are so many possibilities with a good dawn. Nothing has been set in stone, the canvass is clear. I know some are not morning people so this may not relate to you so if that is the case, try and create an alternative stance where you can gaze into space and trust God to build. Perhaps sunsets may do this for you?
4 February 2020
Dinant – J M W Turner
This is a wonderfully impressionistic painting of part of the city of Dinant in southern Belgium with the river Meuse flowing through it from the foreground to the background, south to north. There is a huge limestone cliff to the right that is in shadow, showing that this scene is in the morning. The sun is bright, the sky blue and beautifully reflected back into the river.
I love to know where I am as you can tell! Geographical location is all important to me. But let me share where I am today. I am in my office at work, but so drawn to frantic activity to fix this and fix this. But I need to learn again the secret of ‘letting go and letting God’. My efforts are resulting in heightened stress and tight muscles in the neck. I certainly don’t pass the peace test!
What I need to do is look far into the distance, to let my eye follow the Meuse into the distance and visualize God clearing the debris from past storms clogging the river. God is so much better at doing things than me and his ways always bring peace. So, Lord, I commit to you those things that I can’t and trust you with those things that you can. Amen.
3 February 2020
Grant Fuller – Seascape
Yesterday the heavens opened and today I even found myself wondering, do I need to take a coat to work? But then a quick check of the expected temperature, no way! Well here we are, the start of my week three this year. Another confession, I am a little daunted about what is to come, so lets dive into this Canadian’s watercolour. I was searching for ‘seascapes’ but painting crashing waves seem so far out of my reach just yet but I did land on this one, yes, no waves! I can do this! It can’t be that hard! So my prayer is that I will work as hard as I can on what I can but trust in Lord for the rest. Perhaps, that’s my lesson, to find that happy equilibrium. In Grant’s painting I love the peace, the tranquility. Yes the sky is overcast right now but looking into the distance, light is coming!
31 January 2020
Dave Sparkes – The Pass, Dusk Glow
I could not work out where this was painted but never mind! What a week I have had! It has been full on, pressure, resulting in me getting annoyed and snappy. Here I go with my confessions! So, today, coffee in hand, I am sitting gazing into this painting and listening to soothing classical guitar music played by Ana Vidovic. I am seeking to pray first and seeking to settle my spirit. I awoke too early today and did not regain my sleep. Do you have such days? What do you do to settle your spirit? Do you have a ‘pressure release’ valve? You are looking at one of mine, good choice of music and, ‘whatsoever is honourable and of good report, think on these things’ (Phil 4;8). Please pray for me today in particular. That’s my other strategy, to seek others to pray. Have an awesome day!