Friday, 28 March 2008

Living in the New

"He took my hand and led me out between the pillars into the warm sunlight.
We stood in a fair grassy court, with blue fresh sky above; mountain sky.
In the centre of the court was a bath, filled by a clear stream, where many could have swum and played....
The air which came from Psyche's clothes and limbs was wild and sweet.
Joy silenced me". C S Lewis - Till We Have Faces.

It's been there from our moment of great loss onwards - our tendency to obscure or 're-interpret' our relationship to the material world. We're surrounded by schemes and products that encourage us to do that all the time, but few of us really stop to ask why, and is there a much better answer?

In a popular TV show that's been running here in the UK for a few years now, one popular image guru hit upon a truth that the general beauty industry tends to ignore - genuine 'good health' can only begin when we really find a way to become 'happy' about who we really are, which can then become reflected in a confidence about our bodies.

The Christian message (when it's presented well), essentially places us before the mirror of facing essential truths about our nature, our existence and our true purpose. Humans were not made to be 'gods' or worms - our true place is in the life we were meant to inhabit between heaven and earth, rooted to creation, but in fellowship with God. Only here, in that context, can we truly find the 'perfection' that we so deeply crave for our entire nature, body and soul.

The work of God through Jesus Christ has been to reveal His power (grace) in order to destroy that which is unnatural in the order of creation - the evil which tarnishes and corrupts the good made in the beginning. Christ's death and resurrection, then, is the way in which God untangles our inability to be natural (to be what we were created to be) - it allows the natural to be restored, so faith in Christ's work becomes the means whereby we can be re-connected to the life and nature we are intended to know forever.

One of my greatest joys as a photographer is when I see a flowering of confidence and fresh awareness of character appear within a person as a result of 'seeing' themselves afresh through a set of images from a shoot, or in another photographer, taking new steps, because a workshop or discussion has encouraged him or her to do so. That manner of 'making new' is at the very heart of the gift of life which springs from the work of God's Spirit as we trust in Jesus Christ - the living word and bread of heaven.

God is seeking to open our hearts, minds, bodies and souls to the reality of new life, so that whether we our raised up or face trial, in whatever we do, we might know a richness that is never diminished, but grows until that day of new beginnings - the renewal of the cosmos!

Thursday, 20 March 2008

The Wonderous Expression

"At present, we do not see this, but we see Him who for a season was humbled to be lower than the angels - Jesus - now crowned with glory and honour because of the suffering of death so that by God's grace He might taste death for everyone...
It was fitting that He, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many to glory, should be the author of salvation through such suffering". Hebrews 2:9 & 10.

So there I was, traveling across the beautiful Devon countryside, listening to a friend convey their puzzlement at the 'move-ability' of the feast of Easter, enjoying the lightness of the friendly banter, but already feeling in my depths that THE special moment of the year was about to arrive again - when both the season of nature and the 'moment' often termed holy week had once more merged to convey a truth as deep and as precious as the sweetest pollen on a morning breeze....

Once more my thoughts returned to that moment in the garden when Father, Son and Spirit had acted together in the final creative moment of that first 'holy' week - to make one (male and female) which would express His likeness and Image (note: holy because of God's conclusive 'inhabiting' of the 7th day). Theologians have long pondered in what sense this is true of us, and it may be that all of such answers hold some aspect of the answer, but there is one answer that must be true.
The famous statement of the Westminster Confession speaks of how our purpose is to glorify God and thereby enjoy Him forever, to fulfill the greatest commandment, but tied to this is the other great command - to love each other. When we look upon the temple of God's handiwork structured and then furnished in the work of creation, we view the realm where we are intended to be 'priests and kings' - those responsible for living a life toward God and each other that will indeed express the 'beauty of holiness' by the fact that all of this was made good and is meant to be used well. We can so often seek God in all the wrong places, when He wishes us to invest reality into the soil beneath our feet, the handiwork of our hands, the passion of our hearts.

Good Friday is a day when we can begin to comprehend the breadth, height and depth of God's love for us and the world He has made - that Christ came, suffered and died to remove the stain of our folly of seeking to be gods and becoming less than human. We can indeed look upon Jesus and see the new beginning; the one which so clearly speaks of the world in which there will be no more sin and sickness, suffering or sorrow, but a glorious eternity of life marked by love and joy in His care.

Come and dine - taste and see, that the wine of His mercy, the bread of His provision, will make your soul assured, and your face to shine..!

Sola Deo Gloria.

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Seeing Well

"Be as interested in as many things as possible (because that still won't be enough to satiate your need for 'connection' to create good art). Fill your day and your mind and your surroundings with curiosity - ask questions of everybody and about a 'limitless' person to others - don't hide your ignorance, for this is simply the unlit side of curiosity and the outside door to wisdom and knowledge". Hans Rookmaaker.

It's something photography has taught me so well - how little I really see and how much I really miss.
We all know that by using light, our eyes take information from the world around us to allow us to perceive and engage with what we then deem to be the 'real' world, but the reality is that we are often pretty lax, even careless about how we employ and use this wonder that we actually miss a great deal. Our ignorance begins very close to home - concerning the eye itself.

Recent research has revealed that far from being just a 'lens' to see through, the retina is in fact an external piece of brain tissue which has more computational ability than today's most sophisticated super computers! This capability allows the eye to complete intelligent, highly constructive processes regarding the world well before the information is passed through into the brain itself for further processing.

Every morning when we wake, most of us have the ability to employ this tool as our first means of exploring the world with questions, but we tend to switch to 'safe' mode, eat our toast as we listen to the weather report, and generally live life the same way we did yesterday.
The reality, however, is that life is never that two dimensional. There is far more going on if we are prepared to 'lift the rug' and take a closer look - if we move beyond our usual comfort zones.

Art can move us because it seeks to do just that - it seeks to paint on a broad canvas (thereby causing us to quickly take notice) words and images that seek to express something 'larger' about the reality of our being here, and such questions, thoughts and impressions resonate with each of us because we know we were designed to 'see' at such a level.

As a Christian, I believe there is a similarity between the power of our eyes to connect us to reality and the gift of faith. Faith can so often be seen as something passive - a statement on a page that we assent to in some dusty corner of our thoughts - but real faith disturbs and provokes us, inspires and challenges us, keeps us awake at all hours as we ponder some wonder. Faith is not afraid to 'dance in the rain', explore the tiniest atomic particle or stand bare before the glory of a sunset, for in all of this and much more, it can indeed 'see' a greater wisdom.

As Easter draws near, we need to re-discover both the world around us, and the 'deeper' world which whispers through what we observe.

Friday, 7 March 2008

A world going nowhere...?

"Life isn't easy
Love never lasts
You just carry on
And keep moving fast"

From 'Cry Like A Rainstorm' by Linda Ronstadt.

It's pretty easy these days to despair - both on a personal and social level - about the state of life on this world. Everyday brings yet more stories of misery, pain, woe and despair. It seems that everyone is either enveloped in such hurt or moving as fast as they can in 'eat, drink and be merry' mode to try and keep away from it, but life tugs us into trial whatever we do. If it's not happening to us personally right now, it's happening to someone close. Sit down with most people for a couple of minutes who want to talk, and you'll be stunned by what most of us carry on our backs most of the time...we really are a race standing on the cliff edge with a gale rising behind.

It's easy for us, especially when in pain, to be spiteful about such a plight - we can all to easily become a mob all wanting to scramble higher - but we know that's not the answer. In those moments when life is kinder, we reveal another side to what it means to be human - one marked by care, affection, and a delight in all that is genuinely good - that is what resides beneath the 'rags' of our more "burnt out" experiences.

In a world slashed and torn by the wound of sin, it's important we understand that the pearls of our experience (some of which are forged and honed by the very pain we know) are of eternal value, for they indeed speak of a life we are meant to know - forever.

When Christ looked upon the mass of the 'walking wounded' (you and me), He felt compassion for us - a love that had brought God here as man to live and die to show that there is more, far more to life than we often comprehend amidst the mire. Christ implores us to look up, to look through those moments of wonder and beauty we encounter to see the one behind such marvels and realize that there is an answer to the bleakness - a solution which will result in a new creation, where all of life is marked by grace and peace.

In those moments when you sense awe in your soul, pause and reflect on this.