Monday, March 31, 2014

Art Journey through Lent {Words}

"To live a disciplined life is to live in such a way that you want only to be where God is with you.  The more deeply you live your spiritual life, the easier it will be to discern the difference between living with God and living without God, and the easier it will be to move away from the places where God is no longer with you.  The great challenge here is faithfulness, which must be lived in the choices of every moment...Every time you do something for the glory of God, you will know God's peace in your heart and find rest there."  ~Henri Nouwen

In John 8 I read hints of my favorite chapter in all of scripture, John 15.  "Abide in my word," Jesus says, "and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free."  Reading further through this chapter I see more of Jesus' references to "words":

"...yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you."
"You do not understand what I say...because you cannot bear to hear my word."
"Whoever is of God hears the words of God."
"Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death."
"I do know [God] and I keep his word."

I couldn't get away from it, so I embraced it.  The Word, who was at the beginning of everything and created everything, speaking of words as life.  Listen to them, understand them, say them, witness them, hear them.  Yet the leaders of the day were in heightened opposition to Jesus at this point, wanting to trick him, trip him up, even kill him.  He said they didn't understand.  And really, neither do I.  I follow and I seek because of the 2000 years of filter, expectation, and reflection separating me and Jesus' ministry, death and resurrection.  So I lean in now, wanting to learn and understand.

Just prior to these interactions Jesus wrote in the sand {words again?} and cautioned only those without sin to throw stones.  He gave grace, mercy, pardon, to one who should have been condemned by the very laws of his own tradition.  But Jesus is the light, and he fulfilled and finished it all.

So I write, and I listen, and I create.  As Nouwen says above, I want to be so deep in my abiding that I can discern the difference between living with God and without Him.  That I can make those choices every moment to dwell where He is.

In my art journal, in response to this, I circled each of the references to "words" I found in John 8, and then I drew and cut out letters from an old encyclopedia to use on my page.

I love finding engaging books on the sale rack at the library.  These were a total of $1.25: a design textbook, and a beautifully illustrated children's book on the myth of Achilles.  For some reason design and architecture books are some of my favorites for art journaling. Something clean and structured about them, vibrant and bold.

I found design images using words and letters, as I reflected on the power of those symbols we take for granted, either in spoken or written form.  I placed them and collaged them into my page.

I used dot stickers and clipped a figure out of the children's book to symbolize my "abiding" in the word.  I wrote ABIDE in block text on a photo of a windowed building.

Using mod podge, I adhered it all on my spread, and added some more red {using tissue paper} and masking tape.

Collage excites me and speaks to me deeply.  For a while it was all I did, gluebook style, but I have fallen away from the practice.  This page reminded me why I love it so much.

This might be one of my favorites.


What do you need to be set free from?  Name it, write it, release it.  What are the words you most need to heed from Jesus' mouth and teaching in John 8?  Read and ask for illumination, let the words open you in ways they haven't before.  In this chapter Jesus speaks of Abraham as seeing him from those thousands of years before, and of seeing the Father and coming from the Father.  This is also the passage where Jesus asserts the blasphemous line, "Before Abraham was, I AM."  How does this all want to present itself on the page before you?

Lord, you are truth, and light, and freedom.  Speak to me the words I most need to hear.  Unlock my heart and show me where I can show mercy as you do.  I want to know what you wrote in the sand, and I want to have the boldness to follow God in the face of opposition.  Teach me, give me understanding, put your words in my mouth and on my heart.  Amen.

It seems that for me Mondays and Wednesdays are the ones for creating and posting going forward.  Life has been keeping me moving, and allowing fewer opportunities than I had anticipated.  But this practice has been wonderful for me and I will keep up with it as I am able.  

If you are creating alongside me, use the hashtag #lentenartjourney14 on Instagram so we can share together.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Art Journey through Lent {community}

"Your community can pull you back when its members see that you are forgetting why you were sent out...Keep returning to those to whom you belong and who keep you in the light...You do not have to fear anyone as long as you remain safely anchored in your community.  Then you can carry the light far and wide." ~Henri Nouwen

This quote is in the context of ministry.  Art, for me, is in part a ministry, and so I read this and feel that my connections in the art community as well as my own local church are "those to whom I belong."  In the dailiness and busyness of life I have a strong tendency to forget the healing and life-giving power of this art-full life and need to be reminded that my time spent creating is time giving as well as receiving.  Only when I return to this practice do I feel I can continue to "carry the light far and wide."

So it has been very rewarding to connect with so many art journalers on this Lenten journey.  Following this path together has cause me to be intentional and prayerful throughout my days, and not just when I'm at my art table.  I have not always been able to create when the mood strikes {or even when a post is due!}, but these companions have kept me mindful and motivated, and their creations have blessed me and inspired me.
Instagram friends have been generous in sharing their art and souls as well:

In my own journal this week I have moved on to John 7.  I have been struck by the times that Jesus said, "Do not tell anyone" or "The time has not yet come", very clearly working from a place of knowledge and purpose.  I cannot imagine how it must have been to come into time from an eternal place.  In His earthly life there was chronology, where before Jesus had no bounds.

There is a stark difference between those that are following him, and those who are seeking to get rid of him.  We see it more and more as we move through John.  But no one lays a hand on him because the time has not yet come.  This idea of time fascinated me.  I created a collage of vintage papers and obscured all but the words at the top of a geometry page "Measure of Time".  

I added a handless clock stamp and another stamp for texture, keeping the blue that has come to be a staple in this Lent journal.

I used Caran d'ache neocolor ii watercolor crayons to create a frame and smudged them with my fingertips.  This is one of my favorite things to do.  Simple and bold.

The page is not finished.  I intend to add scripture quotes and journaling.  But the background leaves the space open for me and when I return to it I can use it as a prayer.


As we move through the gospel of John, what visceral feelings do you have?  Jesus is so sure and purposeful, and yet there is a growing anxiety level as we see the rising political action and intention. Open yourself to whatever presents itself in the passage, and in your own spirit.  Feel the fear and grief and anger present in these pages.  How can that translate onto the page?  Color, image, torn paper, burned edges, scribbles, harsh lines.  Let the materials speak to you.

Lord, give me an undivided heart.  Let it flow with "rivers of living water," free and full of grace.  Amen

Monday, March 24, 2014

Art Journey through Lent {seeking Jesus}

John 6 continues with the ghostly figure of Jesus walking on the water.  "It is I; do not be afraid." The people in the crowd still follow, finding Jesus across the sea, seeking the one who filled their bellies with divine abundance.  But they don't understand.  He is the bread.  He is the living water.  He speaks offensively of his flesh and blood being sustenance.  Many leave, and don't return.  

But the twelve stay.  "Where would we go?" they ask, "For you have the words of eternal life."

So many words.  I wanted to add them all, to not let any of the phrases that spoke to me slip from my fingers.  I used mod podge to adhere two vintage dictionary pages {the ones with the words "rough" and "sea"}, one on each side of the spread, and began writing.

I used every available space on the page, turned the journal 90* and wrote again and again.  "Seeking, believe, bread, manna, eternal life, seal, it is I..."

I added sketches where they wanted to be, drew simple frames, scribbled.  This is not an exact method and I love it that way.

The water.  The wine.  Reminders of Cana.

{Red and blue seem to be the colors for this project so far- bold and symbolic.}

I will revisit this page.  I feel like I might even add words eventually.  Such life!


Focus on the words today.  Finish John 6, read and reflect.  On a background of your choice and creation, use different lettering styles, print out different fonts, write small and then wrote big, messy and neat, cursive and print.  Don't stop writing.  Tie in something from a previous chapter, write a prayer, or a gratitude list; add little sketches or spots of color.  Worship on this page.

Jesus, I breathe in your grace.  Tune my ears and heart to recognize your words of life in my everyday.  Sustain me, remind me, open me, lead me; clarify your call on my life to do your will.  Amen.

{Wednesday I will share links and photos from this Lenten art community.  If you have posted, please leave a link in the comments.  Share on Instagram with the hash tag #lentenartjourney14}

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Art Journey through Lent {loaves and fish}

I am two weeks in to this Lenten journey and I am so thankful that I committed myself to its completion.  Life happens, my focus is fractured, but I have found ways to remain in John, to abide with the words, throughout my day and let the images and colors come naturally.  It has made creating more of a perpetual endeavor, rather than a sporadic one.  I am thankful for that reality.

I have read John 6 for the past couple of days and found no way around the fact that I want to spend more time there.  I created a page based on the feeding of the five thousand, and plan to spend more time in my journal with the remainder of the chapter.  I find simply too much- words that are too familiar, miracles that require more attention- and so I am slowing down.

I have said before that we put Jesus in a very neat and attractive box.  Enough of that.  I want to see Him for the radical He was, and truly internalize the absolute impossibility of His fully human/fully divine nature.  I want to live into my own divine nature as well, with the presence of the Spirit within me, and experience unity at my deepest level.  I don't want to have separate places and times for my spiritual self to safely wake up and have her say, I want her to live open and on the surface of my life at all times.

"The Word becomes flesh, and thus a new place is made 
where all of you and all of God can dwell.  
When you have found that unity, 
you ill be truly free." ~Henri Nouwen

I see through this gospel of John the slow realizations of the disciples.  They know they are in Jesus' inner circle, but even that leaves them outside of so much.  They accept, they feebly give answers that reveal their lack of understanding, and then they praise.  Most importantly, though, they follow with whole, yet human, hearts.

I began my page with spray inks in desert-like colors- deep brown, and butterscotch yellow.  I used a wipe to blot and then swipe color upward to blend.

Using a neutral scrapbook paper I tore randomly to get the effect of hills.  Then I used a small brown ink pad to age and define the edges before using mod podge to adhere them over the ink.  I wanted the rough illusion of a crowd scattered up the mountain and made simple shapes to suggest them.  I didn't want "finished", and I like how they turned out.   

I had a hard time coming up with a plan for the miracle itself.  This process for me is relaxed and organic, so I try not to think too much.  I didn't have time for, nor did I want, a realistic depiction of Jesus and the abundance-from-scarcity miracle.  I settled on a sketch of a basket on a vintage dictionary page, and blue tissue paper to symbolize the divine. 

I sketched a cross on the hill.  I'm not even sure why.  It just wanted to be there.  Maybe it is the bridge between the divine and the human on these two pages.

The finished page is stark and simple, and I added the five loaves and two fish near the basket, and the words "blessed and broken" to speak of the miracle, and I suppose the sacrifice to come as well.

Sometimes the simplest pages are the most complete, if you know what I mean. 

I would love to know how you are experiencing this process, if you're following along on the journey with me.  Are you reading differently with art in mind?  Are your eyes opened in new ways?  Is it a challenge to add the elements of color and image?  I'd love you to share.

Friday I will be sharing images of my art pages, but also links to some friends who are creating on this Lent path and have shared their blog posts with me.  If you've posted, please leave the link in the comments.  


Read through John 6 with fresh eyes.  Why was Jesus going up on the mountain and why were the people following?  I often wonder how much Jesus' humanity obscured for himself His divine nature.  But Jesus' divinity is front and center in this passage, as is His own knowledge of the power He holds.  Ponder that realization and note how you see Him through that lens.  Create with images to reflect on this- traditional images, modern lines, words only, abstract color- in whatever way you are moved.  Move through John 6 or stop after the feeding of the crowd.  Let the Spirit move you, and not the other way around.

Jesus make the small gifts in us miraculously multiply until we can do nothing else but break open and share that divine abundance with others.  Give us your vision, your compassion, and your wisdom.  Create in us a unity of self, so that we can be ever more like you.  Amen.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Art Journey through Lent {do you want to be healed?}

"Your healing is not a straight line."
~Henri Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love

Healing.  Water.  Sabbath.  Testimony.  Witness.

These words are found again and again in John 5, and as I read the chapter this weekend, I marked each and every one.  I looked up the phrase, "to bear witness."

{bear witness: to vouch for, testify, give evidence for}

Jesus spoke to the leaders and the Pharisees in harsh terms.  John the Baptist bore witness of him, the Father bore witness, all of Jesus' works themselves bore witness.  Yet they did not see.  If I was there, with my desire for structure and right, I very possibly would not have seen either.  My eyes may have been closed to the miracle, the mystery in flesh, the very Word.

"Do you want to be healed?" ~John 5:6

I don't think this was a rhetorical question.  Jesus was demanding an answer.  And he demands one of me.  Am I content to sit back in my complacency?  Or do I truly desire to be healed in a way that will still leave me with wounds.  Because, truly, wounds are what bring wholeness.  Wounds are what connect us.  So this healing is not, perhaps, what we think it should be.

I began my blank page by writing in all of the words that I had marked in the chapter.  I actually had printed out the passage and marked it in color, underlining and boxing around words that spoke in a way similar to the technique Beth Morey taught in last year's Made ecourse.  I glued the John 5 passage over the written text and then began painting.

On the right page I spread a thick layer of gesso with a palette knife and scraped in a spiral to symbolize the stirring of the pool in Jerusalem.  Before it dried, I dripped blue ink from the top of the page and let it run; I also sprayed blue ink across the scripture on the left page.

I applied random swatches of white, blue and green paint, only partially obscuring the text.  This process in itself was very healing.  I've noticed that every chapter thus far in John has included water, and I have followed this symbol throughout.  Maybe it is just my perception based on my attraction to the symbolism of water, maybe not.  It is where my pages seem to go.  

I began cutting out hands from magazines.  Old hands, young hands, a range of skin colors.  Unity.  Beauty.  Touch.  Hands have so much to say, don't they?

I want my life to bear witness.  Of the grace of God, His glory through love.

And yes.  I want to be healed.


John 5 is so rich.  Print out the chapter, enlarging it if needed, and live with it, breathe with it, for a while before creating.  Ponder the way Jesus healed on the Sabbath, breaking the long-standing rule of the Jews, and how he broke down walls with every touch of his hand and every word from his mouth.  What does healing look like for you?  Use the printed scripture as an element in your journal page- as strips, mosaic squares, sketch on it, whatever comes to mind.  Choose colors that personally symbolize healing.  Add words and images that support your prayers and ponderings.

Jesus, I want to be healed on a deeper level than the world can offer.  Show me how to break down walls in order to share love, and touch those around me with the light of your grace.  Let my life be a witness to your mystery and glory.  Amen.

{Share on Instagram using the hashtag #lentenartjourney14.  
To find this series in its entirety, click the image on the sidebar.}

Friday, March 14, 2014

Art Journey through Lent {bridge}

"But the time is now coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.  God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth."  The woman said to him, "I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ).  When he comes, he will tell us all things."  Jesus said to her, "I who speak to you am he." ~John 4: 23-26

I started this Lenten journey to inspire myself to create more, and to spend focused time in scripture.  It was inevitable that there would be days when the time to get to my supplies in a prayerful way just didn't exist.  But my intention was to give myself grace, and just get to it when I could.  So my post today is a bit later, but I found that the project itself motivated me to prioritize this time.  In a normal week this wouldn't have happened.  Success.

So I listened to John 4 on the Youversion app as I traveled around on errands with the kids.  I'm trying to listen and read differently, these stories that are so familiar.  The woman at the well, the Living Water, the man who trusted that Jesus' word was enough to heal his son.  I listened three times and when I got home I prayerfully sat down at my art table with no plan.  

What spoke to me most in the reading today was the way Jesus was a uniter.  The disciples didn't even question it when they came back to find him talking with a woman of an unacceptable race.  I have not often been this grace-giving, though I want to be, and I saw so clearly that Jesus is that bridge.  The one that spans the chasm between us and them, inviting and loving all, choosing no sides.

"You have decided to dedicate yourself completely to God, to make Jesus the center of your life, and to be fashioned into an instrument of God's grace.  Yes, you still experience your inner dividedness...but you see that you have made important choices that show where you want to go...Jesus is waiting for you at the end, just as you know that he is guiding you as you move in that direction."  ~Henri Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love

Moving in that direction is not always easy, crossing bridges that are narrow and treacherous as we set aside our own fears and insecurities and preconceptions.  But as Jesus sat by the well and offered the woman something he had that she desperately needed- acceptance, value, life- he showed us very simply the way to follow him.  Reach out and be a bridge, share the depth of Light and life we have within us, and be a gentle voice of grace and love.

"This is a movement toward full incarnation...
You must trust the depth of God's presence in you 
[this Living Water] and live from there." ~Nouwen


Spend this weekend with John 4.  It is rich and filled with symbolism, radical trust, and healing, both inner and outer.  When Jesus says that "God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth" what do you think that means in a practical sense?  How do we worship "in spirit"?  Is it a deeper level of connecting with God than we typically experience?  Does knowing that the Latin word for spirit is the same as the one for breath change anything in your understanding?  This is a concept I am always trying to reconcile with my human understanding of worship.  Let the words and images come as you pray, and let your creating be an outgrowth of this process.

Jesus, breathe understanding into me on a deeper level.  Teach me to worship in spirit and truth.  Teach me to trust as did the official whose son was dying.  Teach me to live from your presence within me, that deep well of Living Water that never runs dry.  Amen.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Art Journaling through Lent {water and the Spirit}

"You must believe in the yes that comes back when you ask, 'Do you love me?'  You must choose this yes even when you do not experience it."
~Henri Nouwen

All God's promises are Yes in Christ. ~2 Cor. 1:20

This practice has been so good for me.  So very good.  My art journal practice had been suffering the fate of all of non-urgent things in the life of a mom.  This intentional Lenten practice of reading, opening myself up to image and color, and then translating that on a page has been life to me.  In His grace, Christ has given me this "resounding 'Yes!'"

And the reminder in John chapter 3, perhaps the most well-known verse of the New Testament, has been in the air I breathe and the blood that runs through my veins this week.  

So loved.  So loved.  So loved.  So loved.

These words were spoken to Nicodemus.  A dichotomy of fear and boldness, Nicodemus snuck away from the rigid institution of faith to step into the presence of the "Yes" that both fulfilled all that he knew, and broke apart those ways of knowing.  I love feeling the tension in his words as I read, seeing the puzzlement on his face, and sensing the frustration in his lack of understanding.

"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.  That which is born of flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit...The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where is comes from or where it goes.  So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit."
John 3:5-8

I rarely begin a page knowing what it will look like.  For this Lenten practice, I have been allowing the Spirit to reveal words and images and color as I read {multiple times} and then organically letting them fit in as I create.  This is pure process journaling.

For this page I wanted an under layer of the text from John and the quote from Nouwen.  The sharpie was bold and would show underneath the gesso that I painted over the top, leaving texture and meaning.

I decided to use blue {for water} and red {for Spirit}, allowing the midpoint to join the two right where the John 3:16 words flowed across the page.  Watercolor crayons, a bit of fine mist water spray and my fingers made the texture and color I wanted.  There's nothing like spreading color by hand.

The verse, "You must become like a little child" was in my mind and I found this girl in a vintage book, her hand raised to accept the dove that I knew I wanted to sketch.  

I created more water texture by adhering strips of tissue paper in blues and white, and placed the girl in the water.  Baptism.  By water and the Spirit.

When I sketch, I usually sketch from life, or a photo.  I am not yet skilled in sketching from memory, though I am continuing to improve.  I love the process of learning, and practicing, techniques.  Art is process, and not one that comes to us ready-made. 

I love this page.  The empty space, the words that are visible, the sepia toned girl amidst the bold red and blue.  This will serve as a visual reminder to embrace Jesus' "Yes" in each moment.  


Using a pen or marker, write the verses that most resonate with you.  Write one short one over and over if you need to in order to fill the whole page.  Underline or circle words, mark it all up.  This is your way of internalizing the truth in this passage.  Choose your preferred method of covering the words, but leave some visible.  Let the page speak.  What images stand out?  Find them in magazines or books, sketch them, transfer them from a printed page.  Highlight one focal image and then finish as you feel led.  Don't think too much, as our mind likes to overpower the small voice of the Holy Spirit.  Let Him whisper to you.

Jesus, breathe Your Yes into my soul, and speak Your love into my heart.  I want to pour You out on those around me, and remind them, "you are loved, you are loved, you are loved."  Amen

{If you are just joining us, visit the beginning of this series.  
I'd love to have you create alongside me.}