I think of myself as an artist because I'm creative and spontaneous and weird and wacky. But in reality I cannot draw or paint. And I'm not just being modest. Below are two of my prized entries in my bible art journal, which clearly depict that my ability to draw a tree platooned when I turned six. But I don't let this stop me from feeling all 'arty' each time I sit down with my prized box of goodies I got when I attended my first Bible Art Journaling workshop with Deborah Gregg.
I'm sure many of you can relate to the way Bible Art Journaling allows you to connect with the image of an exceptionally creative God at work in different ways in all of us, no matter what our individual skill levels are. You have probably, like me, discovered that Bible Art Journaling is also a deeply reflective process allowing you to learn more about yourself, in relation to God.
I am an Ordinand which means I am undergoing training and formation, in the hope that I will be recommended for ordination as a priest in the Church of England. We have been taught how to use theological reflection in ministry. Theological Reflection is a method that involves recognising what is in an event/experience, naming it, relating it to other experiences and reflections and letting it shape the future. Theological reflection assumes that God is present in the personal experiences of God's creation.
This past week my theological reflection and bible art journaling linked arms, rather like the intertwining blossoms in my garden, resulting in this latest prized entry in my bible art journal:
The journey to this journal entry started earlier in the week when I was at college finishing an assignment which was due in by midnight. I was tired and desperately wanting to distract myself from my looming deadline, and so my thinking went into an area clearly demarcated, 'danger, keep out'. But I ignored the danger signs and allowed my thoughts to wade further into no-man's land. Inevitably the thoughts evoked the inevitable emotional maelstrom which comes with the total devastation of no-man's land. This was totally unwelcome especially with a deadline looming. So I decided to do a quick emergency theological reflection. A particular method of Theological Reflection which I find helpful (Killen and De Beer) suggests that after looking at a specific experience and identifying the feelings it generates, you ask the Holy Spirit to give you an appropriate image to accurately depict these feelings. The image I was given in this instance was Jesus on the cross. Dwelling on this image very quickly ejected me from no-man's land. Tears were shed, but good, cleansing tears. The next step in the Theological Reflection is to think of scriptures in relation to the image that that can reveal richer meanings. The scripture that came to mind was, “I have been crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:20).
Later in the week I was reading to the family during breakfast, from 'Every Day Bible Readings for Each Day of the Year.' The verse that jumped out at me was, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice is so far as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed.” 1 Peter 4: 12-13.
I immediately thought, “this is a verse I want to add to my bible art journal”. So over the next few days I started to mull about what images could shed new light on this verse. I was reminded of Jesus on the cross from my earlier reflection on dealing with my ferocious feelings, and so this became a central image. I toyed with ideas of how I could represent the vices I want to nail to the cross. I remembered a specially designed cross nail the children had brought back from a Church Camp which I could use as a template. While on route to the conservatory to actually get my bible art goody box, I noticed a palm cross gathering dust on the bookcase by the front door, and so grabbed that. Then I opened my goodie box, still not sure where to begin, and started going through the birthday cards I had kept from my 50th birthday last year. One card in particular jumped out at me and the bible verse that came to mind was Hebrews 12.2, “For the joy set before him, Jesus endured the cross”. Hence the joyful scene behind the palm cross. After writing down my vices on the nails I had cut out, a small inner voice reminded me of the imbalance of only focusing on what we need to avoid as Christians, and to also look at what we need to embrace. And so I thought of my virtues, which also require the sacrifice which comes with praying the prayer Jesus prayed, which led him to the cross, “Not my will, but thine be done”.
The whole exercise, while giving me great satisfaction and pleasure, also strengthened my resolve to gladly accept Jesus invitation to, deny myself, pick up my cross and follow him. For the joy set before me. For the glory Christ will share with me. For the wonderful jubilation 'ON THAT DAY!'