A Journey of Thankfulness.

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In a previous post I discussed what I did to set up a new Spiritual Journal and that his year I was going to use it to set myself a challenge. Now that we are over half way through the year, I was just reflecting on how its been so far and what I hope for the rest of the year.

At the beginning of the year when I started a new journal, I set myself the task of practicing more thankfulness. Each day I would record the thing that I was thankful for. Sounds like a simple task right? But actually saying thank you and being thankful is not as easy of a journey as it sounds.

Starting out with a blank canvas for month it seemed quite daunting. What would the month look like when it was finished? Could I allow myself to be thankful for the same thing multiple times in the month? Should I fill in days that I miss afterwards? Would putting rules and restraints on it remove the purpose?

When we come to God in prayer we tend to get into the habit of using our prayer life as a wishlist for God. Its easy to sit down and start listing all the things that we wish were different before recognising the things that are going well.  It isn’t a bad thing for us to bring our needs and concerns to God, but it is easy to lose sight of the things that God is actually providing for us. In this modern world we are always looking out for the next thing that will improve our lives. We want to see results quickly, we cant wait for the light to turn green of its own accord, we have to wish it. We should slow down, and realize that things run on God’s timing and not our own.

I decided that this would work best if I just went with the flow. I wasn’t going to get annoyed at myself if I missed some days. Journaling within its self is a discipline that I can only manage if I keep it undemanding. Over the first month, I found that the thing I was most thankful for was the people around me. I know that sometimes I do forget just how blessed I am with all my friends, so it felt right to document those people in my journal. 2016-07-30 07.30.52 111I can even remember what happened that day with those people.

It also taught me to be thankful for theological college and for all its weird and wonderful things. The start of the second term felt hard. Going back after the Christmas break was like being thrown right back into it. I had a Hospice placement almost as soon as we started back which really made me think about thankfulness.  Some of it is also about seeing the things within myself that other people do. I often don’t just give myself enough credit for things like preaching a good sermon. Those things are important to be thankful for too. Whats the point of having these gifts if they are not utilized and used with gratification.

Thankfulness is not an easy task. Sometimes it is very difficult. Our personal difficulties and the sadness of life can become overwhelming, and there were/are days that I struggle to be thankful.  Some months have been left almost totally blank. But that is why thankfulness is a journey. It is one of the things within my relationship with God that I will always be working on.

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God continues to surprise me with this challenge, and I will probably carry on this new discipline into my next journals. Thankfulness is something that I will continue to journey on. There will never quite be enough thankfulness within me to compare with the love that God gives us all, but hopefully with this new discipline I can get a bit closer.

 

Peace and Joy.

 

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Blessed are the cracked.

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On day 2 of the ‘Art, Faith and Mission’ intensive lead by Rev Ric Stott, we were asked to take some materials out into the environment and let that inspire us to create something. The whole idea was to let the environment say something to us that only that place could.

Processed with VSCOAs I was walking down the road I stopped by this telephone box. The first thing that I noticed was that the window pane was smashed. The second thing that I noticed was the sticker on the back wall that said ‘Call The Sun’.  I’m not sure what quite stuck me about this whole thing, but it was almost as if the person had smashed the window in order to reveal what was in the back. The wordplay between Sun and Son also struck me. Shouldn’t the sticker read something like ‘Call your son’. The Sun of course could mean the newspaper, but it’s difficult to tell. Inside the box there was rubbish and leaves in a big puddle. The poor telephone box felt forgotten and unloved.

My first idea was to have something over this broken pane with a ‘peep window’ that would let you look inside, so you could see the sticker. I realised only then that I forgot to take any tape with me, so that wouldn’t really be possible. Processed with VSCOI still decided to take the middle out of the paper, then I held it against the back wall of the telephone box and just started to draw on it.

It wanted it to feel like it went on further, as if the back of the telephone box was also broken. I did the rays coming out from the words and then did the darker frame which was supposed to represent another thing that had been broken. As I started highlighting the ‘glass’ in white I thought of the sudo-beatitude ‘Blessed are the cracked, for they let in light.’  Thats what the broken window felt like. It felt like it was drawing you into see what was on the back wall. It felt like it was broken in order so that the light would shine through it and illuminate the words.

Thinking about these words, I knew that I wanted them represented in some way.Processed with VSCO I am constantly watercoloring scripture or famous quotes, but without watercolours I was a bit lost. My original idea was to write the words on the already existing paper I was working on. I quickly dismissed this idea because I didn’t want to ruin it. (This probably says something about me.) So I wrote it on a bit of paper. Luckily by this point I had found some small sticky notes, that I used to stick the paper to the wall. But stepping back and looking at it, it didn’t seem quite right.  The words overshadowed the image I had created. I liked the way it all drew you in, but the quote detracted from the image which was what I wanted the focus to be on.  Also it frustrated me that I couldn’t do my best calligraphy with mediums I am completely unfamiliar with.

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So I ended up rewriting it several times before I was happy. I realised I was putting too much effort in just trying to make the work look pretty. The whole point was to make the words speak for themselves. So I decided to put the words on the front of the telephone box so that it drew people in. The whole process of doing art inside a telephone box was also interesting. In a way it gave me a protective little box to work in without noticing how many cars were going past. (Even if it was slightly waterlogged, and I did drop my chalks/charcoal into the water. )

Thinking about it theologically I think that for anyone walking by they might not think about God. Although the words might conjure up some image of the sermon on the mount for people who know it. I think anyone can take from it what they want. That is the point of art I think. At least I think thats what the point of the exercise was. When we put art into the world, whether secular or spiritual it will mean different things depending on who sees it.

Reflecting on it now I still am not sure what that whole process meant. All I know is that I followed whatever I felt the Spirit was urging me to do.This was much outside my normal artist comfort zone. For one I normally keep all my art for myself, and very rarely let people see it. So to leave this in this space felt weird, yet right to me.

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Much of the credit I owe to Rev Ric Stott. Partly for the ‘task’ of going out there and creating something and partly for giving me the supplies which let me do it.

 

Peace and Joy.

The last few days. #adventillustated

These are the last few entries of Advent Illustrated.
It’s been an interesting delve into Bible Journaling. I think I am doing to do more bible journalling, but keep it to its own Bible. All of my Advent Illustrated entries have been in my normal day to day bible, so thats probably why they have been quite reserved.

I missed a few days intentionally because doing something like this everyday means that I’d end up with less space on my page.

I’ll be doing some more Bible Journalling in the future for sure! I hope you enjoyed Advent Illustrated!

Peace and Joy.

Setting up/Starting a new Spiritual Journal.

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I aim to fill a journal completely (except for a few pages which I keep intentionally blank). But sometimes I feel that I’m at a point either in the calendar or in my Spiritual life that I need to start a new one. I started my most recent journal with when I want to BAP in April. So that it didn’t feel like I was carrying around everything that had happened before.

I’ve kept a journal for over 5 years now, so I’ve gotten into habits of what I do to ‘set up’ a new one. I always begin the process of setting up the new one, even if I haven’t finished the one I am on. This just means that it is ready for me when I decide to come to start in the new one. Seeing as it is a new year soon, it may be that you are deciding to take up journalling, so hopefully this will give you a few ideas as to how to ‘set up’ your journal.

Deciding what kind of book to use.

I have always preferred to have blank pages in my journals. It allows for me to both write and draw should I wish. I also wanted pages that weren’t too thick. With some handmade journals, the pages are too thick and would feel to precious to use.

When I first started journalling I felt drawn to this red felt covered book with an embroidered bird on the front. Thankfully it completely suited my purpose, and I now continue to buy that same type of notebook just with different covers.
Paperchase, Paperblanks  and Moleskin all over several kinds of notebooks with everything from lined pages to blank , colourful covers to plain and big to small. The essence of beginning with journalling is to find a book that you will enjoy writing in.
Don’t be concerned if you don’t find something works for you straight away. Honestly, I have a few books that I have only written in on the first few pages because I end up disliking it. It’s important not to throw these away!

Adam Feldman in his book Journaling: Catalyzing Spiritual Growth Through Reflection talks alot about his love for moleskin journals. He even has a whole appendix about how he ‘sets up’ too. He prefers something small and portable, which is favourable if you are a plain ‘pen and paper’ journaler.
As for me I want something a little more robust and special. If I want to write whilst without my journal, then I will on a separate bit of paper and then stick it in later. I like to take the time with my journal and my art supplies when I can. So for me its important to have a journal that will stand up to my creativity.

The key is to get a balance between a book that you really love, but one that you will feel able to use. Everyone is unique! The kind of notebook you will want will be different because your type of journalling will be different.

The Front.

One of the biggest prompts for me to get serious about journalling was a means to explore my calling. After a little while I jokingly wrote ‘Discernment, denial and despair’ in the front cover and it kinda stuck. Since then my journals have been different volumes of that title. Perhaps when I move onto a new season I will pick a new title.

Not everyone has to title their journal in such a way, but it is helpful to have some way in knowing what time frame is represented in the journal. Particularly if you use moleskin notebooks without any distinguishable way of telling the difference. If you are looking for an entry from a particular date then a small date acknowledgement is handy.  I date all of my entries anyway, but this just helps knowing what year it is, or where I am geographically.

The Back.

The first thing I do in the back of a new journal is set aside a page or two for the titles of books I’m reading.
It helps me to see what texts are influencing my thought at any time. Sometimes I will write notes/quotes from the book in my normal journal pages, so it is helpful to remember if I read the whole thing or just picked up the quote somewhere.

Particularly useful as you can see from some of my previous journals I read Michael Ramseys ‘Christian Priest Today’ twice, but my notes from each reading are totally different.  It is also an encouragement to read more. If I get to the end of a journal and I haven’t read all that much then it gives me a target to read X number of books more then the last one!  So it is always helpful to note what you are reading!

Setting a challenge

I know that for some people journalling in itself will be a challenge, but if you’ve been journalling for a while then it might be time to take up a challenge.

Someone I knew from university used to keep a gratitude section at the back of her journal, and when something happened that she was specifically thankful for she would write it down. I’m challenging myself to do something similar and try and write something I am thankful for everyday. As I’ve said before, I am rubbish when it comes to committing to a daily activity. But hopefully even if I don’t get to journal properly,  I can take 5 minutes to be thankful about the blessings in my life and record that in my journal. Its one of my Spiritual New Years Resolutions!

The intentionally blank pages.

A big part of journalling is the reflection. Every now and again coming back to your journal entries and looking back on what was resonating with you at the time.
I leave about 10 pages (20 sides) at the back of the journal blank for reflection at later times.

It’s useful when I come to certain prayers/trains of thought and I wonder where I first prayed that. I can use the pages at the back as a means to communicate with myself. For instance if I find that a bible verse is really sticking me then I can write that in the back of my current journal with references to my other journals. Or sometimes I will read through a whole journal and put my thoughts down on that time on one of those back pages.

Adding Personal Touches.

If you are just setting up a new journal for the first time, and you arent too creative then think about putting something simple in your journal like a prayer card.

I like to put a picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe in each journal, whether stuck down or just loose. It’s usually the last thing to go in before writing, so it signifies the ‘handover’ between journals. If you are using a loose postcard/prayer card/picture then you can always transfer it over when you move onto a new journal as a nice way to keep something continuous.

For some reason I also collect the stamps from the cards/letters that I recieve that year and put them on one of the covers. Not sure why but it adds a personal touch!

The most important thing about journalling is that the journal you use should feel like yours. These are just some of the ways in which I set up a new journal, but you may have your own ways.

Remember if it is your first journal, or fiftieth the important thing is to make your journal yours. 

 

Peace and Joy.

Dwelling in God’s promices. #adventillustrated

You can totally feel that it is almost the end of Advent! All the readings this week have been surrounding God’s promises for us.

I’m still being cautious about working on these pages. As you can see from the Ruth page, I am using the bible for my normal bible study too. This has been about trying to tie in some bible journalling in with normal bible study.  I attempted to draw something for day 15(2 Sam 6:14) But ended up wrecking the page and so I covered it over. It was rather annoying.

Hope everyone is enjoying Advent! The King is coming. Not much longer to wait!

Peace and Joy.

Advent Creative Lectio Divina.

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For a basic primer as to what Creative Lectio Divina is see my other blog post here


After much discussion with some of my Wescottian friends I decided I would try to run a Creative Lectio Divina group during Advent to just see how it would work.

The room was set up so that the tables were in a rectangle, and the chairs were all facing inward. (As close to a circle of tables you can get.) I originally had planned to have a centre table with things like candles, and fabrics in order to prompt people if they got stuck. However, I needed all the tables I could get and so I put a small tealight on each table, and a large candle on my table instead.

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Artwork by Matilda Tempest

I started by explaining what we were going to do. I was going to read the passage aloud once, and then say a few words in order to start the meditation process. Then another person would read the passage to everyone and I would say another few words. After the third person had read the passage I would say a few more words then play some music to begin the time of reflection/creation.

I had put some supplies out for people to borrow, but some people brought their own. I wanted the first session to be a ‘dry’ run. So nothing too serious like paints ect. I had a large mixture of magazine,tissue paper and other papers for collage which went down really well. As well as lots of markers, pastels and chalks. I also had different sizes and colours of paper, although some people created within their own sketchbooks. I decided to mix mediums, some people didn’t. That’s the beauty of doing this in a group is that its nice to reflect on your work and how different each persons is.

The group had never really done anything like this before (neither had I except on my own), although most of us had some experience of Lectio Divina. I decided to use the passage Isaiah 9:6-7.2015-12-17 10.53.45 1.jpg Partly for familiarity and partly to make it Advent themed. I had chosen  a slightly longer passage, but the ordinand who runs the Lectio Divina group within college said it was best cut to about 8 lines. I agree completely reflecting back on it. It meant that the words that connected with us really stood out and didn’t get lost.  I decided to print the scripture passage out not only so people had a copy infront of them, but also so that they could use it as a part of their artwork. Some of meditation lines in the beginning focus on finding the words that really speak to you, and so having the passage infront of you to underline ect I think really helped. Some people even cut lines or words from the passage and used it within their art!

The meditation lasted for around 40 minutes. During that time music played. I wanted people to feel that they could get up to get more/different supplies if they wanted to, so I did prewarn people at the beginning that this is okay. Although the atmosphere was quiet, I think people still felt able to ask for things if they needed. I gave people a ‘5 minute warning’ but the emphasis was not on finishing. The whole idea was to lead people into creating things based on the passage.

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Artwork by Harriet Neale

It wasn’t about how ‘good’ or ‘beautiful’ those works could be. It wasn’t even about trying to finish them. But to bring the group into a place where they could create art for the glory of God. I finished with some words to end the meditation and a prayer to give thanks to God for all the things we have created or started to create.  Then we packed up and off we went. As someone went around taking photos of the work we all shared the joy of each others art. I felt it was important to celebrate what we had did together, but also to give people the option of not sharing if they didn’t want to. I’ve always loved doing things like this by myself, but doing it in a group added a beautiful richness to it.

Random reflections:
-Someone kindly offered to make tea and bring cake for the beginning, which is now a needs must for every session!
-Setup/room atmosphere is essential. The room we had was perfect size for the group we had. Including big tables ect. A tealight on every table was perhaps a mistake. Someone noted that it was quite dangerous considering there was lots of tissue paper about!
-As the ‘leader’ I felt it was just as important that I took part. That was the whole reason I created the group in the first place!
-Having some kind of ‘neutral’ music was very useful. Wordless is perfect for creative stuff. I used the piano soundtrack from some Studio Ghibli films which worked a treat!
-‘Creative’ doesn’t have to mean paint. The mix of mediums was brilliant, someone even did some digital artwork. It also doesn’t have to be perfect either. Its up to the person creating that it represents for them what they think the scripture holds.

I must give a massive thank you to all of the ordinands who let me try it out on them! Everyone in the group said how much they enjoyed it. Hopefully this means that they will all be up for repeating it again!
Stay tuned for more Creative Lectio Divina adventures.

Peace and Joy

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Artwork by Ayla Lepine

The fruits of our Lectio Devina session (aswell as other wonderful stuff) can be seen on the Advent with Westcott blog.

 

What is Creative Lectio Divina?

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Its no secret that I like to combine my creativity with faith. I find that I am able to connect with God through various mediums of art. Whilst I was on retreat the retreat leader gave me a leaflet about Lectio Divina, but with an arty twist.

This seemed to be a photocopied leaflet and I have since tried to find the original author and failed. I have also done alot of research into Creative Lectio Divina and whilst Visio Divina is similar, it is still significantly different. In Visio Divina we use icons and pictures in order to inform our meditations on God. But Creative Lectio Divina is the opposite. We use our meditations on God in order to create artwork. The artwork is based on the response that we have from the text.

The basic premise of Lectio Divina is to go through 4 steps. Reading, Reflection, Response and Rest. A good explanation of that process can be found here. But Creative Lectio lends itself to being done slightly differently. The reading and reflection goes together, but the process is repeated three times as the person is attempting to listen to the spirit.
In the leaflet I was given there is a process and some sentences for the person to read so that they may lead themselves into a creative ‘response’ time.

The response time is ‘where the magic happens’ during the time of response the person/people  have a time of creating and making art. It is important to note that it doesn’t have to be super detailed some may just be a word from the scripture that has been adorned with decoration.

Sometimes I find that God will speak to me through ‘pictures’ that I will attempt to create in order to make a better sense of them. This is a similar practive, but is the other way around. By meditating on Gods word and letting that fill us, then we can create something that will show a glimpse of God. In the same way that Lectio Divina is completely personal, so is Creative Lectio. The emphasis is on taking the scripture passage, letting it speak to you and then using your time of reflection/creation for a purpose that will help you grow with God.

I am such a visual learner, and to be able to find a way to put my meditations on paper in a way I can work with has really helped. It is also something to just put an hour aside to dedicate it to creating something for God. I hope that the idea of it will appeal to those creative and non!
I wish that I had more resources to link to, but unfortunately I dont! I suspect that things like this have bee done as a spiritual practice for a while, hence the leaflet I was given. However, I cannot currently find anything published.

I was really taken by the idea and started using it occasionally to deepen my understanding of scripture. I began to build on the idea and talk to people about it, which led to me leading a Creative Lectio Group at Westcott! If you would like to read more about how I led my first Creative Lectio group then that can be found here.

Peace and Joy.

 

The picture featured is from my own meditation on Isaiah 43.15, 16, 18, 19, 20c, 21. Which is a part of CW Morning Prayer from All Saints to Advent.  If you would like to use it then please ask permission. kittycatcollar@gmail.com