Your Life on a Canvas!

Back in the summer, I celebrated a significant birthday, and many of the plans the family had made for the celebrations couldn’t take place because of the restrictions at the time.

Vicky, as she often does, came up with a marvellous idea. One of the things we love to do together, if we visit a city or a town, is to go and visit art galleries. While we are not artistic ourselves, we love to look at the work of those who do have that gift.

Vicky decided that, for this special birthday, I should get a painting, so I phoned a lovely friend of mine who lives in Dublin. Biddy is an artist, a storyteller, a journalist, a cook and a podcaster. She has a love of Irish folklore and uses her paintings to depict stories and comical scenes from life. They are full of vibrant colours and fun and life. She is a beautiful person inside and out and, although I don’t see her often, it’s always a joy to connect with her again.

To do this painting she asked me to send photos of the things that were most important to me. She particularly wanted ones of the family and the sorts of things we like to do together. She noted Conor’s love of climbing, Lucy’s love of being on the swing and she told me to leave it with her and, to be honest, it went out of my head with all the other things that were going on in recent months.

I was very excited to receive my painting last week and I absolutely love it. Biddy was able to explain a few things about it before handing it over and the way she personalised everything in it makes it a very special gift to me. She explained that mountains can represent the mountain of adversity and, while I think I have had an amazingly blessed life thus far, from her perspective she could see times of adversity. What keeps you going through those times are the people that you love and, so, she depicted us on the top of that mountain and Conor making his way up on a climbing rope. We were safe when we reached that mountain top together. There’s Lucy, swinging from a cloud in her brightly striped tights, having the best time and, on the beach, there are the four of us having great fun together. The seal represents knowledge and some of the fish are swimming towards it and one is swimming away. It’s always a bit reckless to disregard knowledge and, so, we need to be careful on our journey through life.

I love the painting because it was created so personally for me. It’s colourful and fun and the colours are so expressive. I marvelled at the simplicity and depth that someone with this gift can put onto a canvas.

What sort of story would go onto the canvas of the ‘church without walls’? Would it be a place of light and hope in a world that has seen a great deal of darkness in this past year? Would it be a place that welcomes those who are searching for faith and truth and purpose? Would it be a place of colour and imagination with vibrant colours to represent the decisions people have made to be light to those around them. Would there be clouds of prayer coming up from the lives of God’s people who are part of this community of faith? Would there be symbols to depict courage and compassion as this place has been navigating our own mountain of adversity? 

Would there be Zoom screens and telephones and cards that represent ways people have stayed in touch and got messages and prescriptions for each other? Would there be tears, like raindrops, as we have said farewell to so many wonderful and precious people? Would there be some sort of chain of love that has held us all together, even if we haven’t physically seen people for many months?

The scriptures tell us that God is an artist, a craftsman that works with human lives. In the Book of Jeremiah, he is depicted as a potter. We are the clay and he moulds and shapes our lives so that they become something beautiful and precious in his hands. Sometimes, through life’s circumstances, we feel broken and useless, of no value to anyone or anything around us and, yet, God in his mercy and grace can shape us into something precious and beautiful as we surrender our lives to Him. Later in the Book of Jeremiah, in chapter 29 verse 11, the Lord speaks magnificent and glorious words that have transformed many lives.

He speaks of the plans He has for us as we make that decision to offer our lives to Him. Sometimes we are fearful of making that step of faith, but we don’t have to be. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29 verse 11)

This does not mean that we will never struggle, or that difficult and challenging things will never happen to us. What it does mean, is that everything, even the challenges and the difficult experiences, can be redeemed and made into something beautiful and significant in the hands of our master Potter.

This will probably be the last blog of 2020, but I look forward to speaking again soon and thank you for all the encouragement and faith we have shared in this past year.

Much love to everyone over this season of Christmas and New Year.

Jono.