There is a story, thought, or experience that inspired each of the paintings chosen for these notecards, which are available for purchase.
I vividly recall praying in my usual place in the park on October 18, 2003 when a flock of starlings visited. I was awestruck and envious by their ability to fly in unison, rapidly altering direction, then resting for awhile on the grass to forage. With a deep desire within me to experience that sense of oneness with other people and with God, I wrote the poem Starlings (p. 10 of Everyday Sacred). This painting also attempts to express these longings and feelings.
Flowers of God’s Love
I like to say that people are flowers of God’s love. In fact, at the end of each of the Moments of Grace + Prayer retreats, I bring flowers so that each retreatant and spiritual companion can take one home to remind them of this reality.
As best I can remember, the expression “Flower of God’s love” is not something that I heard or read somewhere, but rather it came to me during prayer. I wrote a poem entitled Let Me Be a Flower of Your Love and prayed this painting on April 23, 2004. I have been saying that people are flowers of God’s love ever since.
During the last weekend of August, 2003, my wife and daughter and I visited Chicago to attend the jazz festival. On a bustling Saturday morning on the Magnificent Mile, I did not miss a step when tucking a twenty-dollar bill into the empty cup of a man begging. When I was about thirty feet from him, I heard a loud “Thank you, man!” and we became connected. No one else noticed as we mediated Jesus to each other.
What I felt then, and hopefully have grown more into these past years, is that I wanted to connect more deeply than to give some money. I wanted to engage that man, to take some time to look him in the eye and come to know his name. This is how I understand how Jesus lived; he engaged people. He gave his attention and his love, and through that gift there was healing.
It was an especially beautiful autumn day (November 1, 2002), walking to theology class, and I noticed the sky, the colorful leaves and the deep red burning bushes. And it occurred to me that this is holy ground just as Moses experienced, that God is here too – among the fall colors and feelings, students and homeless persons.
I was sitting at a park bench praying, and ever so gently, a feeling came over me that I was being embraced by the nearby tree, and I became aware that I was deeply connected with Mr. Earth, who had become incarnate below the grass near me. It was September 1, 2004.
Looking at the painting, can you see me as the smaller green figure just right of the tree, the branches of the tree leaning over to embrace me, and Mr. Earth toward the lower right?
In the Womb of God
If I paint the same experience about which I write, the painting follows the writing, which follows the experience. Except for this painting. I had intended to paint God and me staring lovingly at each other in prayer. First I painted myself. Then when I started to paint Gods face, I realized I was painting myself in the womb of God. What a sense of intimacy, yet I still yearned for more, and so on January 6, 2009 wrote the poem Discontent (p. 78 of Everyday Sacred).
Bush of God’s Love
This is one of those paintings that when I look at it, there is no doubt it did not come entirely from me. I am so struck by the colors, the energy, and the life. Thank you again, God.
This is what I wrote in my journal that day (February 28, 2005) before painting: I used to long to be a flower of God’s love, but now I feel like a bush – blossoming with multi-colored flowers. There is a sense of surprise that things often turn out not as I expect, but somehow better, like ALL IS WELL, ALL WILL BE WELL. So with the surprise, I sense that God is in all of this, I feel a part of what happens yet not responsible for it, not in control of it, again – working with God, cooperating with God. Praise you Jesus! So much affirmation, such a sense of connection, both with readings and prayers and the cloud of witnesses (Heb 12:1) that keeps expanding – again way beyond what I ever considered. Then I read Jer 17:5-10 about the bush near the river – nourished by God’s life, and I feel like that … solidly rooted, nurtured, blossoming.
A Drop in the Ocean
Painted on January 30, 2004, here is an excerpt from my journal prior to painting: I want to pray, but not sure what method to use, reminds me of Paul – we don’t know how to pray as we ought but the groanings of the Spirit prays within us. There is such a sense of longing – moved to express and give myself, but don’t feel moved to paint … I hope it comes. So I sit in my prayer chair and open myself and I imagine melting into the everything, but then in reverse and that’s the genesis/origin of me – like the ocean is God and I am a drop of the ocean because the ocean is overwhelming, too incomprehensible, too large and expansive to relate to, so I am an expression of the ocean, a drop that other drops can taste and see and touch.