Friday, December 14, 2012
The Fire Behind The Questions
When I first saw the prompts for the Fall Fearless and Fly challenge 6, I knew that creating something for it would be an interesting experience for me at any rate, provided I could manage to do so. At first I was thinking I might pass on this one. . . too complicated, but yesterday I felt I was getting a glimmering of an idea, or a least of a starting point, for it so I sat down with my open art journal to see what would materialize. After all, I've inadvertently picked up the habit of religious art journaling by participating in Rebecca's meme, so may as well go with the flow.
Here, btw, are the Fall Fearless and Fly prompts for challenge 6:
Headline Prompt: Divided by God: What does "God" mean to you? How do you access"God" or the divine or the sacred in your life?
Color Prompt: Metallics - gold, silver, copper, bronze, or all of them!
Quote Prompt: "This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart, is our temple; the philosophy is kindness." The Dalai Lama
"What does 'God' mean to me?" Rather a big question, that. But I've always been particularly captivated by the fire images in the Bible-- the pillar of fire that led the wandering Israelites by night, the burning bush in the desert, the tongues of fire that appeared above the believers on the day of Pentecost. So I began preparing a background with fiery colors-- oranges, reds, and yellows. Using a gold paint pen (that's the metallic prompt, there) I drew a dotted line spiraling out from the center and over that outlined some "tongues of fire" over the page. I drew a spiraling line with a silver gel pen as well but it only shows up faintly in the picture.The background still didn't seem full enough somehow, so in between my dotted lines I began writing words from Acts chapter 2 (which contains the story concerning the day of Pentecost and the tongues of fire mentioned above) with a white paint pen. The words spiral outward from the center and here and there I got thrown off course, so it's almost impossible to read, but that's okay.
I was liking the way this looked but felt it needed a focal point and some human interest, so began flipping through old magazines looking for some inspiration. The image I chose is from 2001 Benjamin Moore ad, in case anyone cares. Something about the woman's facial expression and posture resonated with my current mood, so she was pasted in. I think of the resulting page as a kind of abstract religious self portrait. Let me explain, if I can manage it in a paragraph or two. Those who are not interested in personal autobiography may stop reading here.
My parents were enthusiastic converts of the Jesus Movement era in the 1970's-- "born again, Spirit filled, fire baptized believers". They spent the next several years, including those of my earliest childhood, as followers of the Pentecostal/charismatic Christianity of their day. I was still very young, but old enough to remember, when they began to be disillusioned by some of the scandal, fraud, showmanship, and extremism that the movement regrettably spawned. They left the church we belonged to and began exploring other avenues of belief and practice, over a somewhat zany and occasionally bizarre couple decades of spiritual searching that would indelibly shape my own life and formative years especially. The good news is I made it out alive and mostly sane. :)
So, partly in an effort to puzzle out the import of our life stories, largely in an attempt to figure out my own beliefs, and partly out of genuine interest in the subjects, I've immersed myself in reading over the past couple years on the history of Christianity (especially in America), theology, and the philosophy of religion. It's really only recently that I feel I've emerged from the rubble of books, with a more or less intact faith and nuanced views that have now predictably become something of a hodge podge. Looking back, I have to say I'm appreciative of H's tolerance and patience during those times I was preoccupied with existential wrestling and probably not the easiest to live with! We were also visiting a variety of churches at the time, both together and separately, uncertain of quite where to place our growing family (it was important to both of us to find a church home somewhere.)
I suppose detailing the process could fill a book (and maybe not a terribly fascinating one) of it's own, but in a somewhat surprising twist of fate, we've ended up back in a church the pastor of which is a member of one of the Pentecostal denominations. It's milder and more reasonable than some of what I've witnessed in the past, but familiar enough that it gives me a not unpleasant feeling of having come full circle, at least for the time being. I think of it affectionately as "charismatic-lite", a little evangelical church in the country not more than twenty minutes from where we live. It's unpretentious, not too thinky, has good music, and the worship, prayer, and preaching style remind me of the positive aspects of my roots and earliest religious memories from childhood. The congregation is laid back, friendly and they were extremely kind and helpful to my family during my recent bout with hyperemesis. It's not where I expected we'd end up, but somehow being there for now feels natural for us, like a simple clicking into place. A relief given my historical tendencies to over complicate things. Most importantly, and perhaps partly because of these other things, I do feel a sense of spiritual connection there-- a reminder that what matters most is not the answers or the questions or even the journey itself, but being in touch with the fire glowing everlastingly behind these things.
Thanks FFF for the amazing inspiration and prompt!
Also linking to Paint Party Friday.