Death and the Wind

Well. It’s been quite the week. Our “new normal” of self isolation continues, much like all of you. It seems we’ve had quite a lot to ponder over these weeks — but not much to share. I’m finding it hard to be inspired when nothing new is happening. Perhaps that’s a cop-out because there should always be something new, right? Never stop learning and all that. Should take my own advice sometimes! So here goes: As I write these words, the wind is howling outside. Empty and angry, yet cleansing, in a way. It seems to be clearing the world of debris. My poor, old house creaks and groans as it gets shoved around along with the trees outside. My windows are rattling. It’s grey and overcast, and today has been a quiet, slow one after our makeshift festivities and family chats over the internet, remnants of an unusual Easter weekend.

It’s supposed to be a season of rebirth and resurrection. Honestly, I had planned to write about growth this week…. but it seems like I am stuck back on Good Friday and am in the limbo between it and resurrection Sunday. Death seems to be on my mind. Which sounds horrid and morbid and is a terrible title for a blog post. It evokes images of heavy metal thrasher bands and dark images from gothic artists. So my apologies if you came looking for some bright and cheery words of encouragement today. Perhaps we will get there by the end of my 700 or so words.

There seems to be plenty of depressing reports in the news these days during this world wide pandemic. Current data shows over 119 000 deaths as a result of the Coronavirus across our planet. People are dying at an alarming rate. Then, of course, there are unrelated deaths: people are still starving, people are still getting older, people are still without proper healthcare, clean water and hygiene. Hate is still part of our lives. Depression and mental health is still running a muck — maybe even more so — as we are cooped up and forced to face our own thoughts and fears. Our personal demons are joining forces with some very real ones. And in many places, fear and chaos are becoming their leaders.

I’m hearing stories of good, hard working people getting knocked down by the overwhelming death toll. Refrigerated box cars becoming makeshift morgues. Mass graves being dug for the homeless and unnamed. Bodies are literally being dumped on the streets in some parts of the world. Day after day it’s all we see and hear about. It’s easy to see how those on the frontlines are quickly becoming bogged down by the pain and sorrow of it all. And then, how do you mourn? How can you comfort one another from a proper “social distance”? What happens when you cannot say “goodbye”? Closure is difficult from your phone screen. We have etiquette and social graces for death. We say the right things and send flowers and cards. But for so many? What is the response? I don’t know either.

I’m listening to the wind again. Trying, like Nicodemus in John 3, to figure out how God will use all this for His good. He will — because He loves us. It says so in that very same chapter: John 3:16. One of the first verses you learn. Even the football players and sports fans know it. It tells us the story of that fateful day so many centuries ago. The wind was there on Good Friday, too. It shook the houses and the windows rattled as the sky grew dark. The wind eventually will calm down again. Life will carry on and we will once again see that Hope of Easter Sunday. We have the Hope. It’s just a little bit hidden right now. Death was conquered permanently on that weekend. Have you been like Nicodemus, my friend? Trying to figure out what on Earth is going on when people speak of new birth, resurrection and that hope in this dark world? Why do we celebrate Easter weekend? Because of Faith in what is unseen — like the wind. We cannot predict it, like the curves on the covid 19 stats wall… or even death itself. It’s beyond our control. Faith is that big step into the unknown. Where the wind will then carry you.

Feelin’ all the Feels

Anxiety. Pain. Crisis. Fear. Pandemic. Isolation. Many of these words have been in the headlines these last few weeks as people come to grips with the “new normal” of Covid-19. Zoom and virtual chats. Church on line and working from home offices. Unemployment. Everything has been shut down and cancelled until further notice. Disappointment. It’s been long enough and I think people are beginning to feel it. Now, I don’t normally have anxiety. In fact, I don’t understand that fear of the future emotion, much to the shagrin of my friends and family who often find anxiety crippling. “How can you not ?” “Don’t you care?” But — It’s not about that. It’s me being different from you. My brain is wired unlike yours, and God made us each unique for our own unique purposes. This is not up for debate. It simply is.

Today though – today – I am feeling all the feels. Not anxiety and what ifs. Not fear of catching viruses. Diseases have been around much longer than this. Our days are numbered and we should not fear. Many are suffering. And many of you are wired to help — and you are. You are spreading joy and doing your best to connect when it is hard to connect. Keep doing that. Continue to bless the new superheros working on the frontlines and the spiritual leaders who are trying to shepherd at a distance. #Faithoverfear is being touted as the believer’s response to this pandemic. Jesus called us to stand firm in our faith. I’m with you on that. However, He didn’t ask us to be stupid. He encourages us to pray for, and obey, our leaders. He asks us to share His love and be kind. He didn’t ask us to take risks, but to be wise and seek council. He gives us tools, and expects us to use them.

And yet, I am preaching to myself as I write these words. You’ll forgive me if I use this platform as my journal this week. Maybe it will benefit you, too, as we positive self talk together. Because today, I am feeling all the feels. There are too many people in my space. There is no routine in my world right now — and I thrive on routine. There have been things happen this week that have made me sad. I am frustrated and angry. Not fear or anxiety, but insecurities and fights for control. And it’s not about right and wrong. Most of us have never experienced something like this before. We are winging it together. And please don’t tell me I just need fresh air and human contact. I am fully aware of the physical consequences of isolation and too many carbs. I am smart. I know things will eventually come out the other side.

Yet, they say the biggest distance on Earth is the six inches between your head and your heart. You wanna know where God lead me this week? What I mused about? John 14. Twice in this passage, Jesus says, “Do not let your heart be troubled…” Your heart. That seat of emotions where things get mixed up and messy. The disciples knew Jesus. They had seen what He was capable of. They lived with Him. They ate with Him and followed His every word as He taught and prayed. And yet, He comforts them where it counted: in their hearts. Oh my friends, it’s not about whether you are in your pajamas for the whole day. It’s not about doing three hours of homeschool (or none!) or eating pasta again for the umpteenth time. It’s not about your double chin, your hairline, or the background lighting in your video chat. It’s not about doing the “right” thing. It’s not about knowing — it’s about understanding.

We’ve not been this route before. The disciples had never met anyone like Jesus before, either. They knew things, but they still didn’t understand the whys. It wasn’t supposed to be like this and our humanness often gets us mixed up in emotional messes, especially when the Devil gives us an extra dose of doubt, stress or insecurity. Jesus knew the path He had to take this week before Easter, and He knew His followers would be confused, misplaced and be having some “heart trouble”. It’s comforting to know that He still is in the business of calming that unsettling feeling deep within our chests.

I wish you virtual hugs this week, and encourage you to read and muse about John 14 along with me. May you be smothered with some supernatural peace in these unprecedented times (especially when you are feeling all the feels!) and “…let not your hearts be troubled….”

Is it Okay to Doodle in Church?

Welcome back! This week, we have a guest post from my friend, Ruth. She inspires me on so many levels! So, I asked her to give me her thoughts on art and worship! I hope she inspires you, too!

Hello! I’m so honoured to be a guest blogger here on mittonmusings. My name is Ruth, and when I’m not working at my full time job in technology, I love to paint and draw. You’ll often find me doodling in meetings and during church. I love bright, colourful things and so the recent colouring party postings have been right up my alley!

I’d like to share with you today a series of questions and answers with my thoughts about colour and art.

Let’s start with an easy question: what’s my favourite colour?

Ok, so that’s not really so easy because I don’t know that I have one particular favourite. However, if I absolutely had to choose, I suppose it would be red. But what I really like about red is how it comes alive and vibrates with life when put beside certain blues and greens. When I’m painting, I love to start with a red under painting and then layer greens and blues on top, allowing the red to peek out in places, making the painting really come alive with colour.

Ruth’s “waterlily” with red underpainting

Why do I doodle in meetings and in church?

Contrary to my husband’s teasing, doodling while listening to a sermon isn’t a distraction. It actually helps keep me stay focused by not allowing my mind to wander and think about the milk I need to add to the grocery list or a work challenge that I’m struggling with. This article from Harvard Health Publishing supports what I’ve experienced.

Doodling is different from drawing in that there is no planning or prior thought to it. I never know exactly what will end up on the page! I just start with a shape and then keep adding to it. They say that doodles can tell you something about a person — but I don’t know what my doodles say about me, except that most of them end up looking quite floral, so I suppose that’s the gardener and nature lover in me.

How does art make me feel?

Drawing and painting connect me to the person that God created me to be. Let me try to explain. For many years, after I graduated from university, I stopped making art. I was working hard on building my career and then I met my husband and had babies. And I began to feel like I had lost hold of something important. A piece of myself had gotten lost and, even with all the good in my life, I desperately needed to find it. When I started painting again, it just felt so right.

Ruth’s sermon doodles

When I’m drawing or painting, I’m connecting with my subject in a very intimate manner. In the process of painting, I get to explore and really get know God’s creation. I feel immensely privileged. While I’m painting, and I’m in the flow, it’s the best feeling in the world.

How can art and colour be incorporated into worship?

Art has long been entwined with the church. Look no further than the beautiful stained glass windows of many churches. Can it be used to worship? Absolutely! A verse, a story, a sermon – any of these (and more) can be inspiration for worshipful art. It doesn’t need to be representational either. Creating abstract art can be a very fulfilling and spiritually rich experience.

When you think of God, what colours do you see? When you think of His love, His creation, His sacrifice? Use colour to express your thoughts and feelings of your Creator and His creation.

Some of my favourite tools and products that I use to create art

And finally, let me leave you with some practical information. Here are some of my favourite products and tools, all of which can be found at your local art store:

•        Pigma Micron pens. My preference is the 01 but I also use the thicker 03 and 05 pens as well.

•        Sketchbook. Any one with good, thicker paper will do and allow you to use pen without bleeding through.

•        Golden acrylic paints. They may be more expensive but they are worth it!

•        Birch board and mounted birch board. I prefer using wood over using canvas as there’s not as much “give” and I have more control. It’s also a smoother surface to paint on.

Is it Okay to Doodle in Church? Thoughts from a guest blogger!
You can find more about Ruth at http://www.ruthlindamorton.com

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading! I’d love to hear some of your thoughts on art and colour in the comments below. You can also find me on Instagram and Facebook.