https://www.artsupplies.co.uk/blog/the-new-ground-using-on-trend-liquitex-black-gesso-to-create-depth-in-a-contemporary-painting-with-liquitex-gouache/

Riddling Ground

This ground underfoot, this riddling ground
Would you say you know it down to Adam and Eve,
Where lie its precipices, its canyons,
Where breathe the dragons that prey
On travelers at dusk and lost children?

I have walked on it with trepidation,
Fainting not, East of Eden, west of the moon,
Where the dead among the living
Like infernal winds sweep over the earth
Furies spitting on the destinies of men.

All around the wasteland where visions die
Banshees howl and half-formed men bay
Around fires of Cain’s wandering offspring.
Nevertheless, the eternal revelation, tri-folded,
Goes forth to the hungry and the poor in spirit.

The riddled ground beneath our feet,
Treacherous though it be, is as the dust of history
And we quickened ones like lilies of the field,
Dandelions harboring the unsearchable riches of Christ
To show forth the unassailable purpose of God.

Dumb to the world’s riddles, trusting, we carry on,
Until spinning out of bereft arms into shrouds
Or across canyons of a diseased mind
We lose each other to time’s grasp, till time stops,
And we, with joy unspeakable, everlasting, walk on new ground.

poem and audio reading of “Riddled Ground” ℗©2020 dora a.k.

Ephesians 3: 8-12, Tyndale Bible (1522)
Vnto me the lest of all sayntes is this grace geven that I shuld preache amonge the gentyls the unsearchable ryches of Christ and to make all men se what the felyshippe of the mistery is which from the begynnynge of the worlde hath bene hid in God which made all thynges thorow Iesus Christ to the intent that now vnto the rulars and powers in heven myght be knowe by the congregacion the many folde wisdome of god accordinge to the eternall purpose which he purposed in Christ Iesu oure lorde by whom we are bolde to drawe nye in ye trust which we have by faith on him.

Isaiah 46:8-10 NASB
“Remember the former things long past,
For I am God, and there is no other;
[I am] God, and there is no one like Me,
Declaring the end from the beginning,
And from ancient times things which have not been done,
Saying, ‘My purpose will be established,
And I will accomplish all My good pleasure'”

**Featured Image:  “Moody Skies” (Lizzie Crawford, 2020)

The Time is Now: Daily Reflections for Advent

It’s been two days since the first Sunday in Advent, so it’s not too late to share once again a video series of short daily reflections that I found to be a cornerstone of family devotions one past Christmas season and whose benefits, I believe you will find, linger through the year.

The Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics has put out a series of daily reflections for advent which provide a beautifully meditative context for our individual prayers and reflection. Each medit…

Source: The Time is Now: Daily Reflections for Advent

You Are Not Alone

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I don’t think that anything separates us from others, even those closest to us, as much as illness, pain, or grief. There is a loneliness that sets in that builds a wall around us. It’s an invisible barrier. We can’t get out and they can’t get in. And it boils down to this. We are alone. Isolated. Cut off in some fundamental sense from where they are, because the space where we are is miles away, miles measured in pain and sorrow.

Here, in this space, only one Person can enter, can span that distance, and it is the man of sorrows, Christ Jesus. Still it is not his acquaintance with grief or pain that travels the distance to where we are. He has, in fact, never left us nor forsaken us, since neither “height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:39). No distress. No sorrow. No pain. No illness. Nothing can separate us from him who loves us. Continue reading “You Are Not Alone”

Arise, arise!

Courtesy Earth Observatory, NASA

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Gal. 2:20)

It’s raining outside, which is fitting even in ordinary circumstances. Given my melancholic nature, the rain perversely cheers me, somehow exteriorizing a sadness, releasing her from her confinement, freeing me up for a temporary lightheartedness. This new guest is not unwelcome but strangely enough, she only increases my contemplation of the melancholic and sorrowful, the cloud and the rain, but with an optimism that settles into a sense of tranquility and peace.

It’s not that whatever unsettled me has been removed: the circumstance, the sin, the pain, the fear, whatever it may be. The storm has come. The blows have fallen. I am brought low. And there is only One who can raise me yet again from the dust, the man of heaven (1 Cor. 15:48), Christ Jesus.

But when you are in a place so far from heaven that Light seems a distant dream – the world, anyone? – and darkness seems the norm, you search only as a beggar in garments stained by a life of ugly words and deeds. You hardly dare approach the king of heaven. You’re ashamed to ask even for the crumbs that fall off his children’s tables. Christina Rossetti (1830-1894) in her poem “The Lowest Place” cries out,

Give me the lowest place: not that I dare
Ask for that lowest place, but Thou hast died
That I might live and share
Thy glory by Thy side.

Give me the lowest place: or if for me
That lowest place be too high, make one more low
Where I may sit and see
My God and love Thee so.

Though Scripture tells us to boldly approach the throne of grace, we know the dust and ashes of repentance are not scorned, indeed necessary, given our place as Christian pilgrims, simul justus et peccator, simultaneously righteous and sinner. Did not Jesus himself say that the man who dared not even raise his eyes to heaven but pleaded for mercy went home forgiven in contrast to the bold Pharisee?

Yet it was not the posture of the man per se, that is, the lowliness of his approach, that Christ was applauding, it was his raw honesty, untainted by excuses or crass self-righteousness. There is no hypocrisy here in this place of lowness. Just rank need. The need for God’s mercy.

That this mercy, and not just mercy, but love, is freely given into the hands of beseeching faith is what takes my breath away. That God through Jesus accepts my broken heart, forgives, mends, heals, comforts, and loves is pure unfettered grace. It’s like throwing open the doors of a palace to a destitute woman and saying, “It’s yours now. It’s yours forever.” George Herbert (17th c.) writes in “The Dawning”:

Arise sad heart; if thou dost not withstand,

Christ’s resurrection thine may be;

Do not by hanging down break from the hand,

Which as it riseth, raiseth thee;

Arise, arise!

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16)

Consider Jesus

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The Healing of the Blind Man of Jericho, central panel of triptych, 1531 (oil on canvas transferred from panel), Leyden, Lucas van (c.1494-1533) / Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia / The Bridgeman Art Library

Master, I want to see!” (Mark 10: 51)

How many times have I been in conversations with a beloved saint, desperate for relief from their pain or sorrow, who would cry out, “If only I could see His face!” How many times have I been in circumstances where I have pleaded with my Savior, “Only let me see You and I can bear even this, Lord!” And in each case the darkness simply seems to increase and our words seem only to echo back to us, mocking us from the black hole of our despair.

Why?

The request seems simple enough. Even praiseworthy. We’re not asking for mountains to be moved or miracles to be performed. Just a reassuring glimpse of the One who died to save us.

Master, I want to see!” Jesus healed the blind man who asked for his vision. But what if the blind man refused to see? What if he had gone back to acting as if he were still blind and sat begging for money from passersby once more? How foolish that would be! How truly blind!

Yet that’s how I am when, in the crucible of trial, I employ lightly the faith I have been given by my heavenly Father (Eph. 2:8).  I trade something “more precious than gold” (1 Pet. 1: 7) for what I have not yet been given but will be given on that day when Christ Jesus returns.

Twice in his letter the writer of Hebrews tells us to “consider Jesus” (3:1, 12:3). He wasn’t saying it mockingly as one who taunts the blind. He was saying it to the elect of the church, the body of Christ, who had once lived in “the domain of darkness” (Col. 1:13) but now were “children of light” (1 Thess. 5:5). Only these had the eyes of faith to see, to “consider Him . . . so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted” (12:3).

So then let us hold fast to this sight we have been given, look with faith at our Lord Jesus, and say with the Psalmist, “I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken” (16:8).