Silence

Remembering Sanctuary

The week before Easter I started a small fiber piece that I titled "He Is Alive!" I knew what I wanted to do and I thought I could be done by Easter. That was five weeks ago. Every time I work on this piece time slows. I spend hours working and when I look up, I have made almost no progress. This piece refuses to be hurried, and I have finally surrendered to it. Here is the picture I took of it two weeks ago:

 

Here is what it looks like today:

 

See? Slow going.

More confessions:

  1. I knew what I wanted the piece to be. Eyes are such a metaphor for Life. I didn't want an entire face. That would be entering territory I wasn't prepared to enter. I don't know what Jesus looked like and I don't want to speculate at this time. I just wanted eyes. But, once I got started I was afraid of them. As you can see here, I have saved the eyes for last. Honestly, I did everything else first because I felt vulnerable under that gaze. In fact, the thought made me so uncomfortable that I was forced to really consider what I might be trying to hide from God. I worked on the piece with this question hovering near. It has been an interesting month.
  2. I wanted to do this piece using solid cottons because I didn't want the skin color to be obvious--Christ belongs to us all-- and because I wanted to do some hand embroidering. I couldn't pull this off. Turns out I am so addicted to printed cottons that I cannot get through a project without them. [Sigh]. This is going to seriously limit the hand stitching fun I was hoping to have.
  3. This stubborn little piece has reminded me why I love to do this. I am so enjoying every minute spent on it. This is worship for me. This is play. This is healing. This is good.

A friend asked me not too long ago how I manage to "do it all" (which I don't, by the way). This quiet making, this is Sanctuary. God is here. We meet. Talk. Argue. Lean in. Rest. Renew. Here. Sanctuary.

Take Me Deeper: Love God

This week at the His Kingdom Come website, the study is on a verse fragment:

Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of you soul,
with all of your mind and with all of your strength. ~Matthew 22:37

I don't think we really know what these verses mean. I think we live into them, but I don't think we really understand them. This makes it difficult to accomplish. Perhaps that is the point. We can never cross this command off our to-do lists.

I started by trying to plumb the depths of the first part: Love the Lord your God with all of your heart. I remembered another verse, Matthew 6:21, "Where your treasure is, there your heart will also be." Loving with all our hearts means that we treasure God above all else. I decided to embroider a treasure map, and purchased these coins for embellishment:

Then I changed my mind and decided to embroider a compass rose as a pendant. It was a plan that seemed easy enough, so I set it aside for later.

Next I tackled "with all your mind," because it seemed like an easier section than the others. Our brains have an analytical side and a creative side. We are to love God with both. I found a brilliant mathematician-beader named Gwen Fisher whose bead patterns are based on mathematical and scientific principles. I purchased one of her spiral patterns (she referred to it as an Archimedean spiral, but named her pattern "Slugs in Love" --gotta love that analytical mind!) and set to work beading what I intended to be the spiral dangle for this pendant.

17 hours and three attempts later, I had learned a lot. But, I failed to produce anything usable. The pattern is for an earring. It says to make a larger pendant "just do the same thing only bigger." I wanted a pretty large pendant, but I started with the earring to try to learn the technique:

 
    So far, so good. Yes, it took me four hours, but now I've totally got this!

 

So far, so good. Yes, it took me four hours, but now I've totally got this!

 

I got started on the large pendant:

 This is the second attempt. It took me six hours to get this far. I realized I had made a mistake that I couldn't fix so I abandoned this one too and started a third time.

This is the second attempt. It took me six hours to get this far. I realized I had made a mistake that I couldn't fix so I abandoned this one too and started a third time.

 Third attempt! This one I finished in seven hours. The problem? It looks like a bejeweled appendix instead of the spiral seashell I was going for.

Third attempt! This one I finished in seven hours. The problem? It looks like a bejeweled appendix instead of the spiral seashell I was going for.

Artists need lots of time and space to experiment and try again. That's part of "it." The tools in our toolbox get there through lots of playing. Some might call this trial and error, but I think that puts the emphasis on the wrong part. The point is to learn how a medium behaves and how a technique works so that in the future it can be used effectively.

At this point in the project I decided that this particular piece wasn't going to happen in time to meet the deadline. However, I enjoyed the study, I enjoyed the time spent creating and time spent silently with the Holy Spirit. I needed that quiet of just being in His Presence and working with my hands. This week doesn't feel like a failure even though I have nothing tangible that is beautiful to show for it. Instead, there is much that is beautifully intangible here right now. I might dissect that weird bejeweled appendix looking thing and try again this weekend. I am fascinated by the pattern and I would like to conquer it.

Or, I might do something else....

And He Was Filled With the Holy Spirit

Nine months of silence. That's a long time. That's enough time to stop struggling against it, and accept it. It's enough time to go beyond acceptance to appreciation. It's enough time to learn to listen, and to observe. Yes, that's enough time to allow the silent exterior to permeate the noisy interior. It's enough time to settle your spirit and become silent in your soul.

And what evidence do we have that Zechariah did just that?

Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue was loosed, and he began to speak, praising God.

~Luke 1:64

Zechariah's first words after nine months of silence? Praise. And his next words? Blessing. He blessed the nation and then he blessed his son.

Today I feel my heart turn towards my children. I want to intentionally bless them this Advent season so that they, too, are prepared to enter Christmas. I want to build them up, encourage them towards the way they should go. My list for this week: listen, observe, bless.

 


Shhh...

When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and gripped with fear.

Yep. That would be me, too. My stumbling faith, my inconsistent trust, it is hard for me to imagine that I wouldn't be startled at the sight of an angel of the Lord. Hard to imagine being fearless before him. And I don't think I could immediately toss aside my fear when told: "Do not be afraid." No, I'm pretty sure I don't know how to do that.

Zechariah asked the angel, "How can I be sure of this?"

And there I am again. The angel of the Lord saying that God has heard my impossible prayer and is answering...so many times I have seen God answer impossible prayers, and I find those answers to be terrifying. Terrifying in power. Terrifying in what the answered prayer requires of me. I too prayed for children. For nine years we begged God to send us children. When He answered I was overwhelmed with the gift but also the weight of responsibility. He gave us three children in 18 months and I wasn't sure how I would survive all this blessing. Of course, the only way was on my knees, but I feel for Zechariah. I would have questions too. Questions about details, about outcomes, assurances and I'd wonder what exactly I had just signed up for.

"And now you will be silent and not be able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time."

I used to think that the angel was punishing Zechariah, the way this sentence is constructed seems to imply that silence is a consequence for unbelief. But now I think differently. I think that silence is an antidote for unbelief. Big things come out of silence. In the beginning, Light and Life were born out of silence. Silence is not Nothing. Silence is Presence. Creation was not birthed from Nothing, it was birthed from His Presence. God is giving Zechariah a chance to keep silent, a chance to experience His Presence. He is preparing him for the Gift. The gift of fatherhood, as well as the gift of the coming Messiah. Just like the season of winter is not a season of Nothing, but a season of flickering life deep within the ground, so silence guards that flickering Life, that flickering Faith, and allows the Spirit to breathe it into flame.

Listen to the rest of the song and album here.