Painting at a Worship Conference

I had a great time today, painting during a worship conference at the Vineyard church here in Duluth, Minnesota. Here’s how it happened.

It was just a regular worship conference. You know, a couple of days together with a larger part of the church, great biblical teaching about God, absolutely great musicians, lots of prayer time, both alone and in praying for others, lots of conversations with friends, tons of good stuff.

And off in a back corner of the auditorium there is a table with all sorts of brushes, acrylic paint, some pastels…and the thing that really did it to me, a selection of smaller stretched canvases. As I innocently walked on by those stinkers just called out to me. The pull was tangible–sort of gravitational, if you will. Wow. That was Friday night.

And then on Saturday morning my previous plans didn’t work out. So there I was. Feeling the pull of the canvas, blank and crying out for something, lonely and inviting my pencil to begin drawing. And dang it if I didn’t just jump right on in.

I wanted to focus on the line where the horizon of the land meets the sky. That line is where all the action is. It’s just like my life. The line where the sinfulness of humanity meets the holiness of God as a result of his grace. This line is where all the action lies, the color, the contrast, the beauty.

Hope you like it!


A Graceful Old Tree

A few weeks ago, as winter was winding its way down (or so we thought) in Minnesota, I found myself sitting outside in Scottsdale, Arizona, in the warm sunshine with a couple of days to refocus at a Franciscan retreat center.

And so, with the sun shining through the towering overhead palm trees I sat down next to a gnarly old olive tree. I loved the way this tree looked from every angle. The way its trunk crawled up out of the ground and headed off in so many different directions. The way it was anchored to the earth by hundreds of woody fingers gripping so tightly. The way it had been in this place since before the Franciscans had purchased the property, or so I imagined.IMG_1091

The first day as I began to draw I focused on mostly just the oldness and gnarlyness of the tree. To me it looked and felt tough. It was strong, but oh so weathered. It was tough. It was prickly. It had wrestled whatever life it could, during it’s long and dry years in this unforgiving climate, through the hard and difficult work of being a tree. I admired its long and difficult life.

The second day I sat in a different place and began another drawing. And this day it felt completely different to me. There was a gentle breeze and the sun didn’t fee quite so scorching on my head as I began to draw.

And not too far from me was another retreatant, a lady who had been coming to this retreat center for a number of years. She saw me drawing and began to strike up a conversation. I was so impressed with her graceful curiosity of what I was doing. Of how my quite time that morning communing with my heavenly Father involved drawing and praying—talking with God about what he’d so loving and perfectly created, myself, this tree and the kind lady asking me questions.

After awhile, as she got up to walk away, I noticed how her legs could barely carry her. How she had to walk so slowly because of whatever she had suffered throughout her long life. I noticed how much she was like the tree I was drawing—somewhat gnarly. And I also noticed how incredible full of grace—graceful she was.

IMG_1092Both this lady with her wobbly legs and this old olive tree were deeply graceful. Neither still possessed the grace of a young shoot, a young woman, rather a deep, deep grace that almost defies description. A grace that put others at complete peace in their presence. A grace that doesn’t hesitate to meet other’s needs. A grace that seldom makes itself the focus. A grace the reflects the creator because of all the years and experience that helped to shape it. A deeply imbedded grace.