Painting a Watercolor in Church

This past summer at the Vineyard church I am so glad to be a part of, we were teaching through a series of messages at our weekend services about encountering God in both art and nature. And as I was teaching about experiencing God, I was also doing a watercolor painting. That’s enough of me talking about it. You can have a look for yourself right here…

I really do believe that God is creating a wonderful work of art in both you and I. The apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 2 this thought:

8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

What is it that he’s prepared for you today?

Painting Lake Superior

IMG_2903.JPGAs you can see, I’ve been painting quite a bit over the past few months. Mostly scenes of the great lake I live next to—literally, It’s great. In fact…it’s superior!

A bit more than a year ago, I brought a spiritual director to work with the staff I lead at church. His name is Larry, and he had us doing all sorts of creative and contemplative exercises in an effort to encourage a deeper connection with God. And for me, it really worked. I encountered God’s love for me in a very fresh, even new way.

As I left that week-long retreat I was praying about a way to continue those exercises, a way for myself to continue to press deeper into some of what I had learned. And one of the things I wanted to practice was a form of painting as prayer. Painting as a way of interacting with God in a way that goes beyond what I could express with words.

I knew that I would need a simple subject matter, something I could paint almost without thinking, or at least without getting too distracted by the subject itself. And just as I was asking God what kind of subject he might suggest, I turned my head and noticed the lake. How much simpler could I get…water and sky separated most of the time by a horizon line. Nice!

IMG_2735 So just over a year ago I begin noticing the lake a bit more. You know, when you live right next to such a beautiful thing, the largest lake in the world, it’s easy to take it for granted. So I began to take a route to work where I’d have to notice the lake, take special notice of what the sky, the water, the colors and atmosphere looked like.

One of the things I noticed is that every single day it’s a different picture. Well, in one sense it’s exactly the same and in another, it is completely different. Awesomely different. And so this past year, rather than writing much on here, I’ve been using that time to paint. And I’ve got enough to cover my little studio wall a few times. How much fun is that?

IMG_2269Also, I’ve noticed how much I’ve been enjoying my time with God, talking and painting and noticing beauty and just enjoying him. I’ve been talking to him about the clouds, the water, my life, the wonderful community I get to pastor, my family, my neighbors—you’d be surprised, there so much to talk about. And when I’m not talking (being an introvert its the part I tend to like the best), I’m just enjoy God’s presence and the incredible beauty I get to live in.

IMG_2906And all along the way, one of the things I’ve noticed is his love for us…for me. And the great joy he takes in creating such a beautiful place for us to live. And this discipline of painting such a simple subject over and over again has reawakened my love for beauty, for creativity of all kinds, and for the people around me. This is quite a bit of fun.

Who knew that such a simple thing could be so deeply impacting.

A New & Old Watercolor Sketchbook

Years ago, back in ninth grade, if I remember correctly, I began to try to make some stuff with leather. And I loved it. I think it was in a Jr. High arts class in Salem, Oregon. And the first thing I ever made was a sun visor, the kind that had a leather headband with a baseball cap-style visor. I wore that thing throughout the 70’sas I’m sure you can imagine—leather visor, bell-bottomed jeans, listeninimageg to Stevie Wonder and Van Morrison…but I digress.

A few years later, in bible college I had collected some leather-working tools and had begun to recover hard bound bibles in leather for a few of my classmates. They were rough, rustic looking pieces with a little design work, some carving here and there…nothing special really, but It was pretty sweet to be making stuff out of cowhide!

One of the last projects I remember making was a leather covered bible for myself. And I used that bible for many years, throughout art school, while traveling around in my old ’65 VW bus for just over a year…. I have so many memories of hearing God’s voice out of the pages of those scripimagetures. But over the years I replaced that bible with a newer translation and that lovely leather-wrapped bible sat on the shelf gathering dust and looking classy.

And then, just this past week, I had the idea of repurposing that old piece of leather into a watercolor sketchbook, a folio of sorts. I wanted something I could use over and over again, replacing the individual sheets of paper as needed, and putting the sketches up in my studio…and, I wanted to give this piece of leather that has been with me for over twenty-five years, another life.

I got the strip of wood from Jack, a close friend of mine who, among other things, builds guitars. He’s got so much wood around his place that I thought he’s bound to have a piece I could use. This is a small strip of Myrtle wood from Oregon. Quite fitting, don’t you think? And the Chicago post screws allow me to put as much or little paper as I think I’ll need for the next journey. Pretty sweet, huh?

Now I look forward to carrying this old friend around with me for a whole lots more years as I continue to make sketches, paintings, jot down thoughts and ideas, plan trips and much more.