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Integrating Spirit and Learning

Painting The Lord's Prayer

This isn't my first crack at trying to paint the Lord's Prayer. I tried to capture the meaning of the prayer for a retreat a couple of years back. I remember then feeling not quite satisfied, as if I just couldn't 'nail it down'. Once again, I feel the elusiveness of this simple prayer. Nothing could be more straight forward: calling out to God like a child who desperately needs her father, asking for bread, seeking forgiveness, wanting to be released from temptation and giving it all up so that God's kingdom will overshadow my attempts at establishing order and structure. "Not my will but thy will be done." On reflection, when have I ever found this easy? At the very heart of Jesus' words there is submission and a relinquishment of everything that doesn't have its source in Abba. Even the most mundane act of eating is seen as a gift from God. No wonder I don't get it.

click on picture to enlarge
click on picture to enlarge

I didn't want to go the literal route because I had a sense that the Lord's Prayer encompassed much more than an etching of a loaf of bread. And yet the twist in all this is that God is very much involved in the daily stuff of life. God takes our petty lives and makes it part of his story which is about kingdoms, hallowedness and the goodness, the power and the glory overcoming the falleness of creation.

The way we experience life is so often 'this is thou; this is not thou' and more often than not we become blind to where the 'thou' fits in. The Lord's Prayer is not just Jesus praying off by himself in a grove of olive trees but it is a prayer that is being given to us. We are being invited to partake in the words Jesus spoke, in the intimacy he experienced with God. We are being invited to call out 'Abba' just as Jesus did. We are being invited to see the 'Thou' flood our lives -- something we would have never come up with on our own.

What twigged my imagination was the idea of reflection and how the holiness of God shimmers on the lake of our dead lives. I wanted to get the effect that there are many levels to reality. When we are limited to human sight we are only able to see browns and grays but when God grants us new eyes, which often comes through the act of prayer, we are able to see the imagination of God bleed into our mundane lives. Our perception moves into technicolor.

What ended up happening is that some of the other stuff we as a community had been thinking about, through our Mythic Movie group, snuck into my painting. I was drawn to painting mountains and clouds which somehow reminded me of the South Pacific, the setting for the movie The Thin Red Line. I was struck by how beautiful it was: the lush green of the mountains, the clear blues of the Pacific, the close-ups of insects and leaves. But at the same time tragedy overshadowed the Eden of that world. The 'Thou' had been forgotten. War had brought everyone involved to an all-time low; there was a desperate need for prayer and for seeking out a new Kingdom. Some of the characters uttered madness while a few became like children crying out to God. The title The Thin Red Line refers to the fine line that runs between sanity and insanity. I wanted to incorporate some of the actual words of the prayer into my painting and I realized that the words of Jesus' prayer is the line that cuts through our insanity. The 'thin red line' of our lives is the simple yet incredibly deep cry 'Abba father, Our father who art in heaven'.

Like I said before I don't quite feel satisfied with what I came up with and I think that's OK. This prayer has moved through the centuries and even now on a daily basis this prayer threads its way through lives upon lives: each life different, each day different. It's a thread that forms a vast tapestry woven by God. How could anyone paint a definitive picture of that? After all is said and done, my frustration hasn't led me to the point of giving up but rather something has peeked my imagination. It turns out I have something else bubbling up in my imagination. Must be the words of Jesus speaking sanity into a mind bent on insanity. By the way, if you look close enough you can see fish flying in the clouds. Must be the kid in me looking up into the sky where 'This is Thou' indeed and a magical kingdom comes alive.

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