May 14th, 2018 by Dave Leave a reply »

Icons and Images of God
Sunday, May 13, 2018

If God is creator, and we are made in God’s image or Imago Dei, then we are, in our essence, creators. We are, in our essence, artists. Therefore, when we open ourselves to the expression of creativity, we also open to the movement of the Divine within us. —Christine Valters Paintner and Betsey Beckman [1]
Our divine DNA carries the creative impulse of the Creator. In my dear friend James Finley’s words, the human longing for creative expression is part of our “God given godly nature.” Even if you don’t consider yourself creative or artistic, it is an inherent part of your being.
Author Ken Gire writes:
God stretched out the heavens, stippling the night with impressionistic stars. [God] set the sun to the rhythm of the day, the moon to the rhythm of the month. . . . [God] formed a likeness of [God’s own self] from a lump of clay and into it breathed life. [God] crafted a counterpart to complete the likeness, joining the two halves and placing them center stage in [God’s] creation where there was a temptation and a fall, a great loss and a great hiding. God searched for the hiding couple, reaching to pick them up, dust them off, draw them near. . . .

In doing all this, God gave us art, music, sculpture, drama, and literature . . . as footpaths to lead us out of our hiding places and as signposts to lead us along in our search for what was lost. . . .

We must learn to look with more than just our eyes and listen with more than just our ears. . . . We must be aware, at all times and in all places, because windows are everywhere, and at any time we may find one. . . .

What do we see in those windows? What do we see of who we are, or once were, or one day might become? What do we see of our neighbor living down the street or our neighbor living on the street? What do we see about God? [2]

Many have called icons windows for the soul. The word “icon” comes from the Greek for image or likeness. And, as I’ve shared, God’s image and likeness can be found everywhere. Icons—and other forms of art—are invitations to look beyond the brushstrokes, colors, and shapes to the deeper mystery and meaning. As we pause, look, and listen with our hearts, we are changed.
Over the next two weeks I’ll explore how art moves us out of our limited boxes of rationality and into a contemplative stance that can imagine new possibilities. In the words of essayist and novelist James Baldwin (1924-1987), “Every artist is involved with one single effort, really, which is somehow to dig down to where reality is. . . . Artists are the only people in society who can tell that society the truth about itself.” [3] I hope you’ll join me in considering the deeper questions of life and contemplate the image and likeness of God alive in the beauty of paint and poetry, music and movement.

Monday, May 14, 2018

The imagination retains a passion for freedom. There are no rules for the imagination. It never wants to stay trapped in the expected territories. The old maps never satisfy it. It wants to press ahead beyond the accepted frontiers and bring back reports of regions no mapmaker has yet visited. —John O’Donohue [1]

Being made in the image and likeness of the Creator isn’t about “getting it right” or rationally understanding God. Jesus taught us that being “perfect even as our heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48) is more about loving than having correct beliefs or following the rules. How do we grow into such loving likeness?

Each of us has our own unique imaginarium, an unconscious worldview constructed by our individual and group’s experiences, symbols, archetypes, and memories. For example, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Catholics, and Protestants live in quite different imaginaria. God comes to us in images that we can trust and believe, that have the inherent power to open our hearts. Spirituality tries to move beyond words to evoke our imaginaria at the unconscious level, where real change must first happen.

If your inner imaginarium is rich, intelligent, and not overly defended, you will never stop growing spiritually. My advice? Read more poetry and literature; watch movies; listen to music; visit museums. The artist is a prophet, someone who helps us be self-critical and creative so we don’t stay stuck in the status quo. The prophet models and embodies a new way of thinking and being that allows us to imagine a larger, more inclusive way to live.
You cannot even imagine something or do something until you first have an image of it inside you, which is surely why Einstein said, “I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. . . . [It] encircles the world.” [2] In Art and Physics, Leonard Shlain (1937-2009)—an author, surgeon, and inventor—made the case that images come before our capacity to verbalize or name what we see:

Whether for an infant or a society on the verge of change, a new way to think about reality begins with the assimilation of unfamiliar images. . . . Because the erosion of images by words occurs at such an early age, we forget that in order to learn something radically new, we need first to imagine it. “Imagine” literally means to “make an image.” Witness the expression we use when struggling with a new idea: “I can’t picture it,” “Let me make a mental model,” and “I am trying to envision it.” If, as I propose, this function of imagination, so crucial to the development of an infant, is also present in the civilization at large, who then creates the new images that precede abstract ideas and descriptive language? It is the artist. . . . Revolutionary art in all times has served this function of preparing the future. [3]

Perhaps, like the prophetic mystics of all traditions, the great artists of each generation can help us transcend our dualisms and move us beyond the exclusionary frameworks that are comfortable for us . . . if we have the ears to hear or the eyes to see and the willingness to engage!

MAY 14
I AM A MIGHTY GOD. Nothing is too difficult for Me. I have chosen to use weak ones like you to accomplish My purposes. Your weakness is designed to open you up to My Power. Therefore, do not fear your limitations or measure the day’s demands against your strength. What I require of you is to stay connected to Me, living in trusting dependence on My limitless resources. When you face unexpected demands, there is no need to panic. Remember that I am with you. Talk with Me, and listen while I talk you through each challenging situation. I am not a careless God. When I allow difficulties to come into your life, I equip you fully to handle them. Relax in My Presence, trusting in My Strength. For nothing is impossible with God. —LUKE 1:37

The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. —DEUTERONOMY 31:8

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. —2 CORINTHIANS 12:9

Young, Sarah. Jesus Calling


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