Transformation

 

I have been sparring with words like transformation, attainment, and ascension, ever since the Easter message of death and resurrection.  It was probably sparked by my favourite preacher Dr Mark Chironna’s often spoken phrase   ‘rising out of dead things’
The concept is shadowing me, and I constantly want to grope at it, but just can’t get a grip on it.   So I thought to let it mull and mature through the observations that come my way.

First, it was hearing the bigger picture of the Gospel pattern, which may well reflect our own spiritual progress of death burial and resurrection  (rising out of dead things)
Then the pattern increased in scope with the Ascension and Pentecost.   But still, there was no clear understanding on my part.   Still groping !

Butterfly 1      

Butterfly 2

Second, it was the completion of a two-part watercolour pencil painting of butterflies, that I did as a gift for my friend Jenny’s newly moved-in home.
Butterflies, now there is a story of true transformation.    First the egg, then the caterpillar  then morphs the beautiful butterfly – not without a struggle though !   Isn’t Nature a wonderful teacher ?
But the butterfly had to go through the process of transformation.

worm to butterfly
Perhaps these serious thoughts of seeking clarity are because I have been in a safe and secure cocoon state for some years now.   I have been a little frustrated with my ‘futility’ and my ‘redundancy’, yet the solitary has brought with it contentment and a little creativity – big pluses !   Now looming is the unknown and a suspect of oncoming change.

I turn my attention to attainment.   But I cannot get to attainment.    Besides attainment smacks of self effort, at which I am not an ace!   So I wrestle on with words and thoughts, and procrastination.
I do believe though that we must endeavour to – attain.   We must be looking to always learn, grow, expand and develop our personalities, character and lives.  Else we stagnate, become dull and boring, or even worse – stay as we are.
But I am smartly reminded, and comforted from Scripture :
You have hedged me behind and before, And laid your hand upon me.   Such knowledge is too wonderful for me.  It is high I cannot attain it.  – Psalm 139:5,6

Thirdly, I know that growing and developing is a process.  It does not happen in a day or even a year, – perhaps in a moment in time,  perhaps with just one word that brings another perspective, – but usually the processes have to sink in to bring about slow change.
Here before my eyes,  I see on the current TV news, a glimpse into our country’s political arena,  a very good example of slow change.
South Africa is in the grip of election fever, with 770,000 registered voters ready to make their mark on 8 May 2019.    The clamour of the political parties are vibrant, and their constituents all clad in colourful battle attire of T-shirts and caps.  The African National  Congress in yellow,  the Economic Freedom Fighters in red
Butterfly SAand a wave of blue from the  Democratic Alliance – all a
spectacular colour parade in stadiums for their last 
final push for political victory in democracy and
transformation – from ‘dead things’ – (if we can
only get passed the demons of greed and corruption !)

This colourful parade of politics brought to mind the writings of Dr Don Beck’s book The Crucible.   I think he was hugely instrumental in the ‘behind-the- scenes’ of the forming of a new South Africa, in 1994.    His research brought great understanding, for me,  of the developmental stages of people, organisations and even of nations, with his colour chart of psychological development, which is as follows  – and I over-simplify my interpretation thereof :
Beige  – survival minded
Purple – mystic, spiritual minded
Red  – expression  (militant anger and/or creativity)
Blue – conformity,  order  (disciplined and responsible)
Orange – competitive (sport, business, achievement)
Green –  community minded.
Yellow  –  networking, coalition minded.
Turquoise – Global minded.
Colour ?  –  suspected future development to come, is left blank.

And so with these colour dynamics one may identify, the state of mind of a person or organisation or group of people.   This is helpful to bring about or at least understand transformation, and bring solutions to problem people or groups of people.
It is not a chart of the hierarchy of successful development, merely an indication of where we are on the chart –  or in the rainbow, so to speak !
All these can be at the extreme ends or in-between on the colour spectrum.

Again, I ask, but what brings the actual transformation and development.   Well, the short answer is God’s grace, and His goodness, of course.   But I think its the seeing where we are at, and if we are willing to make a change that will in fact bring change.   Because change is inevitable.

So  presently, what is your favourite colour  ?
In my time, I have been a purple person, a blue and a green,  currently I think I am red – trying to express myself with to many words and drawings !!

Finally, Ascension, it is a high concept, that is still to high for me to attain.
I know in the Christian faith one is growing from the carnal to the spiritual.   The Spirit-filled life is higher than the physical life.
But how do you attain it, I ask ?   Again the short answer is only by God’s grace and His goodness.
But His ways are not our ways, and so the pattern of the Gospel may be helpful, as we see Jesus willingly going to the Cross, before He could come to the place of Ascension.

Like the metamorphosis of the butterfly, it does not come about without struggle, a struggle for survival, whether it be physical or spiritual.
In any one life there is always something higher to attain to.    Transformation is needed to grow into what we are meant to become.  We can reach for it, but it is God who will bring us through, by His Spirit, His resurrection power of new life, …. and in His time.

Butterflies.jpg

Can a Leopard change its spots ?

 

IMG_0529 (1)

 

My somewhat lopsided Leopard, with all its intricate and significant markings, took me ages to complete, and finally brought me to this question  :  Can a leopard change its spots ?

This questions reminded me of a sweet Bible joke,  –  and a play on words that has the
power to make me smile.
Before I share it with you I have to set a scene from our history for you to understand my little joke, –  and some of our nation’s culture tensions.

We have 11 official languages in South Africa !   One of which is Afrikaans.    The Afrikaners were part of the forge from European nations e.g. the Dutch, French and German, who all had their reasons to set sail for African shores in the distant past.
In the wake of the discovery of gold and diamonds, the Anglo-Boer (the war between the Afrikaans farmers and English soldiers )  –  scraping through a crippling drought, famine and poverty, the Afrikaners were instrumental in establishing a firm foundation, and set infrastructures in place for a nation to emerge here at the southern tip of Africa.  Of course, not perfect, they have made huge mis-judgments and mistakes in the development of our people, that have their result in our very present day super sensitive racial tensions.

Butterfly SA

We are a very complex and diverse nation, evident in each of our 11 cultural languages with their own histories, before we even get to the collective history – which is still unfolding !!

Because of the Anglo-Boer war,  before our recent history, there had always been a sharp cultural tension between the Afrikaner and the English-speaking people in the land – mainly due to the war.    The ‘Boertjie’ a nick name for the Afrikaner and ‘Rooinek’ for the English were at times intentionally disparaging toward each other. One particular aspect was that the ‘Boertjie” often got his tenses wrong when he was forced to speak English.
Perhaps that’s the reason why some of my writing gets its tenses wrong  – a kickback from my ancestry !!

images.png Smiley face    Now let me tell you my little joke, emanating from that part of our history.

Adam and Eve were walking in the Garden of Eden, and Eve had identity issues, with questions.
She asked Adam if they were English or Afrikaans ?   Adam scratched his head unknowingly and said he would ask God.     So the next day when they met in the cool of the evening as was their custom,  Adam asked God if they were English or Afrikaans.  God gave Adam a penetrating gaze and said in a soft wisdom “Adam my son, you are what you are”
The next morning over an apple crumble breakfast, Adam told Eve he now knew the answer to her question.  Eve sat forward, for she had an inquiring mind and liked to gather knowledge.  “We are English” Adam told her.  “And how did you come to that deduction” asked Eve.  “Well” said Adam, ” I asked God if we were English or Afrikaans, and He said  ‘ Adam you are who you are‘  – well now, if He was Afrikaans He surely would have said Adam you is who you is.”  –  (smile now)

Language,  and culture make up identity.   I think that mindful language will not easily offend, and a little humour can go a long way in today’s global racist climate.  We need to laugh at ourselves more often – and that is easier done when you have an understanding and an acceptance of your own place in history, whatever that may be, your identity,  and your own unique story, for we all have stories to tell.
History clarifies that we all come from a race and cultural group.  And History will always reveal the bias of past governance.  Taking the high ground of hindsight is easy, and demanding justice has its place.   But we can’t truly go forward, looking in the rear view mirror.  We need to get into the gear of forgiveness to take us forward to fulfil our potential and our destinies, – or stay as we are, and wait until time heals or new adversaries surface !   History has an equalising effect.
I came across a telling quote recently,  it read :  We are all products of our past, but we don’t have to be prisoners of it – Rick Warren.   Well said.

With worldwide nation-shifting currently going on, the world is in a state of cultural and racial flux. We all have our own cultural perspectives, because we are all diverse.  We would be wise to heed sensitivity and by the same token avoid a victim-mentality.  After all we all have our own distinct and different spots, so to speak.

Identity, is not only language and culture, but character too.  Character is based on values, ethics and morals – and choices make character.
In my little joke, God in His wisdom said : you are who you are,  but we are not expected to stay that way.   Through moral values and decisions we have opportunities to become more, and this can and will influence our character, identity, even our destiny.
Perhaps it is not just the social economic poverty, which is huge, but moral poverty that is the true cause of the ills in our societies today.

Attitude is telling, and shines through the filtered light of our varying  societies.   An often used quote is  : Attitude is everything.   I agree with that.   It’s the place in life, where courtesy and respect begins or ends, the difference between being civilised or barbaric.   I like to keep this quote in mind : Courtesy is the first rung on the ladder of civilisation. (source unknown)

‘Ubuntu’  is an African term that can take on different connotations  e.g. community caring, kindness, courtesy, respect for each other.   This makes all the difference to our attitudes in our societies.
My interpretation of Ubuntu is  –  Love your neighbour as you love yourself.

We can change our spots by changing our minds, and our attitudes and sprinkled with humour can even help to change the spots of others.
So even when we humorously retort  …..’  I is who I is ‘  ….. we can change !
If we stop to think about this, it is applicable on many levels, –  socially, psychological and spiritual,     As a man thinks, so is he.  Proverbs 23:7

I found my leopard in the Bible, Jeremiah 13:23 where it says : Can an Ethiopian change his skin, can a leopard change its spots ?
As the chapter also speaks to idolatry and  pride – eeek ! –  I had to pay close attention, because my spots can so easily reveal my pride too !!   It is something to think on.

My spots are my spots, but if I allow God’s goodness and grace to change me, my spots, wrinkles and blemishes will change into a thing of beauty, that helps me see the beauty spots in other people.  That kind of transformation is good, essential and eternal.

In today’s super sensitive racial climate, may my leopard serve as a reminder for us to love our neighbour.

Ubuntu,  my friend  Ubuntu !

Butterfly SA

 

 

 

 

 

Extra Ordinary

 

 

ordinary ele
Be Grey and White, Faithful and Strong.

My Elephant turned from grey and white to extra ordinary.
Not so much for any artistic skill,  still have a long way to go for that to happen.
I purposely penciled in different shades of colour, just because I wanted him not to be  ordinary.

I once had a flash of insight that brought me to a reality check.  It was this.   It is in the ordinary, the mundane and in the core of consistency that strength, even meaning and  purpose lie.    It is in the normal flow of everyday things –  “same old same old”  of chores, routines, duties, responsibilities, appointments, and the general ability of being available, that make up faithfulness and loyalty and friendship that are some of the strong foundations of life.
Ordinary is an anchor !

I had not always thought like that.   I wanted to fly.  I wanted to live a full life of adventure, meaning and accomplishment.  I wanted to change the world – sometimes I still do.  Maybe that is the way some of us have been wired.  And there is nothing wrong with that !
But God in His wisdom knows best, and what is best for us.  And though He allowed me to ‘fly’, when it was my season to fly, He also gave me the hindsight to know that it was for the benefit of others, and not just for my own ego trip – which in essence it was at that time !   So it has always been at the back of my mind, fly when you can fly, but land in a safe place, because Ordinary is safe !

That is all good and well.   For some people that is enough – to be in the groove of  routine and responsibility.  It is right, and it is safe, and will accomplish a good end, an expected result. There is power in consistency !
But there are some people who are daring and want to express their personalities, their creativity, their passion, and their faith.  The Ordinary shrinks these ones, and if stifled long enough will suck life out of their expressive souls, and the expected end can be described in two words –  pure frustration !

Now frustration can be a teacher too.   It is frustration that will pile up and cause disgruntleness – a displeasure at the status quo, and this could be the breeding ground of witty inventions and innovations – a seeking of new paths and expressions.   If harnessed well frustration could be the place of new beginnings.    It could be the pivotal point for a thrust forward.   And that can be a good thing – yes ? – depending what you are talking to of course.

To go from Ordinary to Extraordinary will take big courage, big determination and a lot persistence, but it can be done.   It just takes one step of faith today, then another and another, until you see a glimmer and then the result of what you want.
Hebrews 11:1  captures faith like this :

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.  

There is the Extra and there is the Ordinary – if you put them together you get the
Extraordinary – another species altogether !   Those who know their own minds, their capabilities, their strengths and their weaknesses, who set out to accomplish it for themselves,  – and then go on and grow the colourfulness of others – the others being the Ordinary.

Both are equally important, the world indeed need both the Ordinary and the Extraordinary,
But the Extraordinary are just a little more colourful – like my Elephant !!

 

my elephant
Be Big Bold and Colourful

 

Pretty Feelings

 

They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.   And though beauty may be all around us we sometimes just don’t see it.
There are some days when life gets a little heavy to carry,  and the feeling is glum, then   on those days I want, and need,  to see something pretty.   I know it will help the mood to shift.

It is as if, beauty is a medicine for the soul, an antidote for ugliness – and isn’t ugliness all around us too ?
More often than not the beauty, the pretty for me, comes through nature.  Perhaps because nature is perfect, and speaks to everything being okay and in its place.

Art and Music may also have such an effect on a mood.    It can transport us on wings of beauty to other places in our souls, where we can find a soothing from the daily grind.

But we need eyes to see and ears to hear, and hearts to understand.

I came across a picture of a rose, and had an injection of prettiness.  It tugged at me and I just knew I wanted to draw the rose.  You know the feeling you get when a picture  just “speaks”  to you ?    Well this picture spoke to me through its gentle simplicity and soft colours.
So I sharpened my pencils, and sat down to re-create it as best I could.  I did not give it its full justice, but my rose does give back to me a hint of soft gentleness, and a warm sense of  prettiness.
I hope you get pretty feelings too, when you take a look at it.

 

rose

Have A Red Geranium Day

My geranium

 

My heart has a special place for red geraniums.   Whenever I spot one in a garden I am reminded of the smoothing sense that contentment brings.

A few years ago, our family went through a trial of testing and of change.  It always is a little disturbing when you can’t see the road ahead of you.   So many an early morning I would just sit quietly in my garden with a cup of hot coffee and soak up the moment.

One morning I began to see things in my garden, and my garden began talking to me !
And no,  I wasn’t losing it –  it was the flow of ponder that brought new insights.
I began writing down some of the musings taking place, eventually had a little pile, which I bundled together, and labelled  My Talking Garden.

Now that I am pursuing my drawing skills with more classes,  I decided to do a project by combining my muse-writings with  illustrated drawings, to publish on my blog from time to time
Here for you then, is my wish for you, and my muse on the Red Geranium.

Have a Red Geranium Day

In my garden is a small red geranium, seemingly leaning on the foot of the giant Strelitzia, growing in the corner, behind the bird feeder.
A morning blast of sunlight made this red geranium centre stage.
How brilliant the red I thought.
Not in itself heralding a call for focus, just being there, brilliant in its position, in its colour, in it own small glory.
My heart aligned itself to the red geranium, and for a moment that is what I wanted to be.
No want for the clamouring of position, of attention for love, of big dreams fulfilled.  No want to cry for the well-being of family and friends and country.
No want, no needs, no demands.
What bliss.
Just to be there, to bake in the glory of the morning Son, nestled at the foot of the Father – and for a moment just To Be.
To let go and to live in this day, no matter the busy, the chore, the pain, but to live in peace and in quiet.
Today I am going to have a red geranium day, I thought to myself,
And just be a splash of bright colour in my own garden, to rest in a kind of contentment that peace brings.
May you too, my friend,  have a red geranium day,
 and share this vast contentment that is mine today.

My geranium

Psalm  37:7
Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him;

 

Meet Valentine

 

Meet Valentine

 

Valentine is a Barn Owlet that lives at The Hollow somewhere in rural California, the home of photography Cindy Knoke.  She takes delight in capturing the critters and creatures on her property, and her love for them shows in the clear photographs she is renowned for.
I visit her blog often, and just loved her Baby Valentine (she names her little critters and creatures.)  I asked her permission to draw Valentine, because he looked so love-able with his heart face and turmeric colours, and she kindly consented.

I thought he would be easy to draw with my coloured pencils.  Just a round face with a heart in it, lots of colour, a few feathers and it would be done in a jiffy.
The project turned out to be quite intense, and I spent many individual hours trying to capture a replica of this beautiful bird.

One night, after a concentrated drawing session I went to bed, laid my head on my pillow,  closed my eyes to sleep – and all I saw were yellow feathers and freckles !!  As I drifted off in sleep I wondered if I was nothing but a ‘feather-brain’ after-all  …..  “they”
say you become what your observe !  🙂

He was a delight to draw, and of course the many hours it took to draw him is because I am still such a novice at this drawing stuff.   Drawing, unlike painting, does take time, but its such fun to create something from a blank page.

So enjoy my version, but do go over to Cindy’s blog,   here
and scroll down till you meet up with the real Baby Valentine.

I am quite sure you will be as delighted by him, and Cindy’s  photography,  as I am.

 

angel feather

Lessons from My Ostrich

Draw close then back off, and see the whole picture.

I have been at it again.   This drawing thing has drawn me in !  And I find myself so engaged that time flies and things get left undone.

An awful lot of concentration goes into preparing the matrix of a drawing.
Draw rub out, draw rub out and so on until some semblance of sense comes out of it all.  Then comes the rub – chuckle, sorry, full of puns today !! – to create something presentable and colourful that gives me a sense of achievement, and something pleasant to look at and to glee over.
Not every drawing turns out that way.  There are some that don’t get the desired effect,  they stand out as ‘lessons-learnt’ in my art journal – with perhaps a quote to distract from the flop !

But one fruitful lesson learnt came from the Ostrich, a peculiar, but interesting bird. Seemingly easy to draw in its simplicity until you get to the mouth and the eyes.  These  are always a challenge for me.

I had deeply engaged with the Ostrich until in exhausted frustration I tossed him aside, to take a walk.   As I passed him by, I threw him a sorry look.   That is when he popped out at me !  I saw him from a distance, I saw him as a whole, I saw him as quite beautiful in his peculiarity, and I saw where  I had to make adjustments  to make him more presentable.

My Ostrich taught me a lesson in drawing – draw close, then back off and see the whole picture.   And isn’t that too, the way we see some people.   We look to intently at them and see their peculiarities, their faults, inefficiencies, even uglinesses,  but when we back off  – from our judgemental notions and ever-ready criticism  – we may see them differently.   Viewed from a distance, as a whole in a bigger setting, they become acceptable, and sometimes their silly faces can even make one smile surreptitiously !

My Ostrich is not a perfect image of the reference I used to draw him from.   But then who of us are the perfect image of the original intention of our Creator ?  We’re all less beautiful than we should be, a little distorted even dysfunctional and in no way perfect, but we are accepted and loved nevertheless in the Beloved.

 

Ostrich

My Ostrich, may not be a master-piece, more a piece of the master !   But to me he is just fine, not perfect but acceptable in his ugliness – and his silly face does makes me smile.  But you be the judge.

scale with 3d man

My Ostrich and I have spent a lot of time together, rubbed off of each other you might say ! –  but the important life-lesson,  read more  reminded me of the wise words found in  Matthew 7:1

    Judge not, that you be not judged.

Pencil

 

 

 

 

 

 

Drawing the line.

Some say that eight is the number that signifies new beginnings ?
This might be true for me too, as there is an eight in 2018, and I have drawn the line on being wasteful with my time. Living in the slow lane can cause one to stagnate, and that is not a good or acceptable thing, when life is so full of wonderful sights and sounds and beauty all around, waiting to be captured and appreciated in one form or another.

So I wrote myself in for a few drawing classes. I think I’ve always had a slight bent toward art, and an inkling to want to paint or draw, but knew that would require more talent than I had.

When I met up with June Dovey, who is a fine-art artist, and a teacher of immense patience, she agreed to teach me to draw, and said “if you can draw you can paint. ”   And so began my classes on tones, shapes, forms  and shading with portraiture and perspective to follow later – the foundational basis of drawing, for art,  – and for getting to know oneself a little better.

Shapes and Formss

It takes a large smidgen of courage to step into the unknown.  All sorts of hidden emotions, lying dormant, began to rise up and whisper in my head. There was Self Doubt, an old familiar voice spoke softly ” You, draw ! – you don’t have the talent !” What if its wrong ? Rejection put in its penny’s worth with, “what if its not perfect?” and “it won’t be good enough, these people are real artists.”

“What are you doing here ?” I asked myself, more than one time.

I did not know that a blank sheet of paper could be so intimidating. “It’s just a piece of paper” my teacher would say over and over.

Then I discovered the smidgen of courage I needed to take up the challenge and began to draw the lion !

My first drawings were skew and misshapen, and looked like they had been drawn by an arthritic hand, but my dear teacher would just say  “keep going.”  I did and things got better.

New beginnings,  and a new world began to emerge for me. I began to “see”  simple everyday things, which have always been there, but now I see them in shapes,  and forms with shadings.  And if I apply shading to my drawings they “pop” into reality, and become dimensional. Its amazing! Light and shade are imperative to drawing.  And without shading all is only one dimension.  Light, dark and shading bring dimension, and depth to pictures. I know everyone knows that, but it was new to me, especially as I saw it come alive  before my own eyes !

And isn’t life itself like that, for without light there is no shadow or shade, all would be darkness. And without an object, there would be no witness to light !!  Here indeed is serious food for thought. Read more here.

The class on portraiture was a difficult one for me.  It needs a lot of practise.  But what I discovered was the eyelid !!   I’ve never noticed eyelids before, and we all have them. When I now look at people I see their eyelids.   Even the presenters on the TV screen, I look for and see eyelids !

Drawing helps you see things, you have seen before, but haven’t “seen” them into existence ! – if you know what I mean ?

Its been a wonderful few weeks of drawing, and I hope to continue to learn more, when the classes resume.

Just to show off some of my new-found “talent” I’m posting a few drawings.  Now don’t be to critical, its a new beginning for me.  I do not have much talent, but what I have has been taught to me, by a good and lovely teacher, who loves art.

I  took great comfort in a quote I came across from Emilie Lee, a seasoned artist who said this to the question asked :

What is the most overrated virtue bestowed on art ?

“I think the idea of talent is so misunderstood.  I don’t even use the word.   Artistic skill comes from many years of practise, commitment and hard work.   The way we talk about talent among artists is so unproductive.   I often meet people who tell me  ” I have zero artistic talent”  and I think that is a self-defeating statement !   I think they just haven’t had the right teacher come along.

My arum lillies

My Arum Lilly.  One of the initial attempts, and starting to dabble with colour.

Lion drawing

I have named my first lion-drawing Courage.  It took courage for me to draw this one. Not half as nice as the photograph I referenced,  but you can see its a lion, yes?

Sugar Bird

 The sugar bird and Strelitzia turned out to be a nice surprise.

I love colour, and discovered water-colour pencils !!   What a find.      colored pencils cluster

I drew the line at stale, stagnate and same-old-same-old, made a    small new beginning and discovered the world of drawing, of paper and pencils, of shape, form, light and shadows – and if you add a splash of colour, the pictures reverberate with vibrancy.

Drawing has taught me what could be a life lesson too – always keep your pencil sharp !!

Pencil