in growing heat with
dark clouds building
I can see it,
and smell it.
Clouds with misty
crew cut tops
extending to heaven
and roiling dark
shapes at the bottom.
in a cloudy mass
strikes with jagged fingers
I wait with concern.
Will it come here?
Will it strike the earth,
This storm has built
and is ready
to send a charge
to the earth.
There is a hope –
a thin rod planted
deep in the earth
and rising upward
toward the sky
and the storm.
It will take the storm’s wrath
and send it safely
into the earth.
We will be spared.
We huddle in hushed hope
with whispered prayers
to let the storm
(In thinking about wrath and love meeting at the cross, i thought of the power of summer storm clouds being like stored up wrath, and a lightening rod being like the cross that averts the stored up wrath of God. David E. Carlson 3/16/2016)
As I’ve noted, scripture is the first book, nature the second. Though in time nature arrived first. We recently moved and these pictures are from my morning walk.
Readers of this blog will have seen posts about the two books of revelation, nature (general revelation) and scripture (special revelation.) I have started a small side business to promote the idea that we can explore nature artistically and spiritually. The website is here: Two Book Retreats
Together with an artist, Nancy Macgregor, we will offer the class “Bridges along the Yahara River” which combines learning how to do watercolor sketches with an appreciation of this natural setting in central Madison and an opportunity for spiritual reflection.
Further information is available here – Bridges Class
a quiet place in the Smoky Mountains
I have a restful week in the Smoky Mountains as part of a Sabbath Rest gathering. One of my activities was to stop and look at the world so check out my watercolor sketches here .
This sketch is from along a hiking trail in the Smoky Mountains – I did not get to the big falls, but had a pleasant lunch at my own personal “Side Rock Cafe.”
I plan to do some exploring of this theme here at Fresh Read – while we are not under the legal regulations of the Sabbath, we continue to have the invitation, which we can take at any time where the Lord says, “just stop and spend some time with me, with my words and works.”
If you are in Madison and want to try a local version, Two Book Retreats will be offering a class this June and July along the Yahara River – see the link here.
The Bible begins with creation. We are most familiar with the majestic narratives of Genesis 1 and 2. Creation is presented in a variety of viewpoints within the Hebrew Scriptures. It is further developed in the New Testament through the teachings of Jesus and in the book of Revelation.
In this weekend retreat we will explore the Bible’s rich witness. We will begin with Genesis 1 and 2. Then individuals will select from other passages such as: Psalm 8, Psalm 104, Job 28, Proverbs 8, Isaiah 40, Matthew 6 and Revelation 21 and 22. Participants will learn a new way to study scripture and will draw insights to our place in the world.
One way to deepen our understanding of Creation is to make a journal recording our personal responses in art and writing to our study of the texts. Nancy Macgregor, a Madison artist and instructor, will help each participant distil their thoughts and experiences into simple pictures and words. This way all will have a continuing memory, visual and written, of what has been learned. This is possible for all, artists and non-artists alike.
In the first Bridges over the Yahara River watercolor class, we were looking at Psalm 1. I showed the group the use of colored pencils for marking words and observing the structure of the passage. So there we were under the overhang at Tenney Park, waiting for the rain to subside, huddled in blankets and LOOKING at Psalm 1.
1 Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.
4 Not so the wicked!
They are like chaff
that the wind blows away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
6 For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.
In out group of 7, at least three started to take the colored pencils and draw a tree (v. 3). Yet that was not a distraction, but seemed to help in processing the words. When we shared our observations after about 20 minutes, there were some profound insights into context, shape and content of the psalm. Perhaps because we were in an artistic mode, and because we had planted ourselves by a stream of water (the Yahara River), the text came alive to us.
Fresh Read is about reading the Biblical Text freshly, looking and listening to take in what the text is saying. I have recently started Two Book Retreats which has as its goal to explore the book of nature and the book of scripture through various art forms. So if you are interested in that check out the web site and the Facebook Page
We are currently in the middle of a watercolor class that explores the Yahara river that runs along just across the street from my office. The Text we will explore this week is Psalm 19. This psalm transitions from the book of nature to the book of scripture and then to the response to the Lord by the psalmist.
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
To the leader. A Psalm of David.
1 The heavens are telling the glory of God;
and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
2 Day to day pours forth speech,
and night to night declares knowledge.
3 There is no speech, nor are there words;
their voice is not heard;
4 yet their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
In the heavens he has set a tent for the sun,
5 which comes out like a bridegroom from his wedding canopy,
and like a strong man runs its course with joy.
6 Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
and its circuit to the end of them;
and nothing is hid from its heat.
7 The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the decrees of the Lord are sure,
making wise the simple;
8 the precepts of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is clear,
enlightening the eyes;
9 the fear of the Lord is pure,
the ordinances of the Lord are true
and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey,
and drippings of the honeycomb.
11 Moreover by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
12 But who can detect their errors?
Clear me from hidden faults.
13 Keep back your servant also from the insolent;
do not let them have dominion over me.
Then I shall be blameless,
and innocent of great transgression.
14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable to you,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
In the last two days I was able to speak to a group of ex-offenders and to a group of kids at church at an awards banquet.
I took a walking stick to the first group. this was carved in a piece of curly willow that I had harvested from my front yard. It is a joke that I walk a little on the slow side – mainly because I am looking at things – gardens, trees, birds, bumper stickers. So I put on there a tortoise and a hare. The verse is from Ecclesiastes 9:11
The race is not to the swift
or the battle to the strong,
nor does food come to the wise
or wealth to the brilliant
or favor to the learned;
but time and chance happen to them all.
The point is that we can not expect to rush, rabbit like, to the finish line, but it will take some time. This lead to several interesting conversations about wood carving. It was a nice way for folks to connect.
At the awards banquet the decorations were pots and seeds. I talked about what was needed besides the pots and seed packets. The Kids figured out we needed good soil – not the sand and rock salt I had first suggested. The point here was that we need to be receptive soil to the scriptures – as Jesus taught int he parable of the sower. (Mark 4)
So in these examples a stick and some dirt became ways to connect. We all do things that help us connect to the scriptures – areas of interest in our lives that connect to specific scriptures. Walking Sticks and Ecclesiastes 9 or Psalm 1. Gardening and a number of parables of Jesus and Isaiah 55.
Think about what connects with you? What do you know that helps others make connections?
My new adventure is this http://www.twobookretreats.com
“Look at the birds of the air, they do not sow or reap or store away barns, and yet your heavenly father fees them. Are you much more valuable than they?”
Our pastor’s group had a day of prayer and so I went off with my bible and sketchbook and was reading in Matthew 6:25-34. This place is a camp on a lake near Madison and it is next to a rather large marsh of cat tails. So i managed to observe quite a number of birds and in fact saw no little bird barns, looms or combines.
Jesus made extensive use of the natural world, the “2nd book” of revelation in his teaching. We often to go these places to find inspiration or escape as well. Though I have quite a number of creatures in my urban back yard, including the rabbits who enjoy my attempts at gardening.
Here is the list of birds I saw that day: Canadian Geese, Red-wing Black Birds, Mallard and Teal Ducks, Cardinals, Coots, Sand hill Cranes, swallows, brown and tree sparrows, purple finches (they are not purple but red/scarlet) and chickadees. Coots are duck like birds which are black with white bills; that was a new bird to me.
I also saw some kind of water snake in the marsh, so I decided not to go swimming.
So I went back to make a watercolor sketch. There are ducks, sandhills and a blackbird if you look closely.