Pictures on my Walls
Henri Nouwen writes in his book Here and Now about creating a “Holy Space” in our inner life of thoughts fed by images and words. Here is what he has to say that inspired this desire to collect thoughts and images in a blog and put them in one place as an act of prayer, worship and inspiration. Most will be from other sources, some will be my own.
“The daily contemplation of the gospel and the attentive repetition of a prayer can both profoundly affect our inner life. Our inner life is like a holy space that needs to kept in good order and well decorated. Prayer; in whatever form, is the way to make our inner room a place where we can welcome those people who search for God…. This image of a picture with sacred words on the wall of my inner room gave me a new understanding between prayer and ministry. Whenever I meet people during the day, I receive them in my inner room, trusting that the pictures on my walls will guide our meeting. Over the years, many new pictures have appeared on my inner walls. Some show words, some gestures of blessing, forgiveness, reconciliation and healing. Many show faces…It is important that our inner room has pictures on its walls that allow those who enter our lives to have something to look at that tells them where they are and where they are invited to go. Without prayer and contemplation, the walls of our inner room will remain barren, and few will be inspired.”
I love Henri. He speaks a language of the heart that inspires me. I find his words beautiful, but not necessarily easy to do. I tend to neglect purposefully decorating the walls of my inner life through purposeful contemplation until my thoughts are as cluttered as my kitchen counters- which, trust me, has pile upon pile of “stuff.” As a result, I approach people with a scattered mind, offering them only fragmented pieces of myself. But I do think prayerful attentiveness to the images, words, stories, and faces where God wants to offer me himself will change me. As I grow more aware of his love for me, the more I can offer his love to others.
I love what Henri has to say about prayer “in whatever form.” These days, my prayer life takes place in little phrases throughout the day, like “Jesus, help me see you.” In the fullness of my days as a mom with young children, I don’t often have spare hours to myself for silent contemplation or solitude. But he is faithful to show me himself in middle of the chaos, whispering the peace of his presence. On days when I do get to reflect, sometimes my prayers take form in poetry or painting, or making jewelry for a friend. In listening and responding to a small bit of scripture, a story or song with my own words, I find myself connect with God in a way that feels so right to me.
It’s taken me a long time to be brave enough to want to share any of these words or images. However, recently a good friend started leading a bible study using the book, The Creative Call, by Janice Elsheimer which has challenged some of my excuses. After doing some the exercises from the book, I realized one of my biggest excuses in NOT sharing my thoughts (besides worrying it would be self-glorifiying) was that most of my thoughts/poetry/stories/paintings were UNFINISHED… still a work in progress. So, I will go ahead and submit all pieces with this disclaimer: it’s not done yet and it needs tweaking. Don’t read it like it’s a complete piece- read it like you are reading a page of my journal- misspellings and grammatical errors in all!
Here is a poem I wrote a while back that has some of my struggle with my relationship with words. I want to capture life- but words can’t do it justice. Instead, I have to let a real encounter with THE WORD define and shape me.
Words whittle down my life
with a pen knife- dull from overuse.
In this war with pen and sword
it’s time we call a truce.
When it’s living I’m trying to capture,
fall to the floor like kindling, fit to be burnt.
Until my life is on fire, with one desire;
to name my life meaningful.
But you look at me as if you already knew my name.
I’m no stranger to playing pretend. Familiar with the games.
But you look right through me, see the true me,
won’t let me hide behind my pain.
Suddenly in naming me, I won’t ever be the same.
Until my life is on fire- with one desire;
you name my life meaningful
with a WORD that is living- a WORD that is being
my life, you are that WORD.
So say the word, I’m yours.
Say the word, I’m cut in two.
Your word is a sword,
the kind that defends the truth,
Your word can speak
Life into the darkness and void.
Say the word, I’m yours.
The word is you.