Keeping out the Light

The space was cool with an ancient, heavy coolness sunk deep into the stone floor, clinging to my bare feet and staying between the bones. The air was the slightest bit damp, holding that intriguing stony-musty scent of very old places.

But the light. It was the light that made me understand.

A room in a 13th century Italian structure, formerly an abbey, was our bedroom for a week. When I opened the thick wooden shutters to let the feeble indirect light into the dim room, the bedsheet’s crumpled folds were illuminated. My eyes instantly recognized those distinct lines and shadows. I saw the difficult, long-studied shading of fabric folds painted by the masters, while beyond, in the corner, shadows fell over the foreboding wardrobe of some deep almost-color. I saw what the masters had seen.

All those Renaissance paintings with their bright, sharp-focused subjects wearing rich colors, cool eyes directly gazing out of faces illuminated against dark shadow-velvety backgrounds: this is what every room looked like, then.

Because light was precious. Light barely made it inside.

There has been a thought stirring at the back of my mind since this summer journey to Italy. It is simply that 

whenever we construct something to keep people out,
we also keep out the light.

A village tucked away in a mountain range may feel unfindable and may deter unsafe people.  But because of those same mountains, the sun rises a little later and sets a little earlier in that village–the day itself is made a little shorter for the mountains’ protection.

A fortress stout and strong will keep out invaders and make its inhabitants feel safe. But with windows narrow and closed, and walls high and impenetrable, the inhabitants will rarely feel the warmth of the sun–it will always feel like night inside, cool and dark.

Even an everyday bedroom curtain keeps others’ eyes from seeing you in a vulnerable state–but you cannot enjoy the light of morning until you pull back the curtains, taking the risk of being seen.

What I’m really speaking of
is the heart.

How many times a day do you hear the cold whispers–maybe you can’t hear them anymore because they’re such a part of you– telling you to “Be strong”? “Keep those walls up & keep your heart safely inside. Don’t let yourself get hurt again…”

When you shut out the risk of pain, you shut out so much more.

“I will remove your heart of STONE
& give you a heart of  f l e s h “

He doesn’t give a heart of diamond–

immaculate, sparkling, unbreakable.

He doesn’t give a heart of steel–

efficient, usable, tough.

Nor does He give a heart of paper–

easily bent to one’s will, easily thrown away.

He gives a heart of flesh.

Flesh is what composes living human bodies,
shaped by

God the sculptor,
God the engineer,
God the poet,

in His image, different from every other creature.
Somehow, we look like the One who is invisible.
And skin sets us apart–
we don’t have

a dragon’s myth-strong scales
or a bear’s wild-dense fur
or a bull’s stubborn-smooth thick hide

to protect us.

Fragile, vulnerable skin.

Flesh can be bruised, scratched, scarred. It can bleed. Flesh can feel so much pain.

But a heart of flesh is created to know and be known,
to love and be loved,
to speak and be spoken with,
to journey and be journeyed with,
to live and be tabernacled with.

It’s all that He has desired since the beginning.

Oh Jesus,

Crumble the defensive walls around our hearts
and teach our hearts to sing the songs of healing.
Create in us Your fearless vulnerability and ever-reaching love.

In the Name of our Wounded Healer who catapulted himself into our fragility–

to walk in our dust
and eat at our table,
to laugh with us
and weep with us–

our Warrior who came not wearing a suit of armor to protect Himself from us–

our pain, our anger, our rage–

but inhabited the ultra-vulnerable sweet-soft skin of a newborn
and lives to continually bear our flesh into His Father’s unapproachable Light,

Amen.

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Open shutters, San Gimignano, Italy, August 2017

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Grandmother observes the crowded street, San Gimignano, Italy, August, 2017

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Italian light, San Gimignano, Italy, August, 2017

“I am Joseph”

In need, the long-promised eleven surround this discerning and mighty ruler once a brother, once a slave. The moment the dream came true and Joseph saw stars. Memories surged: belittled, betrayed, broken… abandoned. Yet, impossibly, for these same wounding ones it was only love which coursed from his eyes. The golden power of Egypt cast aside that they may come close, know his face.

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“I am Joseph” by K Grace Collins. Oil pastel, 9 X 12 in. All rights reserved.

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The LORD’s mysterious affection for life inversions brought Joseph through a much-dark and winding way, His love and faithfulness forging and bounding the tight twists and turns, the pattern known only to Him…

Upon emerging, Joseph found he stood glimmering with favor and strength-made-whole, both tested and healed.

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Upper Room(s)

Be careful what you read; you might see it. ◆ Let me show you what I have seen…

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Upper Rooms by Kelly Grace Collins. Water color pencil and artist pen. March, 2015. All rights reserved.

I awakened one morning to the joining of Psalm 104:13 and John 14:2:


“He waters the mountains from His palace…”
Psalm 104:13a

&

“In My Father’s house are many dwelling places…”
John 14:2a

 I was startled by a realization… These are the same place.

Or at least, they will be. Or even more wondrous.
We will live with our powerful Creator King.
All of the richly poetic Old Testament descriptions of where He dwells?
This will be our home.

Eight streams of water to represent His salvation,
twelve little people to represent all His believing ones.

Take heart, dear ones. The wonders of dancing with Him that await us are beyond all imaginings and surpass all that we endure here. These upper rooms abound, each where the knowing of Him is heavy like sweet mist. His light, presence, and delight covers the whole palace city.

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Upper Rooms, detail.

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Upper Rooms, detail.

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Upper Rooms, detail.

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Upper Rooms, detail.

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Upper Rooms, detail. 🙂

The Art of Theology: Seligmann 1888

We must ask, what does the art suggest to us?

What does it communicate about Him, speaking from a particular time and place?

What does it evoke through use of light and shadow, contrast and composition?

The Holy Family Image

“The Holy Family”, by Austrian painter Adelbert Franz Seligmann in 1888. The Church and the Fine Arts, Maus, 1960.

Through his painting “The Holy Family”, Adelbert Seligmann pries into the secret, unrecorded years of youthful Yeshua, depicting a scene in which He stands absorbed in thought in the midst of the family’s carpentry. It is a pensive, somber moment, heavy with potential energy; visual tension. The viewer is made to ask: what has captured His mind so? It is a family scene, softened by the presence of two other figures. Joseph is aged, Mary is hidden by shadow, and together they watch their son in quiet curiosity. He is growing, changing, before their eyes… a tender, young plant.

He wears white–purity, innocence, peace. It is a simple, single-layered garment, without dye and seemingly coarse. He is unprotected–He does not wear armor to shield Himself from humanity. He may be easily embraced… or wounded. Nor does He wear sandals. He has come as one of us, a creature first formed bare, out of clay–and to this He bears witness, connected to the earth without division.

He holds a scroll–does it contain words about the promised {and present} Messiah in body? The beams {and the nails} in the foreground do. They lay already crossed–dry beams prophesying of His coming suffering and separation. In the background, there is also a basin–does it speak of cleansing? The cleansing that He would bring, and is in Himself?

The shades of gradient that make up His youthful form in every way contrast Joseph, as a photograph’s negative. White garment v. dark garment, face in the light v. face in shadow, youthful hair v. the white hair of age… Figure casting shadow v. figure in shadow. He is different from His earthly father Joseph in every way, yet still belonging to him.

Seligmann’s “The Holy Family” shows Him to be both one of us and wholly other, a visual answer towing behind it many other questions through the waters of theological painting.

Did He imagine He heard a faint, heavenly refrain’s echo as He walked home from the synagogue that day?

Was He contemplating all that laid before Him, feeling the weight of it more every passing day?

Was His infinite knowledge somehow becoming increasingly known to Him, the Father revealing more to Him in moments like this?

The time period of the painting may reveal: Why is Mary so hidden and shadowed from the light, from the viewer, her face barely traceable? Perhaps it is evidence of a protestant desire to cloak this Mary who has been so heralded and visible in the Roman Catholic iconography. Perhaps too, the prominent cross beams {they are closest to the viewer in the foreground} are residual from the Roman Catholic theme of the visible cross, always connecting Jesus to solemnity and His death.

burning and sounding

First, it was a sweeping wall of dynamic flame, joyously roaring, as holiness. Outlines of secret trees were barely visible in the bottom right corner. Luminous orange and yellow billows of oil paint.

Months passed. Not forgotten, but there was no more…

Then, after a morning of unexplained tears during worship and gift of relieving sleep, next colors were present when eyes opened. Blue–crashing, powerful, and upset waters. White-foamed and threatening, they reached from the sky and began to submerge the secret trees, being released among them.

Months passed again. The receiver was thought to be known, but the purpose was not. Such animation and motion, agitation and passion…

At last, days before the window of presence after long separation, a girl was glimpsed walking through the flames. She was in them–all around her was flames and immense heat–she was engulfed. But she was alive. She was transparent, as the flames were her color and body’s substance.

Who was this one so loved, chosen to be so purified? Who was this one surviving and enduring through such a long pain? Who was this one with a white-hot core of being still clinging to here?

She is real; she is my friend. And now the painting is at home with her, speaking to her His words never meant for me. Though I have heard whispers that such words came from the trees…

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When you face stormy seas I will be there with you with endurance and calm;
you will not be engulfed in raging rivers.
If it seems like you are walking through fire with flames licking at your limbs,
keep going;
you won’t be burned.

Isaiah 43:2 (VOICE)

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Close up with iPhone. Oil and ink. Painted throughout 2014, for JB.

 

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Art and photos by Kelly Grace Collins, all rights reserved.

drawn up to the mountain’s heart

Some journeys are long… Some wanderers travel far. Sometimes the world is more blue-dark than light… But the Light will be found for the seeking–this is promised. The mountain calls… come up, come up and out of the deep valley… The morning will dawn and shine on you, don’t be afraid. You will see His face and be near to Light… He who is Love. He walked the same valley once and walks it again with each one of us. His Presence is also promised even when paths lay beyond the reaches of light.

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Watercolors and Maica 03 black ink. Painted for John, 08-09 ’14.

The Artist sees Himself reflected

◆ Light falls and traces the edges… ◆ The Artist sees Himself reflected in all He has made ◆ The wind, the waters, the notes of harmonies cast back the image of His Spirit to His eyes, their movements like His own ◆ See Yourself most in us, Creator Jesus ◆ let the rays of Your Goodness strengthen in golden beams what is You, and harden, bleach as bone, what is not ◆ Promise to dwell, speak, and breathe inside; lift, pull, daily carry us into You–{rest} ◆ just the faintest watercolor touch, sudden release of color, is like You… Come ◆ pine is of Your encompassing Strength, mint is of Your ever-flowing Life, cinnamon is of Your welcoming Warmth ◆ a small presence before Yours, but never ignored–to offer a soul to Your Light Heart ◆ to need; to wake; is the beginning of Life in You… then, ever caught in the Unseen ◆ scintillate through all Your people, glinting from chosen faces and voices as time moves ◆ oh return with resounding clouds and un-deaf-ening thunder, swallow up Yours with dense and dancing Glory ◆ Amen

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tree approaching

 

soaring sky

 

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scene of fallen log

Pie Jesu Inverted

I had been seeing red for a few days… brilliant red, in the bottom right-ish corner of things. Create, create… the Spirit was pressing.

A tree’s trunk began to form in its place, a bold, vivid red, unashamed.

As the rest of the image began to form (rich, royal blue leaves, many-splintered orange and yellow suns…), frustration was a frequent and fickle guest. Uncertain of the picture’s purpose, its bright colors appeared childish. Only the tree was red.

But the Spirit would have it finished.

My love began to speak some of His words: “I am the true vine…” They filled the air and hung there, immanent, as He

Then, instrumental Pie Jesu broke through. Rich and soul-pulling to the moment of His deepest pain and deepest love, its melancholy chords ripe with the ever-interwined lament and beauty of His death… Just as He began to flow the red into the rest of the image, accenting the entire scene with it. He gently guided my fingers, His red bringing warmth to all the other colors, filling them… Everything made sense. And it was inside-out.

He gave His blood for us… To redeem and cleanse and make alive and make peaceful–oh how gently does redemption flow. Without His life within, there is no warmth, no kindness, no protection… His blood given for us provides all these things, drawing us into the Father’s household. Because He wanted to. Because He is love.

Pie Jesu Domine, Dona eis requiem. Pious Lord Jesu, Give them rest.

Pie Jesu Domine, Dona eis requiem sempiternam.   Pious Lord Jesu, Give them everlasting rest.

Taken with my iPhone just before it was joyously given to the one who was supposed to have it, after an Unexpected Appointment

Taken with my iPhone just before the picture was joyously given to the one who was supposed to have it, after an Unexpected Appointment

 

Just As Faith

Step back, back away, put some space between you and the frame… Get your hands dirty with paint or pastel? Never. Too many mistakes are possible, too many rules may be broken with your own hands. Keep your art on the wall and describe what it is like but never try it for yourself, not even a sketch. Don’t enter the world of artists, mediums, and ideas, or you might know it. Restrain, admire, discuss… But don’t know.

Don’t let Him flow from you–the boundaries you like will begin to disappear…

Become one with the Creator and He will freely create through you with your hands