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,


Italy for post (1 of 3)

Open shutters, San Gimignano, Italy, August 2017

Italy for post (2 of 3)

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

Italy for post (3 of 3)

Italian light, San Gimignano, Italy, August, 2017


Cathedral’s Heart

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soundless, light descends to declare

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otherworldly love of detail


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the northern pine woods frame and breathe the heart of a cathedral

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manifold vertical lines

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seek to bind

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earth and heaven, man and God


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tall airy weightless pines

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remind me

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who calls you toward heaven


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and created this space

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wide enough to fit our chaos

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offering us to the Father of lights


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we dwell here afflicted by shadows

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sharp fear, dimming confusion, the waiting of change

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yet there is a stillness

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older than the trees

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who endures


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and whose seeing Heart casts no shadow.

Tears of the King

The throne of the Ancient of Days
is his weeping place

Once, falling and cascading, his tears flooded heaven and filled the earth,
the waters never to fully subside

His face — old lines deep with wisdom;
his being — gentle heart carved with sorrow

Outpoured love and brimming provision rejected turns to salty flow in pain
as the little precious ones choose harm, emptiness, and solitude.

What has been lost was part of him, born out of him

Weighty majesty and crushing grief interlace to form his covering
“We cannot see You! Where have you gone?”

He yet reigns, and weeps

and hopes

–even while some who are his stand back from his embrace,
hands clutching fear, shadows of self, cries of affirmation from the world–

for one to glance up to his face in willing trust;
to look into the eyes of his son

for one to find herself happy in his protecting arms;
to wash the dirt from his daughter’s body

for one to rest close to his heart in peaceful abandon;
to give his children all of Himself and all of home.

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…


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)


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



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

brilliant Secret, aflame

Autumn… the dry rainbow after the storm of summer’s heat ◆ Relief in coolness and colors after relentless heat and unchanging green ◆ Rages and riots of colors that slowly and grandly sweep from the north across the land. ◆

A moment… How can such death and loss of verdancy be so charm-laden…? Examine a leaf closely and you will observe its decay. Weight, gravity, pulled-to-earth… Perhaps this “season” had no place in Eden; perhaps seasons had no place at all. Our Autumn is a time of loss, change, and preparation for winter’s cold and long sleep. How may Autumn flourish so resplendently, in laughing and burning? A celebration of emerald finally turned luminous ruby, citrine, and topaz; an invitation to revel in flames of beauty; nature’s brightest gala. Unnecessary grandeur? Unneeded splendor? Unplanned magnificence?

Troublesome pairings.

But. This existence may be. For this lament of the trees, the lungs of the earth bleeding brilliantly–is the revelation of their true nature, true substance. The Autumn rainbow has been with us all summer–only we could not see it. Autumn illuminates to us all the Sun’s colors stored, at last released to human eyes as summer’s viridescent life fades. Seen is the true, fiery image of the Sun, brought forth in the trillions of annual deaths of Autumn leaves. Wonder and amazement at a secret un-kept.

So as the Heart of God.

The forever-assumed flesh of Jesus, earned and bought by His death, shared with us–flagrantly on display, embedded within our unchangeable history, a thread of purest gold… The depth of Passion in suffering no longer a secret; the reflected Father unveiled; this light-giving, illuminating thread gives forth His secret–He, God Himself, would come this far to reveal Love; to flow Life into our lifeless bodies, to be one with us. The face of God is brightly, freely, and openly seen in Jesus, Heaven’s flame and radiant Jewel. He, invisible colors revealed in the chill of decaying humanity… This picture is not Beautiful because of His living decay within humanity only, but because His incarnation painted tangibly for us the true nature of God–the image of His Father, whom no one has ever seen. He is complete in throwing back and outwards and to all directions the Image; the fullness of God in Him dwelt. Exposed intricacy divine.

This revealing of hidden Beauty was planned; it was simply too grand for Eden.

This revelation, an intervention–to bring to us secrets of the depths of divine love, Heaven’s flame exposed to us.

And so our Lord is LORD of the AUTUMN

and all Sun-heart-colors dancing in their revelation

wisconsin fall (8 of 8)


water (1 of 1)

a step into the waters, the crowd is stilled–the wind had changed inexplicably

the cells of Spirit-sparked life quickly begin to assume a shape, tiny and unseen

“stop! I am not worthy–You come too close”

a human boy breathes
skin, muscles, bone, laughing-sad eyes
he speaks and loves and sees

taken by choice under the Jordan, breath held in his lungs,
his heart momentarily speeds its pulsing of blood–

miracles temptation questions pain wisdom suffering healing sorrow “Come to Me…”

s u b m e r g e d

the incarnation his baptism
his living, the death of us
his submersion into humanity, our complete and full reversal

though we protest to let You enter
and let you turn our faces to be Beloved.

the paradox of between



between Ascension and Pentecost

wait, you un-abandoned ones

see how He will come, in such power and force of Light



come away

      you are His still

      you just can’t see



hide yourselves

      in the One who will come



wait for Him

      Love is yours


paradox always

      now, not yet

      here, not yet

      with us, not yet


Savior faithful Love show us your peace

help us to speak

let us receive You and be filled.

remember Eden

chase play find

the guarded gate, the flaming sword

children children

great evil happened here

dance pull sway laugh

you don’t know, you weren’t here

inside the gate

there was untamed beauty unbound passion verdant green

every scent that will ever please you

came from here

whenever the breeze traces your skin

remember this place I show you

remember my eyes when I tell you

it was perfection

Life Himself walked with us when the day cooled

we loved, we felt

we worshipped

we longed and were satisfied

from rhythm to rhythm all harmonious

He breathed in all, He knew all

as He walked, the flowers turned their faces to His light

ancient, new

the stillness of the sound of rushing waters

time parted before Him and closed behind Him

peace rippled from Him

this we knew this we lost

for this we long again

but children

it’s so far

so far.

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.



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