Naked Moments

I have had three “Moments of Nakedness” recently.  By this I mean moments when you feel so close to something, a thought, an understanding, a person, a moment of seeing or hearing, that you feel like you are naked within this moment of before it. 

The first one was while watching the commemorations for the First World War battle of Paschendale, on the TV, held at the Menin Gate in Ypres in Belgium, through which hundreds of thousands of British soldiers, mostly very young, marched to their deaths at the front not far away a hundred years ago. One of the worst and most wasteful battles ever.  This ceremony, with a relatively few involved, was grief-stricken, moving, beautiful, tear-jerking, in a way that the larger scale commemorations at a huge battlefield cemetary nearby next day didn’t match.  At the Menin Gate, it was intimate, a “naked moment” for all involved.

The second one was listening to a piece of music composed jointly by Ravi Shankar and Philip Glass, called Passages, performed live for the first time at the Proms in a packed Albert Hall.  The piece is meditative, sad,  uplifting and fun at different times, a merging of Eastern and Western music and thought.  For all the hugeness of the Albert Hall, it was a moment of intimacy, a special moment between all the players, which reached the audience, and even to me watching on catch-up TV….  a Naked Moment.  I’ve sent for the CD of this work, but it won’t be the same as this engaging live performance…..

The third moment was at the end of a tough summer school in New Testament Greek I have just been doing for two weeks at a cathedral near me.  Sweating it out with all that difficult Greek grammar, nearly gave up at times, and was one of the worst in class. Nevertheless, all worth it on the last afternoon, when we slaved away at two short New Testament passages translating the Greek.  One was from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s gospel, and the other was from the Last Supper account, in Luke’s gospel. It took us hours just to work at these short passages.  And yet, it was so real, you felt like you were in the same room while the Last supper was going on, or beside the Sea of Galilee; you could smell the sea, see the large crowd, it was that close and real.  Reading it in translation doesn’t have the same effect as this, and it was quite unexpected!  A real moment of nakedness…..

In the above quilt wall hanging, called “Presence”, I  tried to depict a feeling of closeness, presence, of another person, a spiritual moment of closeness.  No pretenses, no hidden agendas, no formality, no polite conversation, just you and them. What I call a  moment of nakedness.

Happy Birthday!

It’s my birthday today, so Happy Birthday to me!  Just went out for cake and coffee and the waitress gave me the cake free for my birthday!   So I  am feeling thankful and fortunate for everything, including that.  Small gestures can make a big difference.

I thought my quilt called “Treasure Trove” was appropriate for today, in my series of quilts on the theme of money.  These seven quilts deal with different aspects of getting and handling money.  This one is meant to represent a huge lucky windfall, such as finding a huge chest full of buried treasure.  I have made it using blocks of sparkling stars in different jewel colours.  It’s a very cheerful quilt. In real life, these sorts of windfalls don’t often happen.  But there are some: a  redundancy package, a  promotion, scratch card win, unexpected legacy, unexpected refund, a big saving made on something, etc., etc.  Even a free cake with your coffee…..

Last time’s quilt dealt with the culture of greed represented in my quilt called “Bankers’ Bonuses”; this time, in “Treasure Trove” the money comes to one by luck or good fortune.

Of course, as Christians, we have a huge treasure trove in God himself, and all his blessings and gifts to us. Luck has got nothing to do with it, windfalls are a gift from God.  These blessings, gifts and treasure from God go largely untouched, un-opened and unrecognised, sadly. Why do we not spot them more?  Use them more?  Appreciate them more?

Today, I feel,  is a good occasion for me to say thank you and make a mental list of all the ones I can think of……  Starting from before I was born even.    Yes, we should celebrate all these wonderful gifts, blessings and treasures.  Mental note, put the champagne in the fridge for later.  (Actually it is only sparkling wine, but who minds eh!  It’s all good.)

Christmas!

This quilt is called “Hope”, which I made a few years ago, and have used as my Christmas card this year.  The pale stipe in the middle is hope shining through the darker colours (more obvious on the real quilt than in this photo).  Lots of upwards and downwards diagonals, also, which is how life seems to me, very up and down.  We need hope amidst all the bad news we keep hearing around the world.  That slim strip of hope somewhere in the middle, or a tiny miraculous baby in the  midst of the gloomy political world scene of that First Century Christmas.

Babies look recognisably like their fathers in the first few days and weeks of their life.  Probably a useful biological fact to help fathers know the baby is theirs and therefore bond with it.  After the first few weeks they look like their mothers, or some other relative, or just themselves, but those first few days they are the spitting image of their dads.  In Jesus’ case, of course, of his heavenly father..  N0 wonder shepherds and wise men, prophtesses and priests in the Temple when he was presented there, and even Joseph and Mary themselves, had no trouble recognising Jesus as the amazing, holy, miraculous, kingly, divine baby that he was, as well as fragile and vulnerable as babies are.  Lots of nativity pictures and cards show Joseph and Mary gazing at their baby in astonishment as well as adoration.  What a Christmas present that was! Not just for them, but for all of us.  Better get going on my “thank-you” letter!

Well, I have finished my “Rev Sev” series, so in the new year I will be starting on a whole new series of quilts, completely different, for my  blog.

In the meantime, I leave you with a verse from a famous Christmas carol, to cheer you up amid the strikes, crowds, and preparations of Christmas time. (See, we don’t only get alleluyas at Easter):-

“Glorious now behold Him arise,  King and God and sacrifice.  Alleluya, alleluya, sounds through the earth and skies.”

The Tree of Life

The “Tree of Life” is the final quilt in my series of the seven gifts God gives to the faithful in the Book of Revelation.  Jesus says:”To him that overcomes, I will give to eat of the Tree of Life, which is in the midst of Paradise.” (Rev 2:7).

The tree of life design appears in all cultures and ages; you will find it in Asian and Indian art, Persian carpets, in ancient Egyptian tombs, etc.  It symbolises life, fertility, immortality (in that the seed has to die in the ground for the tree to grow).  Its branches look like the arteries and veins in the human body, the life blood.  The pattern is also the same as the delta of a big river, so the river of life and the tree of life are closely related, the one needs the other.  In ancient Egypt, the date palm design symbolised royal power.

In Christianity, the tree of life appears in the Bible in the books of Genesis and Revelation.  In Genesis 2:9, it says: “The Tree of Life was in the midst of the garden (of Eden), and also the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.”  After the Fall, when Adam and Eve had eaten the forbidden fruit off the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, which they were not ready for yet, they had to be turned out of the Garden of Eden, in case they ate from the Tree of Life too, and became immortal.  An angel was placed with a flaming sword to guard the way to the Tree of Life (Gen 3:24).

Well, the whole history of mankind and redemption later, we find the Tree of Life again in the Book of Revelation, beside the River of Life: “with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves are for the healing of the nations.” (Rev 22:2).

It is comforting to know that the faithful won’t be forbidden to eat its fruit for ever.  It is one of the gifts given to those who overcome and persevere to the end. Also very comforting to know that its leaves will heal the nations, instead of them fighting and hating each other….  The whole situation of the Garden of Eden has been restored, and mankind back in its rightful place, but all on a bigger, more worldwide scale than in the beginning.

I feel a huge sense of relief and thanksgiving when I read this passage.  Everything is going to be all right, in the end, after all.

In my quilt of the tree of life, I have used twelve different coloured silks, for the twelve different kinds of fruit.  I wanted the design to be simple but striking, and also lively,  appealing and colourful, drawing you to it across the room.  I wanted it to have the joyfulness of running out into our garden through an orchard, with a deep blue sky and a rising-up sun, like I  used to do as a child.

Well, that is the last of my “Rev Sev” quilts, and here is a photo of them all together, as shown at Holy Trinity, Sloane Square at my solo exhibition there.

7 gifts or revelation