The Canticle of Creation

It’s Oct. 4, the day many Christians remember the life of Saint Francis of Assisi.  Below is a prayer St. Francis wrote as he was approaching his own death.  One can see the way Francis viewed all of creation as being a gift of Creator God.

I invite you to take a moment from your busy day to pray this prayer.  Read it once to get the feel of it.  Then read it again, as a prayer of your own, giving praise to God.  If you enjoy this prayer, you might enjoy writing your own prayer of thanks for all that God has created.

The Canticle of Creation
By Saint Francis of Assisi

O Most High, all-powerful, good Lord God,
to you belong praise, glory,
honor and all blessing.

Be praised, my Lord, for all your creation
and especially for our Brother Sun,
who brings us the day and the light;
he is strong and shines magnificently.
O Lord, we think of you when we look at him.

Be praised, my Lord, for Sister Moon,
and for the stars
which you have set shining and lovely
in the heavens.

Be praised, my Lord,
for our Brothers Wind and Air
and every kind of weather
by which you, Lord,
uphold life in all your creatures.

Be praised, my Lord, for Sister Water,
who is very useful to us,
and humble and precious and pure.

Be praised, my Lord, for Brother Fire,
through whom you give us light in the darkness:
he is bright and lively and strong.

Be praised, my Lord,
for Sister Earth, our Mother,
who nourishes us and sustains us,
bringing forth
fruits and vegetables of many kinds
and flowers of many colors.

Be praised, my Lord,
for those who forgive for love of you;
and for those
who bear sickness and weakness
in peace and patience
– you will grant them a crown.

Be praised, my Lord, for our Sister Death,
whom we must all face.
I praise and bless you, Lord,
and I give thanks to you,
and I will serve you in all humility. 

Until next time, Amen! 

 

 

Augustine, Love, and Spiritual Cosmetics

When ancient spiritual writers talk about “beauty,” they are often talking about something deep, virtuous, and lovely in the soul. Surface beauty is fleeting, but the deeper soul-beauty can last forever.

32 Lent-Week 5--Compassion--Augustine

“Love is the beauty of the soul”…I think what Saint Augustine is telling us is that love is what makes our souls beautiful. He’s talking about that genuine love–the kind of love that Christ has for all people, the kind of love that is willing to die in order to save another’s life. This kind of love could be called “spiritual cosmetics” … only it’s much deeper and more profound than cosmetics could ever be…

True love for one another is what makes us beautiful–and Christ proved he believed this by staking his life on it.  I often think it’s the teachings of Jesus–his love of others– that really brought on his death on the cross. People don’t like hearing stuff like “love your enemy” or “forgive one another.” Certain people also felt their own earthly power was threatened by Jesus’ popularity–and his teaching, they thought, threatened their own earthly power.  I don’t know. I’m just thinking aloud here.

Until next time, Amen! 

What I did this summer

Oct 2014 Lunar eclipse--photo by Julie McCarty

You have made the moon to mark the seasons; 
the sun knows its time for setting. . . .
O Lord, how manifold are your works!
(from Psalm 104: 19, 24)

When I was growing up, “What I did this summer” was the standard theme for writing assignments when we returned to school. Since this summer, I haven’t been blogging here, so I thought I’d fill you in on what I’ve been doing.

Minnesotans love to be outdoors in the summer (especially after this past winter!), and I am no exception. The summer here is filled with all the outdoor work on the home and garden that you can’t do the rest of the year. More importantly, we Minnesotans just like to enjoy being outside in the summer. So I spent lots of time nurturing my vegetable garden, taking long walks to practice nature photography, and enjoying time with summer visitors from out of state.

Veggies from garden--Julie McCarty

(click on photos to enlarge)

In September, my husband Terry and I spent two weeks exploring Manitoba, Canada and Thunder Bay, Ontario. We enjoyed hiking and practicing photography in the wheat fields, zoo, Riding Mountain National Park, and Whiteshell Provincial Park.  I hope to write more about that enjoyable and soul-nourishing trip sometime in the future.

Manitoba entrance

One of the highlights of this summer was digging deeper into my volunteer coordinator role of another blog called “Easter Prays / Easter Praise!” This reflection blog is a joint effort of many people from our church, Easter Lutheran.  I’m so blessed with what others are sharing: personal reflections, original prayers, tips on praying and spiritual practices, and stories of God’s work in our everyday lives.

This week, Terry brought in the last of our garden: carrots. (Carrots can survive longer into the fall, as they are protected deep in the ground.) With the turning over of the garden soil, my mind turns indoors and inwards, in anticipation of winter… to the writer side of me… and the newly developing artist studio in my basement…and all the potential those reflective, creative activities hold. My mind also returns to this blog and the plan to post reflections more frequently again

So, as the last few leaves scurry across our lawn, I wish you a happy November (the beginning of autumn, perhaps, for some of you), filled with every blessing from above.

Until next time, Amen!  

Nature, creativity, and Creator God

I hope all of you are enjoying summer this year.  Here’s a photo I took of a monarch butterfly who kept flitting around the sandy beach.  I had fun adding the quote about Creator God.

Butterfly on sandy beach with Apollonius saying--Julie McCarty

Creativity often benefits from a playful attitude. In order to be creative, one has to let go of the critical self (writers call this “inner critic”), at least in the beginning, lest the new creation be crushed even before it’s out of the cocoon. It often helps to approach a new project with the spirit of childhood play.

I wonder if God would have created us, if his divine mind was filled with worries and fearful “what ifs” … What if they sin too much? What if the humans hate me? What if they hurt each other–or kill each other? What if NO ONE returns to the Garden of Eden (heaven) to be with me?

The creative energy just doesn’t flow with this sort of thinking. If God had been tangled up in nervous “what-ifs,” we might not even EXIST at all.

When I say this, of course, I’m really preaching to myself. In order to be creative, one has to silence the inner critic–at least in the initial stages. The inner critic can suggest improvements later, when it is time to edit or improve the work in progress.

May God bless you with a creative and re-creating summer…May your inner critic take a vacation so you can create something beautiful–be it sermons, recipes, vacations, work projects, art, photos, or simple messages on greeting cards. . . And may all you plan and create be filled with the wisdom, love, and Spirit of the Ultimate Creator.

Until next time, Amen!

(For more spiritual nuggets, visit Spiritual Drawing Board on Facebook.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

God’s frost artwork, “through a glass dimly”, and our future

[Note: I began this draft last week, and the weather is quite similar today. That’s Minnesota for ya!]

For now we see through a glass, indistinctly,
but then, we will see clearly, face to face.
Now I know somewhat,
Then I will know completely–
so much that I will even know myself
as I am known.
(paraphrase of 1 Cor. 13:12)

It’s January in Minnesota, and today’s weather dipped into the dangerously cold zone, so frigid that school was called off because children would likely get frostbitten just waiting for the school bus.

Capture--Jan 23 2014 weather on MPR

I’ve been keyboarding away on my computer since early morning hours, by the light of the half-moon, when suddenly I noticed the sun was up and forming this pattern on the drapery:

Through a glass dimly--photo by Julie McCarty

When I pulled back the curtains, here’s what I saw:

God's Artwork--Ice Crystals--photo by Julie McCarty--Eagan MN

(window plus storm window–click to enlarge)

For a time, I just took in the beauty of the ice crystals sparkling in the sunlight, and then grabbed my camera. I call this “God’s Artwork”:

Frosty ice art on window pane--photo Julie McCarty

(Click on photos to enlarge.)

After taking many photos, I noticed a rainbow effect in the sky parallel to the sun, and began to search for a “sun dog.”  I didn’t get to see the sun dog because I went nearly half blind trying to look for it in all the glare. (No wonder St. Paul fell to the ground after seeing the Light of Christ in a vision. I felt fairly disoriented while I waited for my eyes to readjust.)

Here is a “sun dog” photo I took in December:

Sun dog--Dec 6 2013--Julie McCarty - Even Smaller Copy--with sig

We often think of Christ as the “Light” of God who came into the world. Early Christians sometimes compared God the Father to the sun, and Christ as the divine ray of sunlight sent to earth to bring us new life.

My experience of seeing shadows of ice crystals through the curtain — a sort of “veil”–and then seeing the beauty of the frost directly, and finally the sun beyond (practically blinding me–I’m still not really “seeing” the sun), reminds me that there is much to know about God, and much to experience of God’s presence. Even the most Spirit-charged experiences in this life are nothing compared to what we can expect in the next life.

In Chapter 13 of First Corinthians, Paul writes about this pattern of spiritual growth: “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things” (vs. 11)  Then he turns to his belief about the future:

For now we see in a mirror [or glass], dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.  (vs. 12)

Paul is reminding us that there is so much more to come. Even if we have come to Christ, prayed, studied the bible, attended worship services,  and experienced the power of the Spirit in various spiritual gifts, there is still more for us to discover about God–and experience one day in God’s presence in heaven.

Thank you God --Gods artwork--frost on window--photo Julie McCartyNow, we see the light of God, as through a veil, or in a glass dimly; one day we will see and know  and experience God face to face.

I think that is Good News.

Until next time, Amen! 

Experiencing God’s Artwork at Lake Superior

Praise God, sun and moon,
Praise God, all you shining stars!
Praise God, you highest heavens,
   and you waters above the heavens!
Praise the Lord from the earth,
   you sea monsters and all deeps,
fire and hail, snow and frost, 
   stormy wind fulfilling God’s command! *

Minnesotans have many ways of dealing with long winters, and one of them is to bundle up, get out of the house, and just ENJOY the weather. There is skiing, sledding, ice skating, snowshoeing, ice fishing, snowmobiling, and pond hockey. 

On a recent weekend, my husband Terry and I drove north to Duluth for a long weekend, with the hope of doing a little outdoor activity. We brought all our gear for winter hiking and our cameras to practice our new hobby, nature photography. On a bright sunny day, we headed out for a drive along the lake shore.

A Lake Superior Morning

Little did we realize the awesome sight we were about to see. While hiking in a state park overlooking the frozen Lake Superior, we heard a sound we could not  comprehend. It reminded us a little of rain, but not quite.

Following the unusual sound, we hiked about a quarter-mile, up a little hill and along an icy cliff. Peering carefully over the edge, we saw it:  large, clear ice pieces, shaped like panes of glass, floating and bumping against the rocky shoreline. Some pieces were even piled against the shore, their jagged edges pointing to the sky.

(click to enlarge)

You can see and hear this sparkling ice for yourself, by clicking on this video Terry posted on YouTube, “North Shore Superior – March 2013”:

I often feel God’s presence in a special way in nature. It’s not that I hear words or see a vision. The beauty of God’s creation sometimes exhilarates me, and other times hushes my soul. I feel awe walking in the midst of God’s creation. I delight in the vast beauty of places such as Lake Superior. 

And that awe or delight is often a prayer without words–at least that’s how I experience it. It feels like a special type of prayer that glorifies God deep within.  

Ice like glass panes--Lake Superior

It’s not so easy to explain this kind of prayer in words. But perhaps if you have experienced a similar feeling in the great outdoors, you will understand.

Until next time, Amen!

*From Psalm 148:3-4, 7-8.

Prayer for the New Year

For everything there is a season,
     and a time for every matter under heaven:
          a time to be born, and a time to die;
          a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
          a time to kill, and a time to heal;
          a time to break down, and a time to build up;
          a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
          a time to mourn, and a time to dance. . . .

God has made everything beautiful in its time; also he has put eternity into man’s mind, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. . . . whatever God does endures forever. . . (Ecclesiastes 3:1-4, 11, 14)

 

North Shore of Lake Superior--photo by Julie McCarty--Eagan MN USA
North Shore of Lake Superior–photo by Julie McCarty–Eagan MN USA

Another year draws to an end, and a new year dawns. One chapter closes, another begins. One project finishes, another starts to bubble within. One human dies, another is born.

I want to take this opportunity to thank the many readers of Spiritual Drawing Board blog and its partner Facebook page of the same name. I enjoy creating these sacred spaces and look forward to continuing to share my spiritual thoughts and budding artistic creations with you in the coming year. I appreciate the thoughts and comments you post or send me. Thanks!

Below is a prayer I wrote this morning. Will you pray with me?

Blessed are You, Lord God,
     Creator of the gift of time.
Every moment truly belongs to You.
With the help of your Spirit,
     may we use every day, every hour,
     to love and serve you in the New Year,
     and in all that is to come,
     both in this life, and in the next.   Amen.

Lily--photo by Julie McCarty--Eagan MN USA
Lily–photo by Julie McCarty–Eagan MN USA