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  • Born Among Us - Day 16

    This amazing painting by Kristoffer Ardena comes from the Philippines and combines joy and colour with hints of abject poverty.
    Possibly it reflects the experience of people whose lives were spent scavenging in the huge dumps on the outskirts of Manila. These dumps and the shanty towns are now closed, but these same people continue the work of recycling and upcycling items discarded by others.

  • Born Among Us - Day 15

    The Jesus Mafa series of paintings date back to the early 1970s and were produced by artists commissioned French Roman Catholic missionaries using photos of indigenous people enacting scenes from the stories of Jesus.  Nowadays they are sometimes criticised for being essentially white colonial images modelled by black people - but that seems a little harsh to me, they reflect the time in which they were made and were valued by the people who received them, included with Bibles in their own language.

    The magi are likened to the wise ones or healers of local, African culture, so this scene is much-loved and creates much interest for the people it was painted for.

  • Born Among Us - Day 14

    This wonderful wooden carved scene comes from Togo, and was created by an artist called Roger J Bawi.

    'A Musical Welcome' reflects local culture, where a whole village will turn out to welcome a new baby. Drums, a horn and a flute supply merry music.  A poet/herald called a 'griot' who carries a rattle welcomes the baby.

    In this depiction, the magi's hats mark them out as strangers or visitors.

    Music and community - sounds a little bit like the aspirations of many churches.  Hmm!    

  • Born Among Us - Day 13

    Today's painting is by He Qi, a Chinese Christian artist and theologian, who began painting religious scenes inspired by Raphael's 'Madonna and Child' having found himself 'very moved by the softness of the Virgin's smile'.

    A teenager during the cultural revolution, He Qi painted pictures of Mao Zedong by day, and religious works by night!

    It was possibly painting these scenes that helped him come to faith in Christ.

  • Jesse Tree Update - Elijah

    CONTENT WARNING - mental ill health, depression



    I have been more than a little remiss in posting updates on the Jesse tree - my days are full and very long, and just keeping the essential plates spinning is a full time job.

    Today's symbol is for Elijah, and links to the exciting events that took place on Mount Carmel, when the prophets of Baal were left looking foolish.  But the story carries on and takes a sharp downturn - Elijah under threat of death flees to a far away place where depression overwhelms him and he experiences very dark thoughts, wishing that he might die.

    In a tender, humane story, God ensures he has food and rest before taking him into a cave on Mount Horeb.  Here, he meets God not in signs and wonders, but in absence, in 'the sound of silence'.

    The apophatic tradition, or via negativa, are important aspect of faith, recognising that sometimes God is experienced only in seeming absence, and named only by what God is not.

    This story is important, and relevant, because it reminds us that it is okay not to be okay.  That amidst the fake jollity and festive razzmatazz there are people hurting deeply and suffering greatly.  Somewhere, in that darkness and silence, God is.

    For any UK readers who might find it helpful, the Samaritans UK direct line number is 116 123