Pastoral Letter 7th February


Last Wednesday I made a surprising sale of one of my paintings on the Gallery Site where I display them and offer them for sale. I say “surprising” for two reasons: firstly, because I rarely sell anything, and secondly, because, of all my paintings, I wouldn’t have chosen this one! But, as they say, there’s no accounting for taste. Someone obviously liked it enough to buy it. It’s quite different from my usual style, which is to paint things realistically, in fairly meticulous detail and trying to subtly blend the shades and colours. None of these things apply to this particular painting which includes big, bold, shapes, patterns and colours, applied quickly and “energetically” using thick paint. The reason I painted it this way was because I was feeling rather depressed and so I thought “to heck with it! I’m going to slap the paint on, use a bit of energy, really enjoy the bold basic colours straight from the tube and the feel of squelchy paint!” And it worked, at least for a while. I guess it’s my equivalent of going out for a good long run or cycle ride. It gets it off your chest. A burst of pure energy.

I believe that the Christian faith is all about discovering and using energy and living life to the full even though the results are often messy and un-orthodox and may incur the wrath and criticism of others who prefer to stick to the tried and tested, the straight and narrow. What’s the point of Jesus saying, “I am come that you may have life: life in all its fulness” (John 10) if you really don’t want it? I guess that, deep down, I’m like many other people who live lives of quiet desperation and who camouflage this with a smile and words like “oh yes, I’m fine: as good as can be expected!” No wonder Jesus said to the blind man “what do you want Me to do for you?” (Mark 10) even though it was pretty obvious what the man wanted. He wanted his sight back, but he had to say it himself and really want it. Jesus won’t presume that you want anything unless you tell Him and even then, He wants you to mean it. It takes a lot of courage and faith to paint your life with thick squelchy paint using bright bold colours and slapping it on with energy and unbridled enthusiasm. Quite honestly, I find the whole prospect terrifying! No wonder then that I didn’t really like this painting and was quite aghast at anyone wanting to actually buy it! But perhaps the person who bought it revelled in its boldness, energy and brightness: perhaps I would if I dared try it. Thank God, really, that He accepts us and LOVES us JUST AS WE ARE even though it must cause Him sadness and frustration when He thinks of all that’s on offer to us. 

A short while ago I overheard Christine saying to someone on the phone that “how you think affects how you feel and how you are.” This current situation of lockdown and isolation inevitably causes feelings of sadness, dislocation and fear and, in many ways, confines us to our own little worlds. Perhaps it’s a good opportunity to take a gentle look at our lives and the ways that we might think differently in order to feel better. As I write this, I’ve just had a message come up on the computer reminding me that 143 Britons have died after receiving the Coronavirus jab. Not very comforting news when I’m due to have mine tomorrow morning! But then, in much smaller print, it tells the reader that all of them had other serious health issues. In that case, why put out the lurid headline that no one can fail to notice! Perhaps another reminder that how we think affects how we feel and how we are. There are so many genuinely good people in the world and so much beauty and love in this world that God so lovingly created: perhaps thinking on these things (St Paul: Philippians 4) would do us all a power of good.

Finally, folks, you may be wondering what the painting is called: the title is “Sunset Over Mountain Ash.” Mountain Ash is a place in South Wales and I’ve never been there. I believe that some members of our Mission Fellowship know it well and, if so, I apologies if you don’t recognise the place from the painted description! Perhaps the lady who bought the painting knew it (although she lives in Lancashire) and she might well sue me under the trade’s descriptions act!!! I named the painting in honour of my good friend, David Davis, who sadly is no longer with us but came from there and worked both as a miner and engine driver. It is a painting directly from my imagination with the terraced cottages, telegraph poles, out-houses, flagstones, fences and all surrounded by majestic hills covered with purple heather. Imagination is such a valuable tool not only in painting but also in the appreciation of our faith and in life in general. If we can imagine Heaven, then we’re at least halfway there. Even in the most difficult times, such as this, our imagination, if we let it, can carry us nearer to God, bring us closer to the boldness and brightness of His love, both in this world and the next.

With love and blessings to you all, holding you all in my thoughts and prayers, and here if you need me.

From Peter

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