Creation of icons based on the Book of Revelation

Posts tagged “surrender

Freedom – living in the spirit of poverty

Mary and Jesus

Thinking about Mary I would never have equated her with freedom.  She is the epitome of surrender and submission to God’s will. She accepted the message of Gabriel with quietude and humility. “I am your servant.”  Is that freedom? Yes. It is the ultimate freedom.

In this world we do not appreciate the power that is inherent in true surrender and submission.  We like to be seen to be in control and achieving and sorted and organised and and and….  Such a stressful and tiring way to live and to maintain an illusion – for that is what it is.  An illusion calculated to give the significant others in our lives the impression of how well we are doing.  Facebook and other social media abound in this illusory claptrap.  I think I might start posting all my failures and stupidities on a regular basis – it would be the Franciscan, topsy turvy way of doing things.  Turning the tables, as Christ did in the temple to rid the holy space of worldy focus and preoccupation.

Not in a self deprecating way – that is not what I mean, but perhaps in the way of the self reflection I am working on with regularity to turn over those parts of myself that are less than delightful.  The exercise is fruitful on a personal level – I feel a sense of freedom from a long held, musty smelling burden each time I sit with my King and share with him my list of lifelong crassness.  I am so grateful he has an unending supply of unconditional humour.

Working with this icon of Mary earlier in the year was the start of a painful process of self examination and of finding friendship with some unlikely people from the US – women and mothers who are blighted by the perception the world has of mothers and how they should be despite the abuse they receive from spouses, partners, children and relatives.  These brave and long suffering women are treasures of common sense, reality and support for each other.  They cry every day and one, who has become a very special friend to me, is now out of contact and I am worrying about her and praying every day for some news.  Sometimes the pain is simply too much to bear for one more day and this lady may have had too much suffering to continue.  I hope it is not so.

The tyranny of self righteousness strikes many blows on every level in all and every place in society and those who do not fit into this narrow part of the spectrum called ‘socially acceptable’ are marginalised and pushed to the edges of ‘normal’ society.  It has always been so, especially for women in many cultures. Yet in the West we pride ourselves as having  respect for women and hearing their voices but it is all nonsense.  Furthermore, women themselves have a lot to answer for when it comes to helping other women. They keep each other down rather than enable; become envious and coveting rather than enjoying the successes of their peers.

One of the rules of the iconographer is to be joyful of the success of others as it is a success for all.  This attitude is Unity of Spirit – do we not all say we are one spirit because we all partake ion the one body of Christ?  If we criticise one another  it is like looking at our big toe and saying, “Well you ugly digit, I do not want anything to do with you.”  Well Big Toe will have the last laugh – try walking without one and it would feel very odd indeed.  We need our Big Toe.  I am a Big Toe for God.

Overcoming self and the desires and passions that assail us is a lifetime’s work.  Working with women who are positive and giving without expectation of receiving is a joy.  A kind of magical feeling surrounds such times.  My novice guardian tells me this is when the Kingdom of Heaven draws near.  I believe this to be the truth – I can feel it with every cell of my body  and on the outside it is almost like there is a big invisible bubble enfolding proceedings. Nothing can defeat those who work in such a bubble.  This is true freedom.  The protection that comes from the Almighty for those who are willing to let go of everything for the sake of his Crucified Son, who demands much of us.


When you live in material poverty for years you learn to depend on God for the next meal and the next rent payment.

He delivers.

You do not fear lack of resource, as a result.

Material wealth loses its allure.

Money means less and less.

The desire for it weakens and a new desire to give replaces it.

More freedom of spirit.

More love enters the heart.

Thoughts begin to change to new ways of being and thinking.

The ego begins to lose its grip.

More love enters the heart. 

More awareness of the divine in operation opens up the mind.

The need to be accepted by limiting groups of others disappears.


Freedom to be who you truly are.

More love enters the heart.

Your eyes become clearer and see more than what is visible.

You begin to ‘see’ in other ways and it is all beautiful.

The love entering the heart is unconditional.

You are able to love those who hate you, who despise, injure or criticise.

You see them from the Jesus perspective. 

You do not worry about the politics and machinations others are involved in.

You are far away from being moved by such things because you know you will be provided for.

He delivers.

This is a revolution.

It is freedom of spirit by being poor on many levels.

The only thing that is important is this love and the nurturing of it more and more.

More love enters the heart. 

Who and what in the world can destroy this love?


This is Christ crucified. 

This is Mary’s ultimate surrender to the sword that pierced her heart through her son and the pain she feels for all those who are suffering.

Only love is left.

You have to be brave to allow yourself to walk this path.  Like St. John of the Cross but that is for next time.

Surrender and Submission – the mystical basis for life the universe and everything

The most important aspect of an artist’s life is to create the art: to paint, draw, sculpt, etch, write, sing and so on.  Indeed everyone is creative in some way, we cannot help it.  We are creating alongside the Creator as the whole of life unfolds in front of us.  Creation is a dynamic and ever happening process.  Yet how hard it is sometimes to start, how hard it is to surrender and submit to that urge from within each day.

The world crowds in from the moment your eyes are open: there are unpaid bills on the desk, the cat food has reached the level of dust and crumbles in the bottom of the bag and the toilet paper is dangerously low.  One must go to the shop and restock but before that one must check the bank balance and whilst doing that one gets assailed by the demon Getaproperjob or Whaddayadointhisfor? or Artisillusionbesensible.  I am so beset by such demons that I am certain even dear and blessed Jesus would have to roll up his sleeves, tighten his belt and settle down for a week’s worth of exorcism just to clear my head. There are not enough herds of pigs around to cope with the outfall.

But I have a system to defeat them on most days.  Prayer comes first and sometimes, like today, I awaken at 4.30 in the morning and reach for my Franciscan Office and Bible.  Elizabeth of Hungary is remembered today, 18th November, and she reminds me of what it takes to work for the truth.  Commitment but most of all love.  Love for God, for Jesus and, especially for me, St. Francis and that love means I have to put my worries to one side, not let them take over.  Through prayer and preparation for my day I am able to surrender and submit increasingly to what each day brings.

Living each day, living in the moment is expounded by self helpers, gurus, mystics the world over but we struggle with this all the time.  We struggle with it because of our humanness and the pressure of our own passions and thinking and the people who surround us and worldly concerns and and and…

The list goes on and I see no hope if left to my own devices.  Surrendering everything, offering up everything in prayer, in petition to God every day, at all times, sometimes – this is submission.  When I truly do this with utmost sincerity, often accompanied by many tears of remorse, then there is a sense of freedom.  My focus on my work as an artist becomes multiplied a hundredfold.

There is also a sense of being cradled in the arms of Jesus.  That He is guiding my life and what I do at every moment.  There is much inner joy in this feeling.  This inner joy dispels every shred of worry and concern.  He tells us repeatedly in the New Testament not to worry though everyone around him continues to do so, which is reassuring as it tells us that our human struggles are understood and acknowledged.  Yet if we can just surrender and submit  even a little bit each day and then a little bit more, what will become of us and where will it lead?

For me it has been like an adventure story or an unfolding detective story of self awareness – if I do this or I follow here, where will it go? What will happen?  Invariably I go the wrong way and end up involved in something not helpful but then when I look back I see it was helpful in a way I did not expect and all this forms who am I today at this moment in time.  The clay pot on the wheel cannot exactly decide which way it will be developed or even protest, it is just formed by the master’s hands and will be just as he wishes it to be.

Surrender and submission to God is not giving up our individuality or even our free will, it is more like an alignment and flow and it makes each day sing in our hearts and our work becomes like music, no matter what our work is.  No wonder the mystics keep telling us this secret as it is such a fundamental key to life, the universe and everything.


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