Thursday, January 14, 2010

Tired of the White Stuff!

There's been snow around for nearly a month, and it's shocking that the winter wonderland can pall so quickly. Christmas is long gone, and even my inspirational New Year retreat at Crowhurst is fading. Then I remember the Magi, the Wise Men, who, 'they' say, were not Kings. They would still be trekking to Bethlehem, though it is said that they arrived much later, and shouldn't be in the nativity scene. Maybe they were on their way back by this time, avoiding bad old King Herod in Jerusalem.

When I painted them, about thirteen years ago, I remember the vivid pictures in my mind, and the dazzling cloud of emotions - awe, amazement, sadness and joy. Some say they were sages, astrologers, non-Jews, strangers, oddities in that land, but 'wise', and well aware of the etiquette of bestowing gifts on a new-born child, both symbolic and prophetic. God chose them to honour His Son, whoever they were. That makes me feel included, in spite of being a stranger and an oddity in this land, too. And so I'll keep on working at the wise aspect.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Only Thirty-nine

No, not my age! Only thirty-nine paintings in 'The People of the Book.' Friends ask, 'Where's No. 40? Who will it be?'

Still don't know. Looking at the wintry weather out there, with 16 inches of snow forecast, I can't get any inspiration right now. I might hire a studio. It was suggested yesterday. It was inspired! Haven't been able to paint since I moved here. Nothing to do with this lovely, warm, safe place. Just me. Artist's block. Lots going on, but God is directing me through it. I added my painting of 'Creation' to this blog to emphasize that. No doubts. I'm on sabbatical at last. Already less tired. Already the plans for my Ph.D. are upside-down and turned around. So the journey will be interesting, as ever. Better than fame or money, but not love. Praying about it. Prepared for surprizes.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Yuletide Effect

It is December the 15th, and I had my third party of the season. A good party, too, full of bonhomie, good food, drink, music, bopping, a well-lit Christmas tree and lots of twinkling lights. Everyone seemed to enjoy it, Christians and agnostics alike. There don't seem to be many serious atheists around right now. Makes me wonder how Christmas affects non-Christians. Does it really irritate them, because of its universality and global influence? Like no other religious or non-religious festival. Or do they just take on the Santa story, adopting it into their own religious or secular/humanist celebrations? After all, Santa was certainly a decent, well-intentioned chap, and the story has attributes of altruism, care for the unfortunate, and rewards for responsible behaviour. The addition of the magical enhances the Santa story for children, while many adults, if truly honest, will admit to a passing yearning for the story to be true on Christmas Eve; probably a throwback to the day they first learned that it was a myth. It is such an unbelievably all-encompassing myth; of worldwide proportions, of breathtaking connivance, into which every aspect of life and culture colludes to uphold it.

The dual stories of Christmas - the birth of the Christ-Child, and Santa's gift-laden journey, both involve miraculous events, justifying its celebration in every land. I remember decorating Christmas trees in childhood in India, as my parents did in Burma and Singapore. Hindu, Muslim and Jain friends gave each other Christmas presents, knowing that it was a celebration of the birth of Christ. 'He was a good prophet, wasn't he?' they said in defence, dismissing the fact that He wasn't their prophet. So did Christians celebrate Durga Puja, Divali, Holi and Eedh in the same way?

I re-visited childhood memories and thought hard about that one. And 'No!' is my considered response. I recall being convinced of the differences to my own religion. Being surrounded by other faiths had no impact on my own religious life, but it did instill in me a strong respect for the rest. Perhaps it is how people of other faiths see Christmas.

I think that Yuletide introduces the possibility of, and longing for, the miraculous to enter the world of the ordinary, where normality can be sidelined, kindness and love can be demonstrated without apology, and where truth and beauty can shine through tinsel haloes and glitter stars, because mankind needs such a time as this - at least once a year.

Wishing you all out there a very happy, joyful Christmas time. God bless you richly.


Saturday, December 05, 2009

Nearly Christmas again!

Nearly Christmas again..... and looking forward to 2010. Isn't everyone after this difficult year? Hope you are all coping with the Credit Crunch in all its splintering ramifications. For those who are really stuck, Christians in Poverty is expanding and doing a fantastic job, for everyone hit by the recession, not just Christians.

And one must find the blessings amongst the problems, of which there have been several. Regarding the Exhibition, the two newest paintings have been photographed, and the commentaries done. They will be posted onto the website very soon. Hope you will all like them. They have been a long time coming, and I hope you feel that they were worth waiting for.

My personal news is less interesting. A year of plodding, sorting and re-adjusting. I didn't realize how traumatized I felt after moving from the bungalow, and haven't been able to paint in the 18 months since leaving there. It held a lot of memories, and was the place where the Cancer Centre started. A very inspirational space. The old cliches about leaving the bricks and mortar and carrying your memories with you are cold comfort on a rainy day. But where I live at the moment is very pleasant, a refuge in many senses. This is a beautiful house, with a lovely garden and lots of wildlife. My friends are very kind to me, and I have been made very welcome. We held a garden party in aid of the Cancer Help Centre in Purley, where I work, and raised almost £1,000, even though it was one of the wettest days of the British summer. A memorable day! So now I am feeling better, and looking forward moving on, after this period of recovery.

Looking forward to my sabbatical in 2010, with lots of plans for the year, and hopes of more paintings. There are now 39 pictures, and I am hoping to do 40, but there is nothing definite in view yet. I want to take another look at my Ph.D options, too. I would have loved to have done some work on Theology. It has always fascinated me, and I've done a great deal of reading on various aspects of it, but nothing formal. Even learned Hebrew so as to read the Pentateuch in its original tongue. Science and Religion discussions always hold me. They are my most interesting subjects. I never realized it until I hit sixty. About time I learned a bit about myself, if a bit late! There is so much tosh bandied about on Science and its impact on religion, Christianity in particular, with the so-called apologists tiptoeing about, trying to be PC instead of telling it like it is, and defending their God properly.... especially against protagonists like Dan Brown and his fairy tales, the BBC's sponsorship of Dawkins, and all the guff about Darwin's theories in the year of his centenary.

I read some of Richard Sheldrake's books this year, and would have made it to one of his lectures, if I hadn't got very lost. He does explore some fascinating stuff, things that everyone has experienced but kept quiet about, in case they were straightjacketed. The dogs who know when their owners are coming home, and the pets that signal danger for their masters, or illness, and even warn of imminent epileptic fits. Thousands of people [maybe even millions down the ages] know these things, but so many right-wing scientists pooh-pooh the ideas, or dismiss them by explaining them away with unworthy theories. I love getting into arguments over this kind of stuff. Got to fight the battles, even though we know we will win the war. Sheldrake has some unusual explanations, and he was a top scientist until the hardliners took him down. He still draws the crowds though, and is a practicing Anglican, even if he has some controversial views. Don't we all?

Hope to keep posting these blogs more often - about once a week, and get more feedback from all of you out there.

God Bless,

Best wishes, Joy

Sunday, February 08, 2009

So 2008 wasn't exactly typical!

So 2008 wasn't exactly typical!  And now we're in recession!

The Credit Crunch is now said to be the 'Credit Grind,' or even the 'Credit Pulverisation', [doesn't exactly roll off the tongue], and we're all watching our backs.  So why was 2008 untypical?  Well, for the UK, it was the lead-up to the Crunch, the terrible weather, especially the snow, [which still lies thickly outside].  For me..... I did a few new things.... Sold my house - [as God performed a miracle to help me!  See below for details - really!  If you don't use exclammation marks for miracles, when do you?]

Well, I [er- with lots of help from Ashley] launched another Blog - Khammam News - born of a visit to the Christian Mission of Brother Azariah in Khammam, Andhra Pradesh, India, in November, with a great team from Christchurch, Purley, Surrey, UK.  Fabulous trip.  Fantastic experience.  Took me back to memories of my childhood in Calcutta [Oops, Kolkatha!], and oddly enough, to biblical times.  The very real poverty, the lepers still living [begging] in ordinary society, fields being turned with old ploughshares pulled by bullocks, and seeded by hand, shepherds with their flocks [of cows, buffaloes and goats, in this case], people who weren't constrained by Health & Safety rules or political correctness, and people who seriously thirsted for spiritual things.  And that Mission served them well; the lot - based on humanitarian need, not religion, or coersion to join it.  We learnt so much from Indian missionaries at the chalk face.  Great scriptural and intellectual discussions, and opportunities to do some real good, reaching out to people who had little, and still gave so much to us.  Never smiled so much.  Had such a good time.  Passed through Mumbai while the bombings were happening, so we stayed at the airport for hours, but at least we were safe.  If anyone at the Mission in Khammam reads this - 'Thank you from the bottom of my heart.'

   Held another Arts Festival at the Cancer Centre, Purley, where I'm the Arts Director.  I think it was successful - everyone else seemed to enjoy it, too.  Lots of positive feedback.  It lasted from the 7th July to the 30th September, not continuously, of course, and included workshops on Bellydancing [Read 'Strictly Come Dancing from Samarkhand' in the Cancer Centre Newsletter,] Performance Dance, Sculpture, Story Re-enactment, and Creative Writing, as well as celebrations, such as our week-long 'Healing Tree of Life' Exhibition of artwork, photography, craft, sculpture, and the Choir celebration.  Lots of cancer patients and their carers having fun!  That's a plus at times like these.

My 12-year-old granddaughter took the leading role in 'Pinocchio' by the Chipstead Players, which ran for two weeks, and she was great!  Possibly a career in musical theatre here......

New in 2008:  Paid off the mortgage [Yes!]; staying with good friends in the interim; joined two new churches, 'Christians in Science', 'Friends of the Natural History Museum'; started music therapy; learnt to do Kakuru; to use a smart-phone; maintain a journal throughout the Khammam trip; spent 5 days at Ashburnham, lost my keys and had to be towed 60+ miles home [Actually that was the start of 2009, so it can only get better after that!], etc.  

Some downers - 11 good friends died; became allergic to malaria pills and suffered for two months; eye problems; put on 5 lbs [old war, new battle]....

Projects for 2009!!!  The two new paintings are being photographed by Tony Barranco this month!  They should go on the website, with commentaries in March.  [At last, you sigh, some new news about 'The People of the Book'.]  Also, organising the Silver Jubilee Finale at the Arnhem Gallery in March; re-starting my PhD at Goldsmiths, London Uni; visiting Canada again; doing the Fashion Show for the Cancer Centre with Kingston Uni, if GAP USA doesn't back out; buying another house... and whatever God has in store to surprise me.  [Reading the above, I realise that none of the 2008 events were planned or anticipated at the start of the year.]

God bless all of you out there.  More news soon,

Joy P.

P.S.  The Miracle of the Sale of my House - After four formal house offers dropped out for different reasons, and people still visited to view but offer silly figures, I was reading the Book of Esther, and decided to do a 'fast and pray' for two days.  [Three days for genocide!]  My mortgage had doubled, I couldn't pay it and eat as well; the bank had threatened to re-possess after I missed two payments - I was staring at disaster.  So I duly started fasting on a Monday morning, leaving the house about mid-day to let the estate agents take viewers around as usual.  Sitting in the car, feeling very thirsty, [remember, biblical fasts have no food or water] with my mobile phone to my ear while I prayed [so that I wouldn't look silly], I waited for them to finish, so that I could go home.  Suddenly, the mobile rang, and the agent said there was another offer.  'Oh, yes,' I said, all glib, 'How much this time?'  'No, it's your asking price, and they're cash buyers!'  Well, I nearly said, 'God!'  And of course, it was; and it all went ahead on cue!  The buyers wanted to move in in three weeks, but it went to four.  I was in tears on and off for months, but still kept my two-day fast, thanking God all the time.  How cool is that for an answer to prayer - and no waiting!   With no time to buy another house, friends offered me two rooms and bath in their large six-bedroom house, with storage for my furniture in their garages.  Now that's God's planning, whatever you say!  And I still keep thanking Him.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The People of The Book in 2008

This is just a quick post to say that the blog and the site are still going and planned to continue in 2008. Hopefully there will be more activity on the site and on the blog and more things to cover such as exhibitions.

Anyway, a belated happy new year from The People of The Book.