Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Cross for Koinonia

Almost a year ago my life was at a turning point, a really difficult one. My dear friend Monica reached out to me and invited me to the Koinonia womens conference her church was sponsoring. In one brief, difficult moment, I acted on faith and went.  I had no clue what path that would set me on spiritually, physically, or emotionally, all I knew is I was getting away to the beach for the weekend and would be surrounded by lots of women who loved God and each other.  The details of that weekend can be found in a post from last February, what is important here is the spirit of koinonia, the spirit of fellowship that I found there that helped bring me back to sanity. 

Monica asked me to consider painting a cross for this years conference and I instantly knew I would do it, that it was a God thing. Problem is, I really didn't know what that word meant, or how to pronounce it very well. I had no clue that most of my life had been filled with moments of koinonia, but as I began to pray about it and study the word those moments came flashing back vividly, and I knew I had lived a life surrounded by the love of God and the love of friends. 

"Koinonia" in Greek, means communion or fellowship in simple terms. It actually has many deeper meanings and applications, but the foundation of its meaning comes from the act of communion with Christ, and through him, with others. All my life when I was with groups of friends, at church, or surrounded by others who prayed and fellowshipped I was experiencing koinonia with them, and God was with us.

Part of how I create my crosses and angels is that I begin to have a conversation with God about their purpose. From there, the image begins to build in my heart and mind and I research the important details that must be expressed in each one. This cross was no different. 

A few months ago I started studying this term and praying about the nature of God and what its meaning means to meI came across a reference to koinonia that expressed its relation to the phrase, "one another" in the bible, and that stuck with me. I truly believe the nature of God is that he chooses to share his love and grace with me on a daily basis, so that I can share it with those I meet and encounter. That concept may be simple, but it's message is purely koinona, the one of sharing our lives with Christ and with others. The passages in the bible having to do with the  "one anothers" are pretty simple too. This list, along with the passages, was made so you could grasp the connection of what it shares in common with koinonia. 

A powerful example of what koinonia should look like can be found in a study of the phrase “one another” in the Bible. Scripture commands us to be devoted to one another (Romans 12:10), honor one another (Romans 12:10), live in harmony with one another (Romans 12:16; 1 Peter 3:8), accept one another (Romans 15:7), serve one another in love (Galatians 5:13), be kind and compassionate to one another (Ephesians 4:32), admonish one another (Colossians 3:16), encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11; Hebrews 3:13), spur one another on toward love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24), offer hospitality (1 Peter 4:9), and love one another (1 Peter 1:22; 1 John 3:11; 3:23; 4:7; 4:11-12). That is what true biblical koinonia should look like.

Once I had the understanding of what this word meant, how it applied to me, and how God wanted me to apply it to a painting I got to work. The cross is the central form, with the heart at it's center, symbolizing the heart of Christ and the love we share for him and for one another. The words 'One Another' cover the cross, because that love is meant to be shared, not kept for oneself. The rays of the sun are symbolic of the light that Christ shines in this world, and when we carry his love with us, his light shines through us as well. The people are together, in communion with Christ and one another. I thought about having them interacting with one another but I thought the posture of prayer was a binding act that Christians share while they commune together. The road is simply that, the one we walk down but are never alone. It leads us into opportunities to share God's love with a world in need. The hill that the cross is standing on has 20 hearts enclosed, one for each time the word 'koinonia' is used in the bible and it is surrounded by Malachi 3:16, the verse that shows the terms true meaning.
Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name.
Malachi 3:16

The color green is pretty significant to me, it represents life. Life he gave to us, and life that is precious, as each of us are.  This painting is meant to give an image to what it means to commune or fellowship with Christ and one another. It also has a very relevant meaning, at least for me, in light of what has happened in Haita. 

During the past few days, as I worked on it, I watched the news about the suffering in Haiti and was heartbroken. As the news and pictures played over and over on the screen the reporters began to interview survivors and this is what I heard several of them say, "Glory to God, for he saved me, thank you Jesus."  I just smiled and knew, God is with them. And as I smiled the news changed and I heard lots of people singing. I looked at the t.v. and in awe, saw hundreds of Haitian women and children walking and singing in the street. Surrounded by devastation and death, they chose to rise up, gather together, and sing out for life!  Pat Robertson may believe that those people have forsaken God, but I for one saw enough love, compassion, and gratitude for God to make me know Haitians are filled with it. CNN even has an interview of one Haitian girl saying, "I never stopped praying!"
God showed me, as I painted this cross, koinonia in action, and tears came to my eyes as I imagined the courage it took for those ladies to stand up for life. 

My prayer for all who will see or receive this cross is this, 
"May our God that is incapable of anything but his very best toward you, share the spirit of koinonia with you, so that you will be able to share it with others. May you be filled with love and compassion for one another, and may that love and compassion multiply throughout the Earth until every person that draws breathe will know it."

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Turning a Page

Pulling up to the gallery downtown I opened the car door and felt the sting of a cold winter day bite my cheeks and it made me feel alive and frigid all at the same time. That, it seems, is a metaphor for how I feel moving into a new year, of art, of health, and of life. 

This past year was one of many changes to say the least. I won't go into the juicy details here, you can read my previous posts to catch up on all that has transpired, but I will give credit to a long year of growth, illness, triumphs, love, and much hilarity. I thank God for it all, but especially the hilarious parts, they are what keeps me sane.

Artistically speaking I have much to look forward to and to decide. I have always been one to paint what inspired me in the moment, out of sheer spontaneity, and there is something to be said for that freedom. It reminds me of a child who whimsically walks through life and follows his senses into a world with no compass, just being, and creating, and loving life. At some point though that child needs to grow a little, and gain more of a focus as to why certain colors inspire him, why certain textures feel better than others, and why certain forms of creativity just come easier than others. The questions must be asked and attempted to answer, and so I find myself at that point, going from chapter one into the next, with blank pages ahead of me.

I won't lie, it feels exciting, really almost to the point of giddiness at times, and I will go out on a limb and say I don't trust that. I like the way that feels, but due to many years of feeling comfortable in my skin, only to have the skin peeled off in layers, I always look for the other shoe to drop, or in my case the predictable chaos that usually follows me. I wouldn't know what to do with a year without that, one that goes 'as it should', and I don't know if it even exists, but I have to hope it does. I believe the big guy upstairs wants that as well, I just find that belief a challenge to hold on to sometimes. 

So where will life take me? I hope it takes me down a road where doors are opened and I am able to pin down the children's book that has  floated around in my head for years. I hope it takes me into an artistic place where the art I create really moves people to feel, to experience great emotion, and learn to love the beauty in life, despite what their world surrounds them with. I hope I continue to be bold enough to share my faith through my art, even when it is looked down upon by some and I hope that somehow I am able to make a difference in the lives of children, those that I hold most sacred on the planet we share. 

I pray, no matter what is thrown at me, that I will continue to embrace joy, and insane optimism, which is no easy task. My family has always played a huge role in my ability to stay positive and I trust this year will be no different. And on a humorous note, I hope at least one painting this year will make someone burst into laughter, for no other reason than it reminded them of their childhood.

Save the world? No, not on my agenda. Save my spirit and share the love and gifts God has blessed me with with a beautiful world? That I can do. So follow me if you choose, as I turn the page and walk onto a blank canvas, then watch the colors start to flow and we will both see what masterpiece life has in store to paint! And better yet, paint your own and share it with me, that, friends, will make the true meaning of art come full circle for me and I would be honored to share it with you! Peace friends! 

If you follow me on my fanpage at Facebook the you may have read that I am doing a study this year to compare master painters from different centuries. I have started with Jan van Eyck and Hans Holbein the Younger. If art history interests you look me up at The Artwork of Ardith Goodwin and join in on the discussion.

Here are a few pieces I created over the past years. Thank God for 2009, raise a glass in honor of it, and cheer on the one to come!