Art fascinates me. I haven’t been blessed with much artistic ability. I recall struggling in art class even as a child. Artists have a gift. Artists have a way of looking at the world and of presenting their perspectives to the rest of us. I saw that truth again, last week, as I walked through the halls of an aviary in Pittsburgh.
The Pittsburgh Aviary provides a home for hundreds of birds. You can see bald eagles, toucans, owls, and penguins. A short walk can provide a glimpse of finches, parrots, roadrunners, and hornbills. But, there’s something different on one wall. There’s a picture that’s been painted by Elizabeth Myers Castonguay.
Elizabeth’s painting was, at first, rather confusing to me. It was filled with odd shapes and bright colors. Elizabeth’s painting contains sweeping stokes and wild designs. But, if you look at her painting carefully, you’ll see birds. The picture (above) is a piece of her larger work. The picture (below) is another part of the same painting. Birds are hidden by sweeping strokes. Beautiful birds are concealed in chaos. And life can be like that, can’t it? Life is filled with distractions. We sometimes get lost. We can focus upon things that aren’t important. We remember things that we should probably just forget.
One of the things I’ve noticed in life is that hurts and worries tend to move into the center of our minds. Close relationships can end with a few harsh words. A good imagination becomes a liability when it creates distressing “future possibilities.” Good things become hidden. Blessings lose the battle. Goodness sometimes disappears when bad things happen. God even appears distant when life becomes hard or when friends let us down.
Elizabeth’s painting can remind us of an important truth. The images of the birds remain – even when chaotic colors combine on canvas. The birds remain intact even when most of the canvas becomes filled with broad strokes that resemble nothing. God’s present when things go well and when they don’t. God continues to be the solid rock in our lives even when the canvas becomes filled with distracting “noises” that catch our attention. God is our “refuge and strength.” God walks with us in the happiest moments and in the most difficult. God lifts us, fills us with faith, and gives us courage. God remains a constant even when God “appears” to be hidden.
I began to do something, several months ago, that’s had a powerful effect on my life. The first thing I do every morning is take a deep breath and, then, I say to myself: “I know that I’m held in the hands of God.” No matter what’s happened to me – “I know that I’m held in the hands of God.” No matter what’s coming in the new day – “I know that I’m held in the hands of God.” Whether the day that I face is going to be a good one, or one filled with problems and fears – “I know that I’m held in the hands of God.” Even if I don’t know it – and even if I’m about to begin what will be the last day of my life on the earth – I begin that day by saying, “I know that I’m held in the hands of God.”
Elizabeth’s painting reminds me that life is filled with distractions. We carry our past into the present, and our present into the future. Our lives are sometimes a rather confusing mixture of memories and events (both good and bad) that cause us to miss the “right now.” I need to spend more time in the present. I need to remember that God is with me – even when God’s presence is hidden in the rest of the chaos in my life.
Please join me by beginning each day with a deep breath. And, before you start to worry about all of the tasks you need to accomplish – before you begin to think about your past – before you begin to worry about what’s going to happen – stop for a moment and quietly say: “I know that I’m held in the hands of God.” God’s with you. God’s present – even when your life is filled with chaos and distractions. That’s what I learned by looking at a piece of artwork. And, perhaps, that’s what the artist wanted me to see.