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Walking Through the Fog

Sometimes, the path ahead seems straightforward and the signposts are unobscured. At other times, the way is unclear and progress is slow - one step at a time. We each have seasons of clarity with clear skies and sunshine and seasons of uncertainty where the fog sets in and the sun's rays do not reach us. Since beginning my art making and art teaching business a year and a half ago, there have been moments of clarity and sunshine but mists and fogs have obscured the way more often than not. Paths that once seemed logical and compelling now seem less sure and less promising. These are not bad things - they are simply part of the journey that each person must face when stepping foot beyond the much walked, wide and easy path. The fog brings its own treasures that a sunny day with clear skies cannot. I'd like to share some of my challenges as well as some of my treasures with you now.

At the beginning of this year, I was ready to embrace the world of art tutorial videos, having already begun my own YouTube channel roughly six months earlier. It seemed a clear path for me to pursue. I began... but stalled. The drive, enthusiasm and passion just didn't seem to be there. It was hard to pinpoint exactly what the issue was. It had become clear, however, that making videos was very time consuming and time was precious now that I was back doing some casual relief teaching at my former place of employment. My own art school was growing bit by bit too and it came to the point where something had to give - as though there was a fork in the road and I had to make a choice. I knew that if I went down the video making path that I would have very little time for developing and making my own art - and vice versa. I enjoyed the live classes - whether online or in-person - I was able to forget about myself and focus on inspiring, guiding and helping others in their artistic growth. The casual relief teaching was a necessity as I needed a supplementary income. After much deliberation and discussion with others, I decided to take the path that would feed my passion and allow me to hone and use my God-given gifts. I've long known that my Creator created me to create things of beauty and that I feel His pleasure when I do so. Frustration comes when that doesn't happen - when I'm not making things with my hands. So, from where I stand now, at least, I want to focus on teaching the live classes and making art to sell - both originals and reproductions. There are things I would like to set in place so that people can more easily order prints of my work - possibly through my website itself - but I'm considering getting someone else to help me with that side of things. I have continued to receive commisions and here is one that I painted for a dear friend, capturing his time as a missionary in Rwanda.

Melbourne seems to have had a long, cold winter this year. We didn't have the lovely warm, sunny autumn that I have enjoyed in previous years. Because I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), I have found it hard to muster up the motivation, focus and energy needed to really make a strong go of things for several months. Things haven't been dire - it's more like a grey fog has set in, slowing me down and robbing me of vibrancy and productivity. I've let some things slip that I had wanted to get done. I have however, persevered with making some artworks. I have two oil paintings currently on the go - one still life and one Australian landscape (on a very large canvas). The still life has been a joy to paint and has brought some colour into the grey. It is nearly finished but the landscape has a long way to go. I've enjoyed creating some artworks and designs with my students, inspired by the works of William Morris. We had fun transferring the designs onto various products on to see how they would translate as patterns. But the most significant artwork for me has been pen and ink drawing which I named 'My Silent Companion'.

'My Silent Companion' was the fruit of this season of grey fog - though in reality, it is the fruit of a life spent journeying with God. I have always loved the Chronicles of Narnia stories by C.S. Lewis ever since rushing home from school as a boy to watch a cartoon version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe on our black and white TV. I read through the books every year and the more I read them, the more truth-nuggets I uncover. The Horse and His Boy was my least favourite of the books when I was younger but it has moved up in the ranks for me over the years as I have read it with fresh eyes. The deeper truths and insights are sometimes lost on children with this book but there is a great potency in its messages for anyone willing to pick it up again - especially for those who have known the challenges and struggles of life and faith. In the midst of my general fog, there has been a gnawing sense of distance from Christ in my life - a longing and hunger for more of Him but a feeling that He was afar off or hidden from me. Reading again The Horse and His Boy with its imagery of the main character, Shasta, walking alone in the fog, dejected and weary but becoming aware of an unseen companion pacing alongside him, something tugged deeply within me and Lewis put his finger on the hurting place in my soul. Through the fog, I could see that I was not truly alone and that my Divine and longed for Companion had never left me and had in fact been far more involved in my story than I had noticed or dared to believe. That deep, Divine voice didn't tell me to "snap out of it" - nor did the fog instantly vanish. My unseen Companion spoke with a strength that could banish the fiercest of foes and with a gentleness that would comfort the frailest of souls. He reminded me that I belong to Him and that my problems and needs are His to take care of and always have been. His presence combed the knotted state of my fearful soul and the warmth of His breath gave me courage to press on wherever He leads. I felt compelled from there to create an artwork much like the patriarchs would erect stones as reminders of God's dealings with them and of His faithfulness. I drafted up a drawing after gathering my source material, using a fineliner pen to give a book illustration feel. It needed some refinement and alterations - all part of the process - and culminated in the image that now features in this post.

I left the background white to speak of fog and mist but wanted to show both characters clearly and solidly. My aim wasn't so much to accurately recreate a scene from the book but to capture the essence of it and how I connected with it. I placed much of my soul in the boy with his downcast posture, closed eyes and general look of weariness. He is unaware just yet of the glory and grandeur of his Companion and hasn't noticed the delicate flowers that grace his path and seek to embrace his blistered feet. His Companion looks ahead with unwavering steadfastness as his powerful paws tread gently among the blooms. The Great Lion's majestic mane near-caresses the boy stooped in sorrow. But a few more paces and the boy will discover just Who it is that walks silently beside him. He will very soon hear that deep, rich voice speak.

Here is the framed work. I chose to use an antique frame that I painted black to give a greater weight to the message of the image. There is just the slightest hint of gold shining through behind the black innermost mat-board.

A few years ago, when I was experiencing one of the worst health crises of my life, the song There was Jesus, featuring Zach Williams and Dolly Parton, came to my attention and it pierced my hurting heart, breaking through the darkness - bringing much needed light and comfort. It expresses beautifully and powerfully the same message expressed in my drawing. If you have time, I encourage you to listen to this piece while resting your eyes upon My Silent Companion.

Fifteen years ago, I returned home to Melbourne having spent the previous ten months in the UK, studying God's Word at Capernwray Bible School. It was one of those mountain-top experiences - a foretaste of Heaven in many ways. You can see by my artworks below, which feature the building and grounds of Capernwray Hall in Lancashire, that it was a stunning setting for studying the Bible.

The Principal at the time was Rob Whittaker. To me, he was like a father-figure and through his lectures and personal conversations, he spoke into many hurting places in my soul. Press forward fifteen years and amidst the hubbub of life in Melbourne, I heard from Rob again. This time, he mentioned how moved he was upon seeing My Silent Companion on social media and asked if he might feature it in a new lecture series he was preparing to present. I was greatly touched by this. I had often wished I could have stayed there at the Bible School - ministering in some way but God had other plans for me. And yet now, in a way, I would be ministering at Capernwray - through my artwork and, in a way, speaking alongside a man who has had a profound impact on my life. My Lord answered my heart's cry of many years in an unexpected way - through the fruit of many trials. Through this I see the possibility of a new or additional path opening up for my art.

Another man has spoken much into my life, aside from Rob Whittaker, and he happens to have been the founder of Capernwray Bible School and the Torchbearers International Schools. Major Ian Thomas died just two months before I arrived at Capernwray. Although I never met him personally, I did hear him speak in my church when I was a boy and have read his books and listened to many of his recorded messages. His key message is "Christ in you, the hope of glory" - and he teaches that the Christian life is an impossible task when attempted in our own human strength - it can only be accomplished by Christ Himself living in us and through us by His Holy Spirit. He (Christ Jesus) is the dynamic power that makes dead things come to life and things that were once lost become found. Major Ian Thomas has spoken once again into my life as I have come to the cross-roads in my fog. I came across the following compilation of key points just recently from a classic message he preached many years ago entitled "A Grain of Wheat".

This is where I am at - hearing the voice of my unseen Companion asking me to lay all that I have, all that I am and all that I hope to do (or think I should do) at His feet. In fact, to bury it in the ground as a grain of wheat that falls into the earth - to be willing to let it all die - looking to Him to raise me up in newness of life. I am starting to experience the deep joy and freedom that comes from such an exchange. And I am greatly relieved and comforted knowing that I don't have strive to be the best, to have it all sorted, to "be someone", to have a five, ten or twenty-year plan or even know what I should be doing tomorrow or how I'm going to pay the bills. My heart is stirred to possess what the world cannot offer and to pursue those things which bring eternal reward and an everlasting harvest. There is a fresh longing rising up to follow the Lion - wherever He leads, even if none other go with me (possibly the theme for a new artwork).

As I write this, I am preparing to go on my first vacation in fifteen years. Yes, my last "vacation" was to Capernwray all those years ago. I feel at this time somewhat like Bilbo Baggins when he said "I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread." There has been much busyness, many trials of work and business, many trials of poor health, much questioning, searching and praying and multiple meandering paths. The fatigue has set in and it is time to stop, rest and just be for a time. The fog and the fatigue go together and have been my unwanted companions for a long while. They have caused me to stop in my tracks and stare confusedly at the multi-forked signpost rising up before me. And yet, I am aware of another Companion - I hear His footsteps, feel His breath and discern His rich, deep and gentle voice. He says, "My child, come lay all your burdens, all your cares, all your dreams and aspirations at My feet - and I will give you true rest for your weary soul."

So, Lord willing, I will fly up to Queensland shortly (my first time ever to visit that sunny state) and be refreshed by sunshine, beaches, visits with family and enjoy just being for a time. And then, again - Lord willing, I will continue teaching my art classes online and in-person, doing casual relief teaching at the school and creating artworks (including commissions) that refresh others and see where things lead and what other opportunities open up. It may seem to some like I am giving up on my artistic pursuits. Let me assure you that this is not the case. I will continue in these things but will at the same time hold them - and indeed all aspects of my life - with open hands before my Heavenly Father, trusting Him to shut down what is fruitless, less important or a mere distraction and to raise up what is most needful, meaningful and fruitful. Ultimately, I want to walk wherever He leads knowing that He is working all things - especially the hardest of things - for my good, the good of others and for His glory. I'll finish up now with a progress shot of my latest oil painting - the still life I mentioned earlier. It features a vase of flowers in my dining room, lit up by lamplight one evening earlier this year. May it bring you joy. And may you too come to discern the footsteps, breath and deep, rich voice of our unseen Companion.

If you have been moved by seeing and hearing about My Unseen Companion, and would like to have the image in your home as an ongoing blessing, I have had the artwork professionally scanned and am able to send out giclee/archival quality prints on request (email me at ) and I have also put together a collection of products featuring the image in my Zazzle store (the address I'll give is for the Australian site but there is a UK and a USA site as well that feature my products - ).



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