Bible Study, Faith Struggles, Mental Health

On Anger and Finding Inspiration in the Book of Romans

Hello lovely people!

It’s good to be blogging on here again, I know that aside from my brief upload of the art I’ve been doing (colouring in), it’s been a while since I’ve actually posted on this blog. To be real with you, I’ve been having some faith struggles. I’ve also been going through a season of doubt, mental health issues (depression) and some other stuff, but I’m back. And here I am trying to motivate myself and record my faith journey, it’s up and downs, ebbs and flows. So, to help me get myself back on track, I’ve decided to log back into my Holy Bible app, and start trying to actively engage in my faith again.

Because to be honest, I’ve been really disconnected from my faith. When you’re depressed you’re not motivated, you don’t want to do anything, but then your depression only gets worse. So, I’m engaging with my faith again. I’ve started a new seven-day bible plan, called ‘Anger and Hatred,‘ because I’m really fucking angry. There’s no nice way to say it, I just am. And sometimes? I’m even hateful too. I won’t go into the whys and all that, but things have been rough the past two years and it’s embittered me. In short: I don’t like who I am at the moment, and that has got to change.

I know I can change, I wasn’t always like this. I know I will. Today was the first day of my seven-day reading plan, (Which you should know I picked blindly, at random. If that isn’t God speaking to me, what is?) and it consisted of a devotional and a reading from the book of Romans. And I thought that I’d share both here so that others can also benefit from the plans wisdom. The Devotional was quite helpful to me actually: it was just what I needed to hear. It reminded me that some anger is justified, ‘Righteous Anger’ even, but that’s only if it is something that God is angry about too. We need to be discerning when we’re angry about something. And lately, I haven’t been.

The devotional encourages us to really search our hearts as to why we’re angry and get to the root of it, because only then can we resolve it. And of course, it encourages us to take it to God in prayer and ask Him to show us a way through the red haze. And anger can be like a haze that obscures everything good in your life. To be filled with anger all of the time is to not be able to see or think clearly, -you can’t perform your best at anything, and you certainly can’t be the best Christian you’re called to be. Whether you’re bottling up your rage (which will eventually make you physically sick, trust me on this one) or exploding like a firework over the smallest of things, it’s not productive. It’s no good for your soul, and it’s no way to live.

The devotional ends with asking us to let God replace our anger with Love. That doesn’t mean you have to love on people who abuse you. Or love on things that cause you pain. But it does mean that you have to love on yourself enough to let some things go. And if it’s somebody who’s causing you pain, sometimes you just have to admit to yourself some people are best loved from a distance. A far, far off, distance. After all, your well-being is important and so is your soul. Because if you’re angry all the time, you risk alienating yourself from your relationships and that includes your relationship with God.

And you know what that means, and it isn’t worth it. Now I don’t know about you, but I’m not letting anger rule me anymore. The plan ends with a passage from the book of Romans.

Romans 1:18:  ”For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth.”

I like this passage from Romans. Romans is so full of jewels just waiting to be mined. I’ll have to share more from the book of Romans, in future. I feel like this is a good quote to show you what to be angry at. For example, is the thing you’re angry at something ungodly? Wicked? Or are you angry at what is the suppression of truth? Is it a lie? Because this passage implies we should be angry about lies. We should be angry about wicked behaviour. And we should be angry about ungodly behaviour too, but it doesn’t imply we should go through life angry at everything, like some sort of a bull in a china shop. 

That isn’t productive. Can you imagine if God was like that? The world would have never come into existence? So, I encourage you to stop and take a breath when you’re angry. Consider things: has something truly wicked occurred? Or, was this an honest mistake on someone’s part? Is this something ungodly that you’re raging at, or just something you don’t like? Is this an accidental omission of fact, or a deliberate attempt to distort the truth? Before we react, we should consider what we’re reacting to first. Myself included. Stop. Breathe. Consider. Is it truly ungodly? Wicked? Or a deliberate lie?

Because there’s every chance it wasn’t. And if that is so, then to quote Disney’s Elsa, LET IT GO!! Move on and do some productive things with your day instead. Read, paint, make something beautiful, walk somewhere pretty, spend time with your pets. Do whatever you have to do to get out of your own head and that red haze. And don’t forget to pray.

God Bless,

Frances.

Catholic Art, Christian Art

Fun Colouring Art, Box of Blessings, Proverbs

I think these two are beautiful, and I’m love with the floral and nautical imagery, combined with the verses. I’m sure I’ll frame these.

Hello lovely people! It’s been a while and I’ve been a bit busy with my other blog but I’m gonna try and get back to posting on here. So, here’s something I’ve been doing and enjoying lately, the little Box of Blessings (colouring-in) Cards.

I might frame this one and put it in my hallway, because it looks super cute and welcoming.

I got the Proverbs set and I absolutely love them. They’re soo much fun to colour in and feature some lovely art and inspirational Proverbs verses. You could even frame these in little frames and they might look cute?

I used some low quality pencils on this one and it kinda shows, but I still think it’s sorta pretty.

Here’s some of my favourite ones (so far) I had a lot of fun doing them. These are great if you’re into crafts and art. And they were super cheap to buy! I think I paid less than £10 for them brand new, so if you’re Christian and into feel-good crafts I highly recommend these.

True words.

Thanks for reading,

God bless, Frances.

Hymns

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross by Isaac Watts (1707)

Hello beautiful people, I just want to talk a little about something beautiful and moving that I stumbled across last year, (I deleted my old blog and am now moving posts over here) it’s a hymn/poem from 1707 that I found during one of my Lent devotions. At the time, I was doing the Journeying with Jesus – 40 Day Lent Devotional’ plan on Bible.com. I loved it, and as a result of it, I found this lovely hymn.

It was written by a man called Isaac Watts who was a churchman and theologian. He wrote more than 700 hymns and was even called ‘The Godfather of English Hymnody’ back in the day! He wrote this piece called ‘When I Survey the Wondrous Cross’ and I think it’s absolutely lovely. It makes a moving poem and wonderful hymn, and there are also sung versions on Youtube. 

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross by Isaac Watts (1707)

When I survey the wondrous cross

On which the Prince of glory died,

My richest gain I count but loss,

And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,

Save in the death of Christ my God!

All the vain things that charm me most,

I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,

Sorrow and love flow mingled down!

Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,

Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,

That were a present far too small;

Love so amazing, so divine,

Demands my soul, my life, my all.

There you go! I told you it was all kinds of lovely! If you’re a Christian, I hope it brings you closer to Christs’ sacrifice and helps you in your walk of faith. If you’re not a Christian, I hope you were at least swept away in the beauty of the words. 

Thanks for reading and have a beautiful week,
God Bless,
Frances.

Catholic Art, Christian Art, Finding God in Unlikely Places

Finding God, Jesus & Mary in the Girl with the Pearl Earring

I’ve just finished reading The Girl with the Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier. It was all sorts of lovely and a perfect cosy read for autumn. I’ll do a full-length review of the book over at my other bookerly (is that a word? It is now!) blog soon, but I just wanted to share some of the Catholic loveliness of Vermeer’s art and talk a little bit about how the book makes me appreciate my faith even more. The book is about a protestant girl named Griet who becomes a maid and muse for the painter Johannes Vermeer, a Catholic. It is the first time that she has been exposed to the faith, and at first, she is very uneasy with the biblically-themed paintings and the idea of a Catholic mass. She eventually gets used to the paintings and is even painted herself (which is scandalous for a protestant at the time).

Whilst reading the book I became curious about the paintings mentioned so I ended up looking at Vermeer’s art. I’ve decided to share some of his paintings here, and also some passages from the book that I found related to my Catholic faith. Reading this book sent me down a bit of a deep rabbit hole. As a result, I’m now very familiar with the story of Vermeer and have googled most of his paintings. That also lead me to look at quite a few paintings from the 1600s, by various painters, many with a religious theme. I was struck by just how dark and graphic a lot of them are, some are even unpleasant to view, but they do wonderful jobs of showing us how much Christ suffered for us.

I found many of these paintings very moving, especially the paintings by Anthony Van Dyck. His depiction of Christ crucified really spoke to me. It’s sad, not too graphic (but still displays Christ’s wounds), and the colours are just beautiful. It really makes me feel sad for Jesus when I see it and immensely grateful. And I feel like this is the true purpose of religious-themed art, -to continuously show us what Christ went through for us, to help keep our faith alive, and to help keep us faithful and humble by showing us what our salvation cost. Art helps keep Christ’s suffering fresh in our minds, because sometimes it’s hard to envision it from reading about it in a bible.

Now I’ve heard a lot of people criticize the Catholic church for its love of art and ornate churches. A lot of people seem to feel that churches shouldn’t be beautiful, -that they should be simple. This view I’ve heard from a lot of evangelical, protestant types, who will say that the way Catholics have beautified our churches is some sort of distraction from God. They will point to their churches, with little or no art, simple windows, pews and pulpit, and say ‘This is how it should be! All Catholicism does is horde gold and show off wealth.’ There are a lot of things I could say to explain why Catholic churches are so beautiful and why it’s glorifying God not detracting from the worship of God, but instead, I’ll just share a quote from The Girl with the Pearl Earring which explains that all Christians glorify God in art, even if they don’t realise it:

“There is a difference between Catholic and Protestant attitudes to painting,” he explained as he worked, “but it is not necessarily as great as you may think. Paintings may serve a spiritual purpose for Catholics, but remember too that Protestants see God everywhere, in everything. By painting everyday things,-tables and chairs, bowls and pitchers, soldiers and maids,-are they not celebrating God’s creation as well?”
― Tracy Chevalier, Girl with a Pearl Earring

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When I read this I went ‘Yes!’ This quote explains that actually, every Christian wants to celebrate Gods creations (be it through creating a beautiful painting of a bible scene or painting something like a cornucopia of fruit) and every Christian in some way does. It doesn’t matter whether your expression of Gods creation is a gilded statue or a simple painting of the sky. You’re still glorifying God, even in depicting the day-to-day life of a maid or servant. We all belong to God.

This next passage I really loved. It really gave me the feels. Imagine for a moment being a Protestant girl, you’ve never come into close contact with art that depicts Jesus, let alone our Queen of Heaven, and all of a sudden you have to sleep beneath a huge painting of both of them. The painting is rather graphic, depicting the suffering of Jesus. Imagine the strangeness of it, imagine how disturbing it would be to you. Griet the maid hasn’t even been inside a Catholic Church. In her home, there are no religious paintings. The part I like most about this passage is the end where she describes going to sleep but waking up looking for the painting. And isn’t that what great Christian art should do? Emblazon the image of Christ in our heads? Keep us seeking him? I think so. She then finishes by saying she was sure the Virgin Mary was looking down on her. What a wonderful thought to have as you fall asleep at night! It may fill Griet with a sense of unease, but I like the idea that if we make space for her, the Virgin Mary will always be watching us.

”I was about to blow out the candle when I noticed the painting hanging at the foot of my bed. I sat up, wide awake now. It was another picture of Christ on the Cross, smaller than the one upstairs but even more disturbing. Christ had thrown his head back in pain, and Mary Magdalene’s eyes were rolling. I Iay back gingerly, unable to take my eyes off it. I could not imagine sleeping in the room with the painting. I wanted to take it down but did not dare. Finally, I blew out the candle,—I could not afford to waste candles on my first day in the new house. I lay back again, my eyes fixed to the place where I knew the painting hung. I slept badly that night, tired as I was. I woke often and looked for the painting. Though I could see nothing on the wall, every detail was fixed in my mind. Finally, when it was beginning to grow light, the painting appeared again and I was sure the Virgin Mary was looking down at me.”
― Tracy Chevalier, Girl with a Pearl Earring

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Aside from the lovely passages in this book and the wonderful story of life in 17th century Holland, another thing that really made my little Christian heart sing was ‘The Crucifixion Room.’ It is described as a room featuring a huge painting of Christ on the Cross surrounded by the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene and Saint John. I haven’t seen the film adaptation of this book but I’ll watch it soon if anything just to see how this room is depicted. I always try to read books before the adaptions if I can. I imagine it to look something like this:

Christ Crucified, with the Virgin, Saint John and Mary Magdalene by Anthony Van Dyck (1617-1619)

I don’t think it would be fair to write about the beautiful things in this novel without sharing some of Vermeer’s beautiful art. Upon his marriage, Vermeer converted to Catholicism. I discovered this painting of his ‘Allegory of the Catholic Faith’ (1670-74). I love it purely for all of the Catholic symbolism on display. The woman in the painting is thought to be one of the Marys. She is reading a bible, sitting atop a raised platform like an altar behind a beautiful blue and gold curtain. During the 17th century, many Dutch Catholic houses had little home churches like this, places where families could pray and worship in secret. There is a glass globe suspended above her head, symbolizing the heavens, and at her feet a globe of the world. This is a beautiful way to illustrate that the Virgin is a bridge between the heavens and earth for Catholics. She is a mediator for us between God and man. I also love the imagery of the defeated Satan, represented in the serpent on the floor crushed by the stone slab. The slab of course represents the Catholic Church.

Johannes Vermeer, Allegory of the Catholic Faith, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.jpg
‘Allegory of the Catholic Faith’ by Johannes Vermeer (1660-74)

I hope you have enjoyed this post and it has brought you closer to God or at least sparked your interest in the wonderful painter Johannes Vermeer. I’ll leave you with The beautiful Girl with the Pearl Earring herself. Who was she? Now that I’ve seen Vermeer’s other paintings it matters less to me. It matters more what she represents: innocence, stillness, compassion, purity, femininity, hope, grace. She can see all of those qualities present in her. Present in her wide-eyed expression and the way the light plays across her eyes and face. I like how she is set against the darkness but not swallowed by it,-in fact, it is almost as if she is the light within it. When I think of her like this she seems a lot like The Blessed Virgin, and I can’t help but wonder, did Vermeer have The Virgin somewhere in the back of his mind when he painted The Girl? We’ll never know, but my view of The Girl is changed forever.

See God in the little things,

God bless and have a beautiful week. ✝

Girl with the Pearl Earring (c.1665)
”The Girl with the Pearl Earring’ by Johannes Vermeer (1665)

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