Sunday, April 05, 2015

happy resurrection day, 2015

"lent 7, 2015: hope"
mixed media collage (tissue paper, wallpaper glue, acrylic paint, gel medium, and a found stone on stretched canvas)
march, 2015
gregory a. milinovich

here is hope?

here in the midst of stones?
here, with carved rock and granite graves?
here, in the valley; in the shadow of death?
this is where our journey leads?
to the chill of earth-cold stone, and it's deathy darkness?
this is hope?


what if the stones have been moved?
what if the rocks have been rolled?
what if death's icy grip has been broken?
what if this cemetery is really a birthing room?
what if love could crush fear and brokenness?
what if life could emerge, even out of death?
what if "good" and "very good" were worth saving?
what if the Maker would do this, for what was made?
what if the icy sting of the grave turns out to be birth pangs?
what if....resurrection?
among the stones?  among all this death?

here is hope!

Friday, April 03, 2015

my lenten art series, 2015: a journey to hope

each year for lent, for the last several years now, i have added a discipline to my routine, rather than give up chocolate or soda.  i am still giving something up: it's called free time.  the discipline that i've added is the act of reflecting on the text and proclamation for each sunday of lent, and responding to it creatively by making a collage for each week.

above you can see the results of this year's effort.  there are 8 collages because i technically began with ash wednesday, and then continued with each of the 7 sundays of lent.  from top left they are:
1.  "ash wednesday: with dirty hands"
2. lent 1: connected
3. lent 2: self
4. lent 3: work
5. lent 4: temptation
6. lent 5: money
7: lent 6: struggle
8: lent 8: hope

you can see that there is a stylistic theme woven throughout, and that is the use of the same size canvas, covered first with wrinkled tissue paper, then painted a different color, and ripped to allow the color of the tissue paper to show through at some spots.  i did this to convey the idea of brokenness, of torn flesh.   you'll also see shading on each one, moving from darkness in the upper left corner of each collage, to light in the lower right corner.  i wanted each of the collages to show that glimmer of hope, that movement towards light and redemption.

each of the collages is based on a story in the gospel of mark, and was part of our lenten sermon series which was called "journey to hope."   each one represents some of the obstacles and difficulties we encounter on that journey, and, of course, it ends with hope itself, with a stone that has been rolled away.  whatever obstacles have blocked out the light; whichever stones have impeded your progress and kept you locked in fear have been rolled away.  hope is here.

Monday, March 30, 2015

journey to hope: our guide through the struggle

"lent 6, 2015: struggle"
mixed media collage (tissue paper, wall paper glue, acrylic paint, found object on stretched canvas)
march, 2015
gregory a. milinovich

for the sixth week in lent at our church we talked about struggle.  we used the palm sunday story as our text, and compared it to mark 15.  in mark 11, as Jesus enters jerusalem, the crowd shouts praises with their arms raised upward in joy.  just a few days later, the crowd shouts condemnation with fingers pointed in hatred and fear.

life is full of valleys.

in fact, this whole series has been meant to reflect the struggle that is a very real and present part of every day - every step - of the journey. that is why i have used the tissue paper as a backing for the paint in each collage. the tissue paper wrinkles and tears so wonderfully that it very aptly (at least for me) represents the brokenness and messiness of life.  there is struggle everywhere.  everyday.  in every chapter, season, and moment of our lives. we just struggle.

but here's the good news: we never struggle alone.  God always goes with us.  like a mountain guide, leading us through valleys and over crags and away from disaster, God journeys with us.  that was the truth i wanted to convey with this collage.

the series of pics below shows some of the process.  starting with a blank canvas, i use wallpaper glue to adhere the tissue paper in wrinkled messes.  i used torn sheets of it, and layer them with dozens of layers before i'm finished.

once that dries, i then paint with acrylics on top of the dried tissue paper, and then wipe some of the paint with a cloth, which causes some of the tissue paper to rip, exposing the color underneath.

then i just glue whatever else i want to the collage (this week it was a found mini compass), and then tie it all together with a finish coat, and voila!  below you can see a detail of what it looks like a bit closer.

Monday, March 23, 2015

journey to hope: our relationship with our stuff

"lent 5, 2015: money"
mixed media collage (tissue paper, found money, found game piece, wall paper glue, acrylic paint, gel medium on stretched canvas)
march 2015
gregory a. milinovich

i’m a chronic over-packer. if i’m going to be gone for 3 days, i usually feel compelled to bring enough clothes for about a week, just in case. what if i decide to go for a run? Better bring my exercise clothes. and what if we go somewhere nice to eat? i’d better bring something a little nicer to wear. and i just can’t decide if i like this shirt or that shirt better with those pants, so i’ll just bring them both and decide when i get there. can you identify with this? and i haven’t even gotten to the shoes yet. i just pack way too much. i don’t care if i am going for an overnight stay, in my mind i always think that i’m going to have all these choices and all this free time, so i will bring some big book to read, and maybe even a second one just in case i finish the first one. almost always i return home with the bookmark in the same spot as when i left.

i overpack. but don’t most of us do this in life? don’t we accumulate and acquire and hoard things? don’t we buy a new pair, when we already have 10 at home? don’t we start looking at a new car when we aren’t even done paying for the last one? don’t we “need” that new toy? maybe for you it is electronics or clothes or music or games or books or collectibles or vacations or jewelry or cars, but it is something, and we need to ask ourselves this question: do we own our stuff, or does our stuff own us? are we trying to lug it all with us, carrying a mountain of our stuff, loaded down with junk, while pulling a wagon overflowing with more? is that you?

it reminds me of the israelites in the wilderness, after the exodus from egypt and slavery. they had just experienced this incredible deliverance from a life of turmoil and degradation. they escaped by way of a miracle. and now they had freedom, a new start, a brand new beginning, but they had very little with them. and they weren’t even sure where the journey was taking them. and so God assured them that they would be provided for. God would provide manna each morning; a mysterious substance which they called “what is it?” would appear on the ground, and they were only to gather enough for each day. if they tried to gather extra to store it up – just in case – then it would get full of worms and start to stink. so it was an exercise in trusting in God’s provision. the israelites needed to learn that success wasn’t going to be measured by gaining the most grain, or having the fullest belly. it was going to be found in trusting God to provide just what was needed for that day. it is the same thing Jesus was trying to get us to realize when he taught us to pray “give us this day our daily bread.” we really only need what we need, right? we only need what God provides, and the rest is just baggage. that is a terribly hard lesson for us to learn, especially in our culture in our time. we have just been brainwashed from the earliest possible age to view things very differently than that. we are manna collectors. we gather and hoard and store it. then, when we run out of storage, we pay a monthly fee for more storage so we can store even more manna. and all of this is like more and more backpacks and bags and wagons that we are trying to drag along on our journey.

              do you know who understood this?  the woman in mark 12.  she is such an amazing woman, and while we don’t know her name, we know that she “got it” when it came to our relationship with our stuff.   according to verses 41-44, Jesus was watching “how” people gave, not necessarily what they gave.  however, in those days, when a gift was given to one of the temple treasuries, the amount was immediately called out, broadcast to the whole temple, as a way to acknowledge those big gifts.  we still do this kind of thing when we honor bigger givers, or publish their names and call them the platinum circle of givers, or whatever.  so there were many who were making some sizable donations, and this woman must have felt ridiculous with her measly mites - two small coins, like a couple of cents.  it must have felt absolutely meaningless, but for her, it wasn’t meaningless.  she could have used those two cents.  but she gave anyway.  even though her gift was laughable to others.  she gave it away. she let it go, and that’s remarkable.  when human nature would tell us to reach out and grasp and hold onto, and put away, and deposit and save and build interest and acquire and accumulate and hoard and store, this woman realized that all she really needed to do was trust God to provide what is really necessary for each new day.  so she threw her mites into the treasury, and the tiny clink of those coins can still be heard echoing across the centuries.  and I don’t know about you, but the sound of them challenges me.  because i have far more than a couple mites.  i have far more than I need.  and yet i can convince myself that i need far more.  the question is, do i own my things, or do they own me?  am i reaching out and grasping and clinging and hoarding, or am i reaching out to surrender, to let it go, to trust in the One who gives us just what we need – not the bare minimum – but the perfect amount.  

as we continue to journey towards hope, we need to challenge ourselves about our relationship with our possessions.  are they dragging us down?  are we hauling a host of rotting manna, trying to save it in case we need it, or to satisfy some hunger in our soul?  friends, it will never satisfy us.  instead, let us surrender our mites, like the woman at the temple, and let go of what is holding us back, so that we might be open enough to discover the gifts God wants to give us each new day.  

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

happy st. patrick's day

top of the mornin' to ya'! happy st. patrick's day!  from us leprechauns here in sunbury, we hope you have a great day!

Monday, March 16, 2015

lent 4, 2015: temptation

"lent 4, 2015: temptation"
mixed media collage (tissue paper, acrylic paint, wallpaper glue, gel medium, plastic snake) on stretched canvas
march 2015
gregory a. milinovich

as our lenten series at church continues - we are taking a "journey to hope" - we stopped yesterday to consider the temptations which assail us on our journey.  if we are truly aiming to walk with God, to move further up and deeper into God's incredible love, then temptations are like detours which derail and deter us from the path.  and sometimes, when we get going down the wrong path, we think we can handle it ourselves.  we think we can fix it, or get back on track by our own strength or will power.  but we can't.  God is not some last resort for us to call on when every other option has been exhausted.

so the question for us this week is this: what temptations are luring us from the path we really want to be on?  and can we follow Jesus' example from Gethsemane, turning to God in honest and courageous prayer, admitting what we really want, but ultimately trusting in our Papa to know what is best for us?

Monday, March 09, 2015

lent 3 2015: work (and vocation)

"lent 3, 2015: work"
mixed media collage (tissue paper, acrylic paint, wallpaper glue, gel medium, found nail on stretched canvas)
march, 2015
gregory a. milinovich

this week in church we talked about work.  well, actually, we talked about how work is a poor substitute for vocation.  i can barely use the word without thinking of frederick buechner, whose ideas on the subject have always spoken right to the very center of my being.  buechner says that vocation is that place where your unique gifts and passions intersect with the world's greatest needs.  where those things overlap, that's your vocation; that's the place where God is calling you to give freely of your giftedness.  to serve.  to offer.  to bless.

james and john wanted some payback for their work.  they had given up everything to follow Jesus, including their comforts and their pension.  they really just wanted some return on their investment.  and so they talked to Jesus about it.  about honor.  about what retirement might look like.  about greatness.  and Jesus famously responded to them that if they really wanted to be great they would become a servant to everybody.  he's not talking about being miserable.

he's talking about being yourself . he's talking about truly offering the gifts and talents and passions and dreams and hopes that are latent and growing and dying-to-get-out in you, and sharing them with people who need them.  it doesn't have to be preaching and teaching, although it could be.  it could also be plumbing.  baking.  driving.  writing.  visiting.  building.  listening.  it could be a million different things.  but it only leads to real, abundant, overflowing life when we give it away to those who need it.

learning to live like this - like ones who are willing to give ourselves to others in service - is a huge step on the journey to hope.