News from Our Blog
What Kind of Swimmer Are You?
July 2, 2023
By Guest author: Renee Smith, Middle/High School English teacher
Summer is the time for swimming! What kind of swimmer are you? Do you enter the water incrementally? First, you test the water temp with your toes, then bit by bit enter the pool, all the while wondering if you should turn back? Or do you jump right in, regardless of the consequences?
Pool time often reminds me of a quote by missionary Lilias Trotter—but before I share it, let me introduce you to this exceptional woman.
Lilias Trotter (1853-1928) was born in England and raised in wealth and privilege. She was a self-taught artist, whose talent quickly came to the attention of the art world. (One famous critic, John Ruskin, called her “England’s greatest living artist.”) Along with art, Lilias felt drawn to the things of God. In her early twenties, she and her mother experienced the
teaching of American preacher, Dwight L. Moody, when they volunteered at his revival meetings.
Although many encouraged her to pursue an artist’s life, Lilias believed she could not embrace “painting and continue still to ‘seek first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness.’” She found local mission work to do through the YWCA and other such organizations and eventually felt a call to foreign missions.
On her 34th birthday, Lilias applied to the North African Mission but was rejected because a heart condition kept her from passing the physical exam. Because she could support herself, Lilias and two other financially independent women (unusual for that time period) made preparations to go to the mission field on their own and work alongside the established mission organizations.
Upon arriving in Algiers, Lilias wrote, "Three of us stood there, looking at our battle-field, none of us fit to pass a doctor [physical] for any [missionary] society, not knowing a soul in the place, or a sentence of Arabic or a clue for beginning work on untouched ground; we only knew we had to come. Truly if God needed weakness, He had it!"
Lilias and her friends spent the next forty years sharing the Gospel with Islamic women and children, seeing many converts follow Christ in spite of banishment, punishment, and even death. The three women founded a mission, which eventually grew to encompass thirty workers, and Lilias wrote several books.
During her entire time of service, Lilias’s health was so poor that she divided each year between months working in Algiers and months recuperating in England. Of her life, she wrote, “I am seeing more and more that we begin to learn what it is to walk by faith when we learn to spread out all that is against us: all our physical weakness, loss of mental power, spiritual inability—all that is against us inwardly and outwardly—as sails to the wind and expect them to be vehicles for the power of Christ to rest upon us.”
By now, you’re wondering how Lilias Trotter’s bio leads back to swimming. Here’s the relevant quote from her journal:
“‘I am come into deep waters’ took on a new meaning this morning. It started with perplexing matters concerning the future. Then it dawned
that shallow waters were a place where you can neither sink nor swim, but in deep waters, it is one or the other . . .
Swimming is the intense, most strenuous form of motion—all of you is involved in it—and every inch of you is in abandonment of rest upon the water that bears you up.”
In other words, swimming engages nearly every muscle group in our bodies, yet the entire endeavor would be impossible were it not for the water holding us up.
What a great metaphor for living the Christian life!
We must put our “faith” muscles to work—studying and memorizing Scripture, sharing the Gospel, serving others, etcetera. Yet we accomplish nothing for eternity unless empowered by the Holy Spirit that lives within us.
So I ask again, what kind of swimmer are you? Do you dangle your feet in the water or stick to the shallow end of the pool? Or are you ready to jump right into the deep end for the adventure of a lifetime?
***To learn more about Lilias Trotter, I encourage you to check out her biography, read one of her books, or watch the 2015 documentary written by Laura Waters Hinson and featuring Michelle Dockery and John Rhys-Davies.
A Passion for the Impossible by Miriam Huffman Rockness. Amazon
Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God by Noel Piper: https://www.desiringgod.org/books/faithful-women-and-their-extraordinary-god
A Blossom in the Desert: Reflections of Faith in the Art and Writings of Lilias Trotter by Lilias Trotter & Miriam Huffman Rockness. Amazon
Parables of the Cross by Lilias Trotter. Amazon
Many Beautiful Things. Documentary available on YouTube & Amazon
News from Our Blog
Art Teacher, ULCS
5 Life Lessons From An Artist
1.Open your eyes & see:
Learn to see the world more clearly. Observe the reality of the world around you. Everything is not as complicated as it seems. The most intricate designs can often be simplified into smaller more manageable shapes. Same can be said for life and all its woes. Keep it simple.
You cannot hit a target if you never take aim. Every action you take can become more significant when you multiply it by clear intention and willpower. Make a plan. Follow The Plan. Fail. Adapt. Grow. - Be Intentional.
3. Trust The Process:
They say to never judge a book by its cover. In Art we say, never judge a work in progress. Sometimes the process calls for spilling or splattering paint. Other times it requires sculpting, chiseling, melting and re-shaping. A work in progress often looks messy and incomplete but the Artist knows the final result is worth the uncertainty of the process. Sometimes you gotta go with the flow.
4.Confront Failure With Grace & Perseverance:
“This looks bad, I can't draw!” - “I'm not a good artist Mr.Hawk” - “This is too hard” - etc… Consistently, each year I hear the same flurry of statements from students about their own Artwork. I get it, I say things like that too when I'm being challenged by consistent difficulties. But feeling kind of foolish at something is the first step towards being an expert at something. We persevere through failures and insecurities because we know that confidence and expertise is on the other side of that discomfort. We are called to be overcomers. Keep Persevering.
5.You can always start over:
It does not matter how badly you failed, you can always begin again. The time you spent in error was not wasted, it becomes compound wisdom ready to be applied to a brand new start.
So keep it simple my friends! Open your eyes, Take aim, Trust the process and Persevere. In Art & In Life.
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