the snowy owl as facilitator

One of my little sadnesses is that I was not able to meet John Stott after I moved across to work in the ministry which he founded, Langham Partnership.  In those early years, however, he was always present on the agenda of our meetings — with a quiet, mysterious little entry: the snowy owl project.  John Stott was known and loved, far and wide, and this was Langham’s way to be fully prepared and clear with their communications when he eventually died — in July 2011.  

John Stott’s passion for the snowy owl is well known. It graces the cover of his book on ornitheology, The Birds, Our Teachers. It is also the subject of a Stott-narrated video in which he speaks of his 23 year quest to find a snowy owl, and his eventual success (see here).  It is well worth watching.

But there is another thread to this post…
Some months ago, Barby suggested to me a potentially fun little team-building exercise — from The Art for Kids Hub, with its website (here) and its YouTube channel (here) … and its 5.61 million subscribers!  Children are taught to draw by sitting alongside an artist and imitating them step by step.  It is amazing what they are able to achieve, with this close coaching.
I wasn’t so sure about the idea because, as a child, art class was right up there with visits to the dentist.  But as I watched a few videos, it all seemed quite possible, even for me.
Here is an example of how it works, as a five year old draws a panda, in just a few minutes:

I suspect you can guess what is coming…

Our Global Leadership Team in Langham Preaching was willing to give it a go and so off I went in search of something that would be approprate, trawling quickly through hundreds of videos … and eventually my eye was drawn — you guessed it — to ‘how to draw a snowy owl’.  

Amazing. Talk about ‘appropriate’ … I could scarcely believe it.

So, we gave it a go — and our work was so singularly impressive (not to mention the flood of healing that overwhelmed my drawing-averse little heart!) that we signed our names to our masterpieces and gathered them into a single document, not just to facilitate our team but also to establish our new Mutual Admiration Society of Artist-Preachers (MASAP).

This morning I went back to the YouTube channel to find this link. It was there, but next to it was another one I had not seen previously: “How to Draw a Realistic Snowy Owl”.

“Hey, what are you trying to say about my art?”
nice chatting
PS: As I went looking for photos, I came across this one of John Stott on a ‘birding’ expedition in Turkey.  Says a lot, doesn’t it?


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About Me


the art of unpacking

After a childhood in India, a theological training in the USA and a pastoral ministry in Southland (New Zealand), I spent twenty years in theological education in New Zealand — first at Laidlaw College and then at Carey Baptist College, where I served as principal. In 2009 I began working with Langham Partnership and since 2013 I have been the Programme Director (Langham Preaching). Through it all I've cherished the experience of the 'gracious hand of God upon me' and I've relished the opportunity to 'unpack', or exegete, all that I encounter in my walk through life with Jesus.

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  1. Ken Keyte on February 14, 2022 at 12:27 pm

    During our Auckland lock in, our daughter Ashley sent the Auckland dwellers of our family a painting set each to releive our monotony. Three of the four have painted their master pieces with the help of Bob Ross
    I've yet to do mine! (though Raewyn's did make a good sermon illustration!)

  2. the art of unpacking on February 21, 2022 at 4:38 pm

    So let me get this straight, Ken …

    Are some of those paintings on Bob Ross' site the work of the 'Auckland dwellers' of your family?

    That is definitely a step-up from snowy owls on ArtHub. Not sure I have the courage to do that, but it sounds like neither do you 🙂

    Look forward to seeing your work.


  3. Fred Brunell on February 22, 2022 at 6:16 am

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Fred Brunell on February 22, 2022 at 6:30 am

    Hey Paul – nice post! I was about to stage an intervention (or something) to work on your adversion toward drawing/painting. Delighted to see you "giving it a go" – well done! And a delightful aside. Year 7 is the youngest class I teach and in my intro to them a couple of weeks back something happened that every teacher lives for. While I was drawing on the whiteboard an annonymous voice burst out from the middle of the class… "WOW! This is the best class ever. I'm going to really enjoy art!" I'm looking forward to more masterpieces!

  5. the art of unpacking on February 22, 2022 at 2:46 pm

    And here I was hoping that you wouldn't see this post… 🙂

    Hope you are doing OK

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