Yesterday I did something tangible! I walked down the stairs to my studio, squeezed paint onto my palette, and painted. The rich smell of walnut oil permeates the canvas as my brush spreads color and joy. I do love the tactile quality of my beautiful paints and pigments. And so, this painting happened: Meadow, oil on canvas, 24″x36″
A meadow is a humble thing. It is neither large nor loud, yet it positively teems with life. Overflowing with grasses, wildflowers, insects, birds, and other small animals, it is a pocket of beauty and delight. Wisdom sings a quiet song here, the buzzing of bees’ wings and the quick rustle of seed-eating creatures. Let’s go outside and calm our hearts, still our minds, and let our senses soak up the wonder of God’s world.
Why is this a matter of consequence? We are surrounded with technology that can be helpful and destructive…
The Tower of Babel is a click away, voices flattened into a myriad of pixels, identities blurred and uprooted in cyberspace. We weaponize our thoughts and opinions, like cannibals we endlessly tear others apart. We joust on Twitter, gnawing each others’ joints and sinews, mistaking pretend words for dialogue. We are the new barbarians, defacing the icons and burning our history. Where is the mystery of being? Can anyone still see the beauty in real life? Surely the virtual world has no virtue, no true dimensional existence, yet it continuously flows, eroding our souls.
May my words and paintings boost people not posts, to go outside and breath in the wonder of creation. Let’s walk hand-in-hand to discover God’s beauty, goodness, and truth.
In the tidal waters we find a mysterious mixing of salt meeting sweet. In the brackish water between fresh and brine, where sea mingles with stream, there is a place teeming with abundance. I sense that my soul carries a wonder that echoes this; there is a layering of salty sorrow that flows beneath the sparkle of joy. How is it that there is mourning and rejoicing woven together in my heart? The greatest mystery is how the Lord takes this confluence and turns it into a fruitful, fertile, miracle of life. In nature, an estuary is known as the nursery for the sea; 75% of the fish we catch start their life in the fresh and salty water of the estuary. As I consider the wisdom of God that creates such an amazing habitat, may I be even more aware of His lively creativity in my soul. This unique flourishing happens just because my soul is designed to contain a place where sorrow mingles with joy.
I cannot count how many times I’ve been asked, “How long does it take to finish a painting?” To answer this common question, I will tell the story of a painting I finished this week.
Once upon a time, when I was a little girl in love with colors, I crocheted a poncho of many colors (yes, this was in the 1960’s). I especially loved a pretty blue next to a fresh green, and confidently crocheted a thick band of blue, followed by a band of green. An older woman told me that you should never put green next to blue. I was quite puzzled and felt sad and disappointed about my color choices. I rarely wore the poncho.
Fifty (yes, 50!) years later I took a walk in the beauty of a Colorado May. To my great delight I came upon a field of perfect blue wildflowers, blooming in a large swatch of fresh grassy green. I took a photo on my iPhone, which I always do to keep track of beauty that will someday inspire a painting. That photo was taken in May of 2018. In May of 2019 I was casually scrolling through my photos, and stopped when I saw the sweet blue flowers growing in the newly greened grasses. I was so happy to see this! Our Winter this year on the Front Range has been long and cold, and because of a broken ankle and subsequent surgery, I’ve been forced to stay inside for months. I decided to paint a quick watercolor sketch in my journal; nothing serious, just some colorful splashy fun. I liked it so much I decided to make an 8″x10″ watercolor. A month went by, and now in June I am finally able to stand at my easel and I painted the perfect blue next to a fresh green! I am very happy. If God can make blue flowers thrive amidst green prairie grasses, I am sure that blue and green are perfect next to each other!
Does this answer the question of how long it takes me to finish a painting? I’m not sure if it does, but I do love blue and green, and the delight I had in painting this week goes so deep in my soul. I am grateful.
Early in our marriage we were so very blessed to spend 2 years working at Continental Theological Seminary, then known as Continental Bible College, in Belgium. This painting shows a walking path on the college property, winding its way through gentle shady trees and eventually along the edges of a small lake nearby. I loved this quiet place, where I could witness first hand the changes of weather in Belgium, and hear the soft chatter of small birds. What a great way to start our life together Charlie! So glad and grateful we did this. Sending love and and prayers to all we met there–thank you for sharing that time with us! We treasure you forever. May we all find a piece of God’s creation that speaks of His shalom and beauty.
John 19:16-17 reads as follows: “Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’ She turned and said to Him in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father, but go to My brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God.”
The first Christian holiday to be celebrated is the Resurrection of Jesus. In the soft morning light Mary Magdalene is the first person to encounter Jesus just after He has risen from the dead. Her confusion is understandable, and how do we comprehend Jesus’ curious words, “Do not cling to me?” Leaning on the insight of theologian Joe Heschmeyer, we can ponder Jesus’ words in a new way. Jesus, our Gentle Healer, knows exactly what each of us need in order to deepen and grow our faith. Mary already believed that Jesus was resurrected; unlike Thomas, she didn’t need to touch Jesus to believe. Instead, Jesus commissions her to go tell the good news to His disciples. The first page of Mary’s new story of faith opens to her obedience in telling the disciples about Jesus’ resurrection. May the ears and eyes of our hearts be open to perceive His new story for us.
In honor of the season of Lent, I want to share this painting, “Streams of Mercy.” Inspired by the hymn, “Come Thou Font,” I envisioned the mercy of Jesus as flowing like the purest water from His wounds. As I pondered the wonder of God’s mercy, a childhood memory floated up in my mind. I could hear the gentle voice of the priest praying these words as we prepared for Holy Communion: “…We most humbly beseech Thee, of Thy goodness, O Lord, to comfort and succour all those who in this transitory life are in trouble, sorrow, need, sickness, or any other adversity.” Sometimes the old prayer is the best prayer, and these words resonate in my soul. We all experience hardship and suffering in this very transitory life. It is truly the forever mercy of Jesus that restores and refreshes. Kyrie eleison.
It is the middle of Winter, with snowy ground, barren trees, a chilly sky, and I’m housebound with a broken ankle…my husband has carried my crucial art-making supplies up from the basement to the sunny south-facing dining room. I paint…I work on a long a narrow canvas. Amidst the dark and death-filled daily news, my brush flows with lively, dancing colors. I paint life, singing and touching the canvas. This painting can only be named Banner of Life, an affirmation of the gift of breathing, and a heart that beats. Today I am glad to simply be.
Gardening, working the soil so plants thrive, is a wonderful activity! This painting is about how our souls can flourish; by being rooted in love. Roots are of primary importance for any plant to grow. Roots come first. A tree loses leaves and survives just fine. A tree can be pruned (loss of branches) and be even more fruitful. However, if a root system is compromised, the tree’s existence is threatened. Life’s buffetings and bruisings will happen; if we are solidly rooted in love, we can still be fruitful. This love from God is the best soul-soil. His affection for us, His kindness to us, enriches our souls. As we celebrate Valentine’s Day this month, may we be rooted in God’s abundant love, and not in our technology and social trends. Good, healthy growth in our lives comes when we are deeply rooted in holy love.
Deep in our brains there is a small place called the locus coeruleus which is Latin for blue spot. This tiny place governs how we manage stress and panic. It actually has blue pigment in it. When we are repeatedly exposed to dire stress, our locus coeruleus ceases to function properly. The pathology of this small blue spot can cause depression, and it is studied by neurologists in regards to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. How interesting, that when we are sad, feeling blue, it can be directly linked to the “blue place” in our brains being out of balance. This painting, comprised of various blue squares and rectangles, is an expression of stressful, blue days that are gradually being brought to the light of love to be made whole. It is a prayer for the healing of the locus coeruleus. There are so many in our society struggling with severe depression. This painting is for you, that you may find the help and healing for your beautiful mind.
Blue Place, oil on canvas, 18″ x 24″. This painting is in the oil painting gallery, and in the shop of my website.
Jesus is pale and weary from blood loss. As He is stretched out on the cross, He watches the Roman soldier nail the sign of accusation against Him. Pilate had the sign written in three languages, Aramaic, Latin, and Greek. In English it reads: “Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews.” This is how Jesus is labeled by His accusers. Intended as an insult and mockery, these words are the first things ever written directly about Jesus. Think of that; Pilate’s words about Jesus are actually the first Gospel account in a very condensed form, just seven words. Jesus is indeed from Nazareth, raised as the son of a carpenter: He is the Son of Man. He is also called the Son of David, and as such is the King of the Jews.
Whenever a word or phrase is repeated in two (and in this case, three) languages in scripture, I see it as spiritual “highlighting,” using language as a way to get my attention. These languages express three different influential social arenas. Aramaic (similar to Hebrew), was spoken by the Jews, who were greatly oppressed by the the Roman empire. Latin was associated with the Roman government and military, while Greek was the common language of the time, used for culture and commerce. Whatever our realm of influence is, be it spiritual, governmental, military, cultural, or commercial, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus carry great significance and meaning for us.