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.
As Jesus approaches Golgotha He notices a group of weeping women. It seems odd that He would turn to them and speak, and yet that is just what He does. In spite of being weakened by blood loss from the scourging, He uses whatever precious energy is left in His body to speak to group of women. He redirects their intense grief away from Himself, and gives them permission to weep for themselves and their children. In this brief exchange Jesus validates the deep emotional response of these women of Jerusalem. How many of us, as mothers, have wept and prayed over our sick and hurting children? Our merciful Savior accepts, acknowledges, and affirms all the sorrows that mothers carry.
Jesus Speaks to the Women
Jesus can no longer carry His cross due to the blood loss and injuries He sustained from the flogging. The Roman soldiers pull Simon of Cyrene (North Africa) out of the crowd, forcing him to carry Jesus’ cross. Simon was with his two sons, Alexander and Rufus. They were in Jerusalem for the Passover, and accidentally were caught up in the tragic and violent circumstances of Jesus’ crucifixion. For Simon, as a father of 2 young sons, this was indeed a worse case scenario. No one would seek out interaction with the brutal Roman soldiers. Surely he had instructed his sons to avoid the Romans, and here they were, right in the middle of a horrific situation. Simon’s strength enables him to help Messiah Jesus, and his two beloved sons cling to each other and work hard to follow their father.
Welcome to my new gallery that showcases paintings in a fresh style that I call Illuminated Mosaics!
The word “illuminated” describes the vibrant combination of light and color used to illustrate manuscripts during the Medieval era. The hand-written Bibles and Psalters were adorned with brilliant jewel tones and precious metals. The light that gleamed from the gold leaf served as a light source for the beautiful miniature paintings. They are as inspirational today as they were 700 years ago. The rich pigments I mix for my paintings echo this delight in creativity and expression.
My paintings are a celebration of color and squares; a simple shape is filled with joyful light. Mosaics fascinate me and I love their ancient history! The first mosaics were smooth stones arranged in pleasing patterns on floors and walls; essentially a way to bring exquisite beauty to buildings. But mosaics are not just an ancient art form; we see this concept of squares as a motif in modern media. All digital images, whether photographs on my iPhone or the movies streaming on Apple TV, are comprised of minute squares called pixels. My use of colorful squares to create these paintings is my tribute to an artistic expression that spans 2 millennia and counting.
The painting below is called “Man as a Tangent on the Eternal,” and was inspired by the writings of Abraham Heschel. A tangent shares one point with any given object and is a metaphor of how powerful the love of God is when it touches even one point of my soul.
Man as a Tangent on the Eternal
Warm colors are comforting, and orange especially is drawing me in right now. My soul has been cloudy of late, with sorrow and anxiety. I need to see a way to peace and serenity. My heart yearns for the safe haven of home. I am not like Dorothy in the Wizard of Ox; I have neither a yellow brick road nor ruby slippers to find my way. The clear and present warmth of God’s love and acceptance is my true guide. I see this as a vibrant path of gold and orange, leading me to the soothing care of the Lord. This is a prayerful painting, for all of us seeking home. Love and kindness show the way; will we follow?
This painting is dedicated to our beautiful baby granddaughter Nora Jo Self. She blessed our lives for almost 7 hours, and we miss her deeply. As we mourn her gentle little life, we weep in a dark place. Thick Darkness expresses what my soul feels. A weight of sadness is present, and I am aware of God’s comforting blanket of love. In the shadow of His wings I am sheltered and tenderly loved, even as I sorrow the loss of my sweet baby granddaughter. My prayer dear Lord is for Your mercy to cover us and guide us through this dark time. Darkness is light to You, and only You know the way through.
Autumn is an exquisite season. My senses are on overload. My eyes are nurtured by colors, my skin absorbs the shift in the temperature, welcoming the feel of soft sweaters. The tastes and textures delight; crisp apples, spicy pumpkins, fresh crusty bread with steaming tomato soup! I hear the swaying sound of wind in the trees, and rain on the roof. I inhale the fragrance of the earth as it drinks the rain into dry soil. The smell of a wood fire invites me to its warmth. All these sensations, feelings, and memories were blended into colors on my palette, and this painting came to be. Deep in my soul an ever deeper sense of wellness and contentment stirs. This is how God designed the seasons; trees that faithfully blossom and bear fruit now wave their branches, bright with color. Every day is a basket filled with beautiful bounty, and thank you for sharing it with me!
“Oh give thanks unto the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.” Psalm 107:1
This painting is part of my presentation/workshop at the the Faith and Arts Conference (September 22-21) at Evangel University, in Springfield, Missouri. I am exploring visual art as an expression of discipleship and
compassion. I am often overwhelmed by the pain of brokenness, whether my own or that of my community/society. I envision the Lord picking up the shards of my sorrow, treasuring them and mending them to bring new life and beauty. The idea of the Lord as Divine Mender is inspired by the Hebrew word “raphe” which means to heal, or to mend by stitching. “Blessed Are the Broken” is 20″ x 30″, oil with wax on canvas, with broken clay and twine.
Jubilate Deo: Be Joyful in the Lord! When I was a girl, my family faithfully attended St. Thomas Episcopal Church. My earliest memories of art and music, celebration and contemplation, are deeply rooted in the rich history of the liturgy. The poetry of the Psalms and prayers still resonates in my heart. This painting expresses the vibrancy and delight of singing Psalm 100, also called the Jubilate Deo: “Be joyful in the LORD all ye lands, and come before His presence with a song.” With lively colors my heart still sings and dances with joy before the Lord my Maker. (Jubilate Deo, oil on canvas, 30″ x 40″)
One of the best things to do with children is to plant a garden. A reward of planting together is an increase in our sense of wonder. How a buried seed literally transforms into fragrant, fruitful beauty still amazes me!
In contrast to the patience learned while waiting for a seed to sprout, consider the results of following the “trending” issues on social media. These ideas spring up overnight like a mushroom, intoxicating our souls with the illusion of importance and significance. “Trending” increases the volume of what is perceived as urgent, and as a result our sense of spiritual hearing is dulled.
Perhaps today is a good time to find a patch of dirt, a small pot of soil, and plant some seeds. My favorite are nasturtiums!
The painting in this post is called “Good Soil” (oil with wax on canvas, 16″ x 20″). It is available for sale in my shop.