Thursday, December 24, 2020

Tabernacle

 


8"x10" Oil on Panel

For Rejoice! Advent Meditations with the Holy Family

Click Here to Purchase


Welcome to the final week of Advent. It has been a long year and an especially unique Advent season of longing for Christmas. Many of us are worshiping from home—isolated from our church communities. Thankfully, we worship a God who acts and moves in all places. And we have the gift of Emmanuel—"God with us"—to be very present with us.

 

This painting depicts a scene described by Fr. Toups during one of his wonderful imaginative prayer sessions in the Rejoice! Advent series.  He describes a scene where Mary and Joseph meet in their local synagogue to discus the implications of the child growing into their relationship. The reality that this child is the Messiah brings them both to a powerful moment of worship. Joseph realizes that Mary is a living tabernacle — a temporary dwelling-place for God when the hebrews were homeless during 40 years in the desert. This realization brings him to his knees and he adores the baby messiah. Mary opens her heart to God in praise. They both pray for each other as well. This creates a circle of prayer among the Holy Family. And God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all present in this space. 

 

May you experience the gift of Emmanuel this season. May God's Advent come into your home and make a dwelling-place in your heart.

 


Breaking Bread


8"x10" Oil on Panel

For Rejoice! Advent Meditations with the Holy Family

Click Here to Purchase


I love to explore "what-ifs" in my paintings. What if Mary and Joseph had quiet, intimate meals together before Jesus was born? What would their conversations have been about? What daily joys and burdens did they share with each other? What would their meal-time prayers have been like?

 

In this painting, Mary and Joseph are giving thanks as their meal begins. The table is lovingly set with a simple meal. They have made the ordinary feel a little more special with the addition of a nice table covering. They sit comfortably at the low table on mats and pillows. The late light is soft and diffused. As they pray, Joseph begins to break bread—perhaps a family tradition that Jesus, himself, would adopt later in his life. Mary prays deeply. Her hands are posed patiently and gently curved over her womb. The Mary and Joseph pray to give thanks. They pray for the baby. They pray for each other. They pray for God's help.

 

Now, what if you imagine yourself seated at the table, joining them in their meal? What does the meal smell like? Can you feel the soft table covering? What would you want to say to Mary and Joseph? What would you want to ask them? And most importantly, what would your prayer be?

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Guarded


8"x10" Oil on Panel

For Rejoice! Advent Meditations with the Holy Family

Click Here to Purchase


Have you ever been wrongfully judged by someone? It can be quite a hurtful experience. This week's painting explores the emotions, frustrations, and sacrifices the Holy Family may have endured during Mary's pregnancy. Nazareth was a small town, and anybody who lives in one knows that small towns are notorious for people knowing too much about each other's business. Mary and Joseph were expecting a baby before their marriage was consummated. You can just imagine the scandal that news created for them. I'm sure there was plenty of rumor and judgement buzzing around town. The incarnation of the Word was not all angels and Glorias. It was complicated, messy, and scandalous. 

 

In the painting, Mary and Joseph are walking along a Nazareth street as they begin to notice the stares for others. People are literally "talking about them behind their backs." A woman shelters her child and keeps their distance from the couple. One passer-by confronts Joseph by locking eyes with him. Joseph responds with protective body language. And Mary looks ahead to see unknown onlookers—perhaps even us. At first glance, the scene is a nice stroll on on sunny day, but you soon begin to see how all of that judgement and social shaming begins to darken the day.

 

Today, through the contributions of internet and social media, it seems the world is acting much like a small town. Rumors spread quickly. Judgement and shaming are pervasive, emboldened with a sense of anonymity. We have become so quick to judge and shame others without knowing their full story. The saying "You don't know me" is very true. We have no idea, the stresses and nuances that are going on in other people's lives. Only Christ has walked in our shoes and knows our hearts. And Christ died for us and rose for us.

 

Mother Teresa once said, "If you judge people, you leave no time to love them." Perhaps we can learn from the Holy Family. Perhaps we can start loving our neighbors more—even as Paul puts it, "To outdo one another with acts of love."

 

As we prepare for Christmas, may we search our thoughts and feelings. May we be more sensitive to the experiences of others. May we make time to love each other, and in so doing, make room in our hearts for Emmanuel.

Monday, November 30, 2020

Betrothed


8"x10" Oil on Panel

Published work for

 "Rejoice! Advent Meditations with the Holy Family" 

by Ascension Press

Click Here to Purchase 


For the first week of Advent, I'm sharing a painting of Mary and Joseph's union blessing given by Mary's father. It is a touching scene of love and support. Additionally, it illustrates the power of God's blessing channeled through the love we show to each other.

 When working on this painting, I discovered an interesting thing about marriages in the ancient Jewish world. Marriages were generally a two-part event. First, the couple was betrothed and the union was legally recognized between the two families. For about a year afterward, on average, the couple lived separately with their families until the groom finished preparing a place for his bride—usually an addition to the family home. It would have most likely been during this time when Mary conceived the Christ child which set into motion unimaginable complications that would have ensued for both families. Not only is the endurance of Mary and Joseph's relationship a testament to their faith, it is also a testament to the faith, love and support they received from their families.

 

Based on that research, I discovered that when Christ tells his disciples that he is going to prepare a place for them, and that his father's house has many rooms, Jesus is using love language alluding to a bridegroom returning to claim his bride. Our relationship has already been sealed. Christ is lovingly preparing space for each of us in the infinite household of God to which one day He will return to us and take us home.

 

As we prepare for Christmas, may we remember and give thanks for those who have loved us through difficult times. May we joyfully avail ourselves to the nurture and support of our siblings in the family of God.


Sunday, November 29, 2020

Union

 


8"x10" Oil on Panel

Published work for 

"Rejoice! Advent Meditations with the Holy Family"

with Ascension Press

Click Here to Purchase




Advent is here, and that means another installment of the Rejoice! Advent series from Ascension Press. This is the third year that I have had the pleasure of illustrating for the Rejoice! prayer journal and companion videos. Watch for future posts where I will share my interpretations of the Rejoice! images.

 

New this year are Advent prayer cards with my artwork on the front. Learn more the prayer journals, prayer cards, videos, art prints and live offerings available this season at Ascension Press.













Friday, June 19, 2020

Psalm 130


6"x6" Oil on Panel


Psalms are ancient songs and prayers to God. They express every kind of human emotion. From our deepest longings and tragic failures to our hope in God and exhuberant praise, psalms are bold prayers that continue to give us a voice today. 

This psalm abstract was created just a few days ago. It embodies emotions fueled by coronavirus, lockdowns, and civil unrest, and an uncertain future.

May we learn be more like the psalmists and practice emotionally honest dialogue with God. Even when we have trouble finding the words, we can look to the ancient voices from the psalms to speak on our behalf.

Psalm 130

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Holy Mother & Child

Holy Mother & Child
8"x10" Oil on Panel
What was Mary like as a mother? What was Jesus like as a toddler? These are some questions that I love to explore with imagination and creativity. 
 I imagine Mary to be patient and understanding with Jesus. She had to raise a young child while attending the daily chores of a first century Jewish wife. I would imagine her to be inclusive, and allow her child to explore and discover the wonders of the World.
 I imagine a toddler Jesus to be inquisitive and full of joy. Like most toddlers, Jesus might have been very curious and playful. He might have wanted to participate in his mother's busy life.
 In honor of Mother's day, I have painted a scene illustrating what Mary and Jesus might have been like together in those days. 
 In this painting, Mary is tending to the daily chore of making bread for the family. As she shapes the dough into small loaves, she lovingly lets Jesus "help". In typical toddler fasion, Jesus plays with the dough. He pulls the dough appart and lifts it up to the light as if he is offering thanks and breaking bread. Perhaps he is mimicking their family traditions around the dinner table. 
 The water jar next to Mary alludes to Jesus' first miracle where He turns jars of water into wine—a unique and intimate story which gives us insight into their relationship.
 I hope you enjoy this little work of imaginative play. It is my way celebrating all mothers and expressing gratitude for their sacrifice, patience, and love.
 Happy Mother's Day!