Saturday, December 3, 2011


Let’s admit it. We all struggle with God. Our wants and desires are continually in conflict with God’s will for our lives. We struggle the hardest with questions of faith like the existence of evil and suffering in the face of an all loving, all powerful God. Here’s a little secret — it’s OK to wrestle with God.

Jacob wrestled with God in the 32nd chapter of Genesis. He wrestled with a mysterious stranger all night. When dawn approached the stranger dislocated Jacob’s hip and asked to be let go. Jacob agreed under the condition that he be given a blessing. The stranger declared that Jacob would, from then on, be know as “Israel” — a name that means “God Wrestler.”

This painting explores Jacob’s wrestling match on that life-changing night. The painting shows two opponents locked in conflict. It’s the kind of situation where the exhausted and weary opponents are supporting each other as much as struggling against each other. Their bodies are lit by a starry sky. The stars remind us of the Abraham’s covenant with God — that his descendants will be as many as the stars.

I would argue that God’s grace is big enough to allow us the honesty and freedom to wrestle. Like Jacob’s hip, God could put us in our place at any moment. Instead, God lets us wrestle — giving us support when we need it. The stars bear witness to our relationship with God. As Christians, we share in God’s covenants. We too are children of “Israel,” and therefore, “God Wrestlers.”

So go ahead. Let it out. Be like the Psalmists and cry out to God all that you consider unjust. We need not fear to approach God with our honest feelings, pains and doubts. Our questions do not alienate us from God. Rather, we encounter God when we question. There can be no FAITH without doubt. God’s steadfast love is strong enough to handle anything humankind can hurl at it. And when we DO wrestle with God, our perceptions of truth and the ways we live out our lives are forever changed.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Awake My Soul

Arise! Shine! Your Light has come!
These are some of the thoughts I wanted to convey
with this year’s Advent art.

Without God, all is darkness. Then God speaks a Word, and everything is forever changed into a new creation. During Advent, we welcome God’s coming into the dark places of our lives and awakening us from our dark slumber into renewed life. This is not a soft, passive awakening. It is cosmic alarm clock. It is the dawn of creation itself. God's loving light shatters the darkness and reforms it into a new, colorful creation. As the Gospel of John puts it, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

This Advent Season, may your life be so awakened, illumined, and reformed by the Light of God.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Holy Ground

Sometimes I wish that I could get a sign from God like Moses – so I painted one.

In the book of Exodus, God appears to Moses in the form of a bush, blazing as with fire, yet not consumed. God instructs Moses to take off his sandals, for he is standing on Holy Ground. God calls Moses to lead God’s people out of Egyptian slavery. This begins a wonderful dialogue between Moses and God, and sets into motion the great deliverance of God's people.

But for me, God reveals in more subtle, abstract and quiet ways. So subtle, in fact, that I could easily have missed it had I not looked with eyes of faith. I believe that God calls each of us to something great. Ok - maybe not as big as delivering a nation form slavery. But God calls us to acts of love that (to us) can seem just as impossible and frightening. But fear not. God is with us, believing in us, leading us, and empowering us to fulfill that call.

If you ever need a reminder that God is always with you, empowering you, and calling you to something great – here’s your sign.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

Here we are, at the end of the Lenten season, about to remember the last supper and death of our Lord. I wanted to post this painting I made of our church's cross as a reflection of this season. Ironically, I took the photo on my way to Ash Wednesday service, at the beginning of the season. Our church is blessed with beautiful sunset views. I saw this scene and snapped a photo with my phone. But as I painted it, I realized this image reveals a lot more about Lent than I had initially seen.

First is the time of day. Dusk. A time where colors become passionate and vivid as the light of day descends to the horizon of darkness. The lenten story remembers the death of Christ, the "Light of the World." When he died, the world fell into shadow. I like how these dusk colors show the light not yet gone, struggling to illuminate with the stripes of mint blue, pink and purple close to the horizon.

Next is the moon. Good Friday and Easter are not celebrated on the same day every year like Christmas. The calendar is lunar-based as they are tied to the jewish Passover. The Passover was the context for the Last Supper.

There is the purple cloth. The cross is draped in purple during Lent. It conjures up thoughts of Christ's passion. He was mocked as "King of the Jews," adorned with a robe and a crown of thorns. Purple is a color associated with many lenten images. It is the color of royalty. It is the color of wine, the cup poured out for us. It is the color of bruising, for Christ was beaten, scourged and crucified. And I would contend it is a color of deep, deep love.

Then there is the wind blowing the cloth. The Holy Spirit is often described as wind. It makes a good metaphor for the Holy Spirit because like the spirit, wind itself is invisible and can only be seen by its effects. There was a lot of unseen power at work in the saving death of Christ. A power we can now see in its effect in our lives.

Finally, there is the cross itself. A shape resembling the manner in which Christ died. He was crucified – a tortuous, brutal death. But this cross is not really a cross of death. It is a cross of victory over death. It is empty. Christ is no longer here. He is risen. That is the surprise ending to the story. It is the good news and the Easter hope to which we cling. This is a Celtic Cross. The circle represents the halo of victory and the ring of eternity. Even as we take time to pause and reflect on Christ's death, secretly, deep down, our souls smile in the assurance that sin and death no longer has a hold on us.

So there it is. A brief moment at the end of an average day. A moment almost missed in the hustle and bustle of life, even going to church. A moment that, when seen with eyes of faith, can reveal a lifetime of mystery and an eternity of grace.

A good Holy Week to you all.
And a most happy Easter.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Well

We all know what it’s like to be thirsty for something to drink.
But have you ever been thirsty for peace in your life?
Have you ever been thirsty for a deeper connection with God?

In the fourth chapter of the Gospel of John, the story of Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well addresses how to quench that kind of thirst. This painting of “The Well” illustrates how the story speaks to me.

The scene is set in the heat of the day, the time of day that most people avoid the labor of fetching water from a well. The landscape is barren and dry. The composition is one of solitude. It is minimal almost to the point of being boring and easily overlooked. At first glance the whole piece is one of loneliness and drought.

We watch the discourse between Jesus and the woman form a distance – so we don't intrude on the privacy of the moment. The figures of Jesus and the woman are contrasted in white and black. The colors are classically symbolic of Christ’s righteousness and our brokenness. They also symbolize the divide between their respective cultures. The woman was Samaritan, a culture with whom Jews would not associate. Jesus dares to love her in spite of social labels and traditions. Jesus looks directly at the woman, speaking words of truth. The woman is guarded, not looking directly back. There is clearly a distance between them, but not for long.

As the conversation in the story continues, the drought in the woman's life becomes a flooded with renewal. Likewise, the painting transforms along with her. In their discourse, you can see the miracle of human interaction. You can see the wonders of belonging to a relational God. You can see that God DOES encounter us in very personal ways. Although the colors in this painting are dusty and dry, the strokes are arranged to give a subtle appearance as that of light reflecting on water. When you look at the painting in that light, the worn, dry path to the well becomes a river of Grace. The stone well looks less like an island and more like a floating raft. The two people are no longer traveling strangers. They are now traveling companions.

That is what the ”drink” offered by Christ can do for us. Through prayer and the love of others, we encounter God in very real ways. God’s Word revives us and saturates the dry cracks in our lives. When life seems full of dust and drought, we can feel refreshed, renewed, and alive. When we feel isolated and alone, we can find belonging.

May we all be so refreshed by God’s gracious gift in Jesus Christ.


Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Gospels

For centuries, the four Gospels have been depicted as certain winged creatures. I suspect this was done so illiterate followers of the faith could recognize an illustration to be that of a certain Gospel. Sometimes, a famous story or parable would be painted. And if that story was found in the Gospel of Matthew, the iconic image of Matthew would appear somewhere in the painting. Other times, all four Gospels would be carved on a door or cathedral facade. Traditionally, Matthew has been represented as a man, symbolizing Christ’s humanity. Mark, a lion, for Christ’s authority. Luke, an ox, for Christ’s sacrifice. And John, an eagle, for Christ’s spirituality.

This painting is a more contemporary take on the ancient images. These beings are not winged. But there is still a subtle lighting effect behind each one to hint at something spiritual. This composition is made up of four canvases. They are arranged to make a cross. They also take your eye on a circular journey that alludes to the “eternal” in these special writings. I wanted to explore the concepts inherent in each creature. How does it broaden our understanding to see Jesus as a human, a lion, an ox, or an eagle?

Take a look at these images, and recall your favorite stories about Jesus. For the most part, all we know about the life and message of Christ is found in these four books. And these four images can also speak volumes about the mystery of Christ, “The Word Made Flesh.”

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Guidance: Day and Night

OK. It’s a new year. For many of us, it’s a time where we reflect on where we’ve been and wonder where we are to go in the year to come. So I thought now would be a good time to post a piece on God’s guidance.

God delivered the Hebrews out of slavery in Egypt and led them through the wilderness with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Each and every day, God’s people looked up and knew that God was with them—leading them to a promised home.

These are two vertical gallery canvases painted with only a palette knife. This technique rendered the pillars to appear more abstract, yet still very recognizable. Presented as a pair, they harken to the Old Testament like tablets of the The Law. They also possess a liturgical feeling like a stole draped around the shoulders of a pastor. They are meant to remind us that God has always been and always will be with us.

These very different images juxtapose each other in multiple ways. They reflect the many ways we encounter God. At times, God can seem like the cloud. Comforting. Gentle. Quiet. Refreshing. Other times, God can seem like fire. Refining. Protecting. Passionate. Scathing. But God’s love remains the same. God provides our daily bread, the exact portion we need, to survive another day in the wilderness. God guides us with wonders of grace, we have only to look with eyes of faith.

Wherever our journey takes us, no matter how lost or alone in life’s wilderness we may feel, we can always trust in God’s presence and guidance—every day and every night.