Sunday, January 31, 2010


Here in Middle Tennessee, we don't get much snow. We traditionally get a couple of snows a year. Only one of which accumulates to over an inch and a half. A blizzard by our standards. The thing is, we in the south get more ice than snow. Folks from the north laugh at how we freak out over the smallest dusting of snow. Whenever we get our "Big One" for the year, the whole place pretty much shuts down. This weekend, our area got a beautiful 2 to 7 inches of snow/ice. And there is much excitement in our neighborhood. But after the snow passes, we are left with a long season of cold and drab. By now, winter is getting old. I'm sure the folks in the north long for spring much more the we do. But even down here, where there is rarely snow, we too long for the warmth of spring.

Crocuses are heralds for the reign of spring. They are among the first signs telling us that new life is on it's way. They dare to bloom when all else is asleep and frozen. They remind us that death is but a season and that life will bear fruit again. They bring us hope for new beginnings. I bet we long for God's grace even more earnestly than we long for spring. And so we hope. We wait. We watch.

So I felt that it is appropriate today to post a painting of hope represented by a crocus blooming from the snow covered earth. This is one of three paintings in a series I like to call "Consider the Lilies." It is inspired from Jesus' lesson to not worry about what we will wear or what we will do. But rather consider the flowers of the field. They do not labor or toil, they just are. And they are beautiful by just being what they are. I wondered, "What other lessons we could learn from the flowers in our world?" So far, I only have three painted. But I'm convinced there will be more paintings in the future. The three I have completed were grouped in a set. They were "Faith, Hope, and Love." Paul tells us these three truths will remain when all else in the world is gone. The greatest of which is love.

But for now, let us consider hope.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Suffering with Job

Every now and then, we are reminded of the reality that bad things happen in life, and there's nothing we can do to stop it. The story of Job is one such reminder in the Bible. It is brutally honest in exploring the idea that we are helpless against the tragedies of life. It flies in the face of conventional wisdom that God will protect the faithful from calamity. Job shows us that faith does not protect us from tragedy. It only determines how we live with it. And I'm intrigued at how Job deals with his. He lost everything: home, family, his own health. And for a long time he waited to hear an response from God as to why God would punish him so badly. His friends tried to convince him that he must have done something wrong to make God angry. Job maintains his innocence. And when he get his chance to speak with God, he complains and confronts God. To which God replies "Where were you when I formed the foundations of the world?" in essence saying, "What do you know about the universe, little creature?" Job is silent. He then moves on to rebuild his life.

Every day, the world is filled with "Job" moments. Some are massive, like hurricane Katrina or earthquakes in Haiti. Some personal, like being diagnosed with cancer or loosing a loved one. All are moments where our support beams (money, family, faith, etc.) are swept out from under us. It causes us to question why a loving, all powerful God would allow such horrors to happen. Thankfully, God is big enough to hear our outcry and accusations of injustice and not be offended. God suffers along side of us and comforts us in gentle ways that no else can. It is one of God's great mysteries that we may never understand.

The Job story is living out in the lives of countless Haitians today. I recall a story about one Haitian man who survived the disaster along with his family and home. He wanted to do something to help in a helpless situation. So he went to the hospital and sat among the victims. He sat with them, held them, and listened to their stories. Such a story inspires me. During times of tragedy, I often lack the words to say and the ability to aid. But "just being there" for someone is something I think I can do.

This pen and ink drawing of Job spends most of its days in my closet. It's not the sort of thing we enjoy hanging over our living room mantle. But every now and then, it gets pulled out for reflection. Some have used it as a visual aid in classes on the story of Job. I guess life kind of goes the same way. We hide the ugly in our closets until we are ready to see it. So I bring it out today to share with you. And so, on this blog where beauty is often displayed, may Job always be with us to remind us and humble us. As dark as this drawing is, it is mild compared to the real portraits of pain and suffering in our world. I pray that when we meet Jobs out there in life, we may have the love to suffer with them.

Peace be with you all.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Vine

Every fall, for the past few years, I have had the honor of exhibiting my work in an art show/sale for St. Matthew’s Catholic Church. The premiss of the show is to raise funds for the church by selling "faith-inspired" art. Although I’m not Catholic, this is right up my alley. Many of the pieces you will see on my blog have been in these shows. My wife, Rhonda, and I have an agreement: I can devote the time to paint for the show as long as I come up with something we would put up in our home in case it didn't sell. Fair enough.

The inspiration for this piece came from three origins. The first creative germ came from the Gospel of John, chapter 15. "I am the vine, you are the branches. Remain in me and you will bear much fruit." This scripture was read at our wedding, and has always been a core scripture for us. The second germ came from a childhood memory of Rhonda's. As a child, she used to play hide and seek under the beams of grape vines in a vineyard. She told of how light danced about underneath the canopy of grapes. She described to me how the support frames for the vines reminded her of a cross. And finally, Rhonda has always wanted a piece depicting the elements of communion in a natural way. So after blending the three ideas together, and doing some research, I created this piece entitled "The Vine".

There actually is a lot of things going on in this piece. At first glance, it looks like a cross with grapes hanging form it. But the support structure is actually "T-shaped". I deliberately hid that fact with a bunch of grapes to create the "allusion" of a cross. This makes the connection to the verse. It also speaks to one of the great "I AM" sayings about Jesus and God's Sacrificial Love that is the foundation for our love. There is a lot of light dancing about in the scene, peaking thru the leaves, ripening the grapes and casting shadows on the beam. This makes the piece very elemental with themes of Earth, Light and Communion. The grapes are turning to full ripeness. They are in the process of turning. Some faster than others. Not yet fully ripe. Not all green. So is the community of faith, or our own personal faith.

Happily for Rhonda, this piece never sold. Probably because it was really meant for her. It now hangs in our foyer. There is a lot of natural light in our foyer which accentuates the light in the painting. So if you ever stop by to visit and see it, you'll know the backstory behind it.

Wherever you are in the vine of God's Love, may you continue to bloom. And as we play in the fields of our God and come to the table of Grace, may this painting be a reminder of our identity and relationship to our Lord.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

"My Eyes Have Seen Salvation"

OK. I know for most of us Christmas is so 2009. But for many Christian traditions, the Incarnation of Christ is still being celebrated. This piece was created to to help celebrate the Advent and Christmas season of 2009/2010 for my church. It went with a series of sermons that were themed together under the title "People of The Promise".

This painting is set in the context of a story in Luke 2:21-35 where Jesus is being presented in the temple. It is the moment when Simeon holds Jesus and gazes on The Promise fulfilled. In the background, the witnesses are other figures of Jesus’ past, present and future, who’s eyes have also “seen salvation.”

From left they are:
Jeremiah (holding a staff intertwined with a vine sprouting a new shoot)
John the Baptist (placing a comforting hand on the shoulder of his mother)
Mary (looking motherly towards Jesus. She also leans slightly towards Elizabeth hinting at a sense of closeness that only they can share.)
Simeon (hunched over to bring the baby Jesus into view of his weary, aging eyes)

I love how this juxtaposes the timeline of events around Jesus. I also love the intergenerational nature of this piece. And when you think about it, this piece also has a lot of baptismal significance.

The story of Simeon is one of my favorite Christmas stories. But it is seldom read in worship. I think that is a major reason why I like it so much. When the rest of the world has had their fill of mangers and shepherds, it's nice to know there are still some Christmas surprises left in the scriptures.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

And the Spirit of God Moved Over the Waters

Since this is my genesis as a blogger, I thought this would be the appropriate starting piece. It is an idea on a passage from the first verses of Genesis. When the world was formless chaos, the spirit of God moved over the waters. Like a rising dawn, God's Grace conquers the darkness and calms the tidal forces of chaos. This passage begins a long history of special relationship between water and Grace. From the flood, to the calming of storms, to baptism, God continues to use this element of life to remind us of God's creating, and re-creating, love for the world.

There are actually two versions of this painting in existence. One was bought by a church, the other was commissioned to be reproduced at a larger size for a family. The husband is a Sea Captain. Whether you are on land or at sea, I hope you find peace and comfort in the loving God who is Lord over the chaos of life.