Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Noticing brings light
As you know, I am trying to learn to oil paint. I have been working all month on a canvas illustrating aspens in autumn. I enjoy mixing the oranges and yellows and splashing them on the canvas. However, the greens must be handled so carefully. I must focus and decide which green is needed. Do I need an olive green to tone it down or a lime green to highlight the forest?
My teacher, Bill Inman, repeats over and over, “Evaluate what you see in nature. Don’t just go with what you think you know.” I try to control my mind that pops into my mind's eye elementary images of what a tree should look like. I dismiss familiar images and search to create new, fresh scenes. Some readers may think, a tree is a tree, is a tree. I used to think that before I learned to put in shadows, highlights, medium hues, and believable shaped tree limbs. I had a predisposed idea of what a tree limb should look like. I would paint it on the canvas, and Bill would encourage me to rethink how a limb is crooked, incomplete, broken, or very small or large. He is teaching me to alter my preconceived ideas and paint forms from light and dark brush strokes. He is asking me to alter my thinking to create a believable yet interesting painting.
As I drove home from my art class, I thought about how I desire to see more of Jesus. I hunger for a closer walk. I yearn to know his character and his Spirit. How do I do this? I think it is much like learning to paint. I must dismiss my preconceived ideas on how Jesus looks. Instead,, I need to study scripture and discover how the disciples described him, how John described him in Revelations or how Nebuchanezzar described him walking in the fire with his Meshack, Abendigo, and Shadrack. How did Jesus react to others? To authority? To his Father? From these meditations I can discern who Jesus is. I must not lean on childhood Bible books that depicted him as a fragile man in a white gown. I , instead, must find my own definition of who Jesus is and what he looks like. It is a bit like painting. I must focus, evaluate, and then discover my own style and interpretation. God calls me to see Him more clearly each day. I am altering how I see Jesus.
I like the painting at the top of my blog. The artist rendition of the face of Jesus shows so much compassion. I believe this artist discovered his Jesus by studying and learning about him. I share this painting and my experience to encourage you to look at Jesus in the light He reveals to you today. Alter your preconceived ideas by finding new understanding daily.
Monday, September 20, 2010
It is time. I must write, reflect, and disclose my toad tales. Since I was a small child, I have been attracted to toads and frogs. Do you know the difference? Let me explain that frogs live by the water, jump high, are usually brighter green, and have a slimy, smooth skin. Toads don’t need to live near the water, are plumper, have big football shaped eyes, and run or takes small hops to escape. Their plump little bodies just seem cuddly and begging to be held. They are soft, and mushy. The feeling is similar to the shaggy, rubber balls sold at toy stores today. I bet the designer had known a toad.
I remember when I was pregnant with our first born, I would turn the back porch light on to attract nocturnal insects. Then, in my giant while nightgown that fit over my bulging belly, I would grab insects from the light and feed to the toads that lived in my ferns. It was my nurturing nature being fulfilled by timid toads.
When I garden, toads are my friends. They eat the bad beetles and menacing mosquitoes. Squeals of delight can be heard by my backyard neighbors. The reason? I have found Mr. Kudunk hiding under the golden nasturtiums. He hugs his dark, warty body to the earth. He is camouflaged from others, but not me. I grab him and tell him how cute he is. I give him a little squeeze and a kiss on his sweet, soft mouth and tuck him under the leaves of chard. He just makes my heart happy. I hope I have done the same for him. He is one of my favorite creatures made and designed by God.
Another delight I have discovered in toads is their wide low set eyes. They sometimes sleep with the lid half shut and half open. I observe them from my glider on my front patio. Here they prefer living by the splashing fountain and bayberry bushes. They hop, but not high like frogs. They move from place to place and sit and watch me as I watch them. We have a united community. They catch the mosquitoes, and I get to swing longer and watch the sunset.
I give ode to the toad. I value his design, his purpose, and his importance to the earth. For the world is a nasty place, it has fertilizers, pesticides, and pollutants that threaten his life. Toads have few predators. He is divinely equipped with skin that lets out a bitter taste and smell that burns eyes and nostrils of his predators, much like a skunk does. I relate closely to that offense. When anyone attacks my kids and loved ones, I too send words that might burn their eyes or even penetrate their hearts. They back away quickly. I am not proud of my sharp remarks, but please don’t threaten or degrade my loved ones.
One last eccentric pastime is naming my toads. There is Alford, Maria, San Lucia, and Gramps that I have cherished this summer. I call them by name when I pick them up and give them a hug. I don’t need a photo of Mr. Kudunk or the others because their picture in my heart will live forever.
Monday, September 13, 2010
When Shadows Matter
As a child, I would walk quickly trying to trick my shadow. I laughed when my shadow grew tall and skinny. I played tricks on my shadow by sitting under the palm trees to hide from my constant partner. My shadow was my playmate and personal friend.
My Uncle Albert taught me about shadows. He was bald and entertaining to a five year old. He would show me shadows on the wall of a rabbit, fox, and alligator. I waited each afternoon to visit him and comb his hair. He just smiled broadly and sat quietly as I combed through his invisible hair. Then, he would tell me to look at the wall. Suddenly, shadows really mattered.
In my art classes, I have learned the importance of a shadow. It must be in a strategic place to make the painting have depth and believability. Creating shadows and light paths supports the artist’s vision. Shadows create form and value. Without shading and shadows a painting would seem flat and lifeless.
I have learned to respect shadows through the years. But, most importantly God has taught me the importance of shadows through His word.
God promises to use His shadow for my safe keeping. “Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings” Psa. 17:8 Many a time I have visualized a giant wing over me, around me, and under me. I hid in its protection and prayed for mercy. I am intrigued by shadows and realize that even though I cannot touch them, they are real. I need only remind myself that I can’t touch God, but I know He is real. The shadow teaching reminds me of my need for faith.
We are told that our days are like a shadow. We are here today but will wither away like a fleeting shadow. I am reminded in this verse how fragile life is. I must make each moment special and beautiful, so it will be worth remembering. My shadow will flee, but my mercy and love will be remembered. “He springs up like a flower and withers away; like a fleeting shadow, he does not endure.” Job 14:2
I remember vividly the day I saw the shadow of death in Israel. The mountain cast dark shadows and created black ravines. I visually could see what David described as the shadow of death. It was vast, dark, and lonely. Each time I pray this verse, I reflect on the importance of that shadow. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psa. 23:4
I think about shadows often. His shadow gives me protection and rest. I desire to be in His shadow always. I yearn to be the apple of His eye. I realize that shadows are a blessing and important in our lives.
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
As Edna St. Vincent Millay said, “And the day is loud with voices speaking.” I often hear this line of poetry as I arise and try to organize my days’ priorities. When I was working full time and rearing sons, I always anticipated a day when no voices would make demands of my time. My expectations of retirement were long leisurely days of time. I have been retired ten years, and I still hear those voices.
The voices call to me, “Meditate, create, write, paint, garden, and sometimes clean.” I have listed these calls in the order I prioritize. Only one thing tumbles this order, when granddaughters can visit, when friends need help, when I hear God directing me to serve someone this day, this hour.
Meditation must start my day. For thirty-five years or more, I have begun my day with the Lord. Some days there is lingering with the Spirit and hearing His tender songs. Other days there is a word from the Bible that creates a new passion or understanding of God’s love, grace, or power. Often mornings are met with a random Bible verse that I view in a new morning light. I ponder and ask how I am doing at pursuing this truth or command. Early honesty is a must. I know that difficult verses are for easy days. Hard times and troubled days require simple verses that I can just cling and embrace. That is why I spend the first hour learning from God.
I tuck in each epiphany, new lesson, and awareness into a notebook. I reserve the right to pull out these many notebooks and review what God has highlighted. I understand that wisdom is built upon precept upon precept. Understanding of God’s character has taken me years, and I still know so little. Each day with God is graced with new meaning and understanding, and knowing His love. This is the consistent voice that calls to me early each day.
The rest of the calling is then prioritized. I sometimes just grab my paints and create a painting of God’s beauty. Other days, I begin by writing a blog or work on another piece of uncompleted writing. Other mornings after water aerobics, I just enjoy writing random thoughts from quotes or poems. The process of writing clears my mind and boosts my soul. I have kept a journal since I was fifteen. I guess that is why…to clarify my thoughts, inspire my day, and calm my soul.
Then, the voices begin to scream: bike ride, walk the dogs, clean the floors, visit shut-ins, cook dinner for someone, and hey, what about doing something fun with Denny today. The phone yells loudly as it reminds me of: board meeting, church meetings, and art commitments. The sweetest voice is the little voice of my granddaughters, “Mimi, can we come see you?” Those two little girls have dancing voices. I know our season is short. They will grow quickly, and I will no longer be so special to them. I am Mimi who plays house and dolls and does art projects. I must grab each opportunity because it will quickly pass.
I recognize that we all struggle with different demands each day. My neighbor points out that any of the voices that call to me bring a happy season. I am in a wonderful place and am so thankful for God’s provisions and grace. That is why I follow that first voice of the morning, my Creator’s.