Sunday, April 19, 2009

April's Studio Friends Give-away!

Another "Studio Friends" Opportunity!

Set of 8 Floral Notecards. My most recent notecard set.

This month, for the remaining weeks of April, I'm offering a set of note cards in a drawing for current and new members of my "Studio Friends" group. If you are not yet a member, join my group (Google Group sign up to the right side of the blog) and leave me a comment below! Be sure to mention in your comment that you'd like to be included in the drawing. If you are an existing member, just post your comment and request below. From those members who have left a comment, I will have a random drawing at the end of April - and someone will receive a set of notecards as a free gift!

"Why am I doing this?", you may ask! This is my way of generating some fun and interest during difficult economic times! I am interested in developing my email list and am always interested in developing dialog and communication with people who enjoy art and who are interested in what I'm doing in my studio. Just because things are difficult in our economy is no reason not to stay in touch, overcome the negative press, and celebrate what is good! Celebrating with the arts is a great way to do that!

If you are unsure about joining an email group - read more on the right side of the blog. Your information is entirely private and never shared!

Leave your comment below and wait for the results at the end of April! And between now and then - keep watching my blog. It has been a very busy couple weeks, but I plan to have more work posted soon!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Easter Lilies, final version

Easter Celebration, 5x7" Oil on canvas
ready to frame

Here is the final version of this painting, which was posted a few days ago. I have added a bit more shadow and color to the flowers. All in all, I like the sense of color poetry!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Sunday Morning! Everything is changed…

Easter Celebration, 5x7" Oil on Canvas

At the end of the day on Friday – the world had fallen apart for the friends of Jesus. He was dead. They all had seen it. They’d watched his terrible death, had seen him taken from the cross, watched as the stone was rolled in front of the tomb. Their hopes and expectations were dashed, and their beloved friend was dead. It couldn’t have been a worse day.

Then was the day of rest – the Sabbath. And early the next day, on Sunday Morning, some of the women – among them Mary Magdalene – go to the place of burial with the plan to finish the embalming of his body. No sense of hope or expectation. But, they are greeted with something unexpected and Sunday marks a day of joy beyond all their most fantastic dreams!

Picture the scene – a gray early light begins to filter over the horizon. The small group of grieving women makes their way to the gravesite wondering how they will roll back the enormous stone. Perhaps they didn’t know, several guards had also been posted to watch over the grave. The officials were concerned about this man that they’d crucified. No further controversy… be sure no one steals his body and claims he wasn’t dead after all! Just as the women arrive, strange things begin to happen… although these things were just more strange things on a list of odd occurrences in the last few days. Another earthquake! And as the earth rolls under their feet, an angel appears to them. No question about it, this is beyond natural – he is a bright shining body made of light, with shimmering light cascading from him – and he effortlessly rolls back the heavy stone from the grave, and sits on it! Imagine the fear – the guards fall to the ground paralyzed. The unshielded glory of the angel is stunning and terrifying.

Then he speaks Don’t be afraid! Jesus, the one you are looking for and the one whom they nailed to the cross, is not here. Just as he said, he is no longer dead! He is alive – come and see where he was placed! Then, go and tell his friends.

The next scene is the women running to tell the men this astonishing news. Of course, they had to see for themselves and we know that Peter and John race to the gravesite. John arrives first and Peter boldly steps into the tomb and sees the most extraordinary thing! The cloth wrappings that were wrapped around Jesus body are all there – perfectly wrapped, but absolutely empty. Flat. The body is gone.

Understanding is just beginning. They are beginning to remember the words Jesus had said; words that made no sense at the time, but are beginning to make sense now. Words about death and life. Mary Magdalene, however, is somehow stuck in the idea that Jesus body has been taken. She remains at the grave after the others leave – still mourning and weeping. She has not been comforted or reassured. It is in this moment of her distress, that Jesus shows himself first. Ever the man of compassion, he speaks to her Why are you crying? She blurts out her fears and even begins to accuse this man of taking the body. And then, Jesus speaks her name, and in that one word, she recognizes him completely! Her sorrow is suddenly erased! Its true, he is no longer dead!

And the guards? They eventually recover themselves enough to go back to town. They fear for their lives, as they tell the officials what has happened. In a panicked meeting, the Jewish leaders devise a cover-up to quiet this unforeseen development. The soldiers are bribed, and a story of body snatching is fabricated. And yet, Jesus begins to appear to people – again and again. Many people see him! He eats with them, touches them, they touch him, and he continues to teach them … he is a real person, not a ghost – he’s completely recognizable, and yet somehow changed as well. He is no longer bound by all the physical laws of this earth.

He remains with his friends for 40 days and at the end of that time, he makes a promise to them … telling them he must leave their presence but he will send his Spirit to live within them and in doing that, he will never leave his friends until the end of time. That is a promise he continues to keep now and through all of our tomorrows! On that last day of the 40 days the friends of Jesus watch and he is taken up into the clouds, leaving them with joy and assurance and changed lives!
An extraordinary life – God himself enters his creation as a newborn, vulnerable baby. He lives a life of perfection – he brings the good news that God longs for each and every person he’s created. He touches those who are open to him with great compassion. He heals and restores. He confronts and denounces what is wrong with organized religion. And finally, he offers his life for ours. Jesus defies all expectations - he quietly and yet powerfully, turns the tide of evil and wins the ancient war – the rebellion from before time.

Easter is the Celebration of Liberation! It is the most pivotal point in all of history. Each of us, the Bible says, is caught in the web of that ancient rebellion. We are born into it and because we live in a contaminated world, we live in it. We are captive and because of that, we are part of the enemy’s camp. Jesus’ act of love on the cross bought our freedom. He paid the price for our sins himself – and when we rightly compare ourselves to God’s perfection, we see how far short we fall on our own merit. How impossible it would ever be to measure up! God cannot overlook evil, and because he is a God of Justice, payment (restitution) for wrong must be made. The Bible also tells us that the payment for sin is death itself. This is the amazing story of love – Jesus traded his life for ours in his horrible death.

Our liberation from the web of evil comes to each of us by our choice! The gift is offered freely, but we must decide to choose it or to reject it. So, today, Do you believe it?
Will you accept his payment as your ransom?

It is, without doubt, God’s greatest desire. It is the only way – as Jesus himself said – of reconciliation between God and his creation. Jesus himself is the only acceptable payment. This is the thing that sets our faith apart…. It is the only faith that is based on God’s action to save us, rather than the effort of people to make their way to God. Many people bristle at the “exclusivity” of such a statement – and yet it is all-inclusive! Jesus’ payment was for everyone who will believe! What better news could be told?

The Bible tells us clearly that God is not willing for anyone to miss his gift, but he will not force anyone to accept it. So, what must be done to accept it? Simply this – believe in your heart that Jesus has died for you! Recognize that your imperfect life cannot measure up to God’s perfection. And ask him with sincerity to be your Savior. And, the gift of true life, now and forever is yours! A simple prayer said – a lifetime of discovery unfolds – and all of eternity to be lived - beyond our dreams - within God’s great love! Easter’s miracle makes it all possible!

Do you have questions? Do you need more information? Let me know!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday

Holy Week and the meaning of the cross

So, what happened after that amazing reception that Jesus experienced on the last Sunday as he entered the city of Jerusalem. The people were absolutely delighted with him… loved him… wanted more of him. But just a few days later – the mood was changing. And as the week continues, everything goes from glorious to gloomy.

Darkness Descends, approx 4x12"
graphite and colored pencil on mylar

Later, on that Palm Sunday, the Bible tells us that Jesus went to the temple and looked at it carefully. Then, because it was late in the day, he leaves. He apparently spends the night with his friends (probably Lazarus and his sisters) in a nearby town.

Monday. But early the next morning, he makes his way back to Jerusalem with his disciples. There isn’t any moment, now, that Jesus isn’t teaching and talking with his disciples. They don’t really get it yet (how could they?), but he is preparing them for what he knows is coming. This is the day that Jesus goes into the temple in Jerusalem and totally disrupts business as usual. In fact, that is just what was going on … business. Price gouging and deal making … and all of it was exactly what the temple was not meant to be. This was a house of prayer and connection with God; the place that the Jewish people understood that God had chosen to live among them. So, Jesus disrupts that. In fact, he confronts the business people and literally cleans out the temple from this kind of commercialism. It was offensive to God. The leaders of the temple were completely offended by Jesus. They are openly trying to find a way to get rid of him!

Tuesday. Jesus returns to the temple! Bold! Here, those offended by his actions of the day before angrily confront him, but he doesn’t apologize or back down. Though they can’t or won’t see it, he has actually restored to the temple the purposes God planned for it. But, Jesus has disrupted their comfortable and perhaps quite profitable lives. They continue to plot and plan for his demise. That evening, back in the small town of Bethany, Jesus is has dinner with a man who had once had leprosy. During this dinner, a woman enters and using a jar of perfume that cost nearly a year’s salary of that day, she breaks the seal and pours it over Jesus’ head to the dismay of some of those present. But, Jesus accepts her gift – a costly one – and once again tells his followers that he will soon die.

Wednesday. Scripture records nothing that day. From what we know of Jesus, though, we can imagine he was spending time that day with his Father in Heaven in prayer – preparing himself for the days ahead. This may well be the day that his own disciple, Judas, makes plans to sell Jesus out… betray him and hand him over to those who are planning to get rid of him.

Thursday. This is the day the Passover meal would be eaten. Jesus and his followers prepare to celebrate it in Jerusalem. As everyone arrives for the meal, Jesus does something unheard of – profound – he goes to each of them and taking a servant’s role, he washes their feet. That was customary … but not by the host! A servant would do that. Of course, there is a symbolism here, Jesus – the creator of all things, humbling himself to the role of a servant.

And at the dinner, he has more symbolism to share. As he breaks bread to pass around – he symbolizes it as his body. His body…. Broken. For us. The meaning was deep and very difficult for those who did not yet know the plan that was unfolding. And the wine he passes to them is symbolized as his blood. Poured out for us as well. All of this has meaning at Passover, which was an ancient rite for the Jewish people…the remembrance of Moses’ day when a lamb’s blood was the covering for God’s people during Egypt’s judgment. On this Passover, it would be the perfect blood of God’s own Son that would cover people during the world’s judgment.

After dinner that night – during which time, Judas leaves the group – Jesus takes his friends from the house to a garden. It is clear that he is agitated and under a great deal of stress. He goes there to pray and asks his friends to pray with him. While they are in the garden (his friends have fallen asleep), Judas arrives with a gang of people who have swords and weapons – and Judas walks boldly to him and kisses him on the cheek. This is the prearranged sign that the mob is looking for. By force they will take him. But force isn’t needed. Peter, one of Jesus’ friends, angrily takes out his sword and slashes at them, lopping off the ear of the high priest’s servant. Jesus merely touches the wound and it is instantly healed.

Before things escalate further, Jesus speaks –This is all part of God’s plan! I could ask my Father for 10,000 angels to protect us and they would be here in an instant. But, that is not what I am here for... I am here to fulfill the scripture already written.

And suddenly, even his closest friends abandon him in fear. He is arrested and taken captive; willingly, in spite of knowing the horrifying day ahead.

Friday. His trials and beatings begin. All of which were fabricated and illegal and tremendously barbaric. The Roman officials could find no wrong-doing – but eventually, Pilate caves in and hands Jesus over to be crucified at the Jewish leaders’ insistence. He is mocked, and he remains silent. He is taunted and laughingly given a purple robe and a crown made of long and sharp thorns, he says nothing. He is beaten by professional Roman soldiers who carry out this kind of sentence for a living. 39 lashes. Many people died from this… and the 40th lash was said to be the lash of death. It was disfiguring and agonizing. He had not eaten since the night before or had anything to drink. And finally, after the beatings, he is made to carry the cross from the center of Jerusalem up the hill where the crucifixion would occur. It wasn’t like no one was watching, either – there was a crowd. Many people in town for Passover – and it wasn’t like Jesus was some unknown. He’d been the talk of the country for some time. Now, everyone is watching – watching as he is humiliated and as he staggers under the weight of the cross and the wounds of his 39 lashes. As he stumbles, a man named Simon is pulled from the onlookers and conscripted to carry the cross.

On the hilltop, Jesus is nailed to the cross and raised up – just as scripture says it will happen. He refuses the sedative that is often given and hangs without complaint next to common criminals. At about noontime – the sky is suddenly shrouded in a brooding blackness. In fact, all the land is darkened, at noon – for 3 hours. At 3 pm, Jesus calls out – Why, my God, have you turned your back on me? And then, he announces – It is finished. And at that moment he gives up his life – it is not taken from him, but he gives it up. And he breathes his last breath.

Standing there, a Roman soldier – no affiliation with Jewish tradition or teaching or understanding – says in reaction to all he has witnessed, This truly was the Son of God.
The early death of Jesus is reported to Pilate – and he asks for confirmation that Jesus is in fact dead. Confirmation is made by the executioners, and Jesus body is taken from the cross, wrapped and placed in a new tomb. A huge stone is rolled in front of it – and that’s that. But, the women in Jesus life (mother, relatives, friends) watch and make plans to go and embalm him after Passover is complete.

Imagine the horror of all they had seen. Each of his followers must have been overcome – all their thoughts, expectations, all they had poured their life into for the past years was suddenly ended and they had no real answers.

None of this makes any sense without the context of history. Paradise created had been lost. The greatest rebellion of all time preceded the beginning of time. In the presence of a perfect God – the freedom to rebel is permitted. And so by a renegade army of angels begins the deceiving and hostage-taking of the whole human race. Whether we understand it or not, we too are held in captivity as the enemy’s possession.

Nor does this make sense without the understanding of who God is – an Almighty, all-knowing, personal God who is the very definition of love. He is also the very definition of a warrior. So filled with love for the people he created – person by person - and so full of anger at that which has captivated and separated us from himself – and so very aware that we cannot make our way back to him – God chooses to pay the price himself. He rectifies the wrong, provides the ransom, becomes the sacrifice needed to restore his family. The mystery is that he steps into time and his own creation to accomplish all this for me … and for you.

It would be meaningless and horrifying if that ended the story. It is not a suitable ending for an all powerful, all loving, redeeming God. And we don’t yet see what he’s accomplished as a warrior…not yet. But more is to come – in just a few days.

(Read this account for yourself – at the end of the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in the Bible.)

Sunday, April 5, 2009

What's Palm Sunday?

Hosannah, 10 x 12", water color and acrylic on paper

This is the day we mark the beginning of Holy Week, a week of events that completely changed the course of time and eternity. I've been reading the Gospel of Mark again these last few weeks, and am struck anew by the person of Jesus. He was a man like no other.... the man people saw was at once intriguing and disturbing. He spoke with great authority - so much so that educated people constantly commented on it. He knew what he was talking about from a historical and a theological perspective. And he, himself, was not particularly trained in those subjects - he was a carpenter. That was notable.

He was engaging. Crowds of people were constantly following him, wanting to be near him, listening, watching, touching .... wanting more! The crowds got to be so numerous that he had to go down to the lake shore to talk to them - and then, get in a boat and talk from there! And, when he was with these crowds of people - he was compassionate. Touching them, healing them of every kind of illness. There were people who were possessed by evil, who also recognized who he was, and he healed them as well. Over and over again, he reaches out and touches the needs around him ... not as a carnival show - (he tells them again and again not to tell everyone what he had done - like they'd be able to keep silent about having a major deformity or disease completely removed!) - but simply because they needed his touch; they needed to be released from suffering.

He was confrontational, when confrontation was needed. He didn't shrink away from speaking the truth at the risk of public opinion. Especially for the religious leaders of that day, the ones who were supposed to know right and wrong, who had been "trained", he confronted their in- consistencies and their stubborn hearts over and over again. They were caught up in traditions which gave them powerful positions, and that was all that was important to them. With that attitude, they were no leaders at all... in fact, they had totally missed the point of God's heart for the people he had created.

He loved people - all people. His heart was for them - for their healing and restoration. He spoke to them out of love, touched them with love. But, he wasn't politically correct. Instead he was truthful. You get the idea, by reading through the gospels, that Jesus was a compelling person, someone who was good to be with ... and yet, someone that was not "safe and predictable". He was disruptive and at the same time, completely good and trustworthy.

On Palm Sunday (as we now know it), Jesus was on his way back to Jerusalem. And as he returns, he rides into town on a donkey. As usual, crowds of people are in attendance - people who are welcoming the man the whole country is talking about. They line the roadway with their coats and palm branches... and the excitement can be heard in every voice as they shout their praises! The whole city is stirred up.

But the week that will unfold, as unbelievable as it seems, is one that Jesus knows will end much differently. He has predicted his death several times to his closest followers ... and they can't seem to understand. That doesn't fit with the reality of what the people seem to feel about him. But Jesus knows. The mission for which he came to earth ... stepping into history - God taking the form of man - was about to unfold. It would be a week of high drama and terrible violence. A clash between the forces of Good and Evil... played out in a week's time. The culmination of which would change the destiny of people throughout history.

Friday, April 3, 2009

New Botanical Notecards are now available!

You've been watching the progress on these, and now they are available!

A set of 8 notecards, 2 of each of the above designs, with envelopes.
Notecards measure 4.25 x 5.5". Blank inside.
Each of these cards feature a floral pen and ink drawing.

$10.00 per set
(IL. residents, please add 8.25% sales tax. Shipping - $3.00 per set)


Title Contest Winners!
If you have been watching - in the month of March, I opened a Title Contest to
help me name some recent paintings. Well, I got some great suggestions, and now the
titles are chosen.

White Fire, 28x28" Oil on canvas

Dill-icious! 6x6" Acrylic on canvas

Still Steeping, approx 10 x 12", acrylic on paper

Thank you so much, everyone who sent their suggestions! These winners will receive my brand new set of floral notecards, which are just coming off the press! Check in the next few days for a peek at what they look like.

I'll be posting a new promo or contest in the next few days. As I've mentioned, I'm trying to do something interesting and fun every month that gives my "Studio Friends" a chance to interact with what I'm doing! All you need to do is sign up for my email list and you'll be notified of what is going on! This is my way, during difficult economic times, to stay focused and to include YOU! Finding new friends and staying connected to my old friends has never been more important! If you haven't joined us yet - please do! You can see what I'm trying to do ... (and what you won't have to endure) ... on the right side of my blog.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009