Friday, December 6, 2013

Mr. and Mrs. Claus!

"Mr. and Mrs. Claus" 2013

Cards Available - Click Here for info!
4 1/4" x 5 1/2", blank inside, with envelope

Before we even entered the beautiful wreath adorned door, we detected holiday aromas of warm oven-baked bread and Christmas potpourri of cinnamon, vanilla, with a hint of pine.  What a warm welcome!  She escorted each of us in with a big, warm Cat-Hug (that’s her name – Cat – famous for her hugs!  We always look forward to a gathering at her home because a superbly gifted hostess she is!)

As other members of our bible study continued to arrive, the chatter volume gradually began to raise, the laughter level increased, and her fabulously decorated large home seemed to grow smaller.   Yes, love had established itself there.

Suddenly, the melodic tune of the doorbell rang.  Being near the entrance at the time, I played the role of hostess.  As I started to open the door, I took note of the “giggle, giggle” happening on the other side.  Smiling, I thought to myself, “More girlfriends!”

I opened the door, and in shock and awe, stood face to face with Mr. and Mrs. Claus - alive and in person.  “Ho-Ho-Ho – Merrrry Christmas!!” bellowed Santa.  Truly stunned and nearly speechless, I hesitantly decided the polite thing to do was to invite them in.  With the excitement of a four-year-old, I called the rest of the girls over as I ushered in our unexpected, yet very special guests.  A lot of gushing, ooh-ing, and aah-ing  took place, all the while Mr. and Mrs. Claus remained in character.  “Who is that?”, I heard some ask.  By that time, we had identified Mrs. Claus, but Santa remained a mystery until someone recognized her beautiful, sparkly eyes slightly hidden behind “his” unruly curly white beard and wire-rimmed glasses. 

So true to their loving, fun, and creative nature, Trudy and Jamie, came bearing gifts that we will never forget - hugs, laughter to the point of tears (and other things), and joy in Him.   No material gifts were exchanged that day, and even if there were, they'd have been forgotten by now.  What remains though are the relationships and the experience we had together.  And that is just what Jesus wants with you. 

There is some controversy as to why Santa’s big entrance coincides with Jesus’ birthday.  While they both come bearing gifts, Santa makes his cameo appearance on Christmas Eve, mysteriously landing on our roofs, and somehow sliding his rotund and heavy clothed body down our soot lined chimneys, leaving generous gifts that have miraculously escaped the filth of the fireplace.   After making his deposit, Santa is off to the North Pole, never to be heard from again - until next year.  There are toys, dolls, video games, clothing, pajamas, books, and games – if you’re one of the lucky ones.  All great fun, but most soon lose their favor in the hours, days, or months to follow. 

So not like Jesus.  See, on Christmas (Jesus’ birthday), Jesus was, and is, God’s greatest gift to the world because in Him is eternal life that never loses its value in our lives.  And if that isn’t enough, Jesus Himself comes bearing gifts to those that seek Him with all their hearts.  He never dumps His gifts and flies back home – actually, He takes up residence in us and promises never to leave us.   And His gifts keep coming throughout the year as He demonstrates His mercy, grace, presence, and love daily.

Oh it is fun to visit Santa at the Mall, get great photos of our children, our pets, or even ourselves!  Those can certainly be loving memories etched in our hearts.  But if you are looking for more than a memory, someone who understands your deepest needs and desires, you don’t have to wait til next Christmas to sit to the lap of Santa.  You can run today to the Cross of Christ, King of Kings and the Lord of Lords!

P.S.  Many thanks to the girls in the Angels of the Morning bible study for an unforgettable Christmas luncheon. (And by the way, they know they are not real angels – but, some would say they are to each other!)  

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Open the Eyes of My Heart

"Open the Eyes of My Heart"
8" by 8" Oil on Canvas Board
Study done at Nancy Franke's Workshop in Atlanta, October 2013
To see her fabulous work, click here !!!  

You know I hate it when God makes me come clean with you guys – well, it was one of those days.  Having been gone for a week, I had planned the day to catch up  on everything I didn’t do last week.  After all, Thanksgiving is just next week and there are bedrooms and bathrooms to clean, turkeys to fry, and pies to buy (bet ya thought I was gonna say bake!)  Then we do it all over again the next week for Christmas –well, it seems like it’s that soon. 

So, I was behind schedule and rushed to Schnucks for the second time that day – had forgotten three things that grew in to six.  Got a great parking space, and before I even got out of my car, I heard the familiar jingle of the Salvation Army bells.  As I approached the double doors, there was an older gentleman (probably about my age) manning the bucket and sure enough, he (not really a vocalist) began singing Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.  Yep, loud enough for the whole parking lot to hear.  Who does that?

While silently admiring his boldness, since I was on a mission I simply smiled and nodded as I passed by, then made a mental note to have some cash in hand on my way out.   Shopping was a breeze but feeling a bit weary, I eyed the coffee bar on the way out.  The aroma won me over, so I stopped for a cup of their special Holiday Blend Coffee – hoping it was just the pick-me-up I needed.  Juggling the extra-large bag of dog food draped over the top of one of those new extra-small carts, my purse, and my coffee, I trudged toward my car. 

Jingle, jingle.  There he was again, only his tune had changed to Frosty the Snowman.  Well, Lord, I’ll have to donate another time – this is just not convenient right now.  I mean, I’d have to find a place to sit my Gourmet Coffee so I could dig through my Designer Purse to find some real money - doubt he takes plastic - not enough time.

A bit uncomfortable, I kept my eyes straight ahead, and after unloading my groceries, I looked for a place nearby to return my cart.  The closest one was way down the row and I didn’t want to walk that far (it was a bit chilly.)  I guess when you get such a great parking spot though, it’s just as easy to return it to the store. 

Wait.  Seriously?  Looking to God, I said, “You are gonna make me walk past him AGAIN, aren’t you?”  No audible answer was heard.  Didn’t need one.  So, I sat my Gourmet Coffee in the drink holder of my comfy car, dug out some cash, shuffled right up to the singing gentleman and sheepishly made my donation, certain he was unaware of the conflict that had just taken place within me.  He said, “Oh, ma’am, you are making God smile.”  Uh, not unless God thinks stubbornness is funny.  Replacing the cart, of course I had to walk past him AGAIN.  He showed me his handy ruler that he brought to stuff all the money to the bottom of the bucket to make room for more.  I said, “You must be doing a good job!”  His response, “God is doing a good job – He’s just using me.”  OMG, could You be any clearer, Lord? 

Agreeing with him, I turned around, smiled, and said, “Amen!”   By the time I returned to my car (seconds), he began singing, “Open the Eyes of My Heart, Lord.”  (I don’t make these things up.)  I stopped asking questions, returned to my car, and sang that song out loud - softly, with the windows tightly rolled up - all the way home.

So, THIS AFTERNOON, I pulled into Schnuck’s parking lot.  Got a great parking space, and before I even got out of my car, I heard the familiar jingle of the Salvation Army bells.  As I approached the double doors, ……and I’m guessin you know the rest of the story :)

“Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.”  Hebrews 3:15

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Soul Food!

"Soul Food I"
5' X 7' on Canvas board
Available - contact artist

"Soul Food II"
5" x 7" oil on stretched canvas
Available - contact artist

I apologize for being gone for so long – I have greatly missed you!  As with most things, when you’ve been away for awhile, it can be a little challenging to get back into the swing of it (like exercise – ugh – still haven’t managed that one yet!)  SOOO, I reached for a simple object to paint – one that was handy, so I didn’t have to think too hard or go too far.  And, you know, since they say it IS helpful to be passionate about your subject matter – I chose FOOD to satisfy the void in my still life set-up!  And just as I had completed my second fruit painting, I received a message from my son about – you got it – FOOD! 

So, today I am pleased to present my guest blogger – John Murray!   (I have edited it down to a “blog-sized” article.)  Hope you enjoy!
“I never fully understood the whole combination of God, hunger, and thirst.  I know the Bible says that God can quench our thirst in the sense that when we are at our worst and desperately cry out for Him, He will come to our rescue.  While that is completely true, I’m not so sure that it’s exactly what is meant when talked about in Bible.  When we physically starve ourselves for a day at a time, or however long it takes someone to become “starving”, we reach the point where we will take just about anything we can get our hands on in order to satiate our hunger.  It doesn’t matter whether the food is good for us or not.  We simply don’t care, as long as it fills our stomach. 
Our souls tend to react in the same way when we don’t feed it every day.  What I mean by “feed our souls” is to spend time with God in prayer, meditate, read the Word, etc.  When we “starve” our souls of this time with God, they react just like our bodies.  We don’t care what we use to fill the void, good or bad, as long as it is filled.  The trouble is, there are plenty of idols out there just chomping at the bit for our invitation to sit on the throne of our hearts.
If we start our day with an empty stomach, we may be able to fight off the temptation to indulge in unhealthy foods early in the day, waiting for something healthy to come along.  However, as the day goes on, just about anything sounds good, especially the tasty, easy to grab, unhealthy foods.  It’s the same with our souls.  As our day progresses, we begin to wear down and become aware of that void, because we haven’t started our day with Him.    Then we are tempted to give in to the easiest, or perhaps even the loudest, voice. Those idols say they will satisfy us and curb our appetites, and they will, but only momentarily, making us want more and more, until we are completely consumed by them, yet never fully satisfied.  
That’s because we can only be fully satiated with God sitting at the throne of our hearts.  Just as taking care of our bodies is a life-long challenge, so it is with our spiritual life.  Regardless of our (in)consistent efforts, temptation will always be at bay.  But, He can extinguish all the desires that idols have to offer, because He is sufficient."
"I am the bread of life.  He who comes to me will never go hungry, 
and he who believes in me will never be thirsty."  John 6:35

Well hey – at least I chose fruit instead of a bag of chips!!!  And thank you, John, for your sharing your valuable insights that truly apply to every single one of us!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Surprise, Surprise!

"Chance Meeting You Here!"
5" x 7" Oil on stretched canvas
Available at BasketKases

Phone:(812) 491-9799
2009 Lincoln Ave, Evansville, IN 47714

Ever had one of those experiences that you know beyond know that you are in the right place at the right time – God-ordained at that moment?  Well, it happened to me – today.

Humbled.  Speechless and Humbled.   

I am totally blown away by our meeting – what seemed to be pure unadulterated chance.  From my end, blind-sided would be an appropriate description.  From the other persons – well, let’s just say she read something I wrote last night and this morning, she had wondered when she would see me again, only to look up and see me walk through her door (I was meeting someone else). 

Her need was unknowingly met by me - which so touched my heart - and my need by her.  Or, shall we say truthfully, God met our needs through each other.  Tears filled my eyes, as they did hers.  I love it when He loves us that way – caring so much that He actually hand-picks people and places in our lives at just the right time, so that we can’t miss Him.  Definitely a "God-thing".

I know you’re just itching to know what this is all about.  As in most situations, there are layers and layers of influence, so I couldn’t begin to describe the parameters of application, nor do I even know them all, so no point in details.  And what God has to say to either one of us, isn’t necessarily what He wants to say to you!  But, overflowing with thoughts and revelations, I do want to share my general take-aways, so here goes:

    1)  Always utilize the gifts God gave you, even when you think they’re minimal, going unheard, unnoticed, unworthy, unimportant, useless, etc. , or you’d rather have someone else’s.  And stop saying you didn’t get any gifts b/c I know you did – ‘tis biblical!  (For starters:  1 Peter 4:10 says "Each one should use whatever gift He has received to serve others ......")

   2)  Scripture tells us that God is with us always, but you never know when He might make a surprise “invisible visible” appearance!

   3)  God sometimes speaks through other people – and when He does, if you’re listening (oh so important to be listening), you know it!

   4)  Be careful what you say or do in His Name – you may just be told to practice what you preach (aka: read your own blog)  Uh....really?  OKAY!!!   (Thank you, Debbie!)

Be watching for your own "God-thing" experiences, or even moments!  I know you have them - please, please share - we'd love to hear!!!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Hold On to His Promises!

"Sunshine on a Gray Day"
5" X 7" on canvas panel
Frame available

In the Midwest, we have had our fill of cold, wind, ice, snow, sleet, and rain.  While nature does bring us some "teaser" days, we’re frequently looking at gray.  And we love to talk about it – hoping to find some comfort in the assumption that “misery loves company.”  Add to that, for some crazy reason, many of us are emotionally affected by the weather.  In our minds, it sets the tone for the day – whether it’ll be a good or bad one.  If it’s gray outside, it’s usually gray inside.  And we’re tired …… of waiting …… for the earth to get the memo that according to our calendars, spring was to have sprung March 20, 2013!  

Well, except for in my studio!!!  See, I probably tired sooner than the rest of you, so since late January, I have been painting flowers from photos or life (don’t you love how they have strategically placed the floral department at your local grocery so you walk by them as soon as you enter = lifted spirits, let’s eat!)  While all my efforts may not turn out suitable for public consumption, the “sun” truly does shine on my easel! 

You say that I’m living in denial?   Perhaps - but could it be forward thinking - of God’s promise of the seasons?  (“While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” Gen. 8:22).  And, even if just for a few hours, I am living as if His promise is already here?

Sometimes we find ourselves in a season of life we don’t particularly like – or even hate - cuz it’s hard, or painful, or depressing.     We want out, and the waiting just sometimes seems too difficult to bear.   But what if we found a little sunshine on gray days – either in reality or in our minds?  

    What if we just picked a flower from His bouquet of faithful promises and
enjoyed it right now, as if it were ours - to claim, to hold in our own hands.
Because it is and He wants us to!

I hope you have time to enjoy this music video of Promises by Sanctus Real!

Oh ...... and P.S......There are tulip leaves peaking out of the ground at my house!


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Let Love Light Your Way!

"Let Love Light Your Way"
12" X 12" Oil on Raymar Panel
Available with accompanying gift basket thru Silent Auction
Albion Fellows Bacon Center Gala
Saturday, April 13, 2013
The Manor Auditorium, St. Mary’s Medical Center

Little Graham has a four-year-old obsession with flashlights.   He has a variety of uses for his coveted treasure – from making fun light patterns on the ceiling of his bedroom after his mom turns out the light at night, making a tent under his covers, assisting mom in finding the Easter decorations in the attic, to shining the light in his sisters’ faces – oh, the thought process of a little guy!  What power he must feel, though, to be in control of such a useful tool – one that elicits an immediate response - all at the flip of a switch that he holds in his hand!

On my recent trip to Sam’s Club,  I decided to make a “stop” before I began shopping.  As I approached the restroom, I noticed the lights were out.   I hesitated before proceeding, but decided my situation warranted it.  I had walked about five feet in when I realized how pitch black it was (no windows), heard some movement , and decided to re-think this.   So, I went back out and looked around for an “out-of-order” sign, “men working”, or possibly a hidden camera?  My eyes landed on - the light switch.  Hmmmm, I wondered.  Out of urgency, I thought, “What do I have to lose?”  So, like Graham, I flipped the switch. 

Abracadabra – as in magic, there was LIGHT!  The room was flooded with a lovely cold fluorescent light that reflected off all the other shiny, cold institutional–looking surfaces.  (I know, it’s just a public restroom!)   Elated, I entered and saw there was a woman in each and every stall.   (Honestly, what were they thinking?)  I nearly laughed out loud as one passed me on her way out – mum – as if nothing had happened.  

Are we okay with walking in the dark?  Are we so oblivious we don’t even notice?  I think of all the times I “walk in the dark”, stumbling into things to find my way  - sometimes hurting or getting hurt in the process.   Without the help of the Holy Spirit, we truly are walking in the dark, letting the bumps be our guide, and hoping we don’t fall into a pit we can’t see.  Sometimes a seemingly innocent one-time decision can cause us to slip into a black hole and lead to a lifetime of bondage, pain, and suffering.   And on the flip side (sorry, couldn’t resist) how quickly we can have hope by simply turning on the switch – asking for God’s love, direction and power to light our path.

The Word tells us that “God is Love” (1 John 4:16b), “He is the light of the world, (John 8:12),
and "He illumines our darkness”  (Psalm 18:28b)  

Let love light your way!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Er-Er-Er-Er-Urrrrrrrrrr Rooster Gang

"Rooster Gang I - Claude"
6" X 6" Oil on Raymar Panel

"Rooster Gang I - Henry"
6" X 6" on Raymar Panel

You may remember I mentioned in my last post that there were a lot of roosters running around Key West when we visited last month.  What I didn’t tell you is that they have no respect for the lazy tourist who wants to sleep in occasionally.   I got up (WHILE IT WAS STILL DARK) for a drink of water, only to be greeted by the early morning call of the neighborhood rooster gang outside our door.
“Wakeup, wake up, wake up –
you’re about to see the most beautiful sunrise ever!!!!! 
If you go back to bed, you’re gonna MISS IT!!!!! 

This New Year’s morning, I was thankful to be in my own bed as we had a rather late night.  I had the pleasure of spending a couple of hours with my friend who barely escaped death this past year.  Beautiful, smart, successful, and healthy, Diane Seller’s life totally changed one Tuesday afternoon.  She had a massive cerebral hemorrhage, leaving her with some neural deficit.  She remembers nothing of the first few weeks, but since then, I think it’s fair to say that she has “lived” every waking moment.  It is because of her passion for life, her determination for recovery, her cheerful and positive attitude, her faith, and obvious answer to prayer that she now walks without assistance, keeps up with any conversation fluently, and has regained her “Master” status at any game she attempts! 

Diane is quite an inspiration to all who know her.   I visited her in therapy a few times and saw how hard it was for her to turn a wheel or write her name, yet she painfully pushed herself through to the next level - over and over.

Oh, she had some cheerleaders by her side as her family, local, long-distance, and internet friends rallied to encourage her and support her, providing prayer, meals, rides, companionship, and encouragement.    Oh yeah, good things happened.   In some ways, all of our lives have changed since that day. 

As we begin 2013, I bet you have at least one new year’s resolution to improve your life – exercise, stop procrastinating, eat organic, learn a new skill,  start going to church,  improve a relationship – or try to paint almost every day!  Or maybe, you too, you have something huge to overcome.  Whatever it is…….

What IF we embrace it with Diane’s tenacity and passion?

What IF we, like Diane, push past the roadblocks, obstacles, frustrations and distractions .…
And run in a way as to get the prize!

“Throw off everything that hinders - and the sin that so easily entangles -
and run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”
Hebrews 12:1b

Ya never know – you may see the most beautiful sunrise EVER!!