Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Goose, Goose, Swan!!

11" X 14" Oil on Canvas Panel 
He was lurking in the wooded shadows near Monet's bridge behind the quaint, historic New Harmony Inn.  It was late afternoon - the day after our daughters wedding.   Though sensing his movements, it was hard to identify a shape.  I anxiously wondered what was hiding in that area of barren brush and freshly fallen leaves - likely a goose?   Yeah, probably a goose.

Suddenly I heard a big splash as he majestically propelled his graceful body out of the darkness into the light, swiftly gliding on to the glittering sunlit waters.  The brilliant light both illuminated and intensified his color. This was no goose, but a beautiful swan!  The contrast of his shadowed, yet now hued areas against his white body was stunning.   I moved toward my camera, knowing that no photograph would ever capture the lively reverberation of energy that was playing out before me.

While we can appreciate the valiant efforts of our human attempt to reiterate something, there are some things that just have be experienced.  

When we answer Gods call from darkness into His light, we not only begin to reflect the Son, but even our dark places of sin, shame, and bondage become colorfully enlightened ..... in a way that demonstrates His incomparable transforming power and gives hope to those still lost in the shadows!  

"..He called you out of darkness into His marvelous light..."
1 Peter 2:10 (ESV) 

Monday, September 7, 2015

Golden Retriever II

"The Invitation" 
8" X 8" Oil on Linen panel

I told him no at first ……even though that handsome irresistible grin seemed to be choosing me.  I had an artistic idea in my mind, and well, he just didn’t meet my expectations.  It would have been easier to just say yes.  But no, I knew best ....... really wasn't an option. 

Frustrated, I poured over my choices again and again.   I kept asking Lyn, his “mom”, to send more pictures, hoping I’d see just what I wanted!   As a last resort, I enlisted the help of my artist friend, Colleen, and my teacher, Chris.  They pointed out some things that made me take a step back and re-think the whole situation. 

It was humbling, but I realized I had been looking for the wrong thing – a serious, traditional regal pose -  a picture of perfection with all things right – the icon of "Golden Retriever-ville."  So, now with an open mind, I began to study all the views, to take time to really see him.   The more I studied him, the more my heart began to move.  This loveable big guy was inviting me on an adventure - to leave my worries behind …. to play like a child – to run free, to play catch and Frisbee, to roll in a pile of fall leaves.... to laugh til I cried, and to love til it hurt!  So, I gave him a big imaginary hug and I said YES!!  Meet Mort.

After his mom told me stories about him, I realized his personality matched what I was seeing and knew it was the story my painting was to tell.   Being the good-looking hunk that he was, you may not be surprised to learn that Mort loved to be told how handsome he was!  He had a bit of a sinful streak in him tho – he loved to steal.  Yeah, the socks right off your feet.  Of course he thought the ensuing chase was the best – so fun!!!  And he slept in the bathtub.......what??

I can’t believe I took so long to choose this reference photo.  I think the problem began with the fact that my mind was closed to anything other than what I had created in it – I was literally BLIND to my options.  That is, until someone helped me see things differently.   

You know, some decisions need to be made with our head; others with our heart.  And then there are those decisions that we may initially make with our heads….. that then, in turn, truly change our hearts and lives.

Many in Jesus’ day did not acknowledge Him as the answer to the prophesied Savior – a King.  And so they missed out – they overlooked Him because He wasn’t the picture they had in their minds.  Like many of us today, maybe you know about Him but often look right past him in a world of need, sin, and destruction – all in searching for answers that you imagine.   Maybe if we’d listen to that friend that is reaching out, take a closer look and study who He really is, BE WITH HIM, our hearts would recognize His invitation and accept it – to love and receive love, to forgive and receive forgiveness, to live in freedom!  Just say YES!!!

"...yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life..."
John 5:40   (ESV)

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Yellow Lab

8" X 8" oil on linen panel

I thought we were doing a good thing...choosing that cute playful bundle to bring into our family.  But wow – did she make this 60-ish year old empty-nester get up on her feet!  It was as if we suddenly “owned” a toddler!

About a year after our golden passed, we began to think about getting a new family pet.  If you know me at all, you've heard my frequent verbal expression of displeasure in Gabe’s overly abundant shedding, as well as the  house rule:  “Do not wear black to the Murrays! “  

So, in choosing our next family member, our thought processes went something like this:  Golden Retriever vs. Labrador Retriever – same sweet, laid-back just-fold-in kind of temperament, short fur (as in less).   You see the logic, right?  Please say yes.  I know – you’d think two grown adults would have more sense than that.  Maybe it’s just that we believed what we wanted to believe because it was the one and only breed we could remotely agree on.

Well, suffice it to say – I love, love, love this dog.  But, Gabe she is NOT.  In no way are their personalities the same – well, to give her the benefit of the doubt – not yet, anyway.  I know I exaggerate a bit – ahem – but that little 5 pound piece of abundant energy with not one ounce of innate sense of right and wrong totally has totally consumed my life for her first year and a half.   (I can still hear my grandson in his little sing-song mimicking tone, thinking I wouldn’t hear him..…..”Maizey, Maizey, Maizey.”  Don't you love it!)

Feeling as if there were no hope and out of necessity to maintain my sanity, family relationships, and physical health, I took her to obedience training.   We immediately bonded when she began to respond to my commands.  And with each subsequent act of obedience came a treat.  Fast forward a year or so - I stand amazed at her response to positive training, and how it transformed her unmanageable and self-destructive spirit into one that willingly submits to her  “master” and loves living her life of obedience. 

There are so many parallels to our walk with Jesus that I find demonstrated in my  “Walk with Maizey.”  (So glad God “dumbs things down” for me!)  It begins with submitting our untamed, unsaved lives to His Authority, therein allowing Him to change us into His likeness, guiding us daily, and assuring our eternity.  When we align our hearts with His, we place ourselves into a position to be blessed  - the “treat” that results from obedience.

Oh and the rule about not wearing black to our home – sorry to say – still stands!

"....choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve...."
Joshua 24: 15

          1.  Why do you believe what you believe? 
          2.  Who/What have you submitted yourself to – Who is your master??
          3.  How’s that workin for you?

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Golden Retriever

8" x 10" oil on linen panel

Loved having lunch with a special girlfriend the other day!  After catching up on our latest vacays and kid happenings, we got down to the place where our hearts really meet – what God is doing in our lives on a spiritual level.  She mentioned God had called her into a relationship with a friend who was raised in a dysfunctional family and now deals with the issue of being quite territorial and unable to trust in other relationships – even with God.

In contrast, I have another friend (yes, I have more than one!), who was blessed to have an earthly father that always lovingly took care of whatever need or dilemma she faced.  What a beautiful visual she has when trying to grasp who God is.  (He is that, but so much more!)

Well, we all have them – issues, I mean.  None of us were raised by perfect parents, but some of us do have an easier time in relating to God as a strong, loving and reliable heavenly Father because we have had that type of relationship with our own dads, or other role-model.  

This is Gabe, who shared our lives for 13 years. You may snicker or call it blasphemy, but if you have a canine family member living in your home, you will hopefully be able to relate!   Gabe was a near-perfect specimen.   He loved well and still is well-loved.  He even accompanied us on family vacations.  His only “fault”, however, was that he unintentionally adorned our home with a daily dusting of golden retriever fur!  In fact, those whose lives he “touched” always, always left with evidence of having been near him!  

In pondering for months what to write about him, his consistent character (and fur) always rose to the surface.   Within his limitations, he surpassed any human I know – almost always loving, almost always happy to see us and hang with us, almost always up when we were up and compassionate when we were down – and yes, even kinda protective.  In case you didn’t catch the repetition, he was ALMOST ALWAYS those things.  

Let it be known that God cannot adequately be compared to any other being.  But, blessed are those who have earthly reminders of who He is and the relationship He desires to have with each of us.   His faithfulness is always unending; His love always unconditional; His forgiveness always available!  

And those who call Him Savior and spend time with Him always bear His evidence!

“The Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, 
slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness,
maintaining love to thousands,
 and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” 
Exodus 34:6


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

"Your Right Hand"
14" X 18" Oil on Linen Panel

This is Avery, with her mom, Nicole.  Along with her sister, Dylan, and cousin, Kennedy, she was one of the very precious flower girls in our son and daughter-in-law's wedding this past year (Mark and Teresa.)  The wedding was held at a beautiful location in St Simons Island, Georgia, hometown of the bride, under huge Spanish moss-draped live oak trees, waterside - complete with an unexpected playful dolphin "swim-by", perfectly timed!

The weather threatened a bit, but cleared as the procession of their large wedding party began.  Avery, at 2 years old, was a bit apprehensive about walking down the aisle at all, let alone with only her very capable 4 year old sister.  Since sometimes only a mom will do, Nicole came to the rescue.  Tho a bit shyly, Avery inched toward the altar as her mom's guidance gave her the comfort and courage she needed.  It wasn't so bad after all!!

What are you facing today that is evoking fear, anxiety, worry, concern?  What is keeping you from taking that step?  Perhaps the problem is who you're walking with.....

For I am the Lord, your God, 
Who takes hold of your right hand 
And says to you, 
   "Do not fear; I will help you."
Isaiah 41:13

Photo reference:  Two Chics Photography

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Snowshoes and Friendships

“Four Friends”
12" x 12" Oil on Canvas Panel

One very cold and snowy January several years ago, three of my best girlfriends and I decided to pack up the suburban and head to the northwoods.  I will never forget the pristine blanket of white that greeted us, and the huge snowflakes drifting down as their many facets twinkled from the reflection of a single street lamp.   We stood in awe upon our arrival.  Total silence – miles away from the cacophony of mass humanity.  Three deer – a doe with two fawns  - serenely made their way across the otherwise deserted road – right in front of us, as if we weren’t there.   It was a surreal event.

After a cozy meal together at a local supper club,  we drove down the winding fir-lined lane to the cabin.  As the moonlight proudly highlighted our surroundings, the scene appeared like a glittered Christmas card.  The warmth of the home's cherry stained logs seemed to embrace us as we quickly turned up the heat and built a fire in the stone fireplace.  Even Victor, the elk who presides over the hearth, was a welcoming presence.

All this began a week of many treasured memories: knitting, snowshoeing, long talks, bible study, laughter, picture taking, pajama day, gathering logs, food – of course - and more long talks!   It wasn’t so much what we did - it was about just being together, encountering new situations, growing our relationships with each other and with God, and strengthening the bond among us.

It was a trip that none of us will ever forget – forever etched in one of the “happy places” in our hearts.  With 20 inches of snow and temperatures dipping to 32 below zero, it was a trek totally out of our comfort zone.  An adventure.  

And yes – “Four Friends” left a little stronger after five days of “togetherness” than when they came – bolstered by a little extra dose of independence, having survived the extreme elements – alone in the woods - without men! 

I am reminded of scripture that the apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians.  I  have written it below as a prayer for all our friends:

“I have not stopped giving thanks for my friends and loved ones,
remembering them in my prayers.   I keep asking you, the God of our Lord
 Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, to give them the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that they may know You better.

 I pray also that the eyes of their hearts may be enlightened in order that
 they may know the hope to which You have called them, the riches of Your glorious inheritance in the saints and Your incomparably great
power for us who believe. 
                                                                                                              Eph. 1:16-21

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Main Event

"The Main Event"
8" x 10" Linen Panel

This is Bryson, little brother of God’s Masterpiece, Caylee (see May 2013 post.)  Happy first birthday to him…….and it’s time for his one-year old picture!!

Being the planners that they are, Bryson’s mom and Grammy began the search for the perfect coordinating family outfits months ago.  The date was carefully determined, their favorite photographer scheduled, and location strategically selected.  As time neared, their photographer had to cancel and they were left with Grammy - who knew just enough about photography to snap some shots on a very nice borrowed camera equipped with an “Auto” setting. 

Finally the day came and you can imagine the process of getting 3 small children, husband, and yourself dressed to look as if you had just stepped off the pages of a fashion magazine.  Mom had even thought to pack treats and drinks that would not muss their clothes.  Once in the car, the chaos was behind them – smooth sailing ahead – a fun family outing at the beach!  As they arrived, clouds began to roll in, the sun disappeared and gusty winds began to blow.  A bit deflated, they carefully trudged to their pre-chosen destination.  Suddenly, quite a distance from the car, Caylee had an issue that I won’t go in to, but let’s just say when little sister isn’t happy, no one is :)

While mom, dad and big brother were tending to the situation, little Bryson, who is normally the “main event”, chose to wander away from the scene and seek a bit of solitude.   As I pushed paint around on the canvas, I contemplated Bryson’s innocence and peacefulness, as well as the serenity of the scene. Because I knew of the chaos that we don’t see in this clip, God’s provision became evident.

In spite of all of their planning and attempt to control the outcome of their family photo shoot, God allowed a different story to unfold, yet it resulted in some great shots and lessons learned.  (Oh, did I mention that mom didn’t bring a change of clothing for Caylee?)

I am reminded that in spite of what is going on around us, Jesus offers us the invitation to withdraw from the flow of life, anywhere, anytime - to be with HIM - in His Word, in praise and thanksgiving, in prayer, and just listening.

“Here’s what I want you to do:  Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God.  Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage.  The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense His grace.”
                                                                                    Matthew 6:6 (Taken from The Message)