Today’s installment of Threads dissected clues through the Bible that give us glimpses into God’s character. What does the character of the being that intentionally created space, nature, you and me look like? Grace, creativity, royalty? I drew the only image I was able to conceive that encompassed the attributes we mentioned in our short time plus many more. I see God as an open hand; gentle, inviting, welcoming, gracious and giving. How do you see God’s character?
Today launches a new series…..Threads. During Threads, we’re going to dissect how the gospel is woven into the fabric of our lives and how we can interlock ourselves in the mission of the gospel and use it to influence our sphere.
We’re taking a break from out study of Matthew to delve into this series. Today’s introductory message is taken from John 5:16-29, providing an overview of what we’ll talk about and where we should direct our focus during the next six weeks.
Drawing today, I ran with a reference from a college textiles class to bring in the Threads idea. This image is a weaving loom with a tapestry in progress. You can see the word ‘life’ beginning to appear in the weaving.
Having not used one of these in twelve years, I hope you’ll forgive me for my engineering being a bit off!
It would have be awesome to have one of these on stage with someone weaving during each service of this series! Alas, we don’t have a weaving loom or the space to set one up (yet).
The image on the left is a shuttlecock. This tool is used to hold each spool of thread as it is woven side to side along the tapestry.
I show six shuttlecocks in today’s drawing, each assigned a characteristic we will take a closer look at using to adopt and apply the gospel in our lives.
For the Holy Spirit to work most effectively in your life, you must:
Be aware. God is already at work in the lives of people around you.
Be active. God desires to include you in His work.
Be alert. Look and listen for evidence of God at work.
Be available. Sacrifice your agenda each day to join God wherever and however He is working.
Be amazed. Remember that God has involved you in His work not because He needs you, but because He loves you.
Be assured. God’s work in and through your life will bear fruit that will last forever.
The next six weeks will be exciting! I’m looking forward to watching the tapestry that is our lives come together!
Newly finished because planting season is here, check out the painting inspired by our series ‘A City on a Hill’ from earlier this spring!
I’m pretty sure this is the riskiest painting I’ve ever completed. For starters, I stretched this canvas myself, the first time I’ve built my canvas since high school! Since I’ve been working with upholstered furniture for the last ten years, the art of stretching fabric is very familiar. Next came the risk of different materials and methods. I chose to paint directly on the raw canvas, no Gesso or under-painting.
A common thread in my work is deep symbolism, ‘A City on a Hill’ is no different. Each detail in the painting is meticulously chosen to represent something specific.
The first image created in this piece was the ‘hill’. At first, I was hesitant to use a mountain landscape in a painting I’d call ‘A City on a Hill’ because the reference seemed cliché’ and too easy. In the end, I stuck with the mountains to directly reference the family of believers with whom I worship and serve together; North Ridge Church.
With the ‘hill’ resolved, my next step was to tackle the ‘city’.
A couple of summers ago, I drew during a series we called ‘Planted’ at North Ridge. One particular message focused on how God places us in a specific place with a specific purpose, to build a city within a city. With that in mind, I could have allowed the mountain range to be both the hill and the city, but that interpretation would have been lost to people unfamiliar with that series.
Instead, I chose to incorporate another re-occurring theme in my work, the use of foreign language that literally translates into the word or idea I aim to convey. This time I stretched my use of linguistics to include Japanese, selecting the symbol that communicates ‘light’. Referencing ‘light’ instead of ‘city’ captures both analogies in the words of Matthew, the city on a hill and the lamp on a pedestal.
These first details; the hill, the city, and the light are all God-designed and God-established entities so I wanted to create them in a way that acknowledged His hand. At the time I was developing this composition I was also starting a vegetable garden from seed; and that’s when the inspiration hit, dirt. Dirt; the original earthen material, one of God’s first creations. Dirt naturally connects our minds with God’s hand in creation so it became the ideal material to use as paint in ‘A City on a Hill’. This was my first attempt at using dirt as paint, so I was nervous from the start. I mixed a saturated paste from leftover potting soil in a plastic dish and used a bamboo brush to apply a thick layer on the canvas. After a couple days drying time, the majority of the dirt held, so I excitedly moved forward with the piece!
I dry-brushed the blue mountain and foggy-looking landscape, then complimented the blue with a red-orange, sunset sky before inspiration struck once again. At this point, I had one step left in the piece as I had it conceived. After seeing the dirt and color as it stood, I felt it was lacking. Bring on risk number three, a white Gesso wash. I often use an ink wash with India ink on mounting board in my work. My hypothesis was that mixing Gesso in the same method would bring similar results on raw canvas. The risk paid off. Using the wash, I dabbed heavy brushes full on the top edge of the canvas frame, allowing the fluid white to stream down the face of the piece and create organic white lines. A “happy accident” (to quote Bob Ross) was that, since the blue mountain had not dried, the white drips pulled some of the blue color into itself. Some drips mixed into a lighter blue, others pulled blue down with it while keeping some of the white hue separate. The result (which I am very happy with) took me to the scripture that inspired my name, James 1:17-18.
Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of Heavenly lights who does not change like shifting shadows.
The Gesso wash created a white rim (the heavens) along the top and runs down to infiltrate the dirt and acrylic paint on the canvas, solidifying the dirt and enhancing the flat blue so that it becomes a very interesting focal point int he piece.
One last detail to add, this one the riskiest of all but the one that makes this piece work. Using a serrated steak knife, I stabbed a hole in the top right of the canvas and sawed at the threads until I exposed a jagged hole. Cutting this hole did not loosen the canvas as much as I expected. The areas I thought I’d have to go back and tighten up remained flat and rigid. The piece was now complete.
As you take in the piece, your eye is drawn to the grossly damaged corner. I image this detail will capture eyes from across the room and make people ask themselves “What is going on there?” or “Did someone vandalize that painting?”. Whatever the question, it is one they can’t escape. Therein lies the point. The frayed cut will capture your eye and refuse to let it free. You must force yourself to look at the rest of the composition instead of its wound.
A city on a hill………..cannot be hidden.
1. a short allegorical story designed to illustrate or teach some truth, religious principle, or moral lesson.
2. a statement or comment that conveys a meaning indirectly by the use of comparison, analogy or the like.
Jesus lays on the parables thick in Matthew 13, comparing the kingdom of heaven to a farmer planting seeds, a single mustard seed, leaven that refines flour, a hidden treasure, a merchant and a fishing net. Each of these comparisons accurately describes heaven, each also delivered to connect with a specific mind. When Jesus spoke, he was speaking to common citizens, farmers, bakers, and fishermen; his words were strategically directed to those lifestyles. While using a language that most of his audience would understand, Jesus also utilized a catch phrase familiar to the modern professional educator, he inspired “higher order thinking”. By using analogies and symbolism, the listener has to discern what each character and detail represents in order to apply to the kingdom of heaven and in their daily lives. Making the situation familiar while also making the listener think results in the person actually hearing the message and downloading it into their long-term memory.
I have to make confession, I’m a nerd. I love watching all the brainy, educational shows on Discovery channel and National Geographic. I caught a show on NatGeo recently that was all about how our brains operate. One segment caught my attention in particular, the one about memory. During this portion of the show, the producers interviewed a man who competes in memory competitions professionally. They tested his abilities by sending his to a bar and assigning him the task of learning and remembering a set of twenty people’s names throughout the night. At the end of the evening, he flawlessly recalled the names of each stranger, along with some additional details about their lives and character traits. Then the producers had him reveal his secret to super-memory. As each person introduced themselves, this guy would focus on something specific about the person; a facial feature, scent of their cologne or perfume, anything that makes that individual unique. In his mind, he would then take that detail and assign it an object (an apple, for instance). He would then take the object and place it in a specific place in his intellectual living room. Every face has a name, each name would be associated with an object, each object a story behind it’s placement in the room. This recipe of association ultimately ensured the person’s name was locked into the memory of this “professional recollector”. Sounds a whole lot like a parable, doesn’t it?
That show really served as affirmation for what I do, spontaneously translating the auditory into visual. I essentially am fostering the same process of memory by associating the day’s message with a visual image, then recording the back-story of the image by explaining the symbolism on the blog.
Today’s drawing is a lounge chair sitting in the middle of a plowed field with an apple resting on the seat. I planted my tomatoes yesterday and checked over the rest of our crop sprouting for this year before rain moved in today, so I already had gardening on the brain. The plowed field is a reference to the parables Jesus used with the audience in Matthew 13, the homesteaders of that day. I then added my own familiar association with the ancient parables, placing a lounge chair in the middle of the field. I am a furniture engineer by day, so upholstered seating is my life and leisure! Last, I added the apple. The purpose of parables is to convey knowledge. Among the associations of the apple is education, the apple on the teacher’s desk. Whatever knowledge you are aiming to grasp is encompassed by this apple, resting in the cultivated field.
Blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.
A bruised reed, he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench until he brings justice to victory.
As long as you have life, you have value. Jesus will pursue you, longing for you to pursue him, until you breathe your last.
North Ridge entered 2012 by partnering with Port City Church in an initiative called My One Word. My One Word is a program where an individual methodically selects a single word, an attribute to which the aspire, to focus on becoming throughout the year. This single word replaces the cumbersome list of New Year’s resolutions that are all broken by Valentine’s Day. My word for 2012 began as ‘bold’ and honed down to ‘speak’ before the year’s end. You may remember seeing drawings from the sermon series (check out the My One Word link in my past series cloud if you are new to Plasso). Several of us who found success in emulating our words last year chose to re-up on My One Word in 2013. My word for this year – steadfast.
Steadfast – fixed in direction, firm in purpose, unwavering, firmly fixed in place or position.
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. James 1:12
Our family of five will be embarking on an adventure this year that we will be a ride that lasts the next four. We are letting go of a safe, consistent income so my wife can return to school full-time. She has been teaching biology in public high school since the fall of 2001. The increasing government regulations and bureaucratic meddling is effectively driving all the quality teachers out of the public sector, Julie is adding her name to their casualty list at the end of this semester. This time of spring in 2017, she will graduate as a licensed pharmacist.
To be quite honest, I chose this word focus on for all four years of the PharmD program! Letting go of the teaching position is the least of my concerns, I’m actually relieved to be free from the toll that career path takes on the teacher’s family. I encourage any young person who asks my opinion on their projected career path to avoid teaching if they also see family in their future. The nation’s public school system is in a sad state, driven by statistical algorithms instead of actual effectiveness. The mountains of paperwork and loathsome hours wasted keeping up with the requirements of this bureaucratic mess have changed the landscape of public teaching. No longer is it a honorable career path that opens the door to significantly impacting children’s lives. It is now a contractual marriage to a thankless job that demands higher priority than any other aspect of the teacher’s life. 12 years of experience as a teacher’s spouse (2/3 of one year testing out the job personally) created my opinion and nearly every person I speak to who are also (or were formerly) married to a teacher corroborate this position. I am at least as equally excited as Julie that her professional divorce from teaching will be finalized in thirty days.
Our objective now is maintaining the household while she becomes a commuter student and fulfills a dream to enter the medical field which was alive when we met 16 years ago. Remaining steadfast.
Those of you who follow this blog know how my mind works, or at least are familiar with its results. Steadfast is more than just my word until 2017, it is also an image that is burned into my mind and hangs on the wall above the desk where I type.
Steadfast is composed of three 12″ x 16″ canvases. I used four 8-penny nails to hold each panel in place. Once the shape was created, I began painting. The primary emotion I wanted to convey was agitation. The first layer of the painting was a very dark, midnight black with just a touch of blue. To experiment with media (and a bit out of necessity when I realized I was out of blue acrylic at the time), the under-painting of this piece is tempra.
I made sure to purchase all the black and blue I could need for the outer layer of this piece. Using long, fast, borderline violent strokes horizontal strokes, I imagined myself inside a tornado seeing the wind and debris swirling around my head. Various shades of blues and blacks concealed the dull under-painting. Stepping back to look, I was quite pleased (and a little out of breath) when this sitting was complete.
The final piece of this painting was to take a Jackson Pollock sort of spin like I used in ‘Torn‘ and literally throw some highlights of orange, yellow and white onto the dark canvas. Hosting a party to break the mundane-ness of January changed my direction. Once complete, ‘Steadfast’ had a hole to fill over the computer desk in our living room. It is not a direct focal point in our party-gathering space, but leaving the space empty would stick out like a sore thumb. Though incomplete, I hung ‘Steadfast’ for the party. This proved to be a defining choice for the piece and my understanding of my word.
We have can lights in the ceiling in our living room and the wall above our computer desk is an ideal location for artwork without glass because the piece is perfectly illuminated. ‘Steadfast’ was no different. The piece looks amazing in this location; the lighting makes the subtle light blues pop against the darker hues. The light also added another unexpected dimension. Reflecting against a sheen I only guess was created by painting acrylic over tempra, a streak of almost white yellow slithers its way down the paint and gives the image the same likeness as a calm, moon-lit lake.
A good friend who is a creating in his own right as a writer (check out his work here) admired the piece and we discussed the background, the creative process, and the future plans for the piece. Jason made a profound suggestion; leave the image as is for 2013, but revisit it each year and modify the image as your understanding of remaining steadfast evolves. Pure creative genius. I am doing as he suggested and practicing steadfastness by leaving the image alone until next January.
What began as an agitated, chaotic whirl-wind with three canvases holding on for dear life became the most peace-filled, calming image I can recall ever creating. Through the process of creating this piece, God showed me that remaining steadfast is not just exemplified in a soldier on the front lines of battle who yells to his comrades to stand their ground. There is a peaceful, calm side of steadfastness as well. Keeping your cool under stress, refusing the urge to worry when anxiety comes knocking, declining the part-time, third shift job I was offered to supplement the income and remaining faithful that ends will meet without sacrificing my presence with Julie and the boys. This is me remaining steadfast.
Steadfastness for you could manifest in a thousand different ways. Steadfastness is maintaining your integrity and standing your ground. While at times it will be a fight against adversity, there is a peacefulness to be found. Peace as a result and peace within.
Peace runs deep, deep in Him. - ‘Train Song’ Josh Garrels