Tag Archives: Marriage

Freed to Give – a prophetic art experience

 

Today, I experienced an emotion to which only artists can empathize; ‘creative exhaustion’. Simultaneously high from creating something that did not previously exist and emptied from having left part of your soul within that creation. This is the story of that creation.

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Humans are designed as interdependent beings. Beginning with our introduction to a carbon-based environment, we depend on other people for our basic survival. Though our needs evolve over time, our fundamental design to live in harmonious dependency on one another remains constant. This is God’s intricate design.

Starting with the very inception of the human species, man could not thrive on his own. Recognizing this, God separated one organism into two, making them an interlocking match for each other. I do not believe the separation of humanity into male and female was an afterthought for the Creator, it was critical to his design. Obviously, the male and female designs define the mechanics of procreation, critical to the sustainability of the human species. God also designed our minds to be free and self-assured in this design of life. Men are not stubbornly confident because we are jerks, it’s a critical part of our psyche included since day one. Understand His creation, God put the man in a position where he had to choose the woman. In choosing to join themselves together, God freely gives His creations to each other, joining them together as one being and designing the institution we call marriage. One that was made two is now made one.

Dependency on the abilities and service of another human being is not weakness, it is what makes us human. Refusing to embrace our need for others leaves our souls malnourished. Rejecting opportunities to serve another is abuse.

One Made Two Made One

 

Creating unity by dividing humanity is the basis of today’s work. At the top center of the image is a single, crouched form. The figure then splits like a dividing cell into two individuals. The unique organisms then dance along their paths, becoming their individual selves. At the location where their paths cross, the two reunite into a single body. This is marriage, as God designed.

 

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Recreating this into today’s piece, I combined acrylic paint with fine, sandy rock which exists in the foundation of a gravel road. The rock and paint mixture created a mortar-like paste which made the creation of today’s figures as much a process of sculpture as it was painting.  This process created shapes with three dimensional body and an organic feel that makes your mind expect the figures to morph into dancing with each other on the page.

 

 

 

 

Establishing the existence of marriage as two created individuals choosing to unify themselves as one through their Creator leads us into the next logical question, but often hardest one to ask, how can two individuals successfully operate as one? The answer, though easy to say, is much harder to apply; selfless mutual submission. By each letting go of what they hold most dear for the sake of fulfilling the other’s desires, they both grasp hold of what they will most cherish – unity. This philosophy is true for every relationship from exclusively romantic to complete strangers; asking one simple question will redefine human encounter and construct a legacy, one person at a time. How can I serve you? Before being able to pose this question honestly, one must first choose to lay themselves and their desires down. Your most perfect façade will not conceal your ulterior motives.

Refusing yourself the satisfaction of gaining for yourself is no easy task; it is a choice that must be made constantly. In every moment, making yourself look for opportunities to serve those around you, this is the attitude suggested by 1 Thessalonians  5:17. To pray without ceasing and give thanks in everything is to be aware of what you have been given and constantly be looking for ways to serve others because of it. What’s to stop people from taking advantage of me if I really do this, you may protest? Grace.

Grace is being able to forgive those who abuse you, wisdom is not enabling that abuse.

Forgiven people forgive. Without letting yourself experience grace, you refuse yourself the ability to show grace. Grace is the foundation of every positive relationship because no one can achieve perfection. At some point, on some level, people will let you down. Serve them anyway. Occasionally, the words and actions of people will hurt you. Be kind to them still. A day will come when another maliciously inflicts pain in you. Graciously love them despite it.

Freed to Give, 3rd service

 

The paths followed by the figures in this image trace back to create a heart shape with an open center. God did not design marriage to benefit us. In its proper form, it reflects His nature to the world. The open heart. Two people, remaining individuals but united as one, serving each other and those around them. This is by design.

Parents. Serve your children well. Children, serve your parents.

Know your friends well enough to know their needs. Serve them freely.

Know the needs in your community. Join with others to fill them.

Everyone wants to give to charity, but no one wants to be charity. Until you learn to receive, you will never truly know how to give. Only by experiencing grace are we freed to give it to others.

 

 

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Love is…

Love is patient, love is kind…

Love is..., True Love 4, 1 Corinthians 13

1 Corinthians 13. I won’t label it overused, but it has definitely become cliché’ in marriage ceremonies. Read within its context, Paul is hardly doing marriage counselling! The church at Corinth has revamped their definition of spirituality to be based upon individual talents. Those considered the most spiritual were the best at their trade, the most eloquent speakers, the wisest advisers, the most talented musicians; these people were considered the closest to God. (Does that sound eerily familiar with the modern church to anyone else?) Paul is not defining love to Corinth so that the boys know how to make the girls’ hearts melt or so that the girls know how they should expect a guy to treat them, he his blatantly rebuking Corinth for screwing up spirituality and totally rejecting what Jesus taught and died teaching.

Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist in its own way, it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong-doing, but rejoices with truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Replace ‘love’ with your name in these verses. Does it describe you? Maybe a little?

Hate is impatient, hate is unkind, it is envious and proud; arrogant and rude. It insists in its own way, is irritable and resentful; rejoices in misfortune and is skeptical of truth. Hate bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all thing, only when it is convenient and benefits themselves.

Replace the ‘hate‘ with your name in this version of the passage. Does it sound more or less like you? I honestly do not expect anyone to admit, even to themselves, that they are more like the second version of verses 4-7 than the first. No one likes to admit their flaws, particularly those that impact other people (like your ability to love). If you are serious about loving well, give these descriptions of love and hate to someone close to you, let them tell you which best describes the love you’re putting out.

At the end of the day, love focuses on others, hate focuses on self. Where’s your focus?

Ignoring the Giver

You only need the light when it’s burning low

Only miss the sun when it starts to snow

Only know you’ve been high when you’re feeling low

Only hate the road when you’re missing home

Only know you love her when you let her go.

‘True Love’ began today. In this series we’re going to explore relationships from God’s perspective. Married, dating, friendships, acquaintances, strangers, God has a specific design for doing every manner of relationship successfully. We are going to dive in and strengthen ourselves by embracing responsibility in human interaction. 

We begin this series at the most basic level, what is love? God is love, so to ask the question, ‘what is love?’ is to also ask ‘who is God?’ John 3:16, the most quoted, memorized, and Googled verse in the Bible, sums up the love God has for the world in a five-word phrase, “He sent His only son”. Without proper context, this verse can lead people to believe God loves us above Jesus, just for who we are as His creation. This assumption is incorrect. At this point in history, creation is held captive by darkness (as it remains today), totally corrupted by sin and selfishness. There is nothing attractive about the world to be loved. God’s deep affection that inspired Him to send Jesus is not a reflection of our beauty but a reflection of His grace. Throughout the history of the world, God sent representatives to proclaim His love for humanity. He finally showed up to tell us Himself in the form of Jesus because we refuse to listen. God relentlessly pursues us, not out of a deep drive to reconcile Himself with humanity, but out of unfathomable compassion and desire to reconcile us with Himself.

“Spiritual idolatry is enjoying the gifts while completely ignoring the giver of those gifts.” – David Platt

The life of the prophet Hosea is a direct analogy to God’s relationship to humanity. Hosea’s tale starts with a call from God to take a wife, but not just any wife, “Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness”. God calls Hosea and says “Pick a whore, any whore, marry her and adopt her bastard children as your own” Guys, how would you like to bring that girl home to meet you parents? I can’t imagine mom and dad would be all too enthused about having a prostitute for a daughter-in-law and being instant grandparents to her children. Hosea, being more afraid of God than of man, did as he was told and married a prostitute named Gomer, taking in her and her children.

Marriage does not change Gomer’s lifestyle (is anyone surprised?). The way he rest of chapter one is worded leaves the fatherhood of children born after her marriage to Hosea in doubt. Despite Gomer’s lewdness, Hosea remains faithful. He even brings groceries to the home of one of Gomer’s Johns, handing them to the man sleeping with his wife and requests they be given to Gomer as being from Hosea. The John takes the food to Gomer, but turns the ownership around and claims they are a gift from himself. Despite this blatant abuse, Hosea remains faithful.

The relationship between Hosea and Gomer is a direct analogy of the relationship between God and Israel. Gomer constantly and remorselessly abuses Hosea by taking advantage of his character. Throughout history to the arrival of Jesus, Israel’s treatment of God is just as hostile. Since the direct contact between God and the world through the person of Jesus, that conflict rages between light and dark with humanity’s relationship to God the central focus.

Like Gomer received resources necessary to keep her and her children alive from Hosea despite her lack of gratitude and returned affection, we are each gifted the resources we need to survive by God but very rarely acknowledge Him as our life’s source. We are quick to accuse God in hard times, but shift praise to ourselves in times of prosperity. Any gain we experience is categorized as the spoils of our hard labor and acquired skills, losses incurred are out of our realm of control and thereby fall on God by default.

“I will put and end to all her mirth, her feasts, her new moons, her Sabbaths, and all her appointed feasts” – Hosea 2:11

Israel religiously celebrated days scheduled to recognize God while ignoring Him the other days. God supplied Israel with the resources to celebrate, but is now preparing to take away those resources so that Israel will acknowledge their origin.

“And I will punish her for the feast days of the Baals when she burned offerings to them and adorned herself with her ring and jewelry, and went after her lover and forgot me, declares the Lord.” Hosea 2:13

Ignoring the Giver, True Love 1

Two songs played through my mind during the sermon today; “Let Her Go” (Passenger, 2012) and “Ain’t No Sunshine” (Bill Withers, 1971). Both of these songs lament the loss of a love that was taken for granted. Only after the love is gone is it appreciated. This often happens between God and individuals. Only after He removes His hand and our life spirals into chaos do we finally see the role He’s played the whole time. Today’s drawing shows that in the form of a dry, cracked and dying landscape with a solitary pool of water. The cracks in the land were not present until the water that once filled the area departed. Acknowledge God in your life now, do not force Him to move in order to be seen.

Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone

It’s not warm when she’s away

Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone 

and she’s always gone too long

anytime she goes away.

Steadfast

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
Steadfast

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.

Steadfast (no flash)
Steadfast (no flash)

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

I’ve Been Working on the Railroad

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when I mention work? Do you think of sweat and strenuous exercise? Pride may be the inspired emotion in some, pride in their position and their productivity. Others react the opposite, feeling abhorrent toward their place of employment; discouraged by the thought of another business day. God did not intend work  to be something we dread, much less avoid. As we saw last week, God created work when he created man. God placed Adam and Eve in Eden and told them to cultivate the rest of the earth by the garden’s example; he created work as an avenue to worship. The fall changed our perception of working from being a voluntary way to worship God to an inescapable form of punishment.

Men, in particular, walk a fine line between being defined by their work and defining themselves through their work. If you compare the average hours a man spends at work versus quality time spent at home with his family (taking into account time to sleep) in a single work day, his priorities seem vastly disproportionate. For most, however, quitting to devote all your time to being at home with the family is not an option. Even if you left the day job, own your home out-right, and grow or hunt your own food, there’s still work required to survive. Having to work is not where men get in trouble, the problem is being defined by your work. Our identity, as men and women, is not defined by our position, but rather in a person. Once we begin to define ourselves by what we do or how well we produce, we hand over the reigns of our emotional well-being to the one we’re producing for. This only brings disappointment and frustration when the boss who is impressed by your productivity responds by raising the bar a little higher. Happiness at one’s job is determined by a combination of the work environment and apparent value in the job. When intrinsic value is extrinsically dependent, happiness is a volatile subject because it depends on the day. Belonging to Jesus frees the supervisor from self-importance and the supervised from self-pity. Finding intrinsic value by realizing the One who made you is pleased even when your best efforts fall short attains the freedom to work hard and work well without the yoke of insurmountable expectations. When our work becomes part of our worship, our job becomes a joy. We tend to divide things that are secular from things that are sacred. We forget we are created beings working to please our Creator; everything is sacred!

Ephesians 6:5-9 teaches us the attitude we should adopt to find joy, but keep our priorities straight, in our jobs. The first word in verse 5 is most accurately translated as ‘bondservants’. In the first century, a bondservant was a person who worked for another and was compensated as a result. Sound familiar? Paul goes on to encourage bondservants to work not to be seen or as people-pleasers, but as if their work was directly for Christ. He then changes his  focus to the masters, imploring them to lead fairly, knowing their employees are working for Christ, not for them.

In my life since college, I had to learn a lesson about work that specifically relates to what Christians label their “calling”. God calls people to do certain things and have certain attitudes. Many young Christians believe determining their specific calling in life is a prerequisite to selecting a career, as I was. Believing this way leads to a lot frustration, a constant search for greener pastures, and extended college careers. So much effort goes toward finding our elusive “calling”, we procrastinate ourselves into what we fear most, insignificance. Paul encourages us in Colossians 3:23 to do what we do well, as if it is for God, no matter what it is we’re doing. Our “calling” is to a life of excellence, consistently serving our God through loving people, our way of making a living is of less significance to Him than our efforts toward doing the job well. Calling does not equate to career.

Today’s drawing has several levels. The background is a black and white swirl. The description of the relationship between master and bondservant inspired this swirl, the colors never mixing but pushing each other in the circular motion instead. I initially thought of drawing a long, flat road that disappeared into the center of the swirling background. I was not happy with this imagery because most roads carry traffic in both directions. The sign along the road reads, ‘The Way – Keep Following’, encouraging travellers to stay the course despite the road getting rough. That’s when a song from my childhood came to mind, I’ve Been Working on the Railroad. Eureka! I left the road sign, but changed the asphalt road to a railway; unquestionably a one-way path and much more demanding on the workers who construct it! The railroad track disappears into a shining light that blends the master and bondservant together, the light at the end of the tunnel.

Work well, fearing God more than man.

Be ‘The One’

In 1999, Warner Brothers released The Matrix, an American science fiction classic. The story tackles philosophy, sociology, technology, and spirituality; but for today’s drawing we’ll focus in on one aspect; “The One”. In the movie, Thomas Anderson, a.k.a. Neo (Keanu Reeves), is a human living in the Matrix and working as a hacker. He is totally unaware that what he perceives as reality is nothing more than a computer projection created by artificial intelligent machines that took over the planet. A band of rebel humans who escaped the Matrix break Neo back into reality to join their rebellion. The leader of this band believes Neo to be “The One”, the human prophesied as coming to defeat the computers. In the climactic image above, Neo reaches a point of self-realization. He embraces his place in reality and finally grasps the ability to control and manipulate the Matrix to battle the machines. The attitude of embracing one’s place and stepping up to fill your position is at the heart of today’s installment of Man School.

The Matrix is unquestionably a guy flick; technological warfare, big machines, and guns galore. In the climactic scene, Neo stops a flurry of bullets racing toward him by raising his hand. He then defeats the lead villain by diving into his chest and shattering the simulated body into a cloud of computer code. Why guy doesn’t want to cheer and chest-bump his friends when the computer-generated walls start flexing in correlation with Neo’s breathing?! Neo became “The One” by conquering his fears and embracing his position, out of willingness to sacrifice as much as physical ability. Men, we need to step up and be “The One” for our families.

God, our father, provides us guys with an example to follow in fatherhood; a position to embrace. When it comes to fathering us, God is patient (1 Timothy 1:16), He is forgiving when we screw up (Ephesians 1:7, Isaiah 43:25), and his relationship to us is intimate (Luke 15:20, 1 John 3:1, Psalm 68:4). At the core of all these attitudes is love. Men who step up an embrace the role of fatherhood by reflecting God to his children become their hero. Embrace these characteristics with your wife also and you will be “The One” to your family.

1 Corinthians 16:13

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong

Be ‘The One’