Project 1, Post 7: A Little Elbow Grease

20160126_105601

Reflection:

Holding a hard-bristled dish brush in one hand, I stared at my painting contemplating what I was about to do to it, to inflict upon it. I took one last deep breath and then began scrubbing my painting with ferocity and determination. I scrubbed – and I scrubbed – and I scrubbed – chipping away at the very paint I had purposefully laid upon that canvas. I chiseled away parts of the blue flower petals that I had so carefully composed.

I was on a mission to expose flecks of the aluminum foil squares that I had used as the foundation beneath my painting. It was actually working! It sure was not easy though. Actually, the entire scrubbing process required far more elbow grease than I had anticipated. It also took some time. Nevertheless, I began to be filled with more and more pleasure as the fruit of my labor began to be seen.

As I continued, switching off between arms after one became tired from scrubbing, I remembered a brief verse in the book of Genesis.

“The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” (Genesis, 2:15)

Wait… Adam had to work when he was living in the Garden of Eden? Yes, he sure did. We (humans) were designed by God to toil, to work (in many different forms of course). Even in Eden, life for Adam and Eve was not without effort.

Sometimes we can become discouraged at our constant toils, wishing life were an endless vacation. However, hard work is often a blessing in disguise. Work gives us pleasure and satisfaction in seeing the products of our labor. Work gives us purpose and a sense of self-worth. Work allows us to find a sense of value and pride in ourselves, often when we need it the most.

So, whatever you do each day – whether it is sowing a field, filing paperwork, waking repeatedly in the night to feed a crying baby, turning wrenches, raising children, flipping burgers, etc. – do it heartily. The fruits of your labor might not be seen right away, but in time you shall be blessed.

“Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” (Proverbs 16:3)

Artistic Process:

You have probably seen old buildings with paintings on the side. Although weathering and age have stripped pieces of those paintings away you can still see the integrity of the images. That was my goal in scrubbing my painting in order to allow the aluminum to peak through. I didn’t want to demolish my work, but instead allow small flecks of foil to add depth, texture and character to the piece.

Project 1, Post 6: To Pee or Not to Pee… It’s Complicated

Project 1, Post 6: To Pee or Not To Pee… It’s Complicated

Preface to Reflection:

In my last post I described my intention to paint “simplistic” blue flowers, as well as the fact that simplicity isn’t one of my innate artistic abilities. Well, my blue flowers have now turned out more complicated than I intended for them to be. Yes, my three, blue flowers are still somewhat simple, but far more complicated than I had imagined in my mind. This is often the case with my artwork.

Note: In my next post, I will test my original hypothesis and will try to UNCOVER the aluminum foil that I laid underneath my painting. I shall see if it actually works! Gosh, I sure hope that it does!!!

(Read the Artistic Process below the Reflection.)

Reflection:

It’s complicated…

In life, there are few issues that are simple, black and white, and straight forward. Most of life’s journey leads us down complicated paths and requires us to make decisions regarding complicated choices, complicated issues. …Such is true for the North Carolina “Bathroom Bill.”

Celebrities, sports organizations, large companies, politicians, etc. have decried North Carolina’s law requiring people use the restroom that coincides with the sex on their birth certified, which in almost all cases is one’s biological sex.

It’s discrimination! It’s bigotry! It’s hate!  –  Or is it?

There are several key elements/points one must examine to determine the answer to this question:

  • North Carolina state law was already in place prohibiting localities from enacting their own anti-discrimination rules. Thus, the city of Charlotte broke state law by doing so. The only reason the state legislature even acted on this matter was a direct response to a municipality disregarding state policy. This, the state has attempted to restore uniformity.
  • Why is it important for municipalities to align with the state? As a human development professional, it is easy for me to understand why. Humans being flourish and society too flourishes when there is a clear set of rules and expectations, called boundaries. *These are the good kind of boundaries that are vital for our well-being, children and adults alike. In government, the state sets a particular set of boundaries. It is important for municipalities to work with those assigned boundaries to prevent chaos within the state itself, ensuring civic/government functionality. For example, a state citizen may move from one city to another already knowing the rules. Sally won’t have to fear possible fines or jail time for breaking a law that she never knew existed simply by changing her address. Johnny won’t be able to move from one city to the other just so he can purposefully commit an offense that was illegal in his original city of dwelling. So, this uniformity guarantees accountability for all citizens and it also guarantees protections for all citizens within the state.
  • Subjective ideas driving laws ignores factual evidence, thus creating laws that were formed with little higher-level, critical thinking or considerations. Case in point, human beings are prone to taking full advantage of situations entirely for their own benefit.

Two examples:

  1. At a restaurant when I was 11 years old, I can remember my mother “identifying” me to the waiter as being 10 years old in order to pay the discounted meal cost for children “10 and under.” Did she forget that I was 11? I doubt it.
  2. At an event a couple of years later, I can remember my father “identifying” me to the Doorman as being 13 years old so that he and I could attend the event which prohibited children twelve years and under. At the time, I was 12. Had my dad mistakenly aged me up by one year? I doubt it.

These harmless examples show how every day, good, normally honest people will sometimes be dishonest for their own gain. Do you know anyone who used a fake ID in high school or college?

*The point is that it is foolish to presume anything contrary to the absolute, concrete fact that there would most definitely be people jumping at the chance to “identify” as one sex in order to gain access to the restroom used by people of the other sex simply for perverse, personal gain.

  • Privacy and Safety for All State Citizens: Fact- Men and women are physically different. Men are naturally stronger, even those who possess a slight, unassuming, physical stature. Fact- Bathrooms are closed, secluded spaces usually consisting of only 1 exit. It is entirely reasonable for women to feel uncomfortable and fearful at the idea of being alone in confined, isolated spaces with men who are strangers. Women are taken advantage of by men every day in this country, often in spaces incompatible with the ability for an easy escape.
  •  Fact- People like privacy. Apple refused to unlock a terrorist’s iPhone for privacy’s sake. Fact- Gender and sexual orientation do not always match. Many transsexuals are still attracted to people of the opposite sex, to the people of the very sex the transsexuals are trying to become. Thus, simply because a man is living as a woman does not mean he is not still very much “straight,” attracted to women. Given these facts, for the average person, changing in front of a transsexual still renders the same level of emotional discomfort, fear, and feelings of complete exposure as would changing in front of the opposite sex. So, would it have been acceptable for the state government to force modest citizens into humility and strip them of their integrity and privacy by requiring them to undress in the presence of the opposite sex? Should we all hand over our phones and most intimate moments to the government to put on public display? Of course not. Acting to protect the physical privacy and integrity of citizens should be understood as a highly valued virtue of any government.
  • Emotional Suffering from Both Sides: Transsexual individuals say they would feel uncomfortable using the restroom of their biological sex. I understand that. If a man were living as a women, I can easily see that using the men’s bathroom would cause someone fear and emotional distress. Yet, the same is true for the general population. Would it be wise for the government to demoralize the masses to appease a few? Is that just law? More importantly, is that a characteristic of a genuinely representative government, one that disenfranchises almost all of its citizens? Would a representative government only extend its empathy to a few?

Would a representative government rank and determine the innate value of its citizens by the amount of corporate money it receives? Does Apple determine your personal worth? Of course not.

  • Is granting special privileges based on subjective ideals about someone’s identify the only way to accommodate this small segment of society? No.

 

This is a complicated issue that has little, if any link to acceptance and discrimination- the black and white clarity that some would prefer us to believe. As a minister I feel it is my duty to point out the truths that are often hidden beneath the emotional hysteria of public outrage.

In conclusion, when considering – and I mean honestly considering – the above points I believe it is extremely difficult to deny the evidence that North Carolina in no way acted in a discriminatory, bigoted or hateful fashion. Instead, I argue that the state should be commended for its common sense, critically composed and conceptualized policy: a policy that far more adequately represents its own citizens than any pretend-policy that may possibly be proposed by the “vocabulary-stone” throwing, loud mouths attempting to degrade the very human worth of all who oppose their subjective, ever-evolving views.

I pray that the leaders in North Carolina will be given the strength needed to stay the course and that those so filled with anger and misinformation find the peace and openness of mind to consider the truths of some views contrary to their own. I also pray that all of us are able to understand and consider just how complicating some issues are and that we seek that information in order to be informed citizens. Amen!

The Artistic Process:

To add depth, I used bright, light blue and white to define the outer edges of the petals, especially where the petals overlap. To further accentuate this, I used deep, dark blue directly next to the bright blues and whites, giving the illusion of shadow upon the lower petals. To add a pinch of color variation, I used my fingers to smear yellow paint onto the petals in small areas. Later, in keeping with a contemporary-impressionistic approach, I used solid black to outline the flowers, adding a few black flecks upon the petals where desired. *Note: If you have difficulty with placing lights and darks, just reference a picture of a flower and focus on the shadows and brightest points on each petal.

In the background, I added tall reeds using long, smooth strokes. I brought in the yellow from the petals by creating the illusion of wheat/cat tails. Using quick, rapid, “conscience—free” strokes of the paint brush, I striped/flicked on the paint to create the feathering bristles of tall wheat grass.

Project 1, Post 5: From Blue Blobs to Blue Flowers, Having the Strength to Stay the Course

Project 1, Post 5: From Blue Blobs to Blue Flowers, Having the Strength to Stay the Course

Prelude:

I love springtime! My favorite color happens to be blue, so I decided on painting simplistic, blue flowers over my canvas’s background. I wanted to paint in the utmost simplest of fashions, omitting my usual artistic flares or intensities. First I simply laid out the general area of the flowers by painting a blue base color to form the general shape of three flowers.

Ah! For some reason it startled me! I can’t articulate exactly why, for even I still don’t entirely understand my sudden and strong emotions that my actions induced. I was just startled.

“Oh no!” I thought to myself, “I’ve ruined my painting!”

“What was I thinking?”

“I can’t do this right.”

Well, there is a well-documented and long, long history (from the beginning of time, really) of us humans acting based solely on emotions and feeling. This action of events has rarely lead us flawed creatures in the right direction. After all, emotions have a tendency to take over our typically rational selves and turn us into “non-thinkers.”

I realized, “Why am I questioning myself?” “Paige, you know how to paint a flower!”

“Why on Earth would you be second guessing yourself over this?”

Ding! Ding! Ding!

So, I charged onward, staying the course.

Reflection:

A lot of things in the world today evoke a great deal of emotions. Christians are typically very empathetic and our sympathies can often lead us to question our own Christian beliefs and can sometimes even lead us to act against our own well-being or against the well-being of others. The course of events in life and in politics can be very, very confusing. Sometimes we may feel at odds with our own religion, especially as the world and our society begin to replace basic Christian morals with new, “progressive,” worldly morals of right and wrong.

It is extremely easy for us to slip down the wrong road and allow our compassion and empathy for others to convince ourselves that we silly Christians had simply been misunderstanding the unchanged words of God and Jesus for over two thousand years.

This is acting on emotion. This same act can also lead us into a new kind of arrogance, as if we “new Christians” know better, are smarter and are the only all-knowing, true Christians. Ah, but BEWARE! There is no virtue in being arrogant and smug. Nor is there any virtue in assuming the word of God can be deconstructed to conform to any set of ever changing worldly ideologies.

Instead, we Christians must stay the course, steady in His truth.

This is not an easy task. So, I offer the following scripture as a bit of encouragement and guidance to help you stay steady on your feet and on the true path of the Lord: (1 John, 2:15-17)

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world; for all that is in the world – the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride of riches – comes not from the Father but from the world. And the world and its desire are passing away, but those who do the will of God will live forever.”

Artistic Process

First I laid out the location for the three flowers using a medium blue base. I did not focus on the precise shape of a flower, as those details take away from the freeing element in artistic process. Next, I used a darker blue from the same blue-toned family to add variation. This was done using free, quick strokes from a medium-sized paintbrush. I made sure to leave the lighter, base blue color visible around the edges to form the illusion of petals. I made sure not to apply the darker blue in a uniform way. God’s natural world is not uniform. In real flowers, the positions of the petals and the direction of lights, as well as things like other leaves that might obscure the light, create a varying shade within each individual flower petal.  Instead of getting too caught up in where the darker blue “should” go, it is important to remember that you can always paint over it.

*Next, I will be adding more depth to my flowers…. The process continues!

Project 1, Post 4: A Stray Pup and Forgiveness

A Stray Pup & Forgiveness

Reflection:

As I finally took some time to work on my painting my mind replayed the busy last few weeks of my life. – Wow! What an interesting few weeks it has been!

“To err is human. To forgive, divine.” (Alexander Pope)

It began on a Saturday when a stray dog wandered up. The second that I laid eyes on him I let out a gasp in complete shock and disbelief. Never, ever have I seen a living creature look so dead. The dog, a Boxer, hesitantly came over to accept an offering of food and water from my husband. The poor boy’s little bobbed, nub of a tail wagged incessantly. His body had been reduced to a semi-alive, emaciated, skeletal condition. Each vertebrae, each rib, each joint in the hips and the shoulder were almost as formatively visible as any veterinary program’s fleshless, skeletal teaching specimen held together by wire. The Boxer is a breed of large dog, and yet this boy’s waist (behind the ribs and before the hips) had been reduced to a mere 2 ½ or 3 inches max. His movements were slow and lethargic. He had no energy left in his little body. We happily took this poor boy in hoping to bring him back to health.

“Houston” as the stray pup is now called (after the street where he was found) had no flees and was remarkably clean. He even sat for me when I asked. He was not micro-chipped and had no collar or identification. To spite his horrific body condition and appearance, his hair was soft, like a puppy’s. A thorough vet exam produced an educated estimate of his age to be around 6 months to 1 ½ years.

As much as I wanted to believe that “Houston” had been wandering about for long enough to have landed himself in such a dire physical state, the clues point us to a far more likely, far more unpleasant circumstance. Houston was likely kept inside and simply not fed. The reasons why a person or persons might not feed an animal vary, but the result is definite.

Yet, this dog has demonstrated more divinity in his plight than most humans.

“We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid the power to forgive is devoid the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.” (Martin Luther King Jr.)

In spite of being starved, Houston has forgiven men. He clearly has reason to begrudge the human kind, yet he doesn’t. Instead, he forgive. He loves. Houston, through his ability to forgive, has actually given himself a fresh start. Gone are days of the past. Gone are those broken relationships. Now, new relationships are formed: relationships based on love in spite of past transgressions. Had he not come to us, he likely would have perished within the week.

Today, in America, we see various special interest groups on university campuses comprised of students demanding a variety of measures that they believe will right past wrongs, end all pain, and put the world at peace. Many of these demands center on “white privilege.” The idea that past grievances determine the “goodness” of an entire race of people is not only illogical and shallow, but is also diminishes the humanity and the value and worth of those people as well. This idea has no clear goal in mind. There is no pot of gold at the end of this rainbow. Instead, “endocrinees” of this social theory are none the better: these young people are still left with a spiritual void in their souls, hearts primarily filled with anger, and minds focused solely on vengeance.

Behind the anger lies pain. Pain can only be healed through love. Forgiveness is hard, but it allows us to let go of our pain and finally move on.

Christ taught us to strive for forgiveness.

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” (Mahatma Gandhi)

Just like “Houston” has demonstrated, it is through forgiveness that we unload the weight of the past, giving ourselves a new start, a new future. Forgiveness isn’t just a gift to others. Forgiveness is one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves.

So, the next time you feel angry, wronged, please remember that the weight of anger only drags us down. The gift of forgiveness is what allows us to move forward. We should all, myself included, be a little more like dear “Houston.”

Amen.

Artistic process:

I have been suffering from “artist’s block.” Finally, I decided I would try painting some very simple blue flowers. I do love the spring! So, this week, I just played around with a few simple lines, adding a background of “reeds” before I go any further.