No weddings, 2 funerals: My week in hell

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I pray that this post may bring comfort, hope, and strength to all who are mourning at this time. Amen.

Here is the timeline:

  • Saturday, August 26th, 2017: My father – my best friend, my confidant, my sports buddy, my rock – suffered a sudden, debilitating stroke, sending him to the ICU. He was also diagnosed with pneumonia. My family and I spent the next several days with him at the hospital hoping for his recovery.
  • Monday, August 28th, 2017: My 20-year-old nephew suddenly died.
  • Wednesday, August 30th, 2017: My father passed away. (Later, I wrote a short article about the beautiful experience shared at my father’s funeral with family, friends, and strangers from the USAF Honor Guard and the Patriot Guard Riders.)

BAM!

BAM!

BAM!

  • Two days later (Friday), we buried my nephew. Two days after that (Sunday), we buried my dad.

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The sequence of events from my awful week in a living hell left me feeling as though I were being slammed from all directions, blind-sided and knocked down with a 2×4 to the chest every two days. Bam! Bam! Bam!

 

It seems impossible that one family can withstand such tremendous loss – the loss of its patriarch, coupled with the loss of one of the family’s precious young souls – all at once. How could it even be possible for each member of our family to individually withstand such sharp, excruciating pain? Yet, we all, my family and I, kept breathing. Every day, we pulled ourselves out of bed. Even my oldest sister, who lost her father and her son, kept going. I have watched body builder competitions, but I have not once witnessed an amount of strength equal to that of my family, and myself, during this tragic time. Our strength was, in a word, divine!

 

We weren’t breathing, moving, living beings on our own accord. It was God who carried us. It is He who continues to carry us as we endure deep mourning for our loved ones. For this I am grateful beyond words.

 

God is great!  God is good! Though my faith was tried in this week of hell of earth, my faith remains unshaken! Glory to God in the highest! For, without my precious Lord, I would be but a seed tossed in the wind.

 

Let us remember II Corinthians 1:3-5, and praise our Lord of all comfort:

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Remember to give your cares to the Lord. He will sustain you. HERE is a wonderful resource to assist you in times of struggle.

May God bless you and keep you.

Amen.

Ray Charles’ America

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Taps had been played, and two handsome and poised Airmen serving in the U.S. Air Force’s Honor Guard had just placed a folded American flag into my mother’s lap.

 It was Sunday. The sun shone bright in all its glory. I was seated beside my mother beneath a tent, surrounded by my family and our dearest loved ones. We were enveloped on all sides by at least a dozen large American flags held majestically upright by a group of veterans known as the Patriot Guard Riders who had arrived of their own good will for the single purpose of honoring my father.

 What came next was, undoubtedly, the most beautiful moment of my life…. continue reading

Jewish contributions to Western Civilization

“The Old and New Testaments are the Great Code of Art.”

– William Blake (artist and poet)

In Visual Art:

Thousands of reprints of Vincent Van Gosh’s Starry Night adorn living room walls, and Van Gogh’s Irises is one of the most popular computer background images. Hanging in thePhiladelphia Museum of Art is Paul Cézanne’s The Large Bathers, a post-impressionist deconstruction of the human body which broke from traditional portraits of the period and paved the way for generations of new artists to explore different techniques of visual representations of the human figure. Both Cézanne and Van Gogh were mentored by a Jewish impressionist and post-impressionist painter named…….. continue reading

 

Blurring Right & Wrong, a Lesson from Charlottesville

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Project  3, Post  4: Blurring Right and  Wrong, a Lesson from Charlottesville

Artistic Process:

As shown in the above images, I used a watered down orange to blur the boundary of the grass I had created. I did so to lay the foundation for a more impressionistic horizon line.

Reflection:

In my last post for Project Three I emphasized the importance of reading God’s Word for yourself so that you can know Truth, giving the example of Paul as written in Acts 17:11. I wrote about the propensity for us to be lazy and blindly trust that others are preaching the Word in Truth. Many seek to pervert and to misuse God’s Word for personal gain.

One such example of the deceptive use of God’s word comes to us from Charlottesville, VA. where, on Saturday, some of the more grotesque aspects of human nature were on full display. If you would like to read my response to the Charlottesville incident from a Constitutional perspective at The New Americana national news site you may click HERE.

While scrolling through news stories covering the white supremacist gathering, I came across a reference to Vanguard America, one of the participating supremacist groups. I decided to go to their website and survey the landscape. It was a disturbing exercise.

On  the group’s website is an article about Jews. The one consistent aspect of the article is the author’s manipulation of scripture to justify hatred toward the Jewish peoples of the world. It is absolutely repugnant. John Chapter 8, verses 39-49 were among the scriptures contorted for hateful gain.

The Scripture states:

39 “Abraham is our father,” they answered.

“If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would[a] do what Abraham did. 40 As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. 41 You are doing the works of your own father.”

“We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.”

42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me.43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47 Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”

Here, Christ was calling out his followers’ sinful nature. The Jews in that exchange were resisting the call for repentance, claiming Abraham’s lineage and righteousness as evidence of their own high-standing with God. Jesus, however, rebukes their claim by pointing out their sinful ways. Still, they resisted.

Christ was calling those around him on the carpet for their failure to seek repentance. Christ was NOT laying a foundation for justified anti-Semitism. You can read others’ commentary on this passage HERE for further understanding.

Yet, those who seek to justify and to spread their hateful sentiments have used Jesus’s words from scripture as a weapon of deception and malice. I wonder how many foolish souls have read the grotesque, Jew-hating screed laid out on the Vanguard America website.

Evil-doers seek to deceive. If you and I do not seek out the Truth of God’s Word, we can be lead astray by the most abhorrent, repugnant elements of society. Please, be a seeker so that you will not be lead astray. Amen!

“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32

Trees Are Not Brown… And Other Truths

Project 3, Post 2: Trees Are Not Brown….. and Other Truths

In my last post (the first of this series), which can be read HERE, I described my inadvertent ruining of a once promising piece… My creative experimentation doesn’t always turn out well. I had accidentally turned a painting full of light into one now blanketed in darkness.

As I mentioned this is not dissimilar from the current state of our American churches… It is we who must confront ourselves in order to restore our churches to places of light and Truth.

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Artistic Process:

I kept looking at my poor picture – that poor tree – and kicking myself for what I had done. The whole thing… It was just a big mess! My error left me feeling a bit deflated and a lot confused. What do I do now? How am I supposed to fix this? I can’t take the wax off… How do I save my picture???

As I stood there pondering my canvas catastrophe, my thoughts slowly grew in clarity and I was able to identify a new “starting point.” The streams of melted wax had blurred the boundary between the sky and the ground…

And so began the process of renewing my painting…

I mixed into being variations of yellows and greens, darks and lights (all acrylics). After determining where the horizon line would be formed, I began applying the paint using short, brisk stokes, creating grass. Using dark greens and browns I slowly created elevation changes and shadow. At last, a clear division between land and sky had been established. The mess I had made of my painting had regained a small semblance of order. Once I finished the border area I went on to rejuvenating my poor, darkness enveloped tree.

 

Many people don’t realize this, but tree trunks and branches are far closer in color to gray than to brown. Sure, we all grow up coloring brown trees with green leaves, but that isn’t actually representative of reality, of truth. I challenge you to go outside and find a tree. Walk up close. Is it brown or is it more of grayish in tone? HERE is a fairly simple, scientific explanation. 🙂

I carefully reformed the body of my tree using shades of gray paint. Darker shades were applied against lighter shades to create clear and distinct shadows and highlights. Grays aren’t the only colors found on the trunks of trees, however. Many trees often play host to interesting molds and fungi, many of which are greenish in tone. Therefore, I took a splayed, dry brush and dabbed small sections of the tree trunk and branches with olive-colored paint.

…Little by little I was able to uncover my lovely, knotted-old tree from that dark mess of which I had made. I could see its form, its beauty. No longer was it hidden. At once, it was as if I felt a heavy load had been lifted off my back.  Truth and clarity have that effect on us.

BELOW are pictures representing various stages of renewing and redefining my tree.

 

Reflection:

There is a clear border between land and sky, right and wrong, good and evil. However, if trees are gray instead of brown, what is the Truth about good and evil, about right from wrong? The world of fallen men has a tendency to creep into our idea of right and wrong. Have you lost site of the border, the boundary between good and evil?

Do you follow Biblical scripture or do you follow worldly scripture? Do you even know the difference?

We (Christians) of all people should be the most diligent in knowing what is Truth. That comes from diligence to knowing and understanding God’s written Word.  Paul commended the Bereans in Acts 17:11, for their scriptural diligence, writing “Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so.

“…If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” – Matthew 15:14

Right now, many Christians live in a state of ignorance. We conflate nice with good. We conflate position with honor. We are lazy and far too trusting. We assume that the lessons from the pulpit are honest and truthful and based in scripture. If you assume that your minister is preaching Truth simply because he became a minister, was hired at your church, and seems like a nice guy… You could be a lazy Christian.

Stop. Stop right this minute.

When is the last time you read from your Bible? Do you check the sermons and the words of others against scripture to determine Truth? If you don’t, you could be a lazy Christian.

Stop. Stop right this minute!

Our jobs as Christians isn’t simply to receive sermons or try to be better people. Our job is also to safeguard the Word of Christ Jesus and his message, ensuring that it is delivered to others in Truth! The Word of God is precious. However, harmful and fallacious doctrine results when the word is taken out of context and twisted around by fools. From now on, understand that you are the keeper of the Word. If you don’t read the entire story and seek to understand it, you only contribute to the abuse against it. If you do not double check references to scripture made by others, including ministers, including ME, you could be allowing the Word to be abused and misused.

If you do not seek the Truth, you do not and will not have the Truth. You do not and will not know gray from brown. You do not and will not know the difference between right from wrong and good from evil.

We must stay diligent seeking God’s Truth. We can not renew our churches without first being able to SEE the clear border between right and wrong, truth and lie. By reading God’s Word, our own failures and sinful nature come to light. – I know, because God’s Word continually  reminds me of my fallen nature as a human and the Holy Spirit is my inspiration for my continuous quest toward living as God wishes. Christ saves me from myself and he lifts me up, carrying my burdens. He walks with me and guides me forward. It is imperative that we continually renew our own spirits in Christ and in Truth, confronting ourselves. God’s Word brings the border between truth and lie, right and wrong into clear focus.

Today- rededicate yourself to God’s Truth through his Word. Pray for full understanding. Renew your soul.

This is your own new starting point! Go, now. Off your tuckuss!

“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the Word of God.” – 2 Timothy 2:15