Monday, June 12, 2017

Let God Love You

Periodically, I am overcome by deep struggle. The past couple of days it was the worst. It was as severe as former days when I was wrecked by mental and emotional distress. It overcame me and took hold. I could not be released no matter how hard I tried.

In my life I desire everything I experience to be with God intimately involved, no mater what it is. I seek something to learn, to grow, but this time find it so hard. There is no easy answer. I am perplexed by my own mind. Perhaps the answer is simply to pick myself up, keep moving, and serve Him, leaving it in His hands. Today is a new day, a new week.

In some ways, walking with the Lord is a call for us to let Him love us. I invite you this week to read Psalm 139 every day. I will be doing the same. In the midst of our struggles, let's get a picture of how intimate God’s amazing love is for us in Christ.

Our mental or emotional experiences can cloud our judgment. God is still God. He is good, all the time.

Artwork: © Jeffrey M Green. "Sunset Over Barnegat Bay", colored pencils.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Artist's Role of Highlighting Creation

Romans 1:20 is an experience artists highlight. In this verse is an observational and experiential stimulus that provokes spiritual response. Art can reflect this, drawing curiosity to the deeper meaning of life by showcasing what God has made.

Artwork: © Jeffrey M Green. "Through the Trees", colored pencils.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Marriage, a Test of Character

As Christians we are called to live for our Lord and to serve Him with our whole heart. A chief purpose, in response to His love for us, is to love others. Since our modern idea of love is superficial and more in terms with what we can get out of it, it helps to review what love is: Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. In summary, instead of solely seeking fulfillment for our own benefit, or being defined by fuzzy emotion, love is sacrificial.

As I reflect on my life, I find it easy to love folks from afar. I can amiably relate to those I hardly know, acquaintances seen only sometimes, or people with which I do not spend a great deal of time. With those I spend my life it becomes a much greater challenge. For me, this is marriage. Love others, oh sure, I can do that. To genuinely, selflessly love, in my home day in and day out is another thing.

Love and marriage is hard work. Marriage shows the depths of our true character in the volatility of relationships and vulnerable personalities. An intimate spousal connection is visceral; that is, deep seated, in the guts so to speak. In the closeness of union we are exposed, beyond the face we put on for the world. Over the years I realized, if I can not treat my wife with the true love of Christ, what good is it if I can treat others this way? Can I say I have love at all, or is it something else, something more convenient? It is a stark reminder I have plenty of growing to do. A husband’s role is no casual duty, our wives deserve nothing less.

The vast terrain that needs work in my life as a husband is humbling. For a man who comes from an isolated and withdrawn background with emotional and mental issues, there have been hard lessons. I am so grateful that not only does my Savior daily offer His unmerited grace; my wife demonstrates grace by forgiving me and loving me through my imperfections. She inspires me to want to treat her the same.

It is said marriage is a picture type of God's love. If this is so, I am learning of God's patience, unmerited mercy, daily personal love, and His forgiveness in Christ "seventy times seven" times.

Artwork: © Jeffrey M Green.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Overcoming Mental and Emotional Illness through Faith

Issues of mental health are complicated. We can not solve them with casual pat answers; the suffering undergone necessitates a comprehensive and compassionate approach. Because these concerns are beyond the norm for average people, those who are impaired are often left feeling isolated and alone. We can find comfort and empowerment that God is the key to our deepest healing.

In Scripture we read of Jesus being followed by multitudes. Contemporary images do not depict an accurate picture of these crowds. To our mindset, the multitudes were full of average, middle class people with clean unwrinkled robes, fresh washed faces, and inquisitive smiles. While it is true Jesus was surrounded by ordinary people, we miss those to whom he especially reached out. The people most desperately seeking Jesus were those in severe needs. The afflicted, lame, crippled, epileptic, blind, demon possessed, mute, paralytics, the scorned or rejected, those in the deepest poverty of life experience and mind all came to Jesus. People we are tempted to avoid, looking askance and displeasure at, are those who sought Him.

What was the Lord’s response? He warmly and mercifully welcomed.  Jesus walked among them, touched them, and taught them in redeeming love.  Each never left Jesus the same again. Throughout the entire pages of Scripture, we read of God reaching out to the most afflicted and unwanted.

It is natural to want the disorders causing us anguish to go away. In some segments of Christian culture, healing is a major preoccupation. Without it, faith seems to lack relevancy or empowerment. While God is more than able to heal us, the norm of most experiences is that He allows our infirmities to remain to a greater or lesser degree. He uses the struggles to strengthen our faith in an ever closer walk with Him. The proving ground of the Christian life is endurance in trials rather than the easy removal of them. Our sufferings compel us to see our innermost need, which is for ever more of Jesus Christ. Oh, how we need Jesus! This is not to say we will never get better or do not need to proactively seek help, we can and should. Wherever we are in the trial, whatever steps we take; God is of utmost and central importance.

It can be very challenging to our limited understanding that God’s view is to value our spiritual growth in connection to Him of higher importance than our temporary comfort. We can become disillusioned and hurt until we realize this is where the redeeming grace of Christ meets us. The paradoxes of joy in suffering, finding ourselves by losing ourselves in Him, and wholeness in the midst of infirmity come alive in His mercy. What hope a resurrected, living Savior is to the darkness of mental distress.

Sometimes depression, anxiety disorders, and mental or emotional illnesses leave deep scars. The depths of suffering can seem to overwhelm or cripple us.  When all is black, and we are burdened and discouraged, it is hard to see any way forward. How grateful I am that God does not have an aloof “get over it” attitude toward us. He does not simply say, “Chin up”, and then walk away. His care is always gracious, seeking our good, meeting our vulnerability.

In Matthew 12:20 we read of a prophesy from Isaiah: A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. This says a great deal about Jesus’ gentleness. Christ comes to us where we are, in our specific circumstances. In our pain and brokenness He heals, with endless mercy.

The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble.
And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee. Psalm 9:9-10.

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28.

Artwork: © Jeffrey M Green.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Joy in Heaven

In this work we see a rose on the verge of becoming fully blossomed. Its petals as if arms outstretched to receive and be filled with life. Likewise, we in our being open and receive true life in Christ when we accept His Redemption. From that moment, and each day afterward, our soul responds and blossoms in His sublime grace.    

The most beautiful event on earth today is when someone receives Jesus Christ. In that moment, eternity meets mortality, light penetrates darkness, and wandering emptiness is filled with supernatural joy.

Do you think you are insignificant? Jesus said there is joy in heaven over one sinner who repents. Out of the billions of lives on earth, considering that each is so celebrated, how much does God love you?

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?.  Psalm 27:1

Artwork: © Jeffrey M Green. “Opening”, 8” x 10”, colored pencils.

Friday, December 9, 2016

What does the Future Hold?

The future. It fills many with apprehension today. Since we do not know what it holds, we often fill in the gaps with what we believe about the world. Our experiences and past can emotionally shape how we handle what may lie ahead.

In my case, I become very apprehensive if I feel I have no control over events in my life. I consider the future with anxiety, wondering if my goals will fail or what mountains of inner turmoil I must climb if they succeed. The more unsure I am, the more this feeling increases. Since I seek comfort in a sense of mastering the details of my life, I am finding God only lets me see the steps before my feet, as if I have a flashlight in a dark room lighting only what is directly before me. The lesson here is to trust Him and not myself.

We can not know what the future holds. What we can be assured of is the character of God. As Christians, our welfare is safe in His hands. He is utterly trustworthy. That does not mean our lives will be perfect and without trials. It is God’s purpose not to shield us from trouble, but to use it to shape our relationship with Him. He will empower us in our weakness, fill us with His peace, and be our steadfast joy. We step out on our journey holding this in our hearts, confident not in ourselves, but in an awesome God. Our lives become an epic pilgrimage in the joy of the love of Christ shining rays of grace throughout our days.

© Jeffrey M Green. Artwork: “Shadows on the Moss”, pastels.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Art & Science, One Artist's View

Imagine you are an artist. An empty canvass on an easel is before you. You sit for a while, waiting for a beautiful painting to appear. Maybe if you wait long enough or set it in a corner of your studio for a very long time, somehow something will emerge?

I have been an artist most of my life. I know that if I lay a blank sheet of art board on my desk and place beside it a selection of colored pencils (the medium I use) no matter how long I leave them sitting there, an art piece will not spring into existence of its own accord. I could wait years as the materials of my craft lay, as dust settles and it ages, while still nothing emerges. Not until an outside agent acts will a work materialize. Nothing will take place until a hand sets pencil or medium to paper and creates a piece of art. This is not a bizarre, fantastical accident of chance happenstance or creeping evolutionary changes of medium and paper mixture. A willful hand guided by creativity, cognitive intelligence, and action purposely creates. This does not even address how the materials themselves where made the same way.

As I contemplate the surrounding world, I see an immense amount of detail. Considering just a few, such as DNA, cells, atoms, the elements, the intricacy of plant, animal, and marine life, they leave one to question how such a marvelous masterpiece could have sprung from nothing. We are so used to life, accustomed to the earth so to speak, that it has lost its wonder. Modern technology has sanitized us, reducing an amazement of our planet and the appreciation that we exist. These things no longer have wonderment for us because we define existence as self-central to our own capacity and authority. 

When you look closely at a photo in newspaper print, the picture is composed of tiny dots. This is called halftone. Mankind is ever analyzing tiny dots in life. Though God has given us an open curiosity, this has become a cynical negativity that feeds a self-serving world view where we see nothing but dots and redefine them for ourselves. We refuse to step back and take an objective view. The charge of lack of objectivity is made toward those who believe, yet like much of skeptical thought, it falls back on itself. This is tragic, for as we redefine the nature of the things we myopically analyze, a deceptive picture instead emerges.

If one were to consider a belief in a Creator, it is not a big step to assume that if a Creator took willful intent to fashion unique living, thinking beings, would this Creator not also care about what has been made? Do we not treat our own children so? We care what they do, how they live, and the ramifications of the decisions they make. Why is it we do? Because we love our children. We know what they do can be harmful to them. We adore them, care for them, long for their good.

In my opinion, I find the prevalent acceptable scientific view to be the opposite of knowledge. It is close-minded to me, while claiming this for those who believe otherwise. When viewed in a fair-minded way, removing all the years of indoctrination, it is rather silly really. Behind all the imposing scientific rhetoric, built on fortresses of conjecture, is allot of myth and fantasy. There we find the desire to be ones own god and do what is right in ones own eyes. 

If we have lost our wonder today, this is where artists have a calling. I find it a joy that artists have a special heartfelt connection to Creation. We observe and examine the visual world, feebly copying on paper or canvas the vibrant, living, life we see. That is what early scientists did. They studied Creation and gave God the glory for it in admiration and awe of what He has wrought.

What a wonderful role artist's are blessed with. The very ability we have - as well as the hands, eyes, and mind - are formed by our Creator. We receive this gift, giving and expressing this back to the very One who gave. 

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. Romans 1:20.

Artwork: © Jeffrey M Green. “Gentle”, colored pencils.