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 For a man who comes from an isolated and withdrawn background with emotional and mental issues, there have been hard lessons.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.