I've been working black and white for the past few works. I like the mood it sets. This one was particularly challenging as I had to think of the white shadows in the background, foreground and middle ground.
For black I used a mixture of Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Umber and then Titanium White for the greys.
Thank you so much for your prayers! I had 4 kids last night in the Brushworks Art Class in Dallas County Juvenile Detention Center. One young man lost his privileges this past week so he wasn't there. Please keep praying for him. I got to really engage with the small group. It was just wonderful. Your prayers are being heard. Thank you for going in there with me. I couldn't do this without your faithful prayers and without Jesus being there already waiting.
A (a lovely young lady) did this emotion piece! It's so powerful and moving. I hope you see her heart poured out in this canvas. I can't wait to see more from her. She told me last night she goes to an Academy and her elective there is art.
Two young men from last week came back. They don't ask for prayer but I always ask if I can pray for them and they say, "Yes, Miss." They both did a great job last night. I was so happy to see them get confident.
Here are their works:
One young man I've had for a few weeks was back. I got the opportunity to talk with him a little more. He was getting very discouraged about his painting and we just walked through it. The other two boys were saying some negative things so I had them stop talking (or they were going to sit out in the hall with the Detention officer). After that he really started going for it. At one point he said, "Miss, you make me feel like a million dollars!" Every kid should get to feel that way in their life. Every kid. It's those times that I really feel Jesus is already there, in the moment, waiting to be seen, heard and felt.
We did our very FIRST painting in oils of a sky raining down. Below
is the one with a large black bottom (land) that is from this particular young man.
Loved his landscape!
Please keep praying for these precious ones that God loves.
Bless you all. I can't thank you enough for your love and friendship to me and these kids.
It seems like I'm trying to avoid social media more and more these days. Over the past few weeks I've backed away on purpose. Not saying that the solution to our problems is to avoid them. Of course, we have to have serious discussion about Refugees, Immigration, Education...the list goes on and on. Social Media doesn't seem the right platform for a good talk with another human being. I had to back away because it was all "noise." With mine added in. I started to feel helpless. The problems seemed insurmountable.
As I was painting this I just wanted to convey something of the power of grace. This unending, relentless force that flows from the core of God. Whenever I get close to despair I have to get my eyes on beauty and goodness. It strengthens me to my very bones. It shapes me as water shapes rocks over time.
I don't have the answers to the world's problems and I certainly am not giving up on loving people who are not like me. I think that right now we could all use a big plunge into the everlasting...the magnificence of mercy. I believe we could all use the reminder that any true love comes from an overflow of God's love. Let's not forget that His love changed the world and is still changing it...even as it is steadfast.
Praying with you friends. For an overflow of kindness, goodness, truth and sweet beauty. Not fake, plastic surgery beauty. But a beauty that would cause us to be better people for having seen it.
I've been reading a book, The Old Ways by Robert MacFarlane. It's a beautiful, thoughtful book about the trails that are left by man on the landscape. Many of the chapters are an exploration of England's wilder moors and mountains.
I've also come from reading Silence, by Endo, Silence and Beauty by Makoto Fujimura and watching the film, Silence, Directed by Martin Scorcsese. All of these left a deep impression on me. I will not talk about that in this post. But I will say that the mist in the movie seemed to be it's own character. I noticed it in the novel as well but of course visually it was just stunning. There were moments when the mist hid the priests and saved their lives. There were moments of deep spiritual clarity that came and went with the lifting of the mist. There was a deep thirst for the spiritual throughout the film and yet this heavy, thick mist (full of water of course). As if God was right there, waiting.
I have always felt mist to be a very spiritual visual. For me it is much like prayer. I never see clearly everything that is there but I am wrapped in a veil. I see what is right in front of me and that is enough.
In the painting I wanted the mountain to be almost fully veiled in mist. Like a lightness of air put on something immovable and large.
MacFarlane writes, "...we customarily imagine mountains in terms of their external surfaces and outward-facing forms: cliffs, plateaux, pinnacles, ridges and scarps. But mountains are also defined by their interiors: their corries, caves, hollows and valleys, and by the depth of their rivers, lochs and lochans. Once our eyes have learnt to see that mountains are composed of absent space as well as massy presence, then we might also come to imagine walking not "up" a mountain but "into" a mountain...searching not for the great outdoors but instead for profound interiors and deep recesses..."
For me, that's what I'm after in the painting. This topography of the mountain blanketed by a thick mist. A spiritual place as God was present on mountains and in mist/cloud/smoke. We can stand and be quieted by presence.
One of the Students' final work, Anger and Flow (peace)
Thank you all for the prayers last week. The class was small. Only had 4
kids (2 boys and 2 girls). I went over some rules (some of which I share
in a photo below). Blue and Red are significant colors to these kids
because they are the colors of two dominant gangs. In a painting class we
need to be able to let that go and just use them as COLORS. Lots of talk
last week about "my favorite is red miss. You know. It's MY color." And
lots of knowing looks to each other. Ugh. So this week I just went ahead
and told them this is ART WORLD and in Art World there is no gang colors.
I also was able to talk about their right to be respected (as well as
mine) and their right to learn and be safe. Huge thank you to Dee Jones
for helping me talk through rules and guidelines in the classroom.
I asked one student if I could share his painting with you. He's an African
American young man. I have found him to be respectful and insightful when
I ask questions. I have appreciated how he gets right to the assignment
and does the work. On the left side is Anger and on the right side is what
he calls his Flow (chill). I think he hit it very well as the assignment
was to keep to a few colors with no symbols or forms and to pick two
different emotions (prefer two contrasting ones).
He is especially receptive to prayer.
This may seem like scribble or just color to you all but I am hoping that
he sees how he can express himself (safely) through paint. Pray for God to
use this to open some windows for some of them.
I am enjoying the class and ask that you please continue to pray for me to know how to best reach these precious ones.
Father Rodriguez with Kichijiro in the Movie, Silence
Thoughts on Silence
After watching the film, Silence,
I was mute, full of emotion, questions and also a need to be around people
(at least for a time afterwards). I won’t give a full synopsis of the film here
but I did want to write down some thoughts that have been churning in me after
reading Makoto Fujimura’s book, Silence
and Beauty, as well as reading Endo’s novel, Silence and then finally watching Martin Scorsese’s film, Silence. That was the sequence I
followed. Not saying that is the way to do it but it was my way. I found after
each book and after the film that I needed space and time to fully get my
questions out. Perhaps to untangle the mesh of emotions that came up as well.
I couldn’t help but think that the film and books touched so
deeply on this theme of shame. How it was a profound part of the Japanese
culture but is just as much a part of ours today.
In the New York Times article titled, “Shame Culture”, David
Brooks writes, “The desire to be embraced and praised by the community is
intense. People dread being exiled.” We tend to think of shame as something
that happens very readily in Asian culture (I am a missionary kid from the
Philippines and have seen first hand the effects of this “saving face”
mentality and how it is handled) yet we never seem to see that it is right in
front of us here in our western culture. In the article Brooks quotes from Andy
Crouch who writes, “Any talk of good or bad has to defer to talk of respect of
recognition…Asia’s shame culture is to have save, “face” or honor but
contemporary culture is to be unique, attention grabbing…” We have become a
social media society that seeks to be liked, loved, envied even but dare not be
disagreed with. Crouch is quoted, “Shame culture can be unmerciful to those who
disagree and to those who don’t fit in…”
In the film we see that the Japanese devise a deeper way of
persecuting the Christians by using shame. They see that if they get the very
Jesuits to apostatize then they can make them an example to the other
Christians. They could root out this religion through the means of stepping on
the fumi-e (cutting down any respect they might gain by their shamefulness).
Dan Allender, renowned psychologist, writer and founder of
the Seattle School of Psychology and Theology writes, “Shame is one of the most
effective weapons to silence us and shut us down. It is where Satan (his very
name is “Accuser”) divides our heart most effectively from God, others and even
from oneself.” In fact, Dan writes, “I often try to escape my own suffering and
equally refuse the kindness of God in the midst of my struggle…yet God waits,
exposes and constantly invites back.”
The film seems to play on two central figures that of Father
Rodriguez and Kichijiro. Both travel through the film and become different
people by the end. Father Rodriguez seems to discover his own humanity (and in
it his humility as well as a deeper love for the sufferer more likened to
Christ than he ever was). Kichijiro is the Judas figure of the story. He keeps
betraying yet wanting to confess and be forgiven. Both men know what it means
to live in shame. Yet, as Tish Warren writes in Liturgy of the Ordinary, “Our failure or successes in the Christian
life are not what define us or determine our worth before God or God’s people.
Instead we are defined by Christ’s life and work on our behalf.” Rodriguez
literally hears Christ tell him to stomp on the fumi-e. Kichijiro relentlessly
shows the ability to keep getting up and striving to live in grace even when it
doesn’t seem fair to be tried so cruelly by the world.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of
witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely,
and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus,
the founder and perfector of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him
endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the
throne of God.”
I heard a sermon on this passage two days after watching the
film. Naturally, my ear was struck by the word, “shame” in the Scripture. What
did it mean that Jesus “despised the shame?” My Pastor, David Rogers said,
“Jesus FELT the cross. Don’t forget that He knew it through His own flesh and
blood.” I forget as I see Jesus, the Son of God, almost inhuman at times. But
He was human. FULLY human.
John Piper writes about this passage, “Shame was stripping
away every earthly support that Jesus had: His friends gave way in shaming
abandonment; His reputation gave way in shaming mockery; His decency gave way
in shaming nakedness; His comfort gave way in shaming torture. His glorious
dignity gave way to the utterly undignified degrading reflexes of grunting,
groaning and screeching…”
How could the Son of God let Himself be shamed to such a
level? This scripture points out the JOY set before Him. Jesus believed that
shame, fully exposed, fully in the open, could be grace for all of mankind.
Rodriguez is able to let the Catholic Church believe he has
apostatized. He is able to take on the role of a married man (even after taking
vows that he would not do that). He is able to take the ridicule of the village
children (the people) because he fell past the shame into a deeper place of
love. He became one of them. No longer is he above them or using them for some
deeper meaning to his life. He sees with truer eyes: They are you and you are
they. And in a nutshell we aren’t enough. Not one of us is. We all fall short;
we all step on our fumi-e perhaps unnumbered times a day. AND YET GOD LOVES.
Phillip Yancey writes in, What’s So
Amazing About Grace? “God loves people because of who God is, not because
of who we are…”
There is another beautiful nugget I left with and that is true empathy. There is a line in the movie where Inoue says to Rodriguez, "Your glory is their suffering!" Glory is not through that path at all but in letting go and BEING with another person in their suffering, just as Christ did for us. How does our true compassion meet shame? How does empathy help me see more clearly the truth of how I am loved? How does Emmanuel meet me today?
Calvin Miller writes in The Table of Inwardness:
"Did I talk to God today? Yes, some, but more than talk, I listened. Did I see Christ in my world? Yes, I saw nothing but Christ."
Podcast, Dan Allender, May 15, 2016.
What’s So Amazing
About Grace? Phillip Yancey, Zondervan, September 30, 1997.
Liturgy of the
Ordinary, Tish Warren, April 1, 2015
The Table of
Inwardness, Calvin Miller, July 1984.
What Does It Mean for
Jesus to Despise the Shame? Article for Desiring God, John Piper, March 29,
The Shame Culture, New
York Times, David Brooks, March 15, 2016.