Archive for December, 2007

501

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I was given a book of 500 self-portraits for Christmas and it got me thinking about how and why the artists rendered themselves the way they did. I wonder what they were trying to say and what they were feeling. How did their self-portrait reflect their society? How would our self-portrait reflect our society? These are just some of the questions that I’ve asked myself as I examined the book. So for what it’s worth here is 501.

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Magnolia

I feel like a fool! A man of ignorance trying to understand what is seemingly incomprehensible. I’m riddled with insecurity, or is it just fear? I’m starting to believe that I’ve asked God for the impossible, or have I’ve asked God for something I cannot endure? The prayer “teach me how to love” should have never been uttered from my lips. I should have kept silent and simply lived in my own futility. My soul has been broken and torn into little pieces that have been scattered by the wind. This journey has been dark at times, but God has provided the light. My soul has been crushed, but the potter’s hands have begun to build it up again. It was a prayer of naivety and completely filled with desperation. I feel like a fool for asking such things, I feel weak and unable to learn the lesson, but yet God keeps trying to teach me. Sometimes I just want to stop and not love, I want to stay selfish and to harden my heart so that I cannot feel pain. I now realize that I’m such a frail man. As I humbly go before God I can only ask him one thing… “Teach me how to love”.

The Fold-Out Cover

The rain slowly drips

Today summer’s life is dead

Now my new hope blooms

 

I will breathe for now

The fragrance of a new life

From sunrise to dusk

 

Mourning will grip time

Till these bloodstained hands let go

Being washed by grace

 

Storms will wash away

The scorched lands of emptiness

To bring hope’s promise

 

The rain slowly drips

Today summer’s life is dead

Now my new hope blooms

Into Brussels

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I try not to look as I make my way up the final couple of stairs, but like a small child on Christmas I have to peek. I simply can’t hold it, I must see it! On more than one occasion I’ve found myself walking briskly down the hall towards it and if it wasn’t for proper museum etiquette I would run to it. It stands over 8 feet tall and 14 feet wide and it is quite possibly one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. James Ensor’s painting of Christ’s Entry into Brussels is simply magnificent. I’ve seen it on more than one occasion and every time I simply don’t know what to think. As my eyes examine the painting my mind is flooded with thoughts and I find myself being forced to sit on the politely cushioned bench. My eyes begin to hurt as they rapidly try to focus in on all aspects of its grandeur. On numerous occasions I’ve sat in silence with my head bowed and eyes closed not knowing what to feel. As I gaze upon this work of art I always seem to find new meaning as it speaks to me. Its abrasive colors challenge my senses, the harsh brushstrokes make me feel uneasy and its sheer size makes me feel small and insignificant. I’m haunted by this painting because it speaks a difficult truth; a truth that I have not yet to understand.

In the midst of a Mardi Gras parade an image of Christ is riding on a donkey. Perfectly placed at the center of the painting (I don’t think by coincidence) Christ is in the midst of debauchery, pride and selfishness. Christ is surrounded by figures that are celebrating anything but his return; he is the center but he is not noticed, he is alone and insignificant, he is simply a sidenote. As a look up at this paining I’m reminded that Christ is here with me and in the middle of the world’s crap. How can this be? How can Christ be in the midst of this place and still want to be with us? I simply don’t know how, but I know he just is and he just does.

Manifold Engagement

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With each step I can feel the blisters on the bottoms of my feet getting bigger and bigger; I would stop and tend to them but there is not time for sympathy or rest…I must push on. Like a crack in a dam the sensation of pain begins to break through any barrier; my body wants to rest, but I won’t allow it. My muscles ache and my jaw is clenched tight with determination. It’s a battle of the mental over the physical, but my victory is found in the spiritual. The salt from my sweat begins to burn my eyes and my mouth is parched from dehydration. In the midst of my run I can feel the lactic acid slowly pour through my body. I ask myself “is it time to stop?” and far too often the answer is no. Then something unexplainable happens…My sweat becomes sweet, my pain becomes pleasure and my muscles now ache with joy. The dam has broken and my heart is now flooded with peace. My spirit has been lifted by a strength that is far greater than I could have ever imagined. My body is weak, but yet has strength, my mind is weary, but yet is renewed. My soul’s determination has been blessed by my companion; we run together stride for stride anticipating the finish. My souls is fed by this manifold engagement…The sun speaks to me, the trees shade me, the pavement invites me to go further, the birds whisper my name, unspoken words bring life to my heavy legs, sweat becomes my fuel, and the grimace is now a smile. When the journey ends I will wipe the sweat from my eyes and say these four words…“that kicked my ass!”

Soul Craving

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With no regard toward man or industry the pine trees sway back and forth in nature’s perfect rhythm,

Their needles gracefully fall on the fertile ground covering it like manna from the heavens.

The cool wind rushes through the canopy singing of God’s grace and harmony.

Halted by the thunderous sound of falling water, I find stillness and serenity.

Gnarled tree roots reach deep into the ground with anticipation of weathering the oncoming storm,

My hope blooms with every passing moment.

The warmth of the fire delights my flesh, but contentment delights my heart.

Breathtaking vistas humbly remind me of grace, love, redemption and freedom,

While the forging of new relationships gives light into the dark places within.

Illuminated by the rising moon our faces reflect the sovereignty of God.

It is here that I come broken before my maker…just as I am,

And it is here that I begin to understand…I am loved.