The Story: The Inspiration and Journey


"All Things New"

Santa Rosa Christian Church Baptistry Mural
   

"And he who was seated on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new.'"
Revelation 21:5

Key Verse:
II Corinthians 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

When I was asked to paint a mural for the baptistry at Santa Rosa Christian Church, I was greatly honored to have the opportunity to create a visual expression of the sacred mood and meaning of baptism.  I found myself confronted, however, with many mixed feelings, as I tried to grapple with just what it was that I was asked to do. 

I am grateful to The Lord for allowing me to represent even some small sliver of His attributes and his creation, in my artwork, but I do not see the physical painting itself, as being somehow imbued with any sort of spiritual essence or power.  I do not see it as being a conduit of the Holy Spirit, for instance, for it is simply a painting, and is just a thing.

All this being said, my desire is that this painting will remind folks of the awesome creativity, love, and grace of our great God, as maybe it will remind you of a special place you have once visited.  Quite possibly you been to a stream such as this, with a cascade, and quiet, reflective pools.  If that is the case, you might be inclined to believe with me, that what you experienced there is the true creation, and this, just a reminder.  But, reminders have their purpose, and this is what I hope will take place as this mural finds its place at Santa Rosa Christian Church.

As it turns out, there are some other symbolic aspects that I chose to include in the painting.  The water of baptism, which, when it closes over, symbolizes the burial of Christ, and our representational burial with him, is the most obvious connection with the water of this landscape.  Water symbolism is so abundant in Scripture, however, and we could find many ways to relate the water of this mural to a favorite passage or verse.  One that particularly stands out to me, and I think so appropriate here is...Jesus says that if we would only ask him, he would give us living water, and we would never thirst again! This life Jesus gives is abundant, and vigorous, and wells up within.  (John 4: 10-14). 

These were the ideas that prompted me to center the theme of the painting on water.  I wanted to depict water flowing, and abundant, and cascading right into the baptistry, where it becomes the picture of the grave, from which we emerge into new life with Christ!  The water flows from all around, and feeds everything and is representational of the abundant life that Jesus brings. 

On a different note, I know that light that is breaking in on a cool, cloudy day, is more impactful, than a flood of bright light.  Don't we all feel that way, when very early in the morning, and the sun is just peaking over the horizon, we catch the first rays, just highlighting the edges of the world around us?  This is something of the mood that I wanted to capture here, and it seemed as though it fit the theme of new life.  The contrast of colors, and values, makes the highlights jump out, and the cool colors, giving way to light, represent the dawning of new life.  The glint of sunlight on the edge of the leaves and grasses, signify the hope of a new day.  Behold, the new has come!

Then, a single butterfly, having just emerged from its chrysalis, has taken flight.  God in his grace, has given us truths in nature, that reflect His grace in our lives.  The butterfly is one of my favorites.  The caterpillar closes itself off to the rest of the world, in its chrysalis, and dies to its old self.  Everything that once was the caterpillar, undergoes total transformation, and what emerges is an entirely new creature.  The theme verse for the mural is  II Corinthians 5:17 which says, "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away;  behold, the new has come."  This is what baptism signifies, the reality that our lives are changed in Christ.  Born again, we become something totally new.  Jesus doesn't just make us better people, he takes people who are spiritually dead, and gives us life!  So, it seemed more than appropriate that a monarch butterfly is part of the scene, to remind us of this reality.

I spent a good part of the painting process, working on the cascade, rocks, plants and everything 'under the sun,' so to speak.  What was really stumping me, though, was how to treat the sky.  I knew that each surface should have something interesting on it, and needed to stand alone, because, depending on where you sit in the sanctuary, you might only be looking at one surface.  There is not a seat in the church where all sides are visible at one time.  For folks who are up front on the stage, they will primarily see only the ceiling.  So, month after month passed by, and I felt fairly uninspired.  I was having somewhat of a block.  Then, one day I was looking through photos of Renaissance art on my iPad, and ran across a painting of the Pentecost, by Dorffmaister.  He depicted the wall of the room, where the disciples were waiting, as clouds, opening up to reveal the Holy Spirit coming upon them.  I liked the idea of the clouds rolling back, and the Holy Spirit being presented, symbolically, through the image of a dove.  So, with this new vision, I continued to paint "the light, breaking through darkness" idea.  I painted clouds rolling back, to reveal a dove gently descending.  It wasn't until I showed someone a photo of my work in progress, that they pointed out, and it became apparent  to me, that I had inadvertently painted a subtle image of a heart in the clouds!  Serendipity, or is it God's direction, or just my inclination toward drawing hearts - I can't be sure.  But, whatever the case, it seemed appropriate, and so I left the image as I had painted it.

So, now I had a symbolic reminder of God the Father.  God is love (I John 4:8).  God doesn't just possess the ability to love; love is not simply one of His attributes; he is not the best example of someone who loves, but He IS love!  So, I had already painted a representation of the Living Water - Jesus, and the dove - the Holy Spirit.  Now it felt complete, as I finished up the clouds, and put the finishing touches on the reminder, that all we have and are is because our Heavenly Father IS Love.

So, in closing, what happens when an artist is asked to paint a mural for the church, and ultimately, for God?  The best I can say is that it is a reminder.  All through the process I was being reminded of who my God is in my own life, and what it means for me to offer this small portion to Him.  My desire is that this mural will serve, in some way, to remind you, too.


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"Fernwood"

I find that nature is a metaphor, or an ongoing parable of the kingdom of God. We know that Jesus taught in parables, and I do believe that the Holy Spirit, at times using that same teaching style as Jesus, reminds us of God's nature and attributes as we experience His creation. This is one reason why I love to paint the things of nature. So often they speak to my heart of things eternal.
 
When I saw this scene, I was drawn to the peacefulness of it, and was reminded that in Jesus we find rest; rest even while embroiled in the trials of this life, but more importantly, eternal rest.  Jesus paid the debt for our sin and He, himself, is our Sabbath Rest.  He calls us to come to Him and receive Him.

 

There is a place of comfort sweet,

Near to the heart of God.

A place where we our Savior meet,

Near to the heart of God.

 

There is a place of full release,

Near to the heart of God.

A place where all is joy and peace,

Near to the heart of God.

Lyrics by: Cleland B. McAfee

 

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"Glory Days"

 


















Resplendent beauty or magnificence: That is one of the definitions I found for the word, GLORY.
 
I look forward to the wisteria blooming each year. It is a vine that reserves a special place of honor for the blooms, which preceding the leaves, have a place of prominence, until the small leaf curls start to spring forth. The lavender clusters do not last long, however, and so it is truly a matter of days before their glory fades.
 
The process of painting is somewhat like developing a wonderful new friendship. Each subject is one that becomes very well known, and the end result is a personal connection that is so much more than the sum of the materials. I have a new appreciation for wisteria, and for the master painter, who created this beauty for me to enjoy and interpret.

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"Abundance"

"Let my teaching fall like rain
and my words descend like dew,
like showers on new grass,
like abundant rain on tender plants." 
Deuteronomy 32:2 NIV

This winter of drought was very unsettling for me. I was so aware of our dependence on our sovereign God, as I contemplated the outcome, should little or no rain fall this year. Everyone was talking about it, and already making plans for rationing water.

After months of no rain, several mornings in a row we awoke to a blanket of our lovely marine fog. Though it had not rained over night, the ground was wet with dew, and it was a sweet relief. I knew we still needed the rain, but just the presence of that moisture was reassuring. The drops clung to the branches, grew bigger as they joined, and then fell to the ground like rain. Finally, as the winter wore on, it rained. So many had been praying, and the rain was a reminder that our God supplies all that we need.

The rain also serves to remind me of how desperately we depend on God's Word. Just as when we take for granted that the rain will always come, I am prone to take for granted God's Word. For too long I can neglect to open it's pages, or to study and drink in the truths that are there. It is my own, self-imposed, spiritual drought. When I finally respond to God's grace, and embrace his Word on a regular basis, I find that it soothes my parched soul. He speaks through His Word, and the drops of truth linger, and join, and grow, giving life to my heart, mind, and soul. It changes how I think, and how I approach my world. It directs my way. I feel cared for, and know that God is very near. His Word is abundant, and free, and available to any who would desire to find relief from their inner drought.

(If you have never read the Bible before, begin with the Gospel of John - the 4th book of the New Testament. Feel free to contact me. I would be very happy to help you.)

 
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 "Quail Hollow: Songs of Deliverance"


 
"You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance."  Psalm 32:7  NIV

If you are like me, here's what is generally said when you have come into contact with a covey of quail...
"Did you see them? Quick! There they go!"
Quail do not hang around to have their pictures taken. In fact, just about the only state I have seen them in, is running frantically for shelter. I suppose it is because they are so vulnerable, since they have very limited flying ability.

On the day that I managed to get this quail to sit for a photo shoot, a covey darted in front of my car, right into a thicket at the side of the road. I pulled over to see if I could finally get a picture of this elusive little creature. Sure enough, there he sat, motionless on a limb in front of me. I was able to snap several pictures of him. He was surrounded by the branches, and leaves. He was able to rest. He was in his hiding place.

This reminded me of my life, and my God, who has promised me through the words of David, that He is my hiding place. He has assured me that I can find rest and peace in Him. I only have to run to Him. He will be my shelter and put a song of deliverance in my heart!

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"Wading Room"

 The Stanislaus River rushed past us, just beyond the stillness of this pool. My husband, Casey, and I had spread out our belongings on a rock, to relax in the beauty of this backdrop. It's hard to spend time near the force and continuity of a river, and avoid any reflection on the nature of God.  I am just wired that way. The river was powerful and mighty, and, had I stepped off into its current, I would have been swept away. But, right before me was the metaphor for God's mercy and grace - a sandy beach, a quiet pool, a rock of stability - all inviting me to step in, and get wet. The truth is, there is wading room for us all. Step in.

 

"...But whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

- Jesus

John 4:14

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 "Whispering Aspen"

 

Quaking Aspen, full of movement and bright with a shock of golden leaves, just weeks before, had now become silent. What an amazing metaphor for life. I was so drawn to the white bark of these graceful beauties, showcased against the mauve grasses. Had they continued in the bold, and flashy colors of autumn, we would have missed the equally lovely, but quieter show of winter.

 

 "Be still and know that I am God;

I will be exalted among the nations,

I will be exalted in the earth."

Psalm 46:10

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