Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Walking With God
By Ramone - April 28, 2008
Three weeks ago as I was walking home from work and knew God was with me. This is the way I saw it and the only way I know how to show it. He's in me, next to me, around me, surrounding me... with me. What a friend! What a close friend! What a privilege to have You so close to me, Jesus! Thank You. Help me always remember that You are here with me, and be comforted by the warming glow of Your love and Your presence. I don't understand why I'm weeping, but thank You, God. It's wonderful to know You and be with You.
By Ramone - April 28, 2008
I was finishing reading former Chicago Tribune journalist Lee Strobel's book, "The Case for Christ" when I saw this picture. Strobel had been a content atheist until much to his irritation, his wife became a Christian. Instead of becoming a "sexually repressed prude" as he feared, he saw her become more confident and her character became more attractive to him. Eventually Strobel set off to investigate the historical evidence for the existence of Christ, the claims of whether or not the New Testament was preserved or selected by powermongers, and finally the claims of Christ about Himself. To make a long story short, at the end of Strobel's investigation, he confessed, "The atheism I had embraced for so long buckled under the weight of historical truth."
Staring at the evidence he was faced with an unexpected decision... "Now what?" As the evidence overwhelmingly supported the reality of Christ and the purity of the preservation of His words, likeness and character, Strobel had to take a hard look in the mirror. And what he saw was a journalist who had been living a self-centered, backstabbing, deceptive and immoral life. Finding that the Bible passed the test, he now looked with new eyes at how it said his sins separated him from God:
"Certainly God, whose existence I had denied for years, seemed extremely distant, and it became obvious to me that I needed the cross of Jesus to bridge that gulf. Said the apostle Peter, 'For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God' (1 Peter 3:18). All this I now believed. The evidence of history and of my own experience was too strong to ignore."As I read this I was stopped on the cross---how the death of God's Son is a bridge for us, a bridge to life, and how choosing to stay on the other side is choosing death. This is the picture I saw with much grief, and that I get grief in the Spirit with now as I write about it. It's a picture of what it means when we turn away from that bridge and say, "No, God, I don't need You." It's a picture of us shunning the cross that was given to give us life.
Lord, I don't know what to pray. But I pray that You help people see what You have offered us, and that none turn away. In Jesus' name, amen.
Monday, April 21, 2008
By Ramone - April 20, 2008
A friend of mine called me and reminded me of something that I had shared with him awhile ago which he thought was really insightful and had been blessed by. As I thought about it later, the enemy started accusing me saying that "Oh, you have such great ideas, talk & theories, but nothing really, no real experience, meat, or proof or action or real living example." And I began to doubt, wondering if I have just been "sitting on" what God showed me or told me, and felt a little guilty about that.
But then God showed me this picture and I just had to laugh. And thank Him!
He said that He had given me many eggs to sit on, and that He will "hatch them" in His proper fullness of time. Thank You, Lord! Then He said,
"I've called you to give birth, but first you must brood. You must sit on what I've given you. Keep them warm in intercession and do not abandon them, and do not let anyone take them from you."Earlier in the day I had asked a different friend of mine to pray for something, and he wrote that he would pray for me and wait on the Spirit to know how to pray. He shared two things that he was reminded of and I was blessed. Of the second one, he said,
"And don't sit on every egg you come across, only the ones I give you."
Second thing I am reminded of is a Hen. A mother hen just sits and wait for the eggs to hatch. It can be frustrating at times for her but she patiently waits for the eggs to hatch and for life to come forth. All she can do is just sit on the eggs until they hatch.This in turn encouraged me to keep praying and waiting on the Lord. To brood and let Him brood through me by His Spirit.
At the beginning of Genesis, the Spirit of God is "brooding" (like a hen) over the earth, giving birth to creation. And Jesus spoke of His longing to gather the children of Jerusalem under His wing as a mother hen over her chicks.
Here, just in the same way, the Spirit of God is "brooding" over what He's called us to, giving birth to His purposes and His children in the Spirit. And He is calling us to join Him in that patient intercession, to be spiritual wombs through which His Spirit gives birth. It will take time, but He alone knows how long. Maybe short, maybe long. But don't give up!
May you be blessedLord, here we are! We'll sit on this 'egg' for You, Jesus!
as you carry His heart
and intercede for the burden of His heart
that He has called you to brood over
so that He may give birth through you
by His life-giving Spirit,
in Jesus' name,
Holy Spirit, brood, and brood through us!
In Jesus' name, amen.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Children of Pentecost
By Ramone - April 19, 2008
Recently when writing about Pentecost and tongues, I read in Acts how the number of "brothers" was said to be 120, and realized that probably didn't include women and children (see Matthew 14:21 & 15:38 for more examples ancient patriarchal counting habits). But if any mothers were there, or fathers or families, then children would've been there, too. And it says that the Spirit was poured out on everyone, and they all praised God in tongues.
Hallelu Yah! How awesome to imagine and picture children praising God at Pentecost!
When I was writing about Pentecost and tongues, I got too "peripheral" -- that is, I focused mostly on the mechanics of when and where such things would be allowed or disallowed, focusing on "church order" instead of the spirit of these things. But in giving me this picture, God just doused me with His pure joy and called me back into childlike wonder at His love and being filled with His Spirit.
He's calling us to be children of Pentecost--
children of His SpiritHe told me to not get too caught up explaining it or dissecting it or even in defending it. Don't make a rule of it or law of it or regulation of it; don't offend by it, don't fight with it and don't focus on it too much.
children of His fire
children of His flame
children of the passion of His heart
"Be a child of My flame," He says.I was just showing this picture to my one-year-old son Timothy, and he seemed to like it, hehe. He loves worshiping Jesus already! (See these pictures!) As I was showing him this and he was smiling, I began singing this song and I think it totally fits. (^_^) Thank You, Jesus!
"Dance in My joy, drink My Spirit,
be ignited with the fire of My heart.
Sink Yourself into My passion.
Be My child, My child of Pentecost."
My First Love
by Stuart Townsend
My first love is a blazing fire
I feel His powerful love in me
For He has kindled a flame of passion
And I will let is grow in me
And in the night I will sing Your praise, my love
And in the morning I'll seek Your face, my love
And like a child I will dance in Your presence
Oh, let the joy of heaven pour down on me
I still remember the first day I met You
And I don't ever want to lose that fire, my first love
My first love is a rushing river
A waterfall that will never cease
And in the torrent of tears and laughter
I feel a healing power released
And I will draw from Your well of life, my love
And in Your grace I'll be satisfied, my love
Restore the years of the church's slumber
Revive the fire that has grown so dim
Renew the love of those first encounters
That we may come alive again
And we will rise like the dawn throughout the earth
Until the trumpet announces Your return
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Pictures Of Us!
Here are some pictures of us! Enjoy!
1 - Yoko working on "Love Grows" (around May 5,'05)
2 - Ramone working on "Jujika kara" (May 29,'05)
3 - At a bagel cafe, Yoko working on a picture--But which one? (Aug.29,'06)
4 - Ramone trying to get started on "Reaching for God's Heart" (July 20,'06)
These are pictures of Yoko working on "Promise" - note her cute enjoying-it-thoroughly smile in the second picture! (Taken on January 14-15,'07)
This is a picture of Yoko & her family on New Year's Day 2008, when we told them the Japanese the name we were giving our son Timothy -- "Tsuyoshi" -- using a character from her father's name.
These are sketches I made on May 20 & June 4 ('07) of Yoko nursing Timothy.
And this is a pretty bad ink picture I did of Timothy, haha! (July 9,'07)
These are pieces I put up at Jesus Family Center's "Art Weekend" from Nov.3-4, 2007.
As you can see, Timothy was quite a charmer!
This is the second picture I did of Timothy, but maybe he didn't like it! (Nov.9,'07)
I did this picture of wanting to go deep in the ocean of God's love, and it seems like Timo wants to go deep in God's love, too! (Feb.10,'08) He knows how to rest in Mommy's love, and somehow he knows how to rest in God's love, too. Seeing Him I am filled with love and my eyes get watery, just like God's! The second picture from March 18th ('08) is a picture of that.
Actually, when I photograph pictures I usually do so by laying them on the floor in the sunlight. If Timothy is around, he of course wants to see what I'm doing! And he wants to come and touch the pictures, which of course usually stops me from being able to take the pictures, haha. I have to find ways to do it quickly or when he's asleep or in another room. However, this time I let him "touch", and he started pointing to the cross! He knows what it's all about, hey! He wants to draw, too! He wants to draw close to You, Jesus!
Yoko was writing something and Timo wanted to try... so it turned into his first "art", which alas I have not photographed. But I dare say he enjoyed it. Hehe. And suddenly I am melted in God's love as I realize that Timothy was partaking in His joy of creation! See this link to read some thoughts on this picture from March 22,'08.
Monday, April 14, 2008
Let His Light Shine!
By Ramone - April 13, 2008
This little light of mine—This picture came the same night that I finished "The Body is Christ!" and the meaning of this one is part of the same burden of God's heart for us to come into His freedom, into His light. The children's song "This little light of mine" kept playing in my head and He began to speak to my spirit...
I'm going to let it shine!
Hide it under a bush, oh no—
I'm going to let it shine!
Won't let Satan blow it out—
I'm going to let it shine!
All around the neighborhood—
I'm going to let it shine!
Let it shine 'til Jesus comes—
I'm going to let it shine!
What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church... And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged.NIV
- 1 Corinthians 14:26-31
How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification... But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged.
- 1 Corinthians 14:26-31 NKJV Simply put, God wants to speak in His church and through His church. Not through just one "preacher" or one speaker. The Holy Spirit is inside us each, and God has purposefully put Himself into each of us to bless the whole.
Honestly and bluntly speaking, this is not allowed "in church". We have maintained and tightened a tradition where only one person is speaking, and because of this many people in churches are growing weak and cold, and need the warming of the Holy Spirit who reveals Himself even through little children. Each of us needs to let the Holy Spirit exercise His gifts through us in "church". Church was not meant to be "a sermon", a "ritual ceremony" or a "program". It is the community of the Spirit, and the Spirit must be allowed to speak through whomever He chooses so that all will be blessed. If the Spirit is constrained by our traditions, then we are not allowing everyone to be blessed as He desires.
It is surprising and humbling to realize that the ancient synagogues seemed to have more freedom and openness than we do today:
Jesus went to Nazareth, where He had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day He went into the synagogue, as was His custom. And He stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. Unrolling it, He found the place where it is written:Today, even if someone had grown up in our church, would we just let them get up there and say something unscripted? We might let them do the "Scripture reading", but the sermon is planned, the songs chosen, the people who will pray are already selected, and maybe even the time of dismissal is already decided, etc.
"The Spirit of the Lord is on Me,
because He has anointed Me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent Me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."
Then He rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on Him, and He began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."
- Luke 4:16-21
In amazing contrast, the ancient synagogue of Pisidian Antioch was open enough to invite visitors to speak--
In Pisidian Antioch, Paul and his companions entered the synagogue on the Sabbath and sat down. After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the synagogue rulers sent word to them, saying, "Brothers, if you have a message of encouragement for the people, please speak."Today we must learn leave room for the unexpected. In fact, we must get used to laying down our whole agenda. The Scriptures must be read and everything must be in submission to the Scriptures. But as Martin Luther once said, without the Spirit the Scriptures are not understood even though they are read.
Making small open-mic moments in our "service" doesn't count, either. God is not meant to be the side-dish or a supporting act; He wants to be our main dish, the main act. He wants to give His word to us Himself. He has worked through our systems and pre-planned programs wonderfully in the past, but as new generations of His children come into His freedom, the constraints are being felt. The fire of the Holy Spirit is growing as we draw closer to the end, and if we truly desire for the fire of His Spirit and the message of His passionate love to cover the earth as the waters cover the sea, then we must allow Him out of our programmed boxes. We must learn to welcome His fire and gather around it like campers around a bonfire at night!
Even in our most free-flowing "Spirit-filled" charismatic churches, this is very rare. Space may be given for messages in tongues, and the mic may be open for occasional short prophesying, but the "pulpit" is still fixed in place, and that means that you (the congregation) know your place---that you need to sit down and not interrupt. The "program" is still in place; the tradition of men is still dominant; the Holy Spirit is not allowed to freely flow through each member. The sermon is the center -- not seeking the Holy Spirit and His word and heart for us. We may "invite" Him to an extent, but we still take offense when He does something that we don't expect or interrupts our "flow" or planned words and events. Our invitation is only warm to Him if He cooperates with our program.
Yet in 1st Corinthians 14:30, Paul said that "if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop." Paul would only give this instruction if it were actually something that the Holy Spirit would, did, and does do! In other words, Paul said that the Holy Spirit is going to give revelation to people who are sitting down, and when this happens, the person who's speaking needs to recognize it and give way to the Holy Spirit! (The whole body must then "carefully weigh what is said" and each one must judge for themselves whether it is the Lord that has spoken or not).
This is a picture of the church at large today -- cold, dark, diseased (sickly green) and in desperate need of the warmth of the Spirit expressed as Paul instructed in 1st Corinthians 14:26-31, flowing through each person. In the picture the sevenfold Spirit of God is seen lighting His fire in certain people sitting down, waiting to be released through their mouths & lives so that the whole church may be warmed.
But it's not happening here because seeking the Spirit presence and waiting on Him to speak are not "part of the program". Someone filled with the Spirit has realized it, and is heading for the door. This person represents countless thousands who are all "heading for the door" today because they are being filled with the Spirit and cannot contain it "in church" any longer. God is sending many, many of them out of the pew and into the world to light up others with His fire, with His Holy Spirit. And outside, through the windows, we see the fire of His Spirit is burning more and more.
Can you hear His heart crying out to us, longing to heal us and provide us desperately needed warmth, passion and strength?
"Let it shine! Let My light shine in the church and in the world! I have put My light in each of you and My light is meant to shine through each of you!"Will we welcome Him in? Will we let Him speak so that the church may be edified and strengthened? It's going to break our traditions. Is His fire worth it? Is hearing the passion of His heart spoken worth it? Dare we make waiting on the unseen, unprogrammed invisible Holy Spirit the center of our gathering? I pray that we do dare! In Jesus' name, amen!
The Body is Christ!
By Ramone - April 13, 2008
"The Body is Christ!"
Therefore don't let anyone judge you in regard to food and drink or in the matter of a festival or a New Moon or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of what was to come; the substance is the Messiah.
Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. (NIV)
So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a New Moon or Sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. (NKJV) The word translated "substance" or "reality" can also be translated as "body". This is how I pictured Paul telling people not to worry about religious rituals, holy days, holy foods, "divine services", etc. These things were and still are only a shadow... but the BODY is Christ!
The reality, the substance, is His body! Not even "communion service", but His real, REAL body! He Himself is the reality! Yes, He called us to "remember" Him and celebrate the New Covenant by having communion with one another in His presence. But this is a ceremony of rememberance, not a "means of grace" and not a re-presenting or offering of His sacrifice again because it has already been offered once for all! The reality is Him!
Paul was saying,
"Look! Not shadows, not services, not rituals, not programs! Get your head out of the ritualistic box -- the reality is Him! He is it! He Himself is the reality! You don't need a 'service' or a special ritual to access Him or 'receive' Him! No! He has done it already! He has broken down that dividing wall of rituals and ceremonies! Now you may approach Him freely without any of that, just by faith! Those things were just shadows of the REAL THING -- the real thing is HIM!
Don't judge yourself your your closeness to Him (and don't let others judge you that way, either!) by what services or rituals you do, eat or attend -- no! The reality, the BODY is Him! You don't have to do this ritual or that service to be in Him -- you don't need shadows to be in Him! You don't need ancient Jewish shadows or ancient Christian shadows or even modern Christian shadows! HE is the body! He is the reality! And you have all fullness in Him!
In Him you are lacking nothing! All the fullness of God is in His body, and you are in Him, and you are His body. You have all the fullness of God in you! Therefore do not be intimidated by fine-sounding shadows, but stand in the Light, in the reality, and in the fullness that is in Him and that He has put in you!"
Friday, April 11, 2008
By Ramone - April 9, 2008
This is a picture of a dream that a friend of ours had, which was described to us recently. It's a picture of how we--men & women in relationships--stay together, cross to the other side of one another (understand one another), and how we are bonded together. The bridge is Jesus Christ. The rain is the difficult times that come, but we go through them together and stay together in Him. The two banks of the shores are us, and by ourselves we can't join together. But Jesus brings us together, to one another, and it is standing on Him that we are made one.
I don't know if this picture is how our friend saw it in the dream, but it's how I pictured it -- the bridge slightly Japanese style. (^_^) The message of this is very similar to a picture I drew last year from a though my bro Scott had back in 2003 -- "Relationship's Pillar".
Thursday, April 10, 2008
The Overground Man (Coming Into the Light)
By Ramone (pre-birth?) - sometime in 1998 or 1999
I was beginning to see the divine light -- thanks in part to books such as Dostoevsky's "The Brothers Karamazov" and C.S. Lewis' "The Great Divorce", etc. But largely God was moving me out of my hole, out of the place I had been stuck in. I won't go into detail on how He did that, but somehow in that time I began to see myself more this way. I was beginning to learn about faith and hear the echoes of eternity calling me...
My world was still dark, but I was coming out and knew it. I still felt alone, but maybe I began to know that everyone feels that way! The night... I could see beauty in the night. Even in my darkness, I could see His beauty, and it stirred me. It was eternity... this is why I began to like painting starry nights! (Well, that and listening to a bit too much Dream Theater! but even there He was calling me through the eternity He set in me.) He was calling me, "You are one of My stars!"
I don't know if I painted this in '98 (before He revealed Himself to me in fall '98) or in '99 after I went out west for university for half a year before throwing my life in His hands in the mission field. But nonetheless, its a beautiful picture of how He was taking me out of my hole, showing me beauty, exposing my "walls", knocking them down, and beginning to pour the light of the knowledge of Himself on me. Thank You, God!
Previous: The Underground Man
The Underground Man
By Ramone (pre-birth) - Fall 1997
This was how I felt before I knew Jesus. I felt "underground", like everyone else was outside, living life, enjoying light, but I was trapped down here looking through a crack at them. I could write. I had great ideas. I had philosophy... but it was hard. Part of me felt superior, part of me felt inferior. I wanted to be out, but I was afraid of it, too.
The metaphor and name comes from Dostoevsky's short book, "Notes From Underground".
Previous: Crucifixus (The Naked Son of Man)
Next: The Overground Man (Coming Into the Light)
Crucifixus (The Naked Son of Man)
By Ramone (pre-birth) - Fall 1997
The assignment at my art class was to draw a large picture and draw a small picture. I always had this problem of wanting to draw a picture that meant something. And a little pride at not just wanting to make "homework", but do something extra. A bit of ego, maybe, wanting to make art, wanting to make something, something more.
I don't know how I arrived at this idea -- at doing it this way and at this time, but it came and I went for it. I decided to paint the crucifixion the way I'd believed it happened, with Christ stripped of all of His dignity, stripped naked and shamed before all.
Intellectually I felt that this was right, but I can't say that I made the picture with any reverence. At the time, I had trouble believing, and it was more of an intellectual argument, more of a labor of "right versus wrong" than a labor of love for my Savior and thanks to Him.
When I brought this "homework" assignment into class and displayed it (as we always did) for critique and comment, it was naturally shocking to some of the students. One dear student was very offended (and I apologize to her now). She had always seen pictures with a loincloth, or movies where He had a loincloth, but I explained that from what I knew of the texts, He was naked.
I confess that I did make the picture to be shocking. To "make a point". And it did turn out to be shocking. I can't say I was completely happy or fulfilled, though, when the shock did happen. But the professor saw it more as an expression of faith (funny, he could see the truth there even though I could not!).
Two nights ago as I remembered this picture, Jesus interpreted it for me. I had a gift -- not only of art, but of "seeing" things correctly, seeing what really did happen and how terrible it was. But my heart had not been made new yet. I was still empty inside, and could not paint it in love because I didn't yet know how much He loves me, and that He went through this for me.
At the time, I felt naked. I felt dark. I felt death under me & darkness all around me. I couldn't see Jesus, God the Son. That is why I painted Jesus crucified naked. That is why I had to paint it this way, because that's how I felt about myself.
"Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" was my heart's cry to God -- where are You? But I didn't know it. But somehow I painted it in place of the usual "INRI" plaque Pilate wrote. I had meant to highlight Christ's separation, His doubt, but it was actually my own doubt and cry. At that point in my life when I couldn't believe in Him, I could only see the negative; I could only see that pain and separation from God. I couldn't see that He really was and is "THE KING"! ("INRI" is the Latin initials for "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews").
Now that I think about it, I notice that it was not physically that "dark" when Jesus was crucified -- the Jews would not want the bodies left on a tree after dark, because God had said whoever was hung on a tree was accursed, and leaving them up overnight would pollute the land. But now that I think about it in His presence, He did feel that darkness closing in on Him! He felt my darkness, my pain, my separation of not knowing God. He felt my sin and carried it there, carried it away from me forever.
My then-youth pastor liked the painting so much that he wanted to keep it, so it is with him today. I have only kept the "small" part of the picture, the close-up of Jesus' face. Somehow, I think that when I did that part, there was a certain reverence or appreciation that I did not have when doing the rest of the painting. I can't completely explain this, but it was there, and I'm moved by it now as I recall it.
Now that I see the picture, I see it with love for my Savior. I am not proud of painting it in unbelief, but somehow I can see Him in it -- that He let me paint it about Him (instead of striking me down), and that the empty & lonely part of me then was somehow identifying with how lonely and empty He felt on the cross. I was reaching out to Him in this painting. I needed Him. I wanted Him. I tried to do it through being "correct", but I only felt lonelier than ever, until He came and touched me in fall 1998.
I pray that somehow as you see this you are touched with His love for you. Know that in His shame, He has taken away your shame! I made this picture in my shame, but I believe He is redeeming it now for me from the shameful way I made it, and showing me that He has taken my shame away. He is using it to show me His love for me, even when I was in sin. I pray that you know His love for you, even in your sin, even before you ever were born. In Jesus' name, amen.
Read Isaiah 53. Thank You, Lord.
Previous: Pre-Birth Self-Portrait #2
Next: The Underground Man
P.S. I highly recommend T.D. Jakes' book which mentions this, Naked and Not Ashamed. We all are afraid to show ourselves, to see ourselves and let othes see us "naked" -- as we are. In the same way we are afraid of showing Christ as He really was, so we "cover Him up" to present what we think is acceptable, just like we cover ourselves up because we're afraid that what we are is too horrible to be seen.
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
Pre-Birth Self-Portrait #2
By Ramone (pre-birth) - September 1997
This was the second half of my art professor's "self-portrait" assignment, to draw a picture of yourself but without using your likeness. Quite a challenge, actually!
But somehow I don't remember having trouble doing it. It seemed to come together easily. I had taken a picture inside St.Albans Abbey on a high school band tour back in 1993 (of the Wallingford Screen) which had a neat "dark" framing effect because the flash didn't go off. Then I took a picture of my hand reaching out towards...
The meaning of the picture was meant to be ambiguous. In class after we drew pictures or after we brought in homework, we posted it on our art boards and put everyone's pictures together so we could talk about them. You could call it "criticism", but it was not bad -- always constructive. It was actually very nice. When I put this picture up, of course, everyone was trying to figure it out.
Was the hand reaching for the cross?I'm not proud to say it, but at the time I actually got a kick out of how they were trying to figure it out. I hadn't thought about it deeply myself, but when the idea came to me I knew it would generate a lot of speculation. I felt like I didn't really put anything "deep" into it, and there was no "answer" to the questions.
Or was the hand falling away from the cross?
But actually, it did have a deep meaning. I just didn't know it -- I wasn't able to face it completely, but somehow I had drawn it. Art had brought my innermost feelings out of me without my philosophical mind's approval! This was how I felt! Part of me inside wanted to be closer to God, wanted to know Him, wanted to know if He was real. Inside I was crying out because I needed Him. But I felt like I was in darkness, falling away. I couldn't get past my doubts and unbelief. I couldn't bridge my "darkness" to reach Him.
On top of it, being raised Seventh-day Adventist, I hadn't clearly understood the Gospel because of the denomination's mixing of the Bible with its unbiblical prophet, Ellen White. So my "image" of that cross I was reaching for was also skewed. I had been raised learning "The Ten Commandments" before I ever learned "God is love". In fact, it seems as if a lot of conservative Adventists I knew couldn't endure the words "God is love" without adding some disclaimer or qualifying statement, "Yes, but... (insert law/requirement)".
Amazingly, the gift of art God put in me somehow was already revealing the inner cries of my soul, even if my mind rationalized them away. In the next few years I would be attracted to Christianity, but loathe "faith" while singing the virtues of "doubt". It was a sin (so to speak) to have faith, to be certain. (I realize now this is post-modernism). This picture fit that struggle, and some might find it (that struggle) to be beautiful, poetic, and revealing. But it was pain to me deep inside.
Years later after meeting God and being swept off my feet by Him -- after He came and bridged my darkness to reach me and bring me to Himself! -- years later I was visiting with a friend in Phoenix. We had met a few times when I was passing through and had a great time discussing what he called "theological existentialism". We both appreciated Dostoevsky, but I think we both identified with his "underground narrator" and with Ivan Karamazov more than with Dostoevsky himself (because when I re-read his works now, "faith" is screaming from off the pages!).
The last time I met my friend and tried to share what Jesus had done for me, how He had revealed Himself to me and how He is still speaking to us today, he was kind of upset or offended at what I was saying (not at me). "What happened to theological existentialism?" he asked. I didn't know how to tell him everything, and I was still young in my new birth, still young in the ways of the Holy Spirit whom I'd only just come to know.
This picture shows who I was before I knew Him. I saw a faint glimpse of Him that religion had shown me, but it gave me no way to reach Him. Religion taught me "law" before it tried to teach the gospel (grace), and as a result when "grace" was finally taught, the darkness was already firmly in place. Add to this my depression and philosophical doubts and fear of being hurt, and well... it was quite a darkness.
But He rescued me from it! He took my hand and pulled me through. He brought me to Himself. Not to a cathedral. Not to a crucifix. Not to a statue, a ritual, a "church service" or obeying a set of laws or lifestyle rules. No, to Himself. It is because of His love and His voice that I am with Him now. He told me I'm not alone, and I am His first love. And you are not alone, either! You are His first love, too! Thank You, Jesus!
Previous: Pre-Birth Self-Portrait #1
Next: Crucifixus (The Naked Son of Man)
Pre-Birth Self-Portrait #1
By Ramone (pre-birth) - September 17-18, 1997
I began to take an art course at Montgomery Community College, "Drawing I", and was taught by a wonderful professor named Mark Rooney (Mark, if you're reading this, email me!). He first began to teach us by having us loosen up and break what we thought "drawing" was. We used "gesture" style which has many lines and is not focused on outlining at all. Not as concerned with detail, gesture-style attempts to see the forest instead of the trees, so to speak.
For our first homework assignment, he told us to draw two pictures. The first picture was to be a self-portrait in our likeness. We could do it in front of a mirror or from a photograph. I chose to do it from a photograph, and I began a trend of "modifying" the picture with some extra element... in other words, I couldn't just "do" the assignment; I had to add my own little twist or something extra to it! In part it was from a desire for attention, and in part it was from pride. But in this case, there was more to it. Here is the original picture:
The "extra addition" to this picture is obvious. I didn't do it to potray myself as "devil-boy", but rather in a kind of egotistial way by alluding to Michelangelo's Moses. Because of a Latin Vulgate mistranslation, Michelangelo had Moses "growing horns" instead of "radiating light". It's naturally shocking to today's viewer to see Moses -- with horns! In my own way, I was doing something clever that made myself seem "great", like Moses or Michelangelo.
But the psychological obvious can't be ignored. I thought it clever, but truly, how can someone depict himself with horns? How could I make such a self-portrait that degraded myself unless in some way it was how I actually did see myself?
I didn't fully consciously recognize it, but I was using my cleverness and newfound skill to express how my innermost heart was feeling about myself. I used the clever "horns" because I actually could not draw a picture of myself without doing something to it to make it more funny or deep. Drawing just me felt too embarassing or egotistical -- almost like a sexual egotisticalness or narcissim. I was beginning to cry out for help, but I didn't know it. Inside I did feel like this. I did feel like I was bad, like something was wrong with me.
Last night in the bath as I remembered this picture, God redeemed it. He told me that just as Michelangelo made a mistake when he made Moses with horns, so too I had made a mistake. Because of the Latin Vulgate translation error, Moses had the wrong image of Moses. Because I did not know Jesus and had not been given the gospel of life in His Son, I too had the wrong image of myself! I could not and did not see how Jesus sees me.
Minus the horns, it's a good picture! Thank You, Jesus! Thank You for the gift of being able to do this, and thank You for taking my "horns" away! Thank You for correcting my misunderstanding about myself, Jesus! And thank You that in You I am radiant!
P.S. Thanks to Leila "Shelah" Dali for photoshop-ing the horns out for me!! (^_^)
Next: Pre-Birth Self-Portrait #2
Tuesday, April 08, 2008
By Ramone - April 8, 2008
This picture came immediately after thinking through the picture of the law in "The Plundering of Sheol", which shows Jesus descending into Sheol past the broken tablets of the Law to rescue its righteous prisoners. I thought it could get theologically confusing, because actually, Jesus fulfilled the law! By fulfilling it, its power was broken.
The law (the old covenant) was broken when Israel danced to the golden calf, and Moses came down the mountain and threw the tablets of the covenant on the ground, breaking them to pieces -- showing that the covenant had already been broken. I know that new tablets were made, but the covenant had already been broken (indeed, the greater, universal law had already been broken long ago in Eden, which brought death).
The earth dries up and withers,What Jesus did was actually put the pieces back together that Moses had broken -- He fulfilled what Israel did not and could not. He obeyed God and fulfilled (or "healed") mankind's broken covenant with God from Eden.
the world languishes and withers,
the exalted of the earth languish.
The earth is defiled by its people;
they have disobeyed the laws,
violated the statutes
and broken the everlasting covenant.
Therefore a curse consumes the earth;
its people must bear their guilt.
Therefore earth's inhabitants are burned up,
and very few are left.
- Isaiah 24:4-6 NIV
For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh...I had depicted the Law (the Old Covenant) nailed to the cross in a picture a year ago, called "Before & After". That time the word that was on the tablets of the covenant was "PAID". This time, the word is "INRI", which is the initials of the Latin phrase "IESVS·NAZARENVS·REX·IVDÆORVM", which comes from John 19:19, "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews".
- Romans 8:3 NASB
When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; He took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
- Colossians 2:13-15 NIV
Bless you in Jesus, today, as you see that the Law (the Old Covenant) and even the law or covenant of Eden were things that were broken too far for you and I to repair. Only the blood of the Lamb - Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews -- could repair what our sin in Adam had done. And having fulfilled what we (mankind) had broken, He gave us a new way...
See this picture: A Better Law
For more about how Jesus fulfilled the Law to completion, read Haroldo Camacho's excellent Jesus-glorifying article in the January/February 2005 issue of Proclamation! magazine: The Law Fulfilled
See also: "Fulfilled!" (at Heart For Adventists)
By Ramone - April 8, 2008
When I was little, my brother and I used to run down the stairs and try to beat the elevator to the bottom at my father's apartment building in Washington D.C. I think he lived on probably the 8th floor or somewhere up there, but because the elevators were slow you could actually make a good race of it and sometimes even beat the elevator. Especially if someone stopped it on the way down. Sometimes one of us would take the elevator, or my father would, and the other(s) would race down the stairs.
One day I beat the elevator to the bottom and waited for it to arrive. One of the other elevators opened, however, (there were three, I think?) and lady got out and came straight at me, pulled my arm and took me into the elevator. She accused me of pushing all the buttons, and made me ride in the elevator with her (and I think another lady or two) to every floor that had been pushed.
I probably tried to protest but gave up. I can't remember it clearly, but I was shocked and hurt by it, because I hadn't done anything. While in the elevator with them, I noticed that some floors lit up, and another one turned off. The elevator was broken, but they didn't notice it (come to think of it now, if the lights were still lighting up when they got down to the first floor, it should've been even more obvious that the elevator was broken). When we got to the bottom, my father & brother were waiting there, and I think the lady may have said something to my father, but I can't remember. We just continued on past that delay to wherever we were going.
Last night I suddenly remembered this as I was getting out of the bath, and still felt the pain of that accusation. So I prayed. In my soul I was still hurt and protesting; I wanted her to know it was not me! But she could not hear me then, and I could not change what had happened so many years ago. God was my only way out of this pain, this scar.
I had forgiven things like this before, but the "method" was not working, so I turned it over to Jesus, asking Him to heal me and carry me through this. I began to speak it out loud, choosing to forgive her in Jesus' name, and putting this under the cross -- where we are all forgiven, loved and healed. As I did this I re-visited my mind's picture of me in the elevator, and asked for Jesus to come into my memory. Then He was there, hugging me, standing between the angry woman and me! All I could feel was His comfort.
And I realized that He knows what it's like to be falsely accused. As I began to cry, I understood that He took her angry words spoken to me and the punishment she inflicted on my young heart. He took it all on the cross, and so much more. Thank You, Lord Jesus.
A Better Law
By Ramone - April 7, 2008
"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set me free from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as a sin offering, He condemned sin in flesh, in order that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit."This is a picture of finding liberty and life at the cross. The law we tried to keep lies broken at the foot of the cross -- still broken from when Moses first threw the tablets of the covenant down after Israel broke the covenant, still broken from when Adam & Eve disobeyed God's one command in the Garden of Eden. Looking up to Christ and seeing what He has done on the cross, we find the Holy Spirit lighting our lives with Himself. And we live according to Him, now, the Law of the Spirit --
- Romans 8:1-4 RSV
"But now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit."This picture of us all (the bride) coming to freedom in the Spirit at the cross is something that I saw after a few days when I wanted to write a song about how the cross has shown us God's "higher law" -- a law that is beyond the old written code. Many things in the old written code are still good, but through His Son's death for us we have seen, tasted, and been called into something far more surpassingly beautiful, moral, loving, secure, and life-giving. A holy love that triumphs over all our sin and death! This song is what I wrote in praise and thanks -
- Romans 7:6 RSV
Beyond the letter, more glorious than stone
A righteousness that is not my own
A love everlasting, a holy flame
Purchased and saved me by His name
Acquitted I stand
You died in my place
Forever grateful, I will sing
Lord I love You
I give You praise
In all of my life
Lord, have Your way!
Higher law of liberty
Holy Spirit, reign in me!
Mercy has triumphed over judgment for me
Your word and blood have washed me clean
Holy, pure and Spotless One
You took my place, gave me grace and love!
See also: "A Better Covenant" (at Heart For Adventists)
Friday, April 04, 2008
Dancing Out on a Limb
By Ramone - April 3, 2008
We live by faith, not by sight.
- 2 Corinthians 5:7 This came from a conversation with my bro DB back on October 7th last year. I don't remember what we were talking about, but somehow we ended up talking about trusting in God even though your circumstances look shaky or risky. I think it was him who said, "Christians are always out on a limb." And I added, "Yes, they're always out dancing on a limb!"
This is where He meant us to be. (^_^)