Saturday, March 28, 2009
By Ramone - March 24, 2009
I painted this after watching U23D at an IMAX theater in Western Osaka. I'm a big U2 fan and wanted to see the concert film, and of course I loved it. But I was surprised by the note of God's grace they sounded... praying for peace and understanding of one another, holding onto faith, and in the midst of darkness and doubt still crying out to God.
I was so affected that I just couldn't see the world "normally" as I started the long walk from the theater back to the subway station. God's grace does something to your eyes, and you look at the world and see that everything is beautiful and worthy of being tenderly loved. I want to walk seeing in His eyes of grace all the time.
All My Paths
A Way in the Wilderness
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Breaking the Boundaries of Christian Art
On a forum yesterday I made a comment about how Seventh-day Adventists, Latter Day Saints and Jehovah's Witnesses have a lot of very similar art which requires great skill in painting realism, but is often kind of dead otherwise. A brother replied and shared a quote:
This is so true, I have noticed the stiff realism in their art. Remember the illustrated Bible Story by Maxwell? There's a study: everybody looks so clean, controlled, and completely sanitized from any kind of healthy sensuality. The cover art on this Sabbath School Quarterly also comes to mind. But not to just pick on Adventists, Mormons, and JW's. This is my opinion, but there is a surprising lack of good art in the Christian world in general. Why is this so, if it is so?I replied that I'd first realized the dryness of "Christian art" when a friend ran a blog series that compared similarities in Christian art with propagandic art (such as seen in Cuba, the former Soviet Union, and in Nazi Germany). The realism style is the same, and also the very "pious" looks of upstanding, clean figures and near-utopic scenes. The implications of this are very frightening -- well, at least they ought to be sobering, I think.
Francis Schaeffer discussed this in his 1973 book, "Art and the Bible." Here's a sample quote:
"The ancients were afraid that if they went to the end of the earth, they would fall off and be consumed by dragons. But once we understand that Christianity is true to what is there, including true to the ultimate environment -- the infinite, personal God who is really there -- then our minds are freed. We can pursue any question and can be sure that we will not fall off the end of the earth. Such an attitude will give our Christianity a strength that it often does not seem to have at the present time."
(Francis A. Schaeffer, Art and the Bible, Ch. 1)
At the first it would indicate that there is a lack of imagination --- but that itself is a fruit, not the root. The root of that would be that there is a strict communal "vision" and everyone--including foremost the artists--must bend to set their sights on that same vision. People cannot envision things beyond what the communal vision has dictated. The bar is set, paradise defined, "God" defined.
By the way, I guess you'd noted that I said "Christian art" above instead of just the specific cultic groups... because generally, it is true of most "Christian" art as well. The art of the "Christian cults" (SDA, LDS, JW) is generally drier than regular Christian, but regular Christian is also commonly dry as well. The "Christian Cult" art has an added element, though: it tries to depict the apocalyptic and it's interpretations of the apocalyptic... and it usually comes across very dry, 1950ish, and crazed-looking. This, by the way, is perhaps the one common trait in the three "Christian Cults" that just screams "CULT!" the loudest.
In general Christian art, however, the bar is still set and the product still dry. It's a sort of industry that demands a regular product -- Biblical scenes in oil-painting realism, generally brightly lit, with soft green grass and light blue colors. Occasionally people are still clad in 1950s formal wear. Sometimes people look more modern, but an odd thing happens then... they often look like 1950s people wearing modern clothes! It's a mystery to me... but I think this means that there is a sort of "rut" that Christian art got stuck in somewhere along the line.
I spoke of it being like an industry or factory, and that's true for Catholic art as well, which once used to produce beautiful, stunning works of art, but today churns out things equally dry as that in 1950s American protestantism. I think one of the reasons that Catholic art had been so great in the past was simply because it grew in an age where the arts were still experimental, and artists were really pushing the envelope -- even though today their works look "classic" and "standard", in fact in their day they were pushing the boundaries. That, and it should be noted that many of the artists simply painted biblical scenes so as to not lose the approval of the state churches. They painted and experimented with technique, style and realism, but made it "Christian art" sometimes simply because they wanted to (1) make a living, and (2) not get in trouble for what their paintings depicted.
This in turn highlights one of the problems that limits expression & imagination -- the fear of getting something theologically wrong or getting judged for it by the rest of the church. Whereas in the art of the Catholic church's heyday you had an actual church authority looming over you & your works should they step out of line with the institution's vision, today you have (in evangelical Protestantism) a sort of theological standard of judgment. People habitually look with eyes of judgment, especially at the arts ("music" gets this ungraceful treatment the worst). It's strange... I didn't realize this when I started writing, but the lack of grace in the church seems to have a direct affect on the amount of creative art produced (this, in turn, reflects the degree to which people feel comfortable expressing their true selves and being themselves "in church").
Perhaps the most famous example of this is Vincent van Gogh, who had a soul that wanted to be a minister and identify with common people, but who was rebuked by the church establishment for not looking dignified enough. He would paint later on and portray common people, and would put in subtle things of his faith here and there. But at other times, there would be subtle hints of the ungrace that the church exuded... an open Bible with a candle next to it that's flame had been snuffed out... a beautiful starry night and lit-up town with a darkened church at its center. While Van Gogh's run-in with the church's ungrace happened before he made his great paintings, nonetheless it still shows that he was one of many who have not found the environment of the church to be supportive of artistic expression. (One good article here, and another good one here).
Of course, in saying all these things, the obvious irony is that I am a "Christian artist" too and it might look like I'm criticizing others' work and trumpeting my own. Hah! No. I don't have a lot of skill as far as artists go, and I'm still looking for my stride, so to speak. I am not yet as disciplined as many artists are and as an artist should be. And more important than these things about me, there really are a lot of very good Christian artists out there who don't paint dry, lifeless Biblical scenes. And there are even a few who paint Biblical scenes that have life in them. However on the whole, these kinds of quality artists' works are not the rule, but the exception. And of course, a lot of "art" is subjective. But nonetheless, it's good to soberly recognize that when Christian art resembles the propagandic art of dictators, something is indeed wrong.
The thing that turned my "art" world upside down was meeting the Holy Spirit. Prior to that, I couldn't see any way of painting anything other than dry Biblical scenes. (I wrote about this a bit here). And I think that might be kind of a sort of key to this... that our degree of expression and creativity is often proportional to our degree of comfortability with the moving of the Holy Spirit in us and among us. I think this is why some of the most beautiful Christian art in modern times comes out of charismatic churches -- not only art, but also music, dance, and other forms of expression. Christians with artistic desires are often unable to see beyond the common "vision" of the "Christian life" that is set before them in church. And then the environment of suspicion towards the arts and the environment of ungrace that lashes out at people who slip... this keeps people down, not only in the arts, but regular people who can't be themselves. They are told to aim to "be like Christ", but the image of Christ is not the living Christ -- it's precisely that, an image that was painted somewhere between the late 1700s, nurtured in the 1800s, and painted in the 1950s.
The kind of art that is allowable -- art that can be "endorsed", seen as being "right", or suitable to "be a blessing" -- is often as narrowed and constrictive as the theology of cessationism itself (mind you, sometimes I really want to say "the heresy of cessationism"), which limits God's talking to Bible study. I think we'll see art & artists & church members comfortable with creativity & expression only as we get in touch with the living God Himself -- not in touch with a theology, but with the living, communicating God Himself. And when we begin to suck up His grace a lot more for one another, for ourselves, and for the world.
Some more thoughts have been posted on
the Former Adventist Forum thread here:
"Cultic Christian Art"
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
By Ramone - March 20, 2009
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will— to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves.We were out celebrating my son's 2nd birthday when I painted this. I had opened my tiny little NIV New Testament and looked at words I had highlighted in the book of Ephesians. The word "predestined" jumped out at me, and I began to see this picture. I didn't completely understand it (and still don't), but I think it is probably one of the most beautiful pictures I have done in a long time.
- Ephesians 1:3-6
I need to pray.
Lord, I don't know where to begin in explaining this picture, because I barely understand. You know that I once had a joy when I came out of Adventism and began understanding Your Word more and more. You know the joy that I had when I found Your words, "You did not choose Me, but I chose you" (John 15:16). I had no problem with it, but rejoiced for joy in knowing that You had predestined me in Your love.I know that my "predestination" is in the shape of the Cross. It is in Jesus Christ that I am predestined. I am chosen because He is the Chosen One! (>_<) This mystery... I don't fully understand this mystery. It is revealed, but I still don't understand all of it. What I see now as I look at this picture is God's arms reaching to me out of eternity. I am not in eternity (or I was not in eternity), but God is reaching out to me from the light, from eternity, calling me to Him and taking hold of me. He does this for me in the Cross.
And then I heard the arguments of Calvinists, and God, I don't want to be angry at them, but my joy was taken away. Suddenly "predestined" became connected to a lot of 'logical' conclusions -- five of them in all. If this is true, then this must also be true. And then this next thing must be true. It was called "systematic", but it just feels black to me, like tar or crude oil.
Lord, it's really hard to let go of that, to forget that. I so wish I could return to the joy I had when I first discovered this word, "predestined". I choose to forgive those who argued, and I ask Your forgiveness for arguing back. I ask Your forgiveness for not spending more time simply in prayer with You, talking to You about it and listening to You. I bring this word, "predestined", back to You, Lord, for You to redeem, to mold, to make and shape in my heart and understanding as You will. In Jesus' name, amen.
I want to know answers to my questions, to the challenges posed by Calvinism, but somehow immediately I know that the first thing before me is Your call to me, Your arms reaching out to me, the Cross before me, the light of eternity in front of me calling out to me. Before I attempt to grasp anything else, before I try to "map out eternity", Your call is to me, Your loving arms reach out to me. That's the personalness of what this is all about, isn't it, Lord? (>_<) You said, "You did not choose Me, but I chose you." And when You said that, You didn't mean to have us start running off figuring out who God did and did not choose, or hypothetically how You do Your choosing. But rather when You said this to me, to each of us, You said it to us, to me personally, personally calling me from eternity. Not that I loved You, but that You first loved me.
It's weird, Lord. But as I say this, as I write this, I start to lose my "need" to have answers to the questions. To the dilemmas. To the challenges of the Calvinistic system. Suddenly those things start to pale in comparison with what You've done for me, with Your love. And I know Your love is intercessory. The lie of "limited atonement" (>_<) offends me and others precisely because it is Your Spirit in us crying out in intercession for those who don't know You. I know Your love is given to all people, just as Your Word declares (>_<) ...even though not all people will accept Your love.
God, I want to figure out this mystery before I finish typing tonight... (>_<) ...but I don't think I will. I think I must rest and put this in Your hands. Just like I must rest and put myself in Your hands. You've reached out and grabbed me from eternity. Thank You. In the beginning and in the end perhaps all I can do is look in wonder like the author of Psalm 139 (>_<) ... and so I did, after I had done this picture. I wrote:
You know every step I take, every thought I have, every word I say before I say it. I am thoroughly and utterly known by You! And yet You loved me and died for me! How can I thank You?Now in this picture, I see that the "light" itself is the Cross. (>_<) In the cross You reached out from eternity. In the cross I see Your light. In the cross I see eternity. Through the cross I was called out from eternity. Through the cross I saw Your love for me — my name engraved in nail marks on Your hands. And through the cross I am taken hold of for eternity, and walk into eternity. This is a picture of me standing before the Cross.
You saw me ahead of time. You made me. You gave me everything I have. I am nothing without You, Lord.
You are my God, the One who sees all and knows all, the One before and beyond time. And You call me, from Eternity, making Yourself known on the cross -- Love from Eternity. I was made for You.
You saw me even here making this picture today, right now. "Predestined". It means You know all and see all. And You have loved and chosen me. Thank You.
Thank You, Lord. Thank You.
He Went to Pray （彼は祈りにいった）
By Ramone - March 18, 2009
One day the Lord stopped me while reading Mark 6:46, about how Jesus went up a mountain to pray by Himself. I realized that sometimes I think about prayer and spending time with God as if it’s heavy or serious, and so I sometimes put it off. But when He stopped me at the verse, I thought about how He spent that time alone with Father, and I realized it was a time of joy, love, retreat and rest in Father’s love and being with Him. I realized that actually I also feel the same when I’m in God’s presence! Every time I go to Him (finally!) I realize I was a fool to put off being with Him so long, and that it’s not heavy at all, but it’s actually relief and rest. Help me remember this, Lord!
ある日、マルコ６：４６のイエス様が１人で祈るため山へ上がられた箇所を読んでいる時に、主は僕を止められました。 時々、僕は祈りや、神様と共に時間を過ごす事は何か重苦しい、重大な事だと思い、時々そうすることを延ばしていた事に気付きました。 しかし、神様がその御言葉の箇所で僕を止められた時、イエス様が１人で、どの様にその時間を父なる神様と過されたかを考えました。 そしてそれは喜び、愛、静養の時、父の愛の中での休息であることに気付きました。 実は、神様の臨在の中にに居るときには僕も同じように感じていることにも気付きました。 神様の元へ行くときにはいつでも（やっと！）長い間、神様と共に過ごす事を延ばしていた愚かな自分に気付き、そうすることが全く重苦しいことではなく実際は、ほっと安心できる休息である事が分かりました。 主よ、この事をいつも覚えている事ができるように助けてください！
Bring it to Me (it will be enough)
The Promised Land
Friday, March 20, 2009
By Ramone - March 19, 2009
See: "Delivered" (at Heart For Adventists) and "This is How You Know" (at Weeping Jeremiahs)
The Sabbath Rest
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
With Me Here (sketch)
By Ramone - March 14, 2009 (for larger painting)
Talk with me, Lord, Yourself reveal
Here as I live and move
Speak to my heart and let me feel
The burning of Your love
With You conversing I forget
All time and toil and care
Labor is rest and pain is sweet
If You, my God, are here
Here then, my God, graciously stay
And make my heart rejoice
My bounding heart with Yours will sway
As I hear Your sweet voice
You call me, Lord, to seek Your face
'Tis all I wish to seek
To attend the whispers of Your grace
And hear You in me speak
Let this my every hour employ
Till I Your glory see
Enter into my Master's joy
And find my heaven in You- Charles Wesley (adapted)
Ho! Come to the Waters!
By Ramone - March 13, 2009
"Ho! Everyone who thirsts,
Come to the waters;
And you who have no money,
Come, buy and eat.
Yes, come, buy wine and milk
Without money and without price.
Why do you spend money for what is not bread,
And your wages for what does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,
And let your soul delight itself in abundance.
Incline your ear, and come to Me.
Hear, and your soul shall live."
- Isaiah 55:1-3
Enfolded Once Again
The Relief of God's Kingdom of Love (2)
The Relief of God's Kingdom of Love (1)
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
You Are My Peace!
By Ramone - March 6, 2009
"He will stand and shepherd His flockI believe this came as I was thinking of the "gesture" style of drawing, which I miss doing (I don't use it so much anymore). I thought of it's opposite -- contour or realism. And somehow as I thought of that contrast, I saw this picture. Granted, I'd love to use gesture style more often, but this one came without me asking! And the Holy Spirit is witnessing to me now, so I had better talk about what this means...
in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord His God.
And they will live securely, for then His greatness
will reach to the ends of the earth.
And He will be their peace."
- Micah 5:4-5
The "gesture" person is me -- and is all of us. We are shaky, frazzled and razzled, confused, without much light. We are wrecks. Yes, God will heal us and grow us in His holiness, but the sheer never-ending fact is that He Himself is our peace. He gives us peace by giving us Himself. Peace is not something that detaches from Him and is handed to us. Peace is Him Himself. And when we don't "feel" peace, we must look up to Him and know that no matter what we feel, He is still "solid" and is not "coming apart" like we feel we are. He is our rock. He is our peace.
This is a picture of me (and all of us) looking up to Him, Him who comes down to us in our frazzled & frayed state, coming into our darkness, and touching us, lifting up our heads to see Him and that our peace is in Him.
I recall that I had seen this picture one night, and somehow the next day I was not feeling so great... spiritually confused or beating myself over the head over some personal failure. Whatever it was, I suddenly had to make this painting, because it was exactly how I felt, and He is exactly what I need!
Bless you in Jesus! He Himself is your peace!
See also: "I AM Your Peace!" (at Heart For Adventists)
Saturday, March 07, 2009
Hope and a Future
[click to see larger]
By Ramone - March 4, 2009
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord,This is a very, very popular Bible verse which a lot of people love and hold onto. However I don't think many of us are really aware of or think deeply about the context: God spoke these words through Jeremiah to the people of Judah who had just been taken captive to Babylon. In the same breath God told His people that they would stay there in exile for 70 years because they had broken His old covenant with them.
"plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future."
- Jeremiah 29:11
So think about that: These words weren't just a promise for a good, happy, successful future or fulfilling life. These words were spoken to people who had just lost everything, and by force, no less. And they had lost these things because they had royally screwed up, too. Yet through all of this loss (and discipline for many of them), God was telling them that He didn't want to harm them. He wanted to love them and give them hope and a future. But they wouldn't "come home" until after 70 years, yet when they did it would be greater than the greatest glory that "home" had ever had before.
Maybe you might have lost things. Maybe you even lost things because it was somehow your fault (or maybe it wasn't your fault). Nevertheless, even at this point with your life destroyed in front of you, God speaks these words:
"I love you, have a future planned for you, and I never wanted to harm you or leave you hopeless. I will bring you to that future, even though it may seem like a long time to you. You may have lost what you thought was everything, but I am going to give you life fulfilling, a kind of prospering that goes beyond what you thought was everything. The road is here at your feet. Come, and I will lead you by the hand and will never leave you. Let's go."*****
See also: "Embrace Oppression" (at Weeping Jeremiahs)
Monday, March 02, 2009
By Ramone - March 1, 2009
I don't like this picture. This is probably the most violent picture I've done, and as much as I hate painting something like this, I am just broken in the Spirit's grief because of the reality of this—the reality of the abuse and violence being done to His children.
This picture came after talking with another Christian and swapping stories of our experiences of being on the receiving end of spiritual abuse. In both of our cases, the leaders (of a charismatic church) believed in what they call "covering", but they were very concerned about making sure everyone was "in submission" to them. In both of our cases, we appealed to the people that the leaders claimed were "in authority over them" (higher authorities, greater covering, etc.) to share about the abuses that were going on. And in both of our cases, the higher regional authorities shut their eyes to what was going on at the local churches "under" their authority.
As I was discussing it later with my wife (who had also gone through the experience with me), I realized that the leaders have faith in their own covering. They have faith in the power of their own "authority" (or "covering") and they have faith in the power of the authorities/coverings "under" them. To admit that serious spiritual abuses were going on would mean that something was wrong, and would threaten the validity/power/legitimacy of their own authority/covering. That's when I saw this picture and just wept...
By the way, this whole "covering" thing is just ridiculously unbiblical. You can only find it in Charismatic churches. (Well, and in Catholic/Orthodox, but not by the name "covering".) The reason it exists is because people equate spiritual power with spiritual authority. If power is demonstrated (in word or deed), people believe that the person demonstrating is closer to God and more approved by God. In Charismatic churches, power is very often the thing most sought after... power to do miracles, signs, wonders & healings, to prophesy, predict, etc.
I didn't realize this until later, however, although I did know that the "covering" thing was unbiblical. When going through the abusive experience, I once tried to describe a little of what was happening with an evangelical friend—a Christian from a non-charismatic church, but who did and still does hear the Holy Spirit really well. I came to the topic of "covering" and tried to describe it to him, and I'll never forget the completely puzzled "Huh?" expression on his face! He just didn't get it. It didn't make any sense, because all he used was the Bible.
See also: Spiritual Battery & Abuse (at Weeping Jeremiahs)
And, read Ezekiel chapter 34...
On the Rivers
By Ramone - March 1, 2009
When a friend showed me a picture of a river that he stayed near on a recent trip to Argentina, I was moved deep in my spirit by the Spirit, and this scripture came to mind:
The third angel sounded his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water— the name of the star is Wormwood [bitterness]. A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter.April 25, 2011 - UPDATE
- Revelation 8:10-11
God told me the meaning of the picture and gave a word with it,
which I have posted here: "On the Waters"
By Ramone - February 27, 2009
This is passover, the meal given for us by Father.
Not food for a ceremony, but this is His Son.
This is His very heart given for us on the cross.
I had never really tapped into Your heart, Father, when thinking of Passover. We got caught up in the symbolism, the shadows & type, the elements, what's included, how it's made, and just generally what we do with it. We look at it usually only through our end.I can't fully explain this, but somehow I was and am moved in Father's heart as I see this. It's a new understanding of "Passover" for me. I don't keep the festival the ancient way anymore -- it has been transformed into a New Covenant for me now. But somehow God is still sharing His heart through it. Not through the mystical taking of this specific food, but rather in calling us to hear His heart, and Him then sharing His heart through what He gave so long ago.
I want to see it through Your end. As I read the story of Josiah, I heard that note in Your heart through Josiah's voice when he said, "Come back to the Lord!" When he called Israel back to the Lord, it was You, Father, calling Your people back to You.
They'd had "Passover" but they had not known it was Your heart, it was Your sacrifice of Your Son. This picture began with the bitter herbs... not the ones Israel ate, but the one Your Son ate for us, and that You ate, Father in giving Him up to die for us. You were sharing Your food, Your meal, Your heart with us. You were saying, "Share My food; dine with Me; share My heart."
I believe this is part of being God's friend -- sharing His "bitter pill", so to speak, the "bitter herbs". Looking upon Him who was pierced, and mourning with Father (see Zechariah 12:10). This love, knowing this love and entering into it... I think perhaps this is a foretaste of knowing more about that meal we will eat with Christ in the Kingdom to come.
She's My Baby
By Ramone - February 27, 2009
God gave me this picture when I was praying for some people who really need Him, who really need His love, but who don't know Him yet and are really hurting. He showed them to me like a little girl, and assured me that He's got her, He's birthed her, He's holding her and watching her. She's in His arms! And all I could do was cry and say was, "Thank You, Father!"
(Fun post-script: At the time of this picture, my wife was in the early stages of pregnancy. We didn't know yet if it would be a boy or girl, but I couldn't help but think, you know, this probably means it's a girl, too! And well, we had my daughter Joanna! =) It was one of several fun ways in which He told us "It's a girl" ahead of time. Hehe.)
See also: "Unfailing Love" (at Weeping Jeremiahs)