What’s not to Love – or Hate?

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“Beach Buddies” 20 x 16 oil on canvas

Yes, I’m one of those sappy people who watched Sound of Music to hear once again the familiar and wonderful songs of long ago and to watch Carrie Underwood’s take on a timeless classic.

What I was not prepared for was the avalanche of hatred aimed not only at her, but at her faith after the show concluded. Was the criticism aimed at her performance? No. It was simply a barrage of anger leveled at her Christian faith and her belief in the Bible; cheap shots in my opinion.

Are these the same hate mongers who demand free speech for themselves, but wish to deny it to others? Are they the ones who yell racism and discrimination whenever it suits their political agenda with little evidence to back it up simply to stir up trouble?

Where does this kind of hatred come from? Envy? Self-loathing? An empty soul? Christianity is a religion of love: “Love thy neighbor as yourself,” “Love your enemies,” “Do good to those who despitefully use you,” and on and on.

Christians are sinners who are striving to do better. They are given ugly labels they do not deserve. They are only human. Why is it that when they stumble or reveal their vulnerability they are laughed at or worse called a “hypocrite” for making a mistake? The mockers defile them with crude language while their own behavior would make a sailor blush.

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“Broken Hearted” 11 x 14 pastel in matt & ready to frame

I’ve always cheered for the underdog, but when did we start putting vulgar language and crude behavior on a pedestal? Since when was innocence a negative and raunchiness applauded? Our “ship of state” is sinking into the mud, and I for one am saddened by our descent into degradation.

I think that’s why I paint portraits of children and enjoy painting scenes that kids will find funny or inspiring. I like their fresh perspective, their trusting and simple belief in goodness and their frank and open dialogue. If someone is unpleasant or mean, they’re not afraid to tell it like it is. They see through the outward trappings of poverty and pigment and head straight for the heart. They can sense evil almost immediately and try to avoid people who give off negative vibes.

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“With these Hands — Wonder” 1st the a “hands” series. Original available + prints

We should encourage this goodness before it becomes tainted by peer pressure and adult provocation and perversion. These are our children. They are our future. Do we want a world where hate rules and crude behavior becomes the norm? Where will we find inspiration or beauty in such a world? How will we survive if the passion to deface and destroy becomes the norm as it was in Rome or worse yet in Sodom and Gomorrah?

In our efforts to accept people as they are and welcome them into our “big tent,” let us not expose our innocent children to danger either ignorantly or willfully. They are our only hope.

First Daffodil

“First Daffodil” Acrylic on canvas

 

The Bare Bones of Courage, Compassion and Hope Define Us

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"Queen of Diamonds" mixed-media 20x20

“Queen of Diamonds” mixed-media 20×20

I’m finishing another book “The girl from Krakow” about hatred and war. These dire circumstances often bring out the depraved character of desperate people.

When basic needs are not met, there is little else to occupy the mind. The gnawing in your stomach. The loneliness and fear. The lack of creature comforts. Separation from family and friends. The loss of loved ones.

In that scenario, the brutal, the corrupt and the vicious crawl out from their slimy hiding places along with the courageous, the stalwart and the survivors. The skeletal structure of a country is laid bare. The degeneration of basic values such as honesty, morality, and tolerance are exposed. Some acquiesce to get along or because of fear. Others become enmeshed in their own greed for power and succumb to evil.

As the English poet, Alexander Pope (1688-1744) penned:

“Vice is a monster of so frightful mien As to be hated needs but to be seen; Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face, We first endure, then pity, then embrace.

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Will you be one of those people who get lost in the evil around you and wallow in depravity? Will you become a survivor willing to do anything to stay alive? How will you carve out a life for yourself that will stand you in good stead when the crisis is over?

Character is formed in the heated fire of decision. There are those who manage to summon courage not only for themselves, but for others. When the battle rages, there are those who lift spirits, shelter strangers and comfort the lost.

Those who prey on the needy are the neediest of all. They bully and threaten their way to the top, scrambling over the arms and legs of their victims. When the battle is over, they slink back to their dark corners waiting for the next opportunity to take what isn’t theirs, even if it’s only a man or woman’s dignity.

Evil is cowardly. Evil attacks us from behind. Prowess disguised as strength uses criticism and character assassination to bring others down to their puny size. Unrelenting in their pursuit of domination, the attacker wields authority, power, and rage to destroy and denigrate. Some are able to withstand the assault and pressure others are not.

I read about these horrible times in history with a great deal of empathy and understanding. Will I be able to endure should the fight be brought to our shores?

My grandson serving in the Navy and then working with the Coast Guard.

My grandson serving in the Navy and then working with the Coast Guard.

We all wonder “What is my mettle? Will I end up a hero, a coward, or a chameleon blending in with evil and doing nothing to change it? In preparing for disaster, we must calculate our strengths and build a reserve of courage, compassion and faith. It is only in the present that we may work to change the future.

Let the Healing Begin; Ways to Beat the Odds

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Looking Outward (16 x 20) acrylic; frame: Old Window

Looking Outward (16 x 20) acrylic; frame: Old Window

The body is a miraculous organ that under normal circumstances functions to heal itself if injured. When attacked either by accident, bacteria or virus, through our own carelessness or that of someone else’s the body’s defenses (the immune system) kick in. Even if they don’t, modern medicine is there to take over the job and provide much needed support.

An emotional injury is quite another matter. Our very heart and soul are under siege. The mind is fooled into thinking it’s our fault either through manipulation, abuse, or false accusations. Confusion sets in. We can’t process the pain. Did we cause it? Did we say or do something wrong? Are we unlovable? Are the things the other person said about us true?

The internal pain goes deeper than we ever thought possible. So deep that some people who experience an emotional injury feel actual physical pain like a knife piercing their heart or a feeling that  life and breath are being squeezed out of them in a spasm of muscular pressure. There have been occurrences of people dying from a broken heart or who have had a nervous breakdown as a result of suffering emotional trauma similar to the PTS syndrome veterans experience in war time.

Tickles from God

“Tickles from God” acrylic on canvas

Such tragedies happen because we are human. How do you deal with reality when your whole being is swirling around in a surreal world of physical and emotional pain? How do you get off the Merry-Go-Round that keeps replaying the past? You look for answers, but there are none. If you replay the memory again, perhaps you’ll find a reason to make this nightmare stop or go away? Like an old-fashioned record, you’re stuck reliving the pain again and again.

This is the time to reach out for help. Friends may offer sympathy; but they have none of the skills needed to help you, or to ensure that you make a safe transition to wellness. A psychologist or psychiatrist may help you understand what has happened and guide you to a better place, but the work of healing is still yours.

Falling on your knees in prayer can help you feel the power and love of God. This action alone will give you strength to do the hard work. Trying to heal without God is like covering an open wound with a dirty rag. It’s like burying your sorrows in a dark room, curled up in a ball, and hoping that you’ll recover. The saving, healing grace of Jesus Christ must be received in openness and light.

"With These Hands -- Wonder" oil on canvas

“With These Hands — Wonder” oil on canvas

Doctor’s may heal your mind and your body, but only God can heal the jagged wounds of the heart. Spiritual pain needs a Savior. Sins of all kinds need a Redeemer to give you hope and remind you that you’re not alone. He is “worthy to be praised,” and he can heal you of your broken heart just as he did mine.

I have seen people flounder in unbelief. God throws them a life line, and they ignore it because they do not recognize his voice. They have turned away from him so often that he has become a stranger. They do not trust what they have not seen. They do not listen to one in whom they do not believe.

Instead they trust in people, humans like themselves with weaknesses, lusts and desires. They read what so-called experts have written or said as if it were gospel. They trust in the arm of flesh because it is all they know. God’s Word is mocked and treated like myth or legend. In their heart of hearts they are devoid of truth and without a light in a dark world.

Healing is a process; one that takes time and effort. There are no easy fixes or magic solutions. Some people try to find comfort in a bottle, or a needle or other physical gratification. But they are never satisfied, never filled. Their hunger creates a vacuum that sucks the life out of everything and everyone they touch.

The “Bread of Life” satisfies that deep hunger and begins the healing. The new life that follows brings peace and contentment. There is no other way. Jesus is the “well-spring” of life and his healing is permanent and eternal.

Why have I used this message in my “The Art of Living” blog?” Because in my own personal life my faith is as basic to my survival as food, water and shelter. My faith is vital to my overall satisfaction and happiness; A life void of faith is a life not worth living. (See my other blog: “Witness Spoken Here”)

Link  http://www.witness-spokenhere.com

When Life is Cut Short, we’re never Prepared

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Sand Crane Dreams

Sand Crane Dreams

I attended a funeral this week. From the moment I walked through the doors, I knew I would not be able to walk by the casket or hug the widow. The funeral of my sister who died last year from M.S. flooded my mind and I could hardly breathe.

Solemn is the only way I can describe it. The air was heavy with grief. The throng that attended testified to the love that was felt for the soul at rest. White flowers were everywhere signifying that a holy ritual was taking place.

Rites of passage and momentous ceremonies are important to our lives. The repetition engraves them on our hearts and makes them sweeter through the passing years. Rituals secure familial ties and bring us full circle from birth to death.

My Sister Jean

My Sister Jean

Not all was somber and sad. There was time for celebration as family members shared funny stories and a musical slide presentation of happy events. People wiped tears of laughter and pain from their eyes.

Some things are constant like love, loyalty and devotion. Death does not diminish what was cherished in life. We rejoice that suffering is ended, but we long to hold on to what was. Letting go is difficult. Grief is like peeling layers of self from an open wound. The soul bleeds internal tears that leave us fragile, exposed and spent.

A fatal ongoing illness does not prepare us for the final ending anymore than an abrupt and sudden death prevents us from wrestling with denial. We are never ready for a treasured life to end. The shock rattles us to the core. Our faith is tested. Without faith there is no hope for reconciliation. The void is there in either case like a black empty hole.

We all have different coping skills. At such a time as this, we find out how strong ours are. Do we turn to our friends and family for strength? Are we sustained by faith in God? Do we crumble in despair and turn to temporary substitutes that do not sustain and may harm us?

Quinn's first child

Quinn’s first child

Who we are in the end is all we have. Has our life of living turned us into an empty shell, dependent on the goodness of others or the high of a new fix, or has our daily choices instilled us with courage, determination and hope?

Death comes to all of us. We are not immune to its grisly affects. Peace eventually rescues us from our abysmal fall and reminds us that death is not the end, but the beginning of our soul’s eternal journey.