Thursday, April 26, 2007

Art History challenge week 2, option 2

Clue added May 6--Italian and this picture is a self-portrait as part of a story.

In the same theme: a woman artist, in the Baroque period. Tell me who she is and what who her style is modeled after. For bonus points, she painted one subject several times--what story was it she painted? (Trying to make it more challenging!)

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Art History Challenge week 2

Thank you to those of you who participated in week one. The artist was Francisco Goya and the painting is called "The Dog." One of the nicer of his Black Paintings, which he painted onto the walls of his home after recovering from a severe illness, this series also included his famous "Saturn Devouring His Children." One of the more gruesome paintings in history, I will spare you here!

Now, on to week two. For this week's challenge I have chosen this image:

The painter was a woman who was a founding member of the Royal Academy of Arts in London (one of two), although she was originally from switzerland. Her style was sort of a blend of several movements in her time and her work is not widely remembered today. Happy searching!

4-23-07 Note: Spoiler warning! I've had one diligent soul who has already solved the mystery, so if you want to find out on your own, don't look at the comments until you're ready to share what you find. I'll try to get another challenge up in the next couple days, instead of waiting a week. Congrats Zoe!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Struggling with anger, and as a Christian no less!

This week I've seen a new side to some of my art students. We've been practicing a calligraphy hand for about two weeks now, but had our Easter break in between the weeks. It's not a very difficult hand, but one of the challenges with it (as with so many things in art) is that looks are deceiving. What looks easy can actually be quite challenging to duplicate well. The key, of course, is to practice. I keep reminding them of this fact and how it is true of all the things we do, but they have probably quit listening by now because most of us don't want to hear that we have to practice to do something well. Why don't I ski, or speak French, or play the violin? Because I have never wanted to practice those things. So the interesting new side of some students that I am seeing is some intense frustration.

My session yesterday ended with a discussion with a very dear young man who is frustrated to the edge of feeling angry about it. Which has me thinking about my own battle with this ugly emotion.

Hothead. I hate the word, but it sums me up very well. I especially hate it because it isn't a word we would apply to the Saviour. He wasn't a hothead. He showed anger, but it was righteous, something that my anger rarely is. I remember many "blowing my top" incidents throughout my school years. I never hurt anyone else or fought with anyone, but would just get so angry that I would run out of classes or away from conversations. Once I remember screaming at another girl on the playground and in gym class (same girl)--and I was not young enough to not know better! Even in college I walked out of three different classes, as one classmate told me with something akin to wonder in his voice. I think he thought I made a habit of it, but I'm surprised it didn't happen more often.

Working (and age) helped cool my temper. The greater accountability made it much more difficult to stalk off when people weren't through talking to you. I did a couple times and then had to pay the price for it. But the price imposed by others was never as awful as what went on inside. I've spent most of my life wishing I could be someone else--someone who was always kind, compassionate, patient and calm.

And just when I thought things were changing (I was growing up, after all!), God blessed me with children and I had a whole new area of frustration and guilt. The first couple years were so easy. Even the terrible twos (as named by everyone but us) were cake because I could remember that so many problems were just communication and lack of skills. Then came three and the rebellious age where children begin to assert some independence. The more frustrated I became with the children brought on more guilt, enhanced by looking at my calm, patient mom-friends who never seemed on the verge of losing anything, let alone their cool. The disgust over who I was felt like it would take over. I really began to hate who I was, especially as a mom.

And it was at that time that one of my most admired mom-friends said something that changed my life. I still want to cry as I think of it. Our relationship has had some rocky moments (with someone as prickly as me it's bound to happen--lol!) and it was one of those difficult moments that prompted me to spill out my roiling, churning, disgust at myself. She looked at me so tenderly and just said, "LaRinda, God made you the way He wanted to and He loves you." What a simple truth and a life changing moment.

Now before I go on, let me say that yes, God made each one of us and He loves us, but He doesn't want to leave us wallowing in sinful behaviours. If you are reading this and are agonizing over a bad character trait that makes you wonder how you can stomach yourself, hear me: "God made you and He loves you." And it is with His help that we can begin to change whatever the bad character trait is. The beauty of the Lord is that He saves us just where we are and worries about refining us later. We can't clean a fish before we catch the fish, right! He loves us so much that He won't let us stay in the ugliness, unless we want to. Romans 5:8 says, "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

You see, whatever the ugly trait is, it has the important job of breaking us and bringing us to our knees. When we fall in humility and brokenness we are more apt to turn to Him (why do we let it take so long?) and cry out for the forgiveness and help that we so need. At this point I could go in so many directions: I could share how His burden is light (Matt 11:30), or how He will never leave us or forsake us (Deut 31:6, 8; Josh 1:5; Ps 9:10; Heb 13:5--do you see a trend?), how He already knows what is in our heart (1 Chron 28:9; Ps 7:9; Rom 8:27a--why hold out?), how He will seek out what is His and welcome us back with love when we fail (Luke 15). No matter what the blackness inside, if we want to change it He will work in us (Is 48:10; Matt 19:26; Mark 10:27; Luke 1:37; Luke 18:27; Phil 4:13), but I specifically want to get back to the issue of anger.

To see myself so angry and wanting to change it brings me to my knees in repentance and shame, knowing I need forgiveness. Like the Old Covenant, my sinful anger shows my need for a Saviour. It also shows how I cannot earn my own salvation--indeed I have little self-control and with this lack would have long ago earned the condemnation I so deserved. I so need grace; and having my eyes opened to my own need shows me the need to extend it. Anger also has another purpose in our lives. Ephesians 4:26 even tells us that it is possible to be angry and not sin (!): "In your anger do not sin". Christ was angry at the moneychangers in the temple and acted upon it by fiercely driving them out. So we need to learn to be righteously angry for God's purposes and let it drive us to action for Him. But the minute "me, myself and I" come back we know we are leaving the righteous path.

Hearing my friend say that God made me this way started me wondering why and I began to seek an answer. Rather than continuing to feel eaten up with shame I began to do several things. First I started praying for the Holy Spirit to convict me before I sinned in my anger. It is normal to feel anger when the kids are disobeying that same rule that has been in place since their arrival and that they've been disciplined for before; it's how I handle my emotion of anger that becomes the problem. So praying for wisdom, patience and kindness helped me act in this way instead of just losing it. I still forget and still blow it (both ways!), but it always drives me broken, back to the foot of the cross, where I should be anyway. But life is so much better now, and when I do blow it, I accept His forgiveness. Jesus paid a huge price to erase what I just did--why wouldn't I accept it? Then I begin praying again for wisdom before the fact, as well as making it right with whoever I erupted at, if necessary.

I also began praying for God to show me what His purpose was for this fierceness in my spirit. Always faithful to answer, He has slowly shown me things to be righteously angry about and ways to act. He has also shown me to quit feeding my mind with things that promoted the anger: taking control of my thoughts (2 Cor 10:5; Rom 12:2--we do these things by pouring in God's Word, btw) and not dwelling on myself and my own little miseries was a start! Changing all my input, from music to books to television (ala Phil 4:8), really helped change my output, which starts with our thoughts, which become our words, which become our character. I still blow it, but I blow it less when I am obediently in His Word and praying.

I also quit idealizing my friends. Some candid conversations revealed that they, too, struggled with some of the same issues. Most of the time when we compare ourselves to others we are compaing our worst to their best, which never helps.

Back to what started all this--my student. We talked yesterday and it brought back so many things that I just haven't thought about for so long (hmm, maybe I don't want to go to my 20-year reunion this year...). But it really brought back the years of living in a haze of self-disgust. If you are in this place, turn to the Lord and let Him carry your burden and show you a better way.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

An Art History Challenge

This last week I have greatly enjoyed preparing for and teaching art history. Starting with a review of Greek and Roman ideals, then moving through the Byzantine, Renaissance, etc., we are rapidly (?) moving toward and ending point with the Post-Impressionists. Okay, maybe we're not moving so rapidly, and if we don't pick up the pace we may stop sooner if we're out of time. But it's so interesting and it's so hard to pick just a few paintings from over 800 years! I've discovered so many new works and some new favorites.

Always one to share the fun, I've decided to try some art history challenge questions here on my blog. So to start, here's an amazing painting from 1820-1823. Who is the artist and what is it called? If this proves too easy, then I'll make the next one tougher, and if it proves too tough, I'll add some clues. Sound good? Then take a look.

4*16*07 Okay, today I am adding a hint. The painter is categorized as part of the Romantic time period, and it is from the cycle of paintings known as his "Black Paintings".

4*17*07 I should have better explained how I'll handle this project. If you think you know send me a comment with your guess. The following week I'll post the answer and a new challenge. :-)

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Hark! What is afoot in yonder forest?

These are our costumes from last fall and the little people had such fun traversing the woods dressed as such. We had lots of comments from other people, none more surprised than the climber who patiently waited for us to make our way up a very steep natural rock stair. When a lady, a knight and the paparazzi finally made their way up he just stood there with the most delightfully surprised look. What a fun day. :-)

Sunday, April 01, 2007


My wine is bitter,
like His sacrifice for me.

He drank His cup
of love.
I grimace and swallow.

Burning as it goes
penetrating all parts,
or so it feels.

Did His tears burn
as He prayed;
His friends asleep
as they kept their watch?

Hiding in the soul
waiting to grow
like a spirit weed:
bitterness. Take heed
lest His gift be laid aside
and forgotten.

He loved and was obedient.
He wept, then was kissed.
He gave all for me.

He drank His cup,
then turns to offer
me a drink from His sacrifice.
I take it gladly.
(as gladly as He?)

Gladly and drink.

It slides through my soul
and all bitterness is
by His love.

This is The Day, known as Palm Sunday

Out of the old came
something new, rebirth for me
and you from His love.

Remember spring blooms
showing us God's way of grace.
Given freely now.

Reach out and take it.
Love, His gift, desiring you.
Joined forevermore.

"Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in." -Psalm 24:7

"The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone;
the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
O LORD, save us; O LORD, grant us success.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD. From the house of the LORD we bless you." -Psalm 118:22-26

"Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey." -Zechariah 9:9