Tuesday, March 30, 2010

"Psalm 88"...not to be confused with 87

I finished this on Sunday. Unlike my last painting, "Sodom and Gomorrah," I've had the name for this one in mind all along...although I got the two of the Psalms mixed up and have been calling it by the wrong name for the past...oh, few months.

I'm not gonna deny it: this is has been the hardest painting for me to produce so far. I struggled with major blockage, fear over not wanting to screw it up, and also learning how to paint things like clouds and rain (of all things). However, although I don't think it's perfect, I'm still really satisfied with the outcome.

I've been asked what it means several times (well, basically every time a person sees it) and although there's very much a part of me that wants people to look at it and figure it out for themselves, I think it's also fair to offer my thoughts of intention. So, here we go:

Back in October, our pastor at The Paradigm Shift spoke on "The God who is Silent" (you guessed it) mostly based on Psalm 88.
When crisis or hard times hit our life, we often cry out to God...wondering where He is in the midst of our pain. When He remains silent, we often struggle with guilt and shame. We must have done something wrong. God, where are you? Why did you leave me? As Christians, we often try to just muscle through it and "be good enough" or "fix" ourselves. And yet, these efforts fail. In the psalm, there is no resolution. There is no happy ending. The psalmist remains in his uncertainty and his paint. The pain continues and we remain feeling isolated - abandoned - as though God has turned His back on us.

The psalmist in Psalm 88 calls God out - falsely accuses Him of basically screwing him over his entire life. God, You're the one who put me in this hellhole, and You've been doing this to me all my life. But we know from scripture that God is a good God, a God of love and justice and mercy...which might bring us to the point: "Psalm 88 is in the Bible?" Desperation leads to dangerously blasphemous tones. What we know about God objectively comes into conflict with what we feel about Him subjectively in times like these.

Saint John of the Cross said that silence purges (a violent expulsion) the heart. It shows how consumed we are with ourselves and how much we need pleasure to measure how we're doing with God. Darkness shows us how deep our vice is and how shallow our character is. It's also a great place to start having adult conversations with God. In actuality, when the psalmist writes that darkness brings more comfort than God, the statement actually points to God's understanding (along with others like it in the Bible). As explained by Bible commentator Derek Kidner, "The very presence of these prayers in scripture are a witness to God’s understanding. He knows how men speak when they are desperate.”

In Philipeans 3:8-11 Paul talks about sharing in Christ's sufferings on the cross (and the benefits/joy of that). To flesh that out a bit and tie it in, consider this: in Matthew 25:47 Jesus hangs on the cross and cries out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" before He dies. Although we may feel abandoned at times, Christ is truly the only One who has ever been so - when He took upon His innocent shoulders the guilt, sin, and shame of the world...and God, in His perfect holiness dealt righteous judgment upon that sin (He in our place), turning His back upon Christ in the process. If anybody ever truly was abandoned - it was Jesus. When we experience places of darkness, we experience what Christ went through on the Cross. Your pain points you to the Cross. And in that, you are pointed to how much God absolutely loves you.

Towards the end of the psalm (vs. 10-12) a question is posed which might look sarcastic:

Do you work wonders for the dead?
Do the departed rise up to praise you? Selah

Is your steadfast love declared in the grave,
or your faithfulness in Abaddon?

Are your wonders known in the darkness,
or your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?

But to this, God responds with a resounding, loving answer of, "yes." The silence we experience is not intended to destroy us. It is intended to shape our souls.

None of these ideas are mine. I simply listened to them coming from Jon Nitta; eagerly wrote them down; and listened to the resonating in my heart to produce, through a painting, what I understood about my own journey and struggle with pain.

Taking that into consideration, the cross in this painting is intentionally tiny. It's the kind of thing where if you look at the painting from across the room, I don't think you can see it. You have to look for it. Sometimes, that's how it is in life with our pain. We are so distracted by the heaviness, destruction, the details, and darkness of the storm around us...and we are so busy trying (unsuccessfully) to deal with the shame and the guilt of that in our own strength that we don't notice (or at least not right away) how God is with us and loving us in the midst of all of it. That being said, I'll leave the rest of the imagery for you to interpret and figure out.

(The detail in this image is sharper, but I don't like how the color got warmed. I think that the mood is better conveyed in the first.)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Here goes another one...

He's only 17. He's only 17 and we just found out his dad is "living on borrowed time." I don't know where his mom is, if he ever knew her. I don't know. I paint their walls. Their living room looks like a tropical dream home - bamboo paneling on all four walls with "carvings" painted over doorways and onto "beams" and "posts." Two "windows" overlook a beach scene as plumeria bloom outside and spread their leaves into the room - so close to being finished. It's art. It's beautiful. Cheerful. I'm a faux painter. It's what I do.

...But the father is dying, and the son will be left alone.
What am I supposed to do with that?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Hey, Lady!

I wrote a poem called "Lady Godiva."
It seems like a lot of people don't really know all that much about her, so I did some quick internet researching on her. I like this link a lot. I think my favorite part is the images. They're beautiful.

Monday, March 1, 2010


So, looking back at the month of February, I think this has been one of the hardest months of my life. I mean, sure, I've had some hard times...but this one takes the cake for variety.

How fitting that I cried myself to sleep...what a perfect flourish to end it with.