Tag Archives | biblical illustration

The Mustard Seed

Seeing yourself on video is a challenge to be overcome, but I’m doing it anyway. I hope you enjoy my attempt at a video blog, as well as my new painting, “The Mustard Seed”.

Jesus says that we must receive the kingdom of God like a little child or we will not be able to enter it. I think it means to have absolute trust and wide-eyed wonder at the potential of life. Too often we judge or think we don’t deserve God’s blessings. Too often, we willingly let the miracles pass us by. Really, we just need to be open to receive…Like a child on Christmas morning!

To me, this verse is about having the courage to dream and to let yourself believe that God will use you to create something bigger than you can imagine.

Have you ever had a dream for something, whether it be big or small, and thought, no…I can’t do that? I’m not good enough. God doesn’t see you that way. He can take the smallest of efforts, even the desire for effort, and turn it into something beyond your vision. You don’t have to know what your tree will look like in the end. It might need some pruning along the way. But if you’re willing to pick up your shovel and begin the work, clear away the weeds…you will eventually discover the seed God has saved for you. Sometimes it takes years. But when the soil is ready, you plant that one idea, that one little seed…and then you watch with wonder at how it unfolds.

You don’t have to know what your tree will look like in the end.

In the Mustard Seed parable, Jesus was speaking to people of his time with symbols they understood. They knew how small a mustard seed was. They knew how large the tree could grow. They knew the amazing mustard tree was capable of growing from just about any soil, in any climate. When he said that’s the kind of faith they needed, they got it! I hope that in my artwork, painted for modern eyes, you might know this story again for yourself.

You can purchase prints and products with this image by clicking the image below, or by visiting my Etsy store:

Sell Art Online

A special thanks to my friend Cameron Packee for having the patience to help me with this. May this just be a tiny mustard seed on your future path!


Away in a Manger, with Father and Son

Today’s Advent Art Meditation is from Matthew 1:18-25. Since I spent a while at the dentist today and went to a Christmas event tonight, I’ve done a pen and ink sketch this time!

JN797_Joseph's Moment © Jen Norton

“Joseph’s Moment”

Poor Mary…God asked a lot of her. Here she was living a good Jewish teenage life, doing her chores, obeying her parents, laughing with friends. She’s engaged to a hardworking carpenter and her future is set. Then along comes God to rock her world. In his defense, he did send the Angel Gabriel to make sure she was cool with it, and she said “Yes” (Luke 1:26-38). You know the rest.

But what about Joseph? He had to say “yes” as well for this all to come together, and those times as well as ours, men had a lot more outs in situations like this. He could have dragged her in front of authorities when he found out she was pregnant, publicly humiliating her and ruining any chance she had at a good life. It would have been within his rights. Instead, he decided to divorce her quietly to spare her the embarrassment. Then the angels stepped in and told him not to be afraid that he was meant to be her husband and father to her child. So he stepped up to his calling. He put family first.

Soon after their marriage they had to travel by foot and donkey to another land for a government census. I’m sure he wasn’t thrilled about that inconvenience, but he kept his wife safe along unprotected Roman roads. He was a forthright, responsible guy. So they finally get to Bethlehem, they’re tired, they can’t find a place to stay and is wife is about to pop! They hide out in a stable where she gives birth.

Here’s where we come in as modern observers…cherishing the beautifully bucolic creche scene we’ve all come to know and love. Introduced by St. Francis to inspire his 13th century congregation, we see Mary and Joseph kneeling serenely by their new baby, laid in a manger. Very quaint. Not very realistic.

No offense to St. Francis, who is one of my favorite saints, but if I had just traveled for weeks and given birth in a barn, kneeling before my baby in an animal trough wouldn’t be my first inclination. Now sleep and food, those are true gifts! So in my version, Joseph, being the upright, caring man he was, let his wife sleep. I bet he also took the time to breathe a little and give thanks that his wife was safe. Then I imagine he looked at this child and, feeling a big awkward, decided to pick him up and comfort him while his mother lay sleeping. Maybe he even changed the first swaddling diaper. Joseph was a doer. He did what needed to be done. Maybe they even had a dad-baby moment where Jesus looked up at him with those wise baby eyes. Any father experiencing that moment might indeed believe “God is with Us”, Emmanuel. In caring for baby Jesus, he fell in love with him and became his father.

It is said that God doesn’t call the qualified. He qualifies the called. Joseph learned the angels were right: He was not to be afraid. He had a family to care for now. Poor Mary? Blessed Mary!

This artwork is available here.