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Tag Archives | family

You don’t have to save the whole world.

Today’s reading is from 2 Corinthians 4: 3-6. Well, not really. I’m afraid I got mixed up and painted for NEXT Monday’s reading. Too late to re-do, so I’m going with it! We’ll save today’s for next week.

Love Your Neighbor © Jen Norton

“Love Your Neighbor” © Jen Norton

Pope John Paul II once said, “As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.”

I think that statement may have been one of the truest ever uttered. In this reading the apostle Paul assures the Corinthian community that the ways of God are not dishonest or trickery and only appears so to those who are blinded by the “gods” of the generation. If their acts and words are in alignment, the truth of Christ in their lives will be apparent.

John Paul II knew something about veiled politics. He was born Karol Wohtya and grew up in communist Poland. He knew what vitriolic words, two-faced politics and neighbor turning on neighbor really looked like. He envisioned a world where people could work together, not against each other. A world where “Thy will (would) be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

We are bombarded daily by many trying hard to sell us hatred. There are whole TV stations devoted to keeping us scared and giving us reason to detest our neighbor. Entertainment value supersedes fact and personal responsibility. No matter what side you take, there’s a long list of blame to be found on the other. The culture sold to our children is frightening. It all makes me quite weary. So what’s a modern girl to do?

For me, it’s choosing where to put my energy and focus on the things I can influence. It’s taking time each day, even if only a moment, in stillness. It’s spending quality time with my family. I can make sure my daughter gets her homework done. I can teach her self respect and how to treat other people. I can notice the man who picks up trash along the creek path. I can welcome people to our home. I can listen to a friend in need. I can do the laundry and walk the dog. I can make choices in line with my values about what I buy or how I dispose of what I no longer need. I can smile at a checkout clerk or help my old neighbor who walks with a walker bring in her trash can. I can vote. I can travel or read or otherwise educate myself on cultures and issues. I can pick the issue that’s most important to me and share time, talents or treasures as my ability allows. I can do so many things to make the bit of the world I come in contact with a tiny bit better. God is in the details.

Most of us aren’t required to save the whole world. We just have to do the best we can to keep our words and actions in alignment with our values within our own home, and allow that light to shine to our neighbor as it may. God will handle the rest.

You can purchase this piece here.

Your Purpose Will Find You

Family Tree © Jen Norton

Family Tree, Acrylic on paper

Today’s Advent meditation is on Jeremiah 33:14-16

Today is bill-paying day. I have a hard time with this task, not because I can’t handle simple subtraction, but because it’s so dang boring, my mind wanders. I often find myself, pen in hand, realizing that 10 minutes have passed and the empty check still sits before me (no, I haven’t migrated to online billing yet). You should not hire me as your book-keeper. It’s not my calling.

We all have a purpose determined by our talents, desires and skills. As one of my friends likes to say, “What’s for you won’t pass you by.” In this verse from Jeremiah, God assures us that He will keep his promise and that David will always have an heir to his throne. How could David (or Jeremiah) have known that somewhere down the line, his descendent would be Jesus Himself? In his own time, David was somewhat of a celebrity. Popular, musically gifted… a regular McDreamy of the biblical world. Like current pop-culture celebrities, he often fell victim to his own inflated ego. He did some bad stuff, like stealing his friend Uriah’s wife and then arranging to have him killed to hide his own guilt. He ignored his family in favor of work for so long that he didn’t realize his wives and children were plotting against each other for the throne. Still, he kept turning back to God, and when he realized his own evil mistakes, he showed true repentance. For some reason, God kept favoring him, forgiving his transgressions (although not without punishment). God kept his promise of salvation through the lineage of David. David’s purpose could not “pass him by.” Good God, I guess there’s hope for us all!

Today’s painting is of a tree, a family tree maybe. At the risk of mixing my biblical metaphors, Jesus promised that if we have faith only the size of a mustard seed, we can move mountains (although he never says how long those mountains take to move). At the base of the tree is the “mustard seed” heart. From this, the tree grows, branching out into colorful boughs. This tree was painted over a previously rejected piece of art that’s been hiding in my junk pile for a few years. The glow of color emerging from the rough acrylic layers is from that earlier attempt. It never made it to a frame, but its purpose here is apparent. This tree would not be as bright if I had tossed the old piece. It had a purpose. I think I understand why God favored David so much.

This painting is available here.

The Season of Family

In the flood of Cyber-Monday media, it’s easy to overlook that we are also in the season of Advent, the beginning of the Western Christian liturgical calendar, and the four weeks leading up to Christmas. In an attempt to be more present in this season, I got my shopping done early and thought I’d try something different this year. Maybe you’d like to follow along? No need to be any version of Christian. Everyone is welcome.

Working from the “Painting a Day” idea, I am going to do a small painting each day from now until Christmas based on my reflections on a daily scriptural reading. This is not a bible study…I’m not a scholar. This is just about what the reading makes me think of on that day. If I read the same scripture on a different day, I might have a different take on it. I am following the readings listed on Catholic.org, and I am reading them from my old and well-worn copy of “The New American Bible,” Catholic translation. I will post the scriptural reference, my personal reflection, and the painting it inspired. In addition, the art will be listed for sale in my Etsy store at a discounted rate during this 2011 holiday season.

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And so…on to today, which is Day 2 of Advent. The reading is from Corinthians, chapter 1, verses 3-9.

Garden Party © Jen Norton

Garden Party

Paul is writing to the Christian community in Corinth to address the problem of the community splitting into various factions. The verses for today are merely the opening of the letter as Paul expresses thankfulness for the believing community, assuring them that they have all they need through Christ, that they will be strengthened through Him, and it is by God alone who that they are called to a fellowship with Jesus.

This reading made me think of family, especially after the two Thanksgiving celebrations I attended last weekend. The painting for today is from a photo of my sisters, mom and a few cousins at a family gathering. I think it might have been my Grandfather’s birthday somewhere in the ’80s, but I can’t be sure. We were all sitting around a table in the garden just talking about “stuff”. Probably didn’t seem important at the time, but 20+ years later, I find inspiration in it.

The most important social structure in God’s eyes is family, because it is through family that we learn the lessons of love and forgiveness. Sounds easy enough, but there sure are days I fail the class. If you’ve ever gotten annoyed with a spouse, frustrated with your children, fought with a sibling or whined about family obligations, you know what I mean. It’s so easy to think things would be SO MUCH EASIER if only everyone would just think like me! (can you relate?). But that’s a selfish lie. It’s a lie that breaks down relationships and community. In God’s world, we’re meant to give. We’re meant to put another’s needs first. We’re meant to live with charitable hearts. That’s a tough calling for a mere human to uphold. The Corinthians struggled with it. I stumble over it. But when I can surrender my own mindset for the good of another, I see what is meant by being “called by God to a fellowship with Jesus Christ.” Those same family situations that challenge me also give me opportunities to see that I am capable of more and loved by many.

The season of Advent is all about family. It’s about a 13-year-old Hebrew girl who becomes pregnant, threatening to dishonor the man she is intended to marry and ostracize her family. They’re poor, they have to flee to another land, sleep in barns and Joseph had to raise a child that wasn’t even his. Talk about family challenges! Yet, through the strength of God and His helpful angels, a child is born who is immediately recognized by poor shepherds and rich kings as the savior of us all. The family endured and we should all be thankful.

I hope everyone who reads this has someone they can call family, whether they are blood-related or not. What are your biggest family challenges during Christmas?

Would you like to purchase “Garden Party”? Click here.

Change is good.

Three Sisters

Three Sisters in the Garden by Jen Norton

(reposted from Apirl 2010) Every so often I take some time to re-evaluate some of my unsold work. Is it just waiting for the right buyer? Does it need a little facelift now that I see it with new eyes? Or is it hanging around like dirty laundry taunting me with reminders of my lackluster housecleaning skills? This morning I came across a piece that needed to be shed like that extra 2 lbs gained on vacation, so I splashed paint, rolled ink and otherwise destroyed what was there. I decided to go with the theme of “Linked” from Illustration Friday that appeared in my inbox. A little uncontrolled “left-hand” drawing, some simplified shape…The result is this illustration of my two sisters and I walking hand in hand along a garden path. It’s simple, imperfect, uncomplicated and sure was a lot of fun to make. Sometimes, that’s all I ask of myself. Stains gone. Laundry folded. See what you think!

note: The original painting is sold, but this image is available to order on a Garden Charm, or for licensing. Use my contact page form for either.