Bombastic Tomfoolery

Once, when I was taking down one of my oil paintings that was displayed in a Christmas show, an older gentleman took one look at the painting and said, “I could have done that.” Since I have oodles of time to process all kinds of  experiences I have had, due to my cancer journey and resting in bed for hours, I have processed this experience and actually become appreciative of this critical man’s bombastic tomfoolery.

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The Holy Family, Marcia Carole, oil on canvas

I think of the eight years of art training, both on the undergraduate and graduate level, that I completed. I think of the tricky aspects of oil painting, and how I shy away from the fumes and glazes of that medium. However, occasionally, like with this painting, I embrace the fumes with an open window, and I experiment once again with the buttery textures of oils and glazes. This painting came on the heels of eight years of academic training and thirty-five years of practicing my artistic skills.

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The beginning stages of this painting

While lying in bed, fighting chemo nausea, I think of the idea I had, even before I started painting – the wonder of the Trinity dancing and communing in Heaven in eternity past, and the moment Jesus chose to leave that perfect union of three persons in One God, to come to earth for us. And to do what? He came as a humble baby, grew into manhood, died on a wooden cross for our wrongs, rose from the dead, (defeating Satan and death) and He has now danced back to the Father and Holy Spirit, and secured a place for us in Heaven for all eternity. Serious hard work! He did all that because of His great love for each of us in our hopeless, darkened, fallen, never able to quite get it right, condition.

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Adding more layers and glazes

And what is our response to all Jesus did? All He gave? (Think of His MANY years of preparation???) Well, of course, in our bombastic tomfoolery we say, “I can do that.” I can save myself.  Our way of saying, “I can do that.” is usually something like this: “I’m a pretty good person; I haven’t killed anyone,” or “I think God loves me and will overlook all the bad stuff I’ve done,” or, “I’ve done more good than bad, so I’ll probably go to Heaven,” or, “There is no God.” The reason why I am an authority on this is because I used to say these very sentences. I’m one of us. I was full of bombastic tomfoolery.

Then, one day, with the help of those further along in admitting their tomfoolery, the scales began falling from the eyes of my haughty and yet shame-filled soul, and I humbly saw the need for the work Jesus did for me. I began to appreciate it, rather than say I could do it. Eventually, He became my greatest treasure – clinging to Jesus and the work He did for me, is more precious to me than life itself.

So, when someone says to me, in all their bombastic tomfoolery, “I could have done that,” I will smile and think of my own silliness in thinking I could save myself from sin and death. I almost weep for joy at the gift of humility God has given me, so I could know, appreciate and receive the work and the gift of Jesus.  Merry Christmas!

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My home in Seattle

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

Joseph’s Story

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Courageous Joseph obeys God, and remains with Mary and baby Jesus.

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.
When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph,
but before they lived together,
she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man,
yet unwilling to expose her to shame,
decided to divorce her quietly.
Such was his intention when, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,
“Joseph, son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.
For it is through the Holy Spirit
that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins.”
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:
Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,
which means “God is with us.”
When Joseph awoke,
he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him
and took his wife into his home. Matthew 1: 18-24

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Front of my mehndi Christmas card.

Surely, Joseph had great faith in God – he obeyed Him in spite of the personal cost. People would talk and whisper about his decision to stay with Mary; he may have lost respect among the men in his community.  He must have puzzled many. Would he regain status as a man to emulate? Would he ever get out from under the shadow of Mary’s first pregnancy. He obeyed God, and yet, all may not have gone well for him within his community. (Have you ever made a decision to obey God, and others did not understand you, nor your decision?) There is often mystery involved with obeying God – obeying in spite of great obstacles, persecution, other people’s plans for your life. This mystery, although puzzling, is often how God works, and the very point where one’s faith begins to form deeper roots. God was sowing deeper roots of faith in Joseph.

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I have seen much artwork with Mary and baby Jesus, however, I think it would be interesting to make some art about Joseph, in response to the above passage of the Bible. I imagine a work where Joseph is holding Jesus, looking at Him with love and tenderness – just as a new father holds his newborn child. Joseph must be knowing (it’s unfolding) more deeply that he is part of something much greater than his own personal story – a larger story. God’s story. What wonder and mystery is at work here.

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Back of my mehndi Christmas Card.

In this rendering of the nativity scene, I have tried to bring out Joseph’s tenderness through his eyes – just a few lines to try to capture his love and wonder. I think, his thoughts of what others think fade as Joseph is drawn into God’s story – a humble Savior has come – and he gets to be a part of it! What a story he has because God has written Himself into Joseph’s story!

Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign:
the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son,
and shall name him Emmanuel. Isaiah 7:14