Want to go to Church?

See oil painting “Jesus at Calvary” come to life: singing “I Can Only Imagine” cover + new lyrics

If you watched the above video (a clip from this year’s Easter Show), you saw how emotional I was while singing the cover of “I Can Only Imagine”. I could barely choke out the new lyrics I added to reflect the dark times we live in. Why?

Why do we get emotional when singing, painting, or maybe even some of you got a little teary while viewing my art? Just seeing the image of Jesus may make us feel powerful emotions. For some, it’s intense anger and malice, for others it’s overwhelming love and forgiveness.

I’ve attended many kinds of churches in multiple states and multiple countries. When living in Ireland, my family attended a church in downtown Cork. They were excited to see Americans, as an American had recently returned home and they were now without any in their congregation. They were keen to show off their “light lunch”, which they started up as a new tradition after their American friend told them about potlucks after church. Well, something got very lost in translation!

Yes, Irish and Americans both speak English, but trust me, Cork English is very different and hard for the uninitiated to understand. Also, the use of language and story telling, our different backgrounds, and the way we turn a phrase can cause some confusion. However it happened, the event they called “light lunch” was the biggest church feast I’ve ever had!

They were interested in our response. Did the Americans think that they’d done it up well? I’m laughing just thinking about it. It was a buffet rivaling a casino’s all you can eat binge fest- nothing like the more modest potlucks with casseroles (or “hot dish” as the Minnesotans call it), baked goods, and a few sides. Not that I haven’t been to large potlucks in which people went all out, but the Irish really took it to a whole new level. I have no idea how they got such an impression about American church lunches, but it was quite the experience!

I bring this up as an example of how church is all about perception. What we think church is, what we think it should be, and what it really is can sometimes match up perfectly, but often does not. A church is run by imperfect people and attended by imperfect people, so it will never be perfect. The history and religious foundations may be misunderstood, altered by political powers, or lacking understanding. The music may be off key. The speakers might stumble. The sound system may malfunction. Worst of all, people may leave church feeling more alone than when they came in.

The social and political aspects of church sometimes distracts and suffocates us. Maybe all we really want is the shared hope of life after death and seeing our loved ones again, redemption, mercy, unconditional love, forgiveness, deliverance, peace (“it is well with my soul” even when troubled times come), and gathering with other human beings who also want these spiritual gifts; sharing our lives with other families, seeing babies grow up, couples marrying, and supporting those who grieve- a community based on a genuine desire for everyone to be blessed by God. But the reality of how a church operates can be a vastly different experience than the raw honest emotion and connection that we long for.

So do we want to go to church? Is it worth the risk of feeling angry by something said at the pulpit, or by interactions with the congregation? It is worth feeling lonely, misunderstood, and rejected? Is it worth getting up early, making ourselves presentable, and pushing ourselves socially?

These, and more, are the questions I ask myself every time we move to a new place and need to settle the church question. I also go through this when a church situation is dysfunctional for our family and we need to look at making a change.

We’ve made changes. We’ve taken breaks. And we’ve somehow managed to still want to go to church. There are times when the Holy Spirit is in that place, and the love between fellow humans- many times complete strangers- is very real and powerful.

We have our boundaries though, and 2020’s government control of churches was one of them. We were half the choir, but when they banned singing as a response to orders without scientific foundation, we decided that they banned us. We did not return. For me, a church must be about the people who attend. More so than the political and religious order, more so than the government, more so than history and tradition, the church must be about the people. Jesus never pushed the lepers away, He went to them. He never rejected the elderly or the children. I can’t imagine a scenario in which Jesus would have agreed with the order to ban singing.

And in the end, I will not attend a church that violates my individual sovereign beliefs. Because, what critics say is largely untrue. Many of us do not attended church as cult-like drones, but instead our personal faith is the deciding force wherever we are, including church. And because of this, church (in many cases) is real. It is a space where humans gather, where personalities sit alongside each other, and our differences are tamed only by our desire for love.

When the government goes after the churches, we can imagine it’s because our gathering together gives us power that they do not want us to have. That alone should be enough reason to want to go to church? Maybe so. As I sit here today I don’t feel ready to face a new church experience, but I’m open to changing my mind and heart. I still want the things that I go to church for.


30 Seconds

Watch me paint this tree in Ireland for 30 seconds

A lot can happen in 30 seconds. Here, through the magic of time lapse, this tree that I painted when we were living in a rural area of Ireland, gets some finishing details.

30 seconds can be the longest seconds of our lives when a baby is born with the cord wrapped around his neck and we’re waiting for him to breathe. That was how my son entered the world. Longest seconds of our lives. He was blue and lifeless. Then, he cried. Fear and impending grief turned to joy.

Life can change in an instant. 30 seconds is 30 instants. It’s a long time. So in that context, a full day is an eternity. Whenever I think I don’t have enough time, I try to remind myself of how time is our perception of it. When we are propelled by adrenaline, emotion, pressure, social energy, or other factors, suddenly we can pack a lot of activity into a short period of time. When we feel sluggish, discouraged, defeated, bored, or frustrated, we can drag our feet and make relatively simple chores seem like impossible burdens, missions we can’t possibly complete. We procrastinate and make excuses for why we can’t do what we really CAN.

I met all the taping goals today for the Easter show! Now I can turn my attention to the unexpected move we have to make in 2 months. It seems like an impossible task at the moment, but do I need a full minute? A lot can happen in just 30 seconds. In 30 seconds I can go from a resigned spirit to high energy. It’s really my choice. The pep talk I gave myself (and you) yesterday was similar to this one and it really helped! Some of you gave me great feedback and I was encouraged to stay the course (THANK YOU! <3 ). Now I can feel proud of what I accomplished today and I know that I can handle the challenges ahead.

Whatever you’re facing these days, I hope that my ongoing saga motivates you to join me in manifesting the outcome we want by powering through with full passion, energy, and hope. Obviously it will be difficult to maintain the full wattage of that power at all times, but if we think in terms of “30 seconds” we may be able to switch our mindset for just 30, and then 30 more… before we know it, the day is gone and we’ve done what we wanted to do!


Painting Show: Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

St. Patrick’s Day fun! 20 minute variety show

If you missed my St. Patrick’s Day show last year, or would just like to see it again- here it is! Live painting (well, recorded obviously, but painting in real time instead of time lapse), silliness, singing, and surprises. HAPPY St. PATRICK’S DAY!


Something Happy

Watch this oil painting of a dolphin come alive in about 2 minutes (time lapse)

Thought this was a good day to share my oil painting of “Fungie” the dolphin again. He’s a wild dolphin from Dingle, Ireland. I fell in love with this cheerful little guy when I was lucky enough to see him playing in the sea, chasing the boat we were in.

Stone’s Throw Away” is one of my posts about Ireland. I had a blog about our life there, but I took it down for privacy reasons. I had many photographs of friends and people we met there, and there are now too many visitors to my site for that to be a good idea, especially since it would be hard to track everyone down to ask for permission. But, eventually I will share more of my stories from that time.

These are challenging days. I hope that you are able to put your time and energy into things, people, and places that you love. For all of those that we cannot have back, may our memories of the past bring us peace, and our thoughts of the future give us hope. No season lasts forever. Change is coming.


A Stone’s Throw Away

Watch this Ireland Coast oil painting come alive in 2 minutes (time lapse)

Here’s another painting video that I needed to change the music I’d originally used, to avoid copyright claims. I like how the new music works, but I also like the Irish music I had at first, so I’m keeping it the original way here on this site.

It feels like a journey looking into the past, going through these older painting videos. This was inspired by when I was living in Ireland in 2016 after my husband lost his job and we wanted to start over in a very big way. I’ve been thinking about Ireland a lot lately. Looking back is bittersweet.

We’d given up nearly everything we had to start over in Ireland, but even though I landed my month-long solo art show and my son got a partial scholarship to University College Cork, alas we couldn’t get our “permission to remain” visa and I had to cancel my art show (it was scheduled past our temporary visa expiration date), and the kids each canceled their school enrollment. It was rather crushing, as there was a process to get accepted for both them and for me, and our work to earn the money to go, by selling most of our possessions, and, well… it just wasn’t meant to be.

So, back we went, and by that time my husband was homesick and then the rest of us felt it too. We were born and raised in America, and no matter how much my dad’s spirit was calling me to Ireland, he was gone and I was not allowed to be an Irish resident. I will never really fully stop being sad about this, but I accept my place in life and I bloom where I’m planted.

However, when we first returned to the States, we went somewhere that quickly made us miserable, and we did not bloom! We were again landlocked and cold, and nothing we did was successful. But we didn’t let our journey end in such a crushing failure.

Even though we felt crazy to try yet again, we made one last long trip to somewhere beyond the rainbow where the dolphins roam wild. And now… if I were to stand at the coast near where I currently live, and throw a stone that could magically fly in a North Eastern direction across the ocean shore to the other side, it would land at the Celtic Sea Coast. I think of this whenever I stare across the ocean, imagining that it runs into the sea, and it reaches Ireland. I am just an ocean away. And this is where I belong. I will make a good life for myself here.

As I’ve been sitting here talking to you, the sun has come out. While it’s been cold here in Southern Georgia this January, today it is beautiful. It is currently 71 degrees F, with a high of 72. I’ll “see” you again tomorrow. I’m going outside!


Update from Yesterday

Watch this oil painting “Clover” come to life in under 1 minute (time lapse)

I painted these clover after I found them growing wild through the cracks in the patio, here in Georgia (USA). It reminded me of shamrocks. We saw a lot of wild clover/shamrocks while living in Ireland.

Yesterday’s blog post “LOL, Irishness” was about my experience making a type of Irish shortbread that is baked in a pan for about two hours. I promised an update, so here it is: AMAZING! Oh my! I love these little cookies so very much! But I’d really describe them more as a dessert that goes well with coffee or tea, even for breakfast, rather than what Americans think of as a cookie.

Irish shortbread with an Irish coffee
Irish shortbread pieces in the pan
The texture is a bit dry, yet moist inside- truly delicious
Close up of the shortbread. That bit at the top is melted powdered sugar. I shouldn’t have added the powdered sugar until it was done, but I didn’t know it was still raw until after I put the sugar on. So, I put it back into the oven after the finishing sugar was added, which made an extra texture on the top, but that was a happy accident and very nice!

You can find this recipe called “Irish Shortbread” by Anissa Wolf at Food.com. If you try it, you may find that you have to bake it for even longer than the suggested time. It was gooey and obviously not done, and easy to tell it had firmed up enough to cut it when it was baked longer. It was suggested to cut the slim bars into 20 pieces while the shortbread is still hot. I used a heat resistant silicon spatula/scraper (the kind you can use to scrape batter in a bowl, or because it’s heat resistant also multi-purpose while cooking) to cut it with and that worked very well.

I was skeptical about such slim pieces lasting long in our house, but the shortbread is quite rich and satisfying to have just the one serving. So, I froze most of it into separate bags since it looks like this dessert is best fresh or fresh-from-frozen. I enjoyed a piece of shortbread this morning for breakfast. And knowing the rest of the batch is in the freezer, I’m happy we’ll have this again soon.

If you want to give this a try, I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. I’ve had a good day today, with a family member who is celebrating a birthday. I hope you had a good day too. Have a happy weekend!


Veteran’s Day

Watch this oil painting of a roadside American flag come to life in about 1 minute (time lapse)

My oil painting is of a roadside American flag on the only way to/from Tybee Island, Georgia. Police officers rescued it from hurricane flood waters because they knew how much it would mean to evacuees to see it when they returned, not knowing if they still had a house left, but always a home.

One’s homeland flag means something different to each individual, but for many it is a very powerful symbol that captures how our hearts feel about the health, safety, and prosperity of our homeland, and especially the well being of those people we love. My grandfather was a decorated World War II veteran. My father served two tours in the Vietnam War, then died from cancer when he was thirty-seven years old. My husband served in the Army, patrolling the E/W German border shortly before the fall of the wall, and then shortly afterward. Then he was deployed to Iraq. All three of these men believed that they were fighting against evil, communism or dictatorship, and tyranny “over there”, so that these oppressive, enslaving, and abhorrent regimes wouldn’t take over HERE. But of course, lust for power respects no boundaries, and it was our own government who is/was involved in so many horrible things.

They gave my mom a folded American flag at Dad’s memorial service. When people destroy or protest the flag, it feels like a desecration of not just a flag, but of a grave, regardless of the intentions behind the statement. It is something I feel deeply, as do many other people. I paint the flag often, not because I am loyal to politicians or to a fantasy belief in a perfect nation, but because I am grateful for the ground beneath my feet and the people who came before me. I wish the same for all persons, everywhere in the world. I’ve lived in Germany and in Ireland, and when I lived in those lands, I respected the flags of my temporary homes. I loved those people and places too. I wanted to belong, and to be part of the community in which I lived. I believe I could feel this way wherever God plants me.

It was so wonderful to be with the Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, when so many had the Irish flag painted on their faces and waved it proudly. Never did I feel as if anyone was “superior”, but merely happy and celebratory. There was a kinship with everyone at the parade that day, as if for a few moments we were family. This is what it means to feel the warmth of a nation’s flag.

I’ve never met a veteran who served to defend politicians, governments, agendas, or causes (not directly or primarily). They all have said the same: they do it for those they love, for those at home. They believe that their homeland is meant to be safe and free for the children of the future. And they believe so strongly in the sovereignty of humanity that they’ll defend it with their lives. For this, we honor them.

Whatever deception has led to wars for profit, crimes against humanity, and great evil, is not the burden of those who simply yearn to be free, and want to protect their homelands, communities, and families. It is my wish that all wars would end, and no one would ever again receive a memorial folded flag. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if instead, all flags in all sovereign nations were merely celebratory colors, clutched in the tiny joyful hands of children to wave at parades? What a wonderful world that would be.

Grace Will Lead me Home

Watch this oil painting Ireland Coast come alive in about 2 minutes (time lapse)

When we were planning our move to Ireland, I was grieving the loss of my only remaining parent, my mom (Dad died when I was a child). We let go of nearly everything that we had- my husband had lost his job after the company moved out of the country, something I’ve blogged about before, and because of this, we needed to sell our house. My teaching studio was in the lower level of our home, so I lost my job too. When Mom died, there was no family to stay for, no jobs to stay for, and my kids were in between school choices.

There was nothing to keep us from moving to an island far, far away… away from the snow and ice, to a place where wild dolphins swim free. Have you ever felt this way, even if you didn’t actually lose your family, your home, your job and most of your possessions? Maybe you regardless have felt that all you had left were the people in your own little family, or even just yourself- alone.

In times of solitude, we may yearn for more solitude, as there is no greater loneliness than to feel alone in a crowd. The moody skies, brisk salty wind through our hair, and the mystery of the cliffs at the Celtic Sea Coast overwhelmed my heart. I will never forget that magical place that healed something in me that I didn’t even know was broken.

But we couldn’t stay. I had to cancel my month-long solo art show, and the kids had to cancel their school plans. My son had a scholarship, but alas, it was not meant to be. We couldn’t get our “permission to remain” visa. So, we had to come back home, to America. And by then, I knew that I couldn’t keep running. I would have to begin again, and make a new life where I was born, raised, and where I belong.

This is me (in yellow) singing “Amazing Grace” with my kids, shortly after we moved to the Deep South, here in Georgia. We didn’t return to the north, or to the midwestern states we’d lived in. We chose a coastal state where my dad had once been and had told me I’d love. We came here sight unseen, on a leap of faith.

I will post the lyrics here. If you are feeling heavy in your heart, this traditional hymn may be of familiar comfort to you.

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.
’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed!

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me,
His Word my hope secures;
He will my Shield and Portion be,
As long as life endures.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’d first begun.

Words: John Newton (1779)

Another Sunday

Watch this Celtic cross painting from start to finish in 2 minutes

(time lapse)

This Celtic cross oil painting was inspired by a monument presented as a gift from Ireland to Savannah, Georgia; commemorating the large Irish immigration to the United States that settled in this area. As we near the end of another Sunday, I hope that you take time for rest and reflection. May the week ahead be peaceful.

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

2 minute time-lapse to watch me paint this art “Ireland Coast

 

If you missed my St. Patrick’s Day Show, it’s never too late to tune in! I also posted Irish Art. Tomorrow I’m launching a new series on this blog. I think you’ll enjoy it. But until then, I’ll leave you with this Irish Blessing:

 

May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face; the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

- Traditional Gaelic Blessing
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