Saturday, April 10, 2010

Stones, Weeds and Dry Leaves

Plum in Pink, 3.5" x 2.5" gouache on Bristol vellum

I can't claim this painting is authentic. It's the plum tree I can see in the back yard. I painted it to record the light at the very end of the day, when one last shaft of sunlight seems to illuminate the tree from the inside out. But it isn't real. I'd love it if there were a carpet of lush, green grass leading up to it, but here in sun-baked New Mexico a lawn like that takes a lot of water, weeding and work. What's really there are stones and weeds and, at the moment, a lot of dead, dry leaves that have yet to be raked up and disposed of. (True confession time! Ack.)

How often do we 'dress things up' to look better than they really are? It's commonly done, and even considered polite. No one wants to be faced with stark reality all the time and have to deal with the un-raked leaves or weeds of another's life. Grass is much more beautiful than stones. Now, in my paintings I'm more than willing to change what's there to make a more interesting and compelling painting, but in life I need to be careful to live authentically and be transparent. Christians should be willing to "live in glass houses", letting folks see who and what they are without a lot of window dressing.

So, I hope you enjoy this's quite lovely and easy to maintain in the painting. My life, likewise, may look good to you, lush and green, but you should know that I struggle with weeds and old leaves and a stony yard. I'm so very grateful to be forgiven by God when the 'weeds' get tall, and to have a patient, loving Father when the 'old leaves' are still there in spring, and to know that He's guiding every step through the 'stones' on my path. And I know He smiles when I paint something to look more beautiful than it is. I think that was His original plan and the way he'll make things again in the future. 

Maybe He looks at you and me the same way, with an eye to His original plan and what He will restore us to in heaven. Lush, green, verdant, well-watered--and blossoming with youth and beauty. 

He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper. Psalms 1:3


Sunday, April 4, 2010


The Anointing at Bethany
Mark 14:3-9
And being in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as He sat at the table, a woman came having an alabaster flask of very costly oil of spikenard. Then she broke the flask and poured it on His head. But there were some who were indignant among themselves, and said, “Why was this fragrant oil wasted? For it might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they criticized her sharply.

But Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me. For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but Me you do not have always. She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial. Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.”

I remember a beautiful little blue glass perfume bottle that my mother kept tucked away in the corner of her top drawer, only to be used on special occasions when she dressed up, putting on her pearl necklace and pretty high heels. I loved the tall, elegantly carved bottle, and its warm, dusky scent is indelibly linked to celebrations in my mind. Each time I read of this anointing of Jesus I can’t help but visualize that same fragile, deep blue bottle. I see it broken, as the intense, sweet aroma overwhelms me.

Can you imagine owning a bottle of perfume worth a year’s wages? Around here the average per capita income is about $30,000. Let’s say that you have a little blue bottle like the one I remember, worth $30,000 or so. You’d have to save your money for years to purchase such a thing. You’d tuck it away in a vault or your safe-deposit box. Okay, now imagine taking the unopened bottle, breaking the slender neck and pouring it out—all of it—as worship to God. Wow! That would be really extravagant!

Admit it. Somewhere in the back of your mind you’re thinking how wasteful that would be. Think of all the things you could do with all the money you make in a year, good things benefiting others. And even if you didn’t need it to live on, you’d benefit from that money, wouldn’t you? Let’s say you gave it anonymously to a wonderful charitable organization assisting widows and orphans. If you’re like me, you’d also glory in the idea that you saved all that money and gave it away.

But as a result, more than once you’d think about the widows and orphans you gave it to, I bet. Am I implying this would be bad? Not completely. I’m only pointing out that if you poured your perfume out before the Lord it’s possible you would think of that as wasteful—but would it be? Just as you would repeatedly think of the widows and orphans, wouldn’t you think of the One who received your gift? Remember, He’s the Maker of all, even the heady scent of that perfume. To give it to Him is to return it to the One who gave it to you. How is that wasteful?

Jesus says that this tale of the woman’s gift to Him will be told all over the world as a memorial to her. He wants us to appreciate her gift, to emulate her heart. It was out of worship to the living God that she gave. And she gave it all to Him. Even the pretty little blue bottle was broken, no longer able to hold perfume—though I’m sure the scent lingered freely on it for years.

I wonder how many times she recalled that day, how often her heart swelled with the memory of the expensive gift, the sweet aroma of worship, that she gave Him out of her great love. Surely that extravagant worship was worth the price.

(c) 2008 D. Secor