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Rock Gardens and Deep Roots for Spiritual Growth

This summer we actually went shopping for rocks! As you might expect, it’s not hard to find rocks here along the Front Range of the Rockies. In fact a lot of landscaping is done with small rock to conserve water and with larger rock, known here as river rock, for those areas prone to run off in sudden mountain thunderstorms.

But I wanted rocks with character for a small garden area with perennial flowers, a birdbath, and bird houses. Hence the actual shopping and payment of $. We found some medium-sized rocks with lichen, brought them home and placed them in pleasing arrangements, then planted day lilies, daisies, cone flowers, and a butterfly bush.

 

 

 

 

 

Not long afterwards, Molly and I walked along a path where rocks had spilled over from some construction work. It was a dry area with no irrigation or sprinklers like parks or our back yard.

Here I discovered God had thought of rock gardens way before us and created some wildflowers that could survive in the dry, rocky soil. Even with their shallow root system, this year’s abundant rain has made these yellow and pink flowers a refreshing sight and reminded me of the diversity of God’s creation. (The colors are pretty hard to see in the photo, but they were there!)

But soon the rains will mostly end, and at this altitude of about 5, 000 feet, the sun will sear these plants as if they were on a grill at a summer cook out.

A rainfall will revive them, but they will never grow tall.

Not so in our garden. We dug deep holes so our plants would have room for their roots to grow deep to provide support and sustenance when rains are sparse and hard winds blow (which is most of the time around here). The plants are already tall and bright.

Here again is Durer’s painting the Great Piece of Turf, and if you look closely, you’ll see he has allowed some roots to show at the base of the plants. Perhaps he was thinking of the Parable of the Sower when he did that.

A Large Piece of Turf by Albrecht Durer, public domain

In that parable (Matt. 13:1-23) Jesus compares different kinds of soil to the hearts of different people and how they receive God’s Word.

He said that like plants in rocky soil that don’t have deep roots, people without deep roots in God’s Word will fall away when trouble comes.

And trouble will come in this broken world—the strong winds of personal loss, the drought of being without a job, the searing heat of a difficult relationship—and at those times our hearts need God’s healing words and promises deeply rooted to sustain us.

Just as in our garden we dug deep so our plants could develop deep roots, that’s the best way to begin to develop deep scriptural rootsdig deep into God’s word on a regular basis. When we study God’s Word regularly we see how He cares for His people in tough times.

Most of all, we see Jesus, who came and lived among us, experiencing all this world’s troubles, but without sin. We see God’s love for us when Jesus died on the cross so we can be forgiven and become part of God’s family. We learn that Jesus, who understands our weaknesses, intercedes for us before the Father, and the Holy Spirit helps and comforts us.

What are some ways you can help your heart become good soil for God’s Word to take deep root?

What are some rocks you may need to roll out of the way just as the angel rolled away the rock from Jesus’ tomb so His disciples could see and believe in His resurrection?

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Here’s Molly in our garden and Molly sitting among the rocks and plants beside the path. What a difference deep roots make!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next post: a painting and printing project for children relating to wildflowers and gardens. Don’t miss it! Sign up to receive my posts by email.

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Wildflowers Seen on Summer Walks

This summer on our walks Molly and I are seeing lots of wildflowers. Clumps of blue flowers stand tall amid the grasses at the edge of paths. White daisy fleabane peeks out from under a bush and wild pink roses grow along a wooded stream.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the fields orange paint brushes poke up their spikey heads, and yellow flowers like buttercups and dandelions shine like little pieces of the sun in many areas.

 

Albrecht Durer, a German artist who lived from 1471 to 1528, created beautiful oil paintings and was also one of the first to earn much of his living from printmaking. Take a look back at my post of November, 25, 2015, about his famous Praying Hands and his great interest in Martin Luther’s teachings.

A Large Piece of Turf by Albrecht Durer, public domain

But not everyone knows of his delight in studying and painting the small everyday creatures and plants where he lived, as well as on his many trips around Europe.

He had a great curiosity and appreciation for even the smallest parts of God’s creation! Here is one of those paintings, called the Large Piece of Turf. You’ll recognize the lowly dandelion!

Take time, as Durer did, to appreciate the beauty and intricacy of grasses, weeds and wildflowers that grow everywhere.

Get out and enjoy a walk in your neighborhood, a park, in the woods, or by the shore.

Even in your own yard, before you dig up that dandelion, notice that its buttery yellow mane shades to gold in the center. And marvel at God’s care in giving this lowly weed intricate little parachute seeds to ride away on the wind (probably to your neighbor’s lawn!)

 

Studies have shown that people are more creative after a walk AND come back refreshed and more aware of God’s creativity!

 

So take along a sketchbook or take photos of the flowers so you can continue to enjoy your own Piece of God’s Turf! Use it as wallpaper on your computer or phone for a time when you need refreshing. That picture will bring back the sights, the sounds, the scents, and maybe even the feel of a soft breeze of a relaxing time!

And as you walk and look, remember Matthew 6:28-34 where Jesus reminds us that if God has bestowed such care and beauty on the flowers of the field that are here today and gone tomorrow, how much more can we depend on Him to clothe and care for us.

What Piece of God’s Turf reminds you of His love and care? Is it a wooded area with dappled shade and the scent of pines? Is it at the sea shore where you can see sandpipers skittering away from incoming waves? Maybe you love meadows filled with yellow buttercups and Queen Anne’s lace.

One of my favorite Pieces of God’s Turf are the roadsides in upstate New York where orange day lilies and blue chicory mingle to provide a complementary-colored border all summer long. Join the conversation and share your favorite piece of turf.

Here’s Molly’s latest favorite piece of God’s Turf!!

 

Molly, Cute Corgi Photos

Just as Monet and the other Impressionists suffered much rejection at first from the established art world, we had to reject many photos of Molly before getting just the right ones for our Monet and his haystacks and cathedral series.

Disclaimer: No dog was harmed in these photos, unless you think 100s of treats per session is harmful. Molly loved it, but she did have to do a little dieting afterwards to get back that svelte, streamlined corgi shape!

So here they are: Cute Corgi Photos

Getting the beret to stay on those corgi ears was a challenge!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It often fell too far back or …too far forward!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes she was very patient; other times she was not.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She always wanted treats for being good, which complicated keeping the beret on!

It took lots of behind the scenes preparation!. I’m in awe of those who do animal photography for a living

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were surprised she didn’t go for the French bread!

Eventually she was truly done. I guess she thought she was hiding!

Here again are the great photos I used! A round of applause, please , for the model!!

One last thing:  spring has finally come to the Rockies, so we’re going to take a little break to enjoy it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Molly is ready to get out and play ball! Oh, and she wants you to notice she is once again sleek and ready to run!We’ll be back soon, but in the meantime you might visit our series of posts from last summer about nature. there are lots of activities to help you enjoy the beauty of God’s creation.

Thanks for visiting. Molly would love see your comments on which photos you like best!

Children’s Art Project for Mother’s Day, Inspired by Monet’s Love of Flowers

photo taken in Monet’s garden at Giverny

Monet loved flowers. Moms and Grandmothers do, too , so here’s an easy art project for children to do for Mother’s Day.

Monet’s garden at Giverny is as much a work of art as his paintings, and he often cut flowers to paint when the weather prevented him from working outdoors.

This project is an excerpt from an earlier post of mine about Renoir, another Impressionist who loved flowers!

Art Project for Mother’s Day

Supplies:  20160502_125357sturdy paper, pencils, crayons, scissors, glue, cheap watercolor set, brushes

Directons:

1. With a green crayon draw20160428_102200 curving stems as if coming from a narrow vase in the middle at the bottom of the paper. (See illustration) (If your child is very young, you can draw the stems so that the bouquet isn’t too small)

 

2. With crayons of a variety of colors, draw the outlines of ‘flower’ 20160428_103005shapes (daisies, circles, spirals, etc.) among, and at the end of, the stems. Leave coloring them in to the next step—painting.

3. Now, just like the Impressionists, paint blobs of paint right over the crayon ‘flowers’. 20160428_104913 20160428_104910Blobs work because the wax of the crayons repels the water color and shows through. (Encourage children to use small amounts of water to mix paint. Otherwise the colors get pretty watery)

4. While the flowers dry, trace on another piece of paper around each child’s hands (have them spread their fingers apart a little). Include a few inches of their arms. 20160428_103747 (use colored paper or children may color these and add rings, watches, etc.)

5. Cut out the hands.

6. Glue the hands, fingers interlaced with thumbs up, at the bottom of the painting as if they are holding the bouquet! (the fingers interlace more easily if the hands come together at an angle)

Voila!    Write Happy Mother’s Day across the top and give to Mom or Grandma!

Other Things to Do

  • Visit Monet’s gardens online at   http://giverny.org/gardens/fcm/visitgb.htm
  • Visit art museums or go online to see Impressionist collections and see how many have flowers in them. Many American museums have at least a few, because Americans were among the first to buy their work. here’s a link to the Impressionist collection at the Art Institute of Chicago.   https://www.artic.edu/collection?style_ids=Impressionism
  • Look at works by Mary Cassatt online. An American Impressionist artist living in Paris, she not only introduced many of her friends to Impressionist art and encouraged them to buy these works, but she painted many lovely works of mothers and children together.

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Don’t miss the next kathythepicturelady post with funny Molly photos.

On the Trail of Monet’s Cathedrals and Haystacks: Devotional

interior, Gothic cathedral, author photo

Stone—heavy, durable, hard to carve into blocks or statues. Part of a Gothic cathedral, though, it can soar to great heights, as well as form thin, decorative tracery around rose windows.

Chartres, one of three rose windows, author photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notre Dame de Paris, flying buttresses, author photo before the fire

Built all over Europe in the Middles Ages, these vast churches have defied wars, storms, and fires, as we’ve so recently seen with Notre Dame in Paris! Inside, its stone columns still run up and fan out to someday support a new vaulted ceiling. Outside, Notre Dame’s flying buttresses still arch back against the cathedral and will again, we hope, counter the outward thrust of a new roof.

Sainte-Chapelle, Paris, author photo

 

Thinner stone walls could hold huge windows of stained glass, opening up these cathedrals to a beautiful light that some have called heavenly.

The stained glass and statues helped generations of mostly illiterate people learn the story of redemption.

 

When Monet painted the Rouen cathedral series,

Rouen Cathedral, Facade and the Tour d’Albane, Gray Weather, Claude Monet, Rouen Museum

the cathedral had stood solidly in that same spot for over 700 years! So he was able to return after a year to finish the series.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hay—light, perishable, blown to and fro by the wind. It grows for a season and is then easily cut and formed into a plump haystack to dry. Although necessary for feeding livestock, hay stacks don’t soar toward God or let in heavenly light to tell God’s story.

detail of haystack painting by Monet, author photo

They aren’t permanent either. Monet began his haystack series in the fall, but continued so long into the winter that the farmer needed the hay to feed his cattle! Monet had to pay the farmer to wait while he finished his paintings. 

Imagine that farmer walking away fingering the francs in his hand, but shaking his head over the strange ways of artists!

So if asked which has more spiritual worth, a cathedral or a haystack, most would choose the cathedral.

Yet in the summer of 1806 the prayers of five Williams College students did soar up out of a haystack to God and helped begin the American mission’s movement that sent 1000s of men and women to spread the gospel throughout the world. There had been recent Christian revivals in America under George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, and others, but up to this time, no one had considered taking the gospel to other parts of the world.

But Samuel Mills, a student at Williams College, had begun to pray about it. And on a Saturday afternoon in August he and four other students gathered in a field off campus to discuss and pray about missions to foreign lands. Williams College is in the postcard-pretty Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts. Vibrant autumn foliage soon gives way to winter snows, so by August haystacks begin to dot those fields around the town and college.

That August Saturday in 1806 a thunderstorm rolled down out of the mountains and lightning crackled over the fields, sending the five students under a haystack for shelter. They continued praying, and the Haystack Prayer Meeting, as it came to be called, continued weekly after that.

Within just a few years, Mills, along with other students, had helped encourage the founding of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions which sent the first American missionaries to India in 1812. One of those, Adoniram Judson, was a friend of Mills from when they both attended Andover Theological Seminary. Mills also help found the American Bible Society and The United Foreign Missionary Society.

Monet made beautiful paintings of the fleeting, superficial changes that light brings to haystacks and cathedrals, but the objects aren’t really changed, and even stone cathedrals don’t last forever.

But when God’s light comes, it can even transform a haystack into a cathedral in which His heavenly light illumines and leads regular people, like college students and us, to take the gospel light to our neighbors, and around the world.

Then these people of God become temples of the Holy Spirit, and they will live forever!

Are there people in your neighborhood or others you keep in touch with who need to receive the light of the gospel?

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Molly is taking a much deserved break from photo shoots, but if you sign up for  Kathythepicturelady posts, you’ll soon see some of the funnier photos from her Molly-in-France series!

The next post will be an Impressionist-inspired kid’s art project for Mother’s Day. Don’t miss it!

 

 

Good Friday and Easter Paintings of the Isenheim Altarpiece

Like Notre Dame the Isenheim Altarpiece has been through many dangerous times since its creation in the 1500s, but it has survived to remind us of Christ’s death and resurrection!

On Good Friday and Easter we remember and celebrate that, “ . . .the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:28.

 

In Grunewald’s crucifixion panel, darkness is the backdrop for one of the most moving crucifixions in all of Western Art. “When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’” John 19:30.  He then committed His spirit to His Father and died.

On the left Mary, who in the Christmas Picture,  looked with such love on her baby, now looks with anguish at her dead son. John and Mary Magdalen show the intense grief and shock that all the disciples must have felt. Is there any hope?

Yet, even in this darkest hour, Grunewald gives his viewers hope. On the right the artist has shown John the Baptist with a lamb at his feet and holding an open Bible as he points to Jesus.

Long before, when the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, God had them choose a lamb to bring into their homes for 4 days.

Look at these parallels

  • John heralded Jesus’ coming when he said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!” John, John 1:29. Jesus then preached and ministered among the Israelites for 3 or 4 years.
  • He entered Jerusalem on the day the Passover lambs were chosen, (Palm Sunday) and was crucified 4 days later.

On that original Passover the Israelites killed the lambs after the 4 days and put their blood on the doorposts and lintel of their homes so that when the angel of death passed through the land that night, he would Pass Over any home with the blood of a lamb over its doorway.

Each year Jewish people were to look back and reenact that event that freed them from earthly slavery, but God also meant for Passover to look ahead to Christ’s coming, when He, as the perfect Lamb of God, would give Himself for us, shedding His blood on the cross, so we can be freed from an even worse slavery–slavery to sin, and fear of death.

So John holds a Bible and points to Jesus to show that Jesus came to die according to God’s wise and loving plan. To further emphasize this truth, the lamb at his feet holds a cross.  Jesus gave Himself as the perfect and once and for all sacrifice for our sins, so we can be forgiven and reconciled to God.

“O Sacred Head, Now Wounded”

  1. O sacred Head, now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down,
    Now scornfully surrounded with thorns, Thine only crown;
    O sacred Head, what glory, what bliss till now was Thine!
    Yet, though despised and gory, I joy to call Thee mine.
  2. What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered, was all for sinners’ gain;
    Mine, mine was the transgression, but Thine the deadly pain.
    Lo, here I fall, my Savior! ’Tis I deserve Thy place;
    Look on me with Thy favor, vouchsafe to me Thy grace.
  3. What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest friend,
    For this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?
    O make me Thine forever, and should I fainting be,
    Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee

lyrics in public domain

Next we look under the crucifixion to a small scene showing the disciples preparing Jesus’ body for burial in a white shroud. There is no life in Him, and at the end of the day on Friday, His disciples buried Him. Again there seems to be no hope.

Then comes Sunday, Easter, and

In Grunewald’s final panel, we see a most beautiful and amazing resurrection scene. Jesus has risen in power and glory from the grave; the guards have fallen in fear and awe. They and the stone could not hold Him, and neither could death. His body, once so pale and marred by death, is now alive with warmth though His wounds still show.

The cold, white shroud of death has turned to warm reds, oranges, and yellows as Jesus rises from the grave. He has defeated Satan and death so that we can be saved to live forever with God.

Put down your burdens of sins, of regrets, of striving to be good enough, and accept the free gift of forgiveness and salvation that God longs to give you when you humble yourself to accept Christ. Hallelujah, He is risen! 

 

 

The two photos of paintings from the Isenheim Altarpiece were taken by the author.

The next kathythepicturelady post will be devotional to go along with my series on Monet’s cathedrals and haystacks.

Notre Dame de Paris After the Flames

If you’ve been following the news, you know that more of Notre Dame has survived than anyone could have hoped!  

The bell towers still stand, as does much of the outer shell, thanks to those flying buttresses built long ago by Medieval stonemasons and the heroic efforts of Paris’ firemen. What wonderful news!

Pray for the fireman who was injured.

One incredible video shows firemen looking into the nave and the undamaged cross on the altar shines brightly, while the stone walls still soar upward. Amazing!

Many Gothic churches have suffered as much or more damage in the past from fires, wars, and storms and have been rebuilt. In my recent  post about Rouen cathedral, I mentioned the devastation it received from bombing in WWII, and Chartre rose again from the flames way back in the late 1100s. President Macron has promised Notre Dame de Paris will be rebuilt! And hopefully millions of visitors and worshipers will again be able to enjoy this beautiful Gothic cathedral ads stand where we did in this photo from last fall.

It was a beautiful sight to see and hear so many French people singing and praying in the streets last night. It’s been inspiring to hear the media saying things like the true church isn’t the building (as beautiful as Notre Dame was) but the people who gather there to worship God.

Perhaps best of all have been all those who have talked about seeing this destruction and the coming rebuilding as a picture of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead that we will celebrate this coming Sunday.

Please revisit kathythepicturelady blog this Thursday to see a post about another French masterpiece that was endangered during the French Revolution, but now helps all who see it stand in awe of what Christ did for us on the cross and the wonder and miracle of His resurrection.