The “Borders” Project

I can’t believe this school year is almost over! It’s so exciting that I’ll be heading home on Thursday!

This last block I’m doing now is a drawing class, and our final in-class project consists of painting/drawing an image on a large sheet of paper, canvas, or wood. Dr. Salix has given us the theme of “border” — physical, psychological…you name it. It just has to have a personal implication as well. And, since it’s personal, he’s actually letting us do horses, which means, of course, I’m doing a horse. (Me? Pass up an opportunity to draw horses? Nuh-uh!) We have to come up with our own scene and idea, which is the hardest part for me, since it has to a) meet all the requirements in the rubric, b) show some sort of border, and c) have a very subtle and mysterious message. I’m used to having strict guidelines to follow for class projects, so thevague openness of what we can do left me pretty blank for a while. Dr. Salix gave us time to brainstorm in class, and this was my first idea:

Basically, the horse and rider would be jumping over the fence, sort of from one world into another. The fence and landscape would show the difference, as well as the two halves of the rider’s apparel. Dr. Salix said it was a good start, but to go home and do some sketches and play with it some more. So that evening, I did several sketches and studied different pictures to come up with my second plan (click on the image to see it more clearly; I apologize for it being so washed out in the center):

So I brought that into class, but it is a little too long. Also, Dr. Salix says that it’s too literal and the message needs to be harder to grasp. So I brainstormed for a little bit and…I’m back to square one: a jumping horse. And that’s pretty much all I have at the moment. Dr. Salix told me to leave it at that for now, practice drawing charcoal and gesso horses over the weekend, and then we’d see what happened after I painted the horse for the actual project. So here are my products of the weekend practicing; the two standing horses are from live drawings, while the jumping horses are from photos:

So, tomorrow I’ll actually paint the jumping horse for the project…and then I guess we’ll see where it goes from there! I’ll try to photograph the process so that I can post it here. It should be interesting, especially considering that I only have two days to complete it!

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Solid Walls

I few days ago, I was reading in Ezekiel and, I’ll admit, I was rather bored. Normally I find the chapters fascinating but that daily section consisted primarily of an analysis of the dimensions of the new temple. I understand that it was important, and that it likely had a great deal of significance for the Jews, but for me, cubits and spans and chambers and gates get a little mundane after a while.

However, God seems to have a phenomenal way of teaching me something extraordinary from something I find quite dull.

The chapters for the day were 39-42, and the last verse of chapter 42 caught my attention. It reads: “He [the man with Ezekiel] measured it [the temple] on the four sides; it had a wall all around, five hundred cubits long and five hundred wide, to separate the holy areas from the common.”

A wall. And my footnotes said that “common” could also be translated as “profane.” There’s a a division, a separation. It makes sense, doesn’t it? The temple was the holy place of God. Every task that was performed there, and anything and anyone who entered there, had to be perfect. Priests entering the inner court even had to wear special linen garments that they weren’t permitted to wear elsewhere. The temple had to be clean, pure, holy…set apart from the rest of the world.

But it wasn’t as if the temple was set off on a distant mountain, apart from all society, war, sin, and whatnot. It was in the middle of Jerusalem, surrounded by people who, try as they might, could not be perfect. It was surrounded by war and famine and death and everything else that the first sin has brought into our world. But the temple itself was a unique place. It was, literally, the God’s home among the Israelites.

God’s home. It was unique. It was extraordinary. It was the God of the universe living among mankind. The temple had to be set apart to reflect God’s presence there.

The connection between then and now?

1 Corinthians 3:16-17 — “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.”

We are the temple. The world is Jerusalem.

Just as the priests still interacted with the common people, so we still interact with the people in the world around us. But, unlike the priests, we don’t leave the temple behind when we go out into the world. If we are Christians, then we are the temple and Christ is in us wherever we may go.

Now, we are God’s home. Therefore we are unique. Our hearts are extraordinary. The God of the universe in living not only with, but in mankind. We ought to be set apart to reflect God’s presence within us.

We’re surrounded by a lot of junk and evil — sin-stained scum — in this world. Vulgarity, murder, lies, immorality, laziness, greed, cruelty, etc., and all of this threatens to dominate us, to infiltrate our temple and profane it. Satan will use any ploy he can to get inside of us and mar the house of God. If you don’t think it’s possible, just look at the story of the ancient Israelites. Even the Levites, who were supposed to serve as priests in the temple, were corrupted during Israel’s spiritual decline (Ezekiel 44:10-14). Satan is cunning and deceptive. And he will do anything to diminish our ability to glorify God.

We need spiritual walls in our lives. Walls that will shield us from all the pollution of the world, walls that will be a defense against the enemy’s attack. Granted, we can’t be cut off from the world entirely, nor should we be. The temple was a witness and a reminder to the Israelites of the great Lord of the universe; our lives should be the same sort of witness to the world around us. To borrow from a line in Journey to the Center of the Earth, we need to be “a world within the world.”

We must build a strong defense rooted in the salvation of Christ. We must be on the constant alert to repair tiny fissures in our wall — fissures which could expand into massive holes or cause a whole section of the wall to come crashing down.

We need to build solid walls.

Look Up

Gazing at death may be terrifying, but gazing past death to the presence of Jesus waiting for the believer is the hope that dissolves the fear. We have the opportunity to glorify God in the face of death, boldly declaring our confidence in the fact that we will spend eternity in the presence of God. ~ NKJV footnotes

“When they [the Jewish council members] heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him [Stephen] with their teeth. But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, ‘Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!'” Acts 7:54-56

I don’t face death in the same way Stephen did; I won’t be stoned for my faith. But I do face a lot of sin here on campus and sin is, in a sense, death. Oftentimes, I find it very difficult to deal with this sin that surrounds me. Try as I might, I can’t ignore it, but I don’t want it to taint or depress me either.

Here, in Stephen’s example, I have found the answer I’ve been looking for.

I want to be like Stephen — pleasing God and being Spirit-led. The problem is that too often I get so fretful and distraught over life that I try to deal with issues in my own way. However, when I truly take the time to consider the outcomes and alternatives, I find that it would be far better to yield everything to God and to pray, “Lord, guide me in this situation. Let me know what to say and do.” I do not have to brave life on my own, no matter if I am the only “Christian” in class; God is with me, and that makes “us” a majority.

Stephen’s words in verse 56 have given me such hope because they have reminded me that I can look beyond the crudity, profanity, and obscenity that I face. If I focus on those evil things, then, yes, they’re definitely going to tear me down. But…why should I think about them? Why should I worry or fret over them? They are so petty compared to Christ! He has already conquered all of those things and He has promised me an eternity free from sin. An eternity. Can you imagine it? That makes the short period of our suffering here on earth seem so…little. Someday, I won’t have to worry about all this junk and worldliness. Even here and now, I shouldn’t let it overwhelm me because, through His death and resurrection, Christ has already conquered the sin and wickedness of the world. That means He will conquer them in my life as well…if I only allow Him to.

I think this has been one of my challenges for this block of the school year — to look beyond the sin to the glory of God, to yield my responses to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and to focus on Christ’s victory over sin. The phrase that has kept coming into my mind is “Look up.” My hope is in Christ. My future is in heaven. And my victory is in my Lord.

Look up. Look up. Always look up.

If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. ~ Colossians 3:1-4