Rembrandt’s Meditation on the Younger Son

Rembrandt-The_return_of_the_prodigal_son
Painting by Renbrandt, 1606-1669
“And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. 14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to  one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.
17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.”
Luke 15:11-24, ESV

Three hundred and twenty-nine words– these describe the life of every man, woman, and child who has ever lived. These 329 words reveal to us a God who forgives much, and loves easily; the Father loves far too much, way too easy— and far too extravagantly for human beings to understand. Perhaps we sort of expect that he will ‘appropriately’ punish his son— at least put him on probation at least. It only makes sense.

“Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.” Many of us have lived in prodigality, some  of us for a very long time. We have spent our inheritance like ‘drunken sailors’ and have nothing at all to show for it. The prodigal, completely destitute, takes the only work he can find. (Imagine a good Jewish boy feeding hogs.) He is so far gone that he starts inspecting the slop pails for something to eat.

Many of us will understand his despair. But there comes this crystalline moment of amazing clarity. The prodigal—filthy and impoverished, has  a memory of the Father’s house. The servants there had far more than him. Sometimes in our captivity we instinctively want to go home, if only to be a slave.

The Father has dreamed of this moment. The parable says, “He saw him–felt compassion–ran out to him–embraced him–and kissed him.” In moments we see a swirl of servants who completely overwhelm an already overwhelmed son. I’ve read the Parable of the Prodigal Son a hundred times or more . It never loses its punch. I simply want to bring you for just a few moments back into its light. I expect that the Holy Spirit may have business with you. rembrandt-prodigal3 (1)

We see that his father receives him with a tender gesture. His hands seem to suggest mothering and fathering at once; the left appears larger and more masculine, set on the son’s shoulder, while the right is softer and more receptive in gesture. His head is downy, almost like a newborn’s. Standing at the right is the prodigal son’s older brother, who crosses his hands in stoic judgment; we read in the parable that he objects to the father’s compassion for the sinful son.

Rembrandt had painted the Prodigal once before, when he was considerable younger. And it is a very good painting. The prodigal is happy and gay; there is absolutely no indication of the consequences of sin. He is charming young man at a happy party. But Rembrandt chooses at the end of his life to re-paint it to reflect reality. This is one of the last paintings he will do, and it is the Prodigal Son–destitute and repenting. I can only imagine; the years have taken a toll and he doesn’t really feel his first painting is enough. He wants to paint what is true. He is painting us.

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Simply Golden

by Norman Rockwell, 1961

“And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.”

Luke 6:31, ESV — The Golden Rule

 “Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them! If you only love the lovable, do you expect a pat on the back? Run-of-the-mill sinners do that.” 

Luke 6:31-32, MSG

Sometimes it seems, I hit the switch, and shut it all down. Essentially, I get wrapped up with one of my favorite sins and soon I turn off my faith, unplugging myself from the wall.  I have a desire to escape from what I see as restrictions that I believe faith brings me.  I want to have fun–I don’t want to pray, or read the Bible.

Actually I can do this subtly.  I just raise the volume of my sinful desires, and try to drown out that still small voice.  I can maintain a holy life for my Christian friends, while I enjoy the pleasures of my favorite sins.  Sins or holiness, I want to go for both– but the reality is I just get one.

There is still a voice that is speaking profoundly. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.”  Our particular concepts of Christianity so rarely include this–“the golden rule.”  In my own mind, I diminish this as a little bit antiquated.  I will rarely feel its pinch or pull.  It is never a topic of serious thought or meditation.  It seems that it has become what I call–“an optional truth.”  It is very much real, but it is not connected to me in my daily walk.

Treating others, the very way you want to be treated—do this!  Love other people outrageously and deeply; because you like it when they do this to you.  There is reciprocal action here, a sort of spiritual circle of kindness.  Our vernacular says, “What goes around, comes around.”  And it certainly has a ring of truth in it.

All too often we have a version of Christianity that has had its teeth pulled. We have tamed it, and brought the sharp teeth of the faith under our personal decision-making process.  The wildness of a true faith is domesticated and ‘house-broken.’  And we start the rush to unplug things.  The golden rule gets detached right away.

As I struggle as a mentally ill Christian, it is mandatory that the truth be lifted up in my life.  I can become quite disturbed and manipulated by life’s dealings.  My issues of paranoia and delusion cripple me, or they could become the step-stool for those wonderous things on the shelf of grace.

Dear ones, use your illness to reach for the best, live this and change your world.

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10 Ways to Manage Your Depression

Adapted from New Life Ministries

1. Do not expect too much from yourself too soon, as this will only accentuate feelings of failure. Avoid setting difficult goals or taking on ambitious new responsibilities until you’ve solidly begun a structured treatment process.

2. Break large tasks into small ones, set some priorities, and do what can be done, as it can be done.

3. Recognize patterns in your mood. Like many people with depression, the worst part of the day for you may be the morning. Try to arrange your schedule accordingly so that the demands are the least in the morning. For example, you may want to shift your meetings to midday or the afternoon.

4. Participate in activities that may make you feel better. Try exercising, going to a movie or a ball game, or participating in church or social activities. At a minimum, such activities may distract you from the way you feel and allow the day to pass more quickly.

5. You may feel like spending all day in bed, but do not. While a change in the duration, quality and timing of sleep is a core feature of depression, a reversal in sleep cycle (such as sleeping during daytime hours and staying awake at night) can prolong recovery. Give others permission to wake you up in the morning. Schedule “appointments” that force you to get out of the house before 11 a.m. Do this scheduling the night before; waiting until the morning to decide what you will be doing ensures you will do nothing.

6. Don’t get upset if your mood is not greatly improved right away. Feeling better takes time. Do not feel crushed if after you start getting better, you find yourself backsliding. Sometimes the road to recovery is like a roller coaster ride.

7. People around you may notice improvement in you before you do. You may still feel just as depressed inside, but some of the outward manifestations of depression may be receding.

8. Try not to make major life decisions (such as changing jobs or getting married or divorced) without consulting others who know you well and who have a more objective view of your situation.

9. Do not expect to snap out of your depression on your own by an exercise of will power. This rarely happens. Many churches and communities have depression support groups. Connect with people who understand depression and the recovery process.

10. Remind yourself that your negative thinking is part of the depression and will disappear as the depression responds to treatment.

From New Life Ministries. Used with permission. More from New Life Ministries

 

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The Melancholy of Edvard Munch

munchDecember 2, 1863 – January 23, 1944, he was a Norwegian painter. He is regarded as a Symbolist and a forerunner of expressionism. He focused on themes of fear, anxiety, melancholy, and death. He did not believe in heaven, or other Christian themes or doctrines, as far as I know.

My intention is to reintroduce you to an artist that I highly esteem.  The challenge I suppose is to understand the issues that Munch discovers in his work. He clearly taps into the ‘angst’ of the modern man, and what he does perpetuates a mindset for our generation.

Obviously these paintings are just an introduction, and I understand that they are selective. I have refrained from any kind of interpretation, other than laying down a general principle–  to Munch, color is everything.

Munch was probably not a cheery person. He essentially was driven by anxiety through his whole life. It seems that he could be very ambitious. His classic work was “The Scream” which he made several versions to sell. He used different mediums to do this– tempera, lithograph and pastel. Interestingly, “The Scream” is a favorite target for art thefts. It captures the minds of every modern thinker.

Within our culture, “The Scream” is iconic. Warhol, Gary Larson, Dr. Who and even “The Simpsons” have cashed in on a parody of it.

Quotes

“I painted the picture, and in the colors the rhythm of the music quivers. I painted the colors I saw.”

“Painting picture by picture, I followed the impressions my eye took in at heightened moments. I painted only memories, adding nothing, no details that I did not see. Hence the simplicity of the paintings, their emptiness.”

“For as long as I can remember I have suffered from a deep feeling of anxiety which I have tried to express in my art.”

“Disease, insanity, and death were the angels that attended my cradle, and since then have followed me throughout my life.”

munch-thescream
The Scream, 1893
Munch’s best known painting ^

 

The Sick Child (1885)
Melancholy, 1894
Melancholy, 1894
Golgotha, 1900
Golgotha

Some of My Paintings

Here are some paintings I’ve done over the last few years. I hope that they bless you somehow.  All were painted out of a long season of deep depression.  Painting these (and a lot of others) was the only thing that kept me sliding off the edge.  Some might ask, how can you create these out of your Bipolar Disorder?  To be honest, I am just as mystified as you. None of these are ‘perfect,’ But made in a time when I was under a certain ‘strain.’ But they are what they are.

One of my favorites.

An artist has been defined as a neurotic who continually cures himself with his art.”  (Lee Simonson)

“The Bipolar Mind”

“Three Crows Having Lunch”

All of these paintings have been given to various non-profit organizations, for the handicapped and the mentally ill.  To me, that is the place they belong. “If you have two loaves of bread, keep one to nourish the body, but sell the other to buy hyacinths for the soul.”  (Herodotus)

Kachemak Bay, Alaska (with moonlight)

Straight on view
This was painted when things were really bad.
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“California Poppies”

Seeing Through Photos

Images from http://laylasphotoblog.blogspot.com/.  She has a fair number of very good images that she has winnowed out from everywhere. I have culled out these from her and hope they bless you.  You just might visit her blog and soak in the beauty she has. She has several pages, and hundreds of photos.

 

Creativity

 

 
Humility
 
Family
 
Taking Risk
 
Beauty
Her site has this notice on it.  I have brought it over to BB.  “Its very difficult to acknowledge an artist or photographer for each of these photos. I found them all online without copyrights or credits. Each one says something to me. I hope you enjoy them.”I will promptly take any down if I discover that there is a copyright issue.

Three Paintings You May Like, (Maybe)

Copy of Van Gogh’sStarry Night“, done in Acrylics (but should’ve been done in Oils.)  This hangs in a non-profit org. here in Homer, Alaska.
 
 My favorite, out of everything I have done. “Jesus, with His crown of thorns” This sets on the landing of my steps, coming down from my loft.
 
California Poppies, Acrylic–

This hangs in my home, since I refuse to peddle it to whoever thinks they might have it in their interests to put it up on their wall.

 
These three paintings are recovered into circulation because a dear friend asked me, (quite directly, mind you) to bring them out into the sunlight again.  For whatever they are worth, it you can soak out anything of truth and understanding, I will leave it up to you. For the most part, I regard these as a definite foolishness. If you happen to disagree, I have no real problem in that.