Surely the Savior knew from an early age the path that lie ahead of Him, yet He was not discouraged or dismayed. He went about doing good and filled His life, and the lives of others, with joy and happiness.
I am inspired by the story of Reverend Henry Lyte. Henry's father abandoned the family while he was a young boy and his mother died shortly after. In addition to being orphaned at an early age, Henry struggled throughout his life with poor health - yet all that knew him commented on his cheery temperament. His final contribution came just three weeks before his death. Though he was dying of tuberculosis, Henry was still determined to give to others. He rose from his bed and penned the words that would become the cherished hymn,
Abide with Me.
Abide with Me! fast falls the eventide; The darkness deepens. Lord with me abide.
When other helpers Fail and comforts flee, Help of the helpless, oh, Abide with me!
Certainly none of us can walk through life free from illness and despair, but we each can decide how we will respond to those trials that come. This painting reminds me when trials come that I can choose to retreat into myself, or I can choose to reach out as the Savior did and bring happiness to others. Only selfless sacrifice can we ever hope to abide with the Lord.
When Peter saw the Savior walking on the water he cried out, "Lord…bid me come unto thee."
"Come." was all He said.
Filled with faith, Peter stepped from the safety of the boat on to the stormy sea. But as the winds picked up and the waves grew stronger Peter’s faith turned to fear. As he began to sink, Peter cried out, "Lord, save me."
Two thousand years later, Christ is still calling to us. As we step from the safety of self-reliance on to the stormy seas of discipleship, like Peter we pray, "Lord, save me."
With perfect calmness He stills the winds of our doubt, reaches down from heaven and saves us.
“And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.”
How often do we seek to go “apart to pray”? How often do we seek a place separated from the world and its commotion? I felt this portrait conveyed to me a sense of wanting to just talk to my Father in Heaven alone, away from distractions, away from troubles and fears. The two of us, a Father who has more love for me than I can imagine, waits to listen and to calm and reassure His love for me as I speak out to Him.
I remember a moment after the birth of my first child when everyone had left and I was alone with my son for the first time. I looked at him lying on the bed and realized I was responsible for this new life. How could I teach him everything he needed? I was terrified
I held him close and the two of us cried. Those were tears of fear and tears of joy, but most of all they were tears of love. Looking into his little face that day I made promises to my Father that I have tried very hard to keep.
Was it different for Mary on that night in Bethlehem? Like any first-time mother she must have felt all the fear, all the joy, and all of the love that comes with a child. This painting reminds me that we are never alone when we look heavenward.
Too often we look at others and pass judgment that they brought on themselves their problems. The disciples upon seeing the blind man asked "Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?"
Jesus answered, "Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him." The Savior then healed his physical blindness. The Pharisees soon questioned the man trying to force him to deny the miracle and the divinity of the Savior. When he would not, they cast him out.
Then comes my favorite part of the story where Jesus, as He does with all of us, heals the spiritual blindness, "…he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God?...Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him." – John 9
Cast Your Net John 21:1-14One week after the Saviors’ resurrection the Apostles returned to Sea of Tiberias to fish, because that was what they knew. They spent the entire night casting their nets into the water with no success.Then as the morning sun broke through the clouds they saw a figure on the distant shore and heard the voice suggesting they should cast their nets to the other side of the boat.Like the Apostles that morning, we too must choose. Choose to routinely continue in our own way, paying no attention to the Savior’s voice; too involved in life. Satisfied to keep our head down and continue to fish. Or perhaps, we act like the Apostle at the front of the boat and we stretch as far out as we can to hear the voice of the Master, to listen and to follow.Have you ever wondered how often in your life the Savior has been on the shore calling to you? How did you respond?
The relationship of Joseph and Jesus is easily overlooked. The scriptures say little about this man who humbly accepted the role of stepfather to the Son of God. I am sure there were nights Joseph held Jesus in his arms and, feeling the weight of his responsibility, looked heavenward and prayed, "He is not my son. He is Yours. Father, help me."
My husband is a stepfather to our children, and as I watch him I am reminded of the millions of others who accept the responsibility of loving and raising children that are not their own. They change diapers, attend ball games, and bandage knees without any thought for themselves. They too look heavenward and offer the prayer of every parent, "They are not my children. They are Yours. Father, help me."
The crowning event of the Book of Mormon is portrayed in this painting as Christ visits the people on the America n continents. The descent of Christ is portrayed as vibrant and dynamic as He comes down to the earth, reaching towards His people who anticipate His arrival.
When I began this painting in April 2008, I paid little attention to the stock market or the world at large. Who could have imagined then that we would witness the implosion of the world’s economic systems, the collapse of century-old institutions, and the loss of millions of people’s life savings. It seemed everything we put our confidence in was taken away – literally overnight. Surely these are the times Jesus spoke of when He said, “Men’s hearts [will] fail them.” – Luke 21:26.
Each day as bad news piled up, I found myself longing to be one of those disciples in the painting. To walk with Jesus and feel the peace and joy as they did. One particularly difficult day a thought came to me. I didn’t need to go to the shores of Galilee to walk with the Savior and find His peace, none of us do. We can each feel it right here and right now, no matter how uncertain these times become. Did He not promise us?
“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid… ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.” – John 14:27; 16:24
Two thousand years ago the Savior stood on the shores of Galilee teaching the crowds. As night fell, He perceived the people were hungry and asked His disciples to gather what food they could. He then took their "five loaves and two fishes" and fed the five thousand.
A few days later the crowds again returned to the shores of Galilee, but this time the Savior met them saying, "Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled... from that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him." - John 6: 26, 67
Are we like the crowds who follow the Savior when life is easy and our bellies full, only to abandon Him when things grow hard? It is my witness that hardship is the cement of discipleship and that only in the midst of our failing health, our wayward children, and tough economic times can we truly understand the peace that comes from heeding His words, "Come Follow Me."
When I paint I always start with the eyes, because they are the soul of each painting. Each day as I came in to the studio I had an overwhelming feeling that He was looking at me. Some days I did not feel comfortable looking into his eyes and avoided them, knowing I could do more or be more than I was. Other days I felt comfortable around Him and drew great strength in looking into His eyes.
As the painting neared completion I started showing it to others and I was amazed to find that they had the same reaction as I did. Some people did not want to look into His eyes, others smiled, and some cried. It was then I realized that He was not only looking for me, but that he was looking for all of us. I remembered His words, "What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine, and go after that which is lost?" – Luke 15:4. We are each lost in our own way and the Good Shepherd never stops seeking after us until He has found us and carried us home.