Jenedy Paige

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The topic of deliverance is used heavily in the Old Testament, with some 261 references throughout the book. The great telling, the story that was shared over and over again, was how God delivered his people out of the hands of the Egyptians, but that is only the beginning. It seems God’s people constantly found themselves in bondage, and once again God would set them free: from the Philistines, the Amorites, and Syrians, to name a few. So imagine when the Israelites were once again in bondage, this time to the Romans, when God promised deliverance they were probably thinking they would be freed politically. Even the great prophet Isaiah said, “And it shall be for a sign and for a witness unto the Lord of hosts in the land of Egypt: for they shall cry unto the Lord because of the oppressors, and he shall send them a savior, and a great one, and he shall deliver them” (Isaiah 19:20). Once again mentioning the story of Moses and then referencing the Savior as the great deliverer. But God wasn’t about to send the lion they were all anticipating, instead He would send a lamb.

E.T. Sullivan wrote, “When God wants a great work done in the world or a great wrong righted, he goes about it in a very unusual way. He doesn’t stir up his earthquakes or send forth his thunderbolts. Instead, he has a helpless baby born, perhaps in a simple home out of some obscure mother. And then God puts the idea into the mother’s heart, and she puts it into the baby’s mind. And then God waits. The greatest forces in the world are not the earthquakes and the thunderbolts. The greatest forces in the world are babies.” (The Treasure Chest,p. 53.)

And so The Deliverer would be born a helpless baby to some obscure mother, under circumstances of great faith. What must it have been like to confess to her betrothed, Joseph, that she was pregnant? We don’t know how that conversation went, but we do know that Joseph decided to “put her away privily” (Matthew 1:19) which tells us that he didn’t believe her at first. How was he supposed to believe her when this had never happened before? Can you imagine the faith of this young woman, the tears she must have shed? Can you imagine the faith of Joseph, when the angel appeared to him, and told him, “that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 1:20)? The birth of the Savior was surrounded by faith, not only in those who had looked forward to a Deliverer, a Messiah, for centuries, but also in those that were called to raise the Lamb who would be raised up for us all.

So this chosen vessel went forth, she carried him in her womb, and she carried the weight of His position on her shoulders. She created a place of safety, a home for He who would spend his ministry homeless. She encircled in her arms the one who would later encircle us all. She fed the child who would later feed thousands. She taught to walk He who would teach all mankind to walk in His ways. She nurtured Him, gave her life for Him as all mothers do, and she was there at the foot of the cross as He gave His life for her.

God would set His people free, not from the Romans, but from sickness, sin, pain, poverty, heart ache, sorrow, suffering, and death. And unlike the rescue from the Egyptians, or the Philistines, this deliverance would be for all mankind and for all people. This deliverance would require great faith from all people and in all times.

“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: … He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:4-5)

How grateful I am for that tiny babe who was carefully placed in the very capable hands of a mother. Mr. Sullivan said the greatest forces in the world are babies, and I would like to add to that, mothers. She delivered Him and He would deliver us all.
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Heart in Hand

This image spoke to me – something about the heart in hand. We all have one, what will you do with yours? Will you hold it close and keep it safe, or will you open it up to others? There’s a risk involved in that, you may be hurt. To love is to jump into the unknown. It’s a lot like faith. You put your confidence in someone or something, but the outcome is unforeseen. So why take the risk? Because Christ did. He offered up His whole soul in Gethsemane in the hope that we would all accept His offering of the atonement. He had no guarantee that we would even use it. But He went forward in faith – He trusted us. As we accept His offering, it changes our hearts and fear melts away in the transformation. We then become fearless and are able to follow His example in offering our heart unguarded to others.
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Let Go

During the Law of Moses, there were a couple different sacrifices that required two animals: one that would be slain and one that would be let go. “But he shall let go the living bird out of the city into the open fields, and make an atonement for the house: and it shall be clean.” -Leviticus 14:53 “But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness.” – Leviticus 16:10 I think this presents a beautiful symbolism, that once an atonement has been made, then we should also let go. Whether that atonement was used to cleanse from sin, to cleanse from illness, to allow forgiveness, once it is has been paid, then we should let go of the sadness, sorrow, or grief associated with it. Six months or so after the death of my son, I felt the weight of grief like never before. I cried daily. It seemed like I would have to grieve forever. There seemed to be a lie whispered to me that if I let it go, then I never loved. The lie said that the grief was all I had left of my son, and to let it go, was to let him go. So I carried it around with me, much like this black balloon. However, one day I was in Sunday School and we read from the Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi 9:20, in this verse the voice of the Savior is heard in the aftermath of the destruction following His death. He says, “Ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit…” I felt He was also speaking to me in the aftermath of the destruction following the death of my son. He said I had to sacrifice my broken heart. I had to let it go. So I went to God in prayer, I was really honest with Him. I spoke with Him like I would speak to my dad. I put all my grief on the table, and over time, that weight was lifted. Like the sins that were laid upon the scapegoat in the Old Testament, I laid my grief upon the Savior, and through His atonement, He took it away. And what was so beautiful was that I then learned a truth that it wasn’t the grief that held me to my son, it was my love for him that did, and once I let go, that love was intensified, not diminished. Now you may not be struggling with grief, but we all carry around black balloons of some kind: anxiety, depression, ill feelings, a grudge, and it can be hard to let go. But I want to add my witness that the atonement has already been made, the price has already been paid, the Savior took upon Himself all of our sorrow, sadness, sin, and pain, so we don’t have to. So take advantage of that atonement, and then as in the Old Testament, let it go.
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Little Lamb

Last year, I began to feel that I should attempt a Nativity painting. This of course was a very daunting idea, but I figured the best place to start was with research. I began with Luke 2:7,

“And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.”

I also came upon an article of archeologist, Jeffrey R. Chadwick, and found it eye opening and inspiring. Jeffrey R. Chadwick has worked in Israel as a researcher and field archaeologist for over thirty years, specializing in the backgrounds of biblical narratives. He suggested that the manger would have most likely been carved out of white limestone, one of the most abundant natural resources in the Israelite region, and showed pictures of many similar mangers they have uncovered on archaeological digs. And while we like to think of the baby, “asleep on the hay”, he also states that this was also unlikely, as grass was available on the hills surrounding Judea year round. They really would have had no need to store hay, and the mangers were most likely used for water.

I also learned that while we often think of “swaddling bands” as scraps of fabric, showing the poverty of Mary and Joseph, they were actually a big part of Israelite culture. When a young woman was betrothed she immediately began embroidering swaddling bands, which were 5-6” wide strips of linen that would be embroidered with symbols of the ancestry of the bride and groom. Thus the bands symbolized the coming together of the two families as one. They also symbolized the integrity of the woman, as she strove to make both sides of the embroidery match exactly, symbolizing to her soon to be husband that she was as good on the inside as she was on the outside. These bands were then wrapped around the hands of the couple at the wedding ceremony. So the bands the Savior was swaddled in may have included the lion of Judah and the stem of Jesse.

As I wrapped my head around these rather mind altering ideas, I realized that many of the concepts that we have of the Savior’s birth revolve around paintings of European artists from centuries ago. I’m sure they painted according to the best of their abilities and knowledge, but I also wondered why more modern painters had yet to illustrate these concepts. I felt up to the task and began sketching right away. I picked up limestone from a stone yard, I bought linen from the fabric store, and just in time one of my good friends had a baby boy, and oddly enough, his name was Luke. I put all these components together and created this painting.

As I’ve sketched and worked, my heart has been so full as I’ve uncovered this image. For when you take away the Hollywood drama, the traditions of centuries, and the wood and the hay, all you’re really left with is a babe in white linen on white stone. And my mind immediately went to the purpose of the Savior’s life: He was born to die. He came as the sacrificial lamb for all mankind; so how fitting that He would begin his life on a stone altar of sorts, and be wrapped in white linen, like he would after His death. And of course He would be placed in a trough for water, for He would be Living Water, and would bring life to all. I also found myself weeping for the Father, and how it must have felt to see His Son begin life foreshadowing His death. My heart was so full of gratitude that He would send His Only Begotten to be the Savior for us all. That He would send His Son, the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, to die so that we all might live. What good news, what comfort and joy, what a gift was given to us all. O come, let us adore Him.
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The Savior commanded Thomas, “Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.” (John 20:27) I love the verb reach in this phrase because it brings with it the feeling of stretching, of action. He didn’t tell Thomas to just touch his hand, he asked him to reach, the verb itself connoting a form of faith. I know it will probably be a while before any of us will be able to obtain a physical witness of the Savior, but I think the command to “reach” and to “be not faithless, but believing,” applies to all of us today. I know that as I reach for Him, as I strive to find and follow Him, His Spirit speaks to mine, and I obtain a witness that He lives, and perhaps in an even more powerful way than did Thomas.
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The End of Gray

“…Choose you this day whom ye will serve… but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” – Joshua 24:15 There was once discussed a kind of morality that was somewhere between good and evil, this place was known as the “gray area”. It wasn’t exactly good and it wasn’t exactly bad, it was just somewhere in between, and it’s perimeters were set by personal convictions combined with society’s approval. Well, as I’ve pondered on the condition of the world, and the choices we make, I’ve come to the realization that the once infamous “gray area” is coming to a close. I see the world becoming more and more bipolar and I think it’s becoming harder and harder to ride the fence in between black and white. Because really in the end, there are only two options: you can choose to serve God and give your whole heart and soul to Him, or you can choose to serve Satan and give your whole heart and soul to him. And so as the world continues to slide in it’s morals, and leave “traditional family values” behind, the gray is slowly fading to black. However, I am determined to continue to stand for all that is good – for all that is virtuous, for all that is lovely, for all that of good report, for all that is praiseworthy. Let the world choose what they may, but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
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