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Time Stood Still

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Time Stood Still

When the awareness of God first came to me, I had just lost my job. I felt utterly confounded with no idea of what to do with myself or where to get work. Somehow, I always knew there was "a God." However, from my point of view, it was more like an impersonal mental assent of his presence that lived somewhere out in the black void of space beyond all hope of reach. Obviously, for some reason totally oblivious to me, God seemed impervious to my cries: no matter the desperation or the depth of torment. My experience with any kind of prayer was usually the "unanswered" kind.

My parents came from different denominations, so to end the discussions as to where to worship, they left the decision of finding our own spirituality in the hands of myself and younger sister. Grandma, on the other hand, took us to vacation Bible school every two-week summer visit. These half-day Sunday School sessions were always awkward and embarrassing for me. I knew nothing of Bible stories. Even after reading portions of scriptures out loud in class, I was still clueless. The utter despair of trying to read selected verses when called upon left me in misery. Especially when trying to pronounce such strange names and places of people from long ago, this kind of open recital never made sense to me.

Nevertheless, it seemed God was watching, waiting, listening to my inner cry after all. Or so I truly believe now, as I recall the things that happened on a fateful day I received my "pink slip." One particular client of my now ex-employer was a Greek Orthodox Priest. He had passed out his calling cards to everyone at the shop. With his card still in my wallet, I called him since I had no other spiritual guidance or commitment. Besides that, as a work acquaintance, he was a friendly enough and seemed transparent in his beliefs. True to his word, he promptly gave an invitation to visit his study that afternoon and offered a tour of the church. He arranged to give me some time to collect myself from the obvious panic and distress he must have sensed over the phone. I had never been inside a church of this particular faith, although I must confess the architecture held quite a curiosity for me. I wondered, was it just as romantic and fanciful inside, as it appeared outwardly? Nevertheless, a quick tour might be a good distraction at this point if nothing else . . .

We leisurely finished the promised tour, complete with interesting tidbits along the way. Still I had no comprehension of God-things. On my way to exit the main sanctuary, I paused to study a row of eye-catching icons displayed above the doorway. I later discovered these were called "Eikons," with the same meaning and pronunciation as icons. Exquisitely artful and accented with gold leaf, these various paintings were filled with images of Christ, the Virgin Mary, a plethora of heavenly angels accented with strange creatures from an unseen world. In the center of the collection was a depiction of Father-God and Christ, each sitting on a heavenly throne surrounded with myriad hosts of angels, all glimmering in the shining glory of gold leaf embellishment.

At the moment, I glanced up, my eyes focused on that particular painting positioned precisely above the exit door. Converging in the doorway, a sudden burst of brilliance coupled with the startling intensity of white light, overpowering and magnificent, mirrored a fountain of blinding light that burst forth in a profusion of warm, comforting light. Dazzling rays flashed in all directions, filling the room like a cloud; the likes of which I had never seen before. In that instant, a quickening shook me to the core. As I stared at the icon, an awareness of God Himself struck my soul with such reality, my spirit quivered with excitement as though stirring to life from a deep sleep. Startled by such light, yet enveloped within a honey-covering of pure love, I was totally confused by my feelings and the vision I experienced . . . I just stood there . . . a bit clumsy in my awkwardness.

Don't ask me how, but instantaneously, I knew God knew me, that He was indeed real. He revealed Himself, to love me, not to condemn me in my ignorance. But then the flip-side of that coin left me like a helpless, fragile infant. I still didn't know Him or how to response to such incredible majesty. Humility overtook complacency and my soul melted inside. Frankly, I didn't know how to speak of this happening to my new-found, Priest-friend, so I quickly followed him outside the church without a word.

His cottage was a separate, compact building a few yards away, set high on a nearby slope. His voice drifted into the gentle breeze as we struggled up the steep incline of steps toward his study. Inside, I managed to stumble behind him through the narrowing hallway into a room comprised more of French windows, than walls. Once again I stood overwhelmed with the abundance of overstuffed bookshelves brimming with colorful leather volumes of various sizes. Their titles glistened, etched in a precious gold stamp. He was still speaking, but to this day, I don't remember what he was trying to tell me . . . rather, the echoing message of the Eikon rang silently in the depths of me . . . "I am real. I know you." Utterly speechless, this invisible voice made my head reel. Did I hear it? or just think it? Does it matter? The message was clear and no one seems to hear this silent thunder except me. Well, of course, I was crazy! I was just too naive and just plain scared to say anything about the whole thing! I mean, what would you do, if that happened to you?

I have said all of this to assure you, that whether you call me crazy; or whether you call the painting an icon, or Eikon, nevertheless, mission accomplished. The purpose is direct enough. Encourage and aid those who need to experience the powerful reality of God's presence; inspire worship and surrender intimate devotion to heavenly Father and Christ, the Lamb of Salvation. Just as prayers and meditation are "unseen" nevertheless, they are very real to the person engaged; likewise, these visions and the God-kind of spiritual encounters are just as real to me.

Are things always so dramatic? Maybe so, maybe no! I think it is dependent on the individual and how God chooses to converse with that individual. Myself, I am a very visual, expressive, dramatic, emotional artist with an open hunger for spiritual sensitivity to righteousness rather than religious academia. That's why my experience was such a "happening" from my point of view. Not that I am so special, but I am unique. And so are you! Every God-moment is just as exciting and real to whosoever. Truthfully, these happenings most likely occur when one is in the worst moment possible. Isn't that when we need God the most?

Nonetheless, I learned these two-dimensional, Eikons, as I prefer to call them, created so long ago are the building blocks of prophetic fine art which also direct streams of inspired worship directly into the heart of God as it spills outwardly from an open heart. Contrary to innocent comments I've heard, Eikons are rarely created for art: just as they are far from being idols of worship in and of themselves; just as three-dimensional sculptures in other worship houses are not graven to be worshiped, nor revered for the purpose of idolatry. If any of those situations are indeed true, then I feel the worshiper's affections are sadly misplaced. Wood and stone have no eyes to see, or ears to hear to one's prayer, nor do they have feet to walk nor arms to embrace the human heart. Only The Living God can do such wonders.

Thinking back as far as I can remember in my youth, from my earliest art drawings until now, I have always sought to reflect something I could not see, nor understand. Since that fateful "pink slip" introduction, I have sought to communicate my humble experience and knowledge of God by offering Eikons of Christ, formerly presented as Portraits of Christ. I often pray others will find the reality of faith that helps one to touch the face of God. Inwardly, worship of our Savior washes the eyes of the heart to see Him more clearly, which by the way, is the specific purpose of prophetic art in today's world as well.

Prophetic art conveys Christ's message of love, hope, acceptance, deliverance, and restoration while sharing insights into the Kingdom of God. In doing so, it accomplishes the same vision as the Eikon. Both Eikon and Prophetic Art are visual aids of a prophetic voice. Each artistic endeavor is a vehicle of communication focusing on the presence and reality of God's loving kindness and His good will toward mankind . . . and more expressly . . . and especially . . . on a personal level. He desperately wants you to know: He knows you and loves you, whether you realize it or not . . . or whether you want Him to or not. He is ecstatically and emphatically in love with you! He sits in the heavens pondering your thoughts, counting the number of hairs on your head. His thoughts about you are more than the sands of the sea. He rejoices over you with singing. He neither slumbers nor sleeps while watching over you, eagerly waiting for the moment to sit in grace upon the throne of your heart at your invitation. How wonderful to be so highly regarded!

Gazing upon the Eikon, the heart is gently encouraged to find its own altar. This secret place of worship is already in the recesses of your soul, already prepared and built without hands by Holy Spirit before you were born, for just such an occasion.

Some see the glory of God in a sunset, in nature, even in a child's smile. Me? I also see it in an Eikon, whether created in this century or as far back as from the time of Christ. And although the Eikon is still a mystery to many, I wonder what else one may experience gazing into the eyes of Christ.