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Time Stood Still

December 22nd, 2015

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.

Mystery of the Eikon

December 22nd, 2015

Mystery of the Eikon

Have you ever pondered the mystery of the Eikon? Ever wondered what those faces were thinking and listened for an answer?

"Fine Art imagery has always had a special place in my heart. Both inspired Old Masters, the forerunners of fine art and Eikons, forerunners of today's Prophetic Art, capture and release a power through creativity that still reaches out from their canvas today, centuries later to impart a vision of human commonality, eternal life, and hope, that strengthens faith and continues to fire artistic passions of all genres!" ~ Vicki L Thomas

On a personal note, one of my favorite artists quotes sums it up for me. "A work of art which did not begin in emotion is not art." ~ Paul Cezanne

As an allegorical painter, when creating Eikons of PaintingSong, I specifically use expressionism to delve into the hidden mysteries of color to create mood and emotional energies to convey the conversation of the painting. The more familiar one is with Scripture, the easier to decipher the painting. Thus, by adopting the analogy, "PaintingSong," (also interpreted "worship"), I am persuaded that all paintings sing a song that the heart can hear with the eyes. This may be hard to wrap one's head around, but being an artist, I enjoy the liberty of thinking out of the box! Even at the cost of sounding a little crazy.

When asked to break down the process I use in general for Eikons of PaintingSong, I usually answer, "Follow the flow of the Spirit." That may sound somewhat cryptic, but that's the instruction I feel keeps me on track and give me the courage to address a blank canvas. A word of warning, though, just to let you know how I think: I am a hunter, not a farmer. The hunter chases a rabbit through the woods, over several various rabbit trails until the active rabbit hole is finally discovered. Whereas, a farmer plows in methodical rows, back and forth until the work is done. He knows where he is, where he's going, how to get there and what to do when he finally arrives at the end of it all. He seldom makes detours, keeping to his intentional path in order to get the job done.

I, on the other hand, am definitely an unrestrained hunter whose ways are unpredictable and baffling. At times, I apparently get lost while trying to find the right tracks to follow. So, I hope that gives you some insight to the "artist way" of my art. In the process, everything is seemingly unrelated and confusing, more like a left-over puzzle piece than an actual picture of the puzzle. I know what the end result should be, but have no idea of how the pieces fit. Actually, this is a great example of one of my rabbit trails! (I'll try not to lose you on this meandering walk through the woods.)

"Responsive Creativity." It begins really here. Often, I am moved by an attitude of worship accompanied by a prompting desire to paint. In gentle response to silent inner worship that rises like a cloud of incense on the altar of my heart, creativity begins to flows in return from the Creator! It's in this moment that both my passions meet: my passion for Christ and my passion for art.

"Intuitive Approach." I simply "go with the flow" allowing my intuitive instincts to direct my tools until the image is fully developed. Instinctively choosing the combination of colors and techniques is not always fluent nor easy. I simply have to remember to consciously "let go" and let the image speak to me as though giving directions for the next move. It is exciting to watch the painting mature through its various stages of color combination and spiritual nuances. We are after all, as Scriptures tell us, co-laborers with God, and we're admonished to defer to one another, not always insisting on our own way. Thus, the intuitive approach is a wonderful discipline to apply: specifically in yielding to the Spirit.

Sensing the mood of the painting as it develops continually requires sensitivity, patience, and the ability to accept failure on perhaps several attempts, while searching for that "feels right" foundation. My particular art has to come from the Spirit, the inner communication between Creator and creation, rather than skill and talent alone. In fact, these are indeed necessary elements; but in truth, they must not over-ride the invisible, intuitive nature that reveals the soul of the painting. As far as I am concerned, that help can only come from Holy Spirit. All creativity produces life: living or dead. Which of the two manifests, depends on the guidance of the artist as a conduit as to which direction it will go.

"Interpretative Expressionism." A simple stroke of color can change an angle, change a mood or create a new depth of insight into a particular feeling or perception. Color touches the soul and conveys a wide range of emotions, moods, and feelings. Color evokes thought. Accordingly, color can often introduce random associations with simplicity, power and clarity, causing each viewer to identify differently with the painting. A simple color is a fantastic communicator of the invisible, but tangible forces in our lives.

This part of the process is the hard part: interpreting the conversation of the icon. With Eikons, "reading the icon" as it is called, is actually a science. Iconography is a study of the identity, details, symbolism, interpretations, associations of word/color meanings of the images within the painting, including religious influences and spiritual nuances. Next, one should determine "the message" that the art conveys by applying the appropriate choices and thus, interpret this inspired conversation through its symbolism, color, and reference.

"Iconic Influences." It is in this particular decision that I take an incredible artistic liberty to write my own iconic versions. Iconography is more about the writing (painting) of the meaning of the symbolism in its understanding, rather than the physical painting; it is identification, description, and the relational interpretation of the content of images instead of a particular style.

Deliberately varied and slightly reminiscent of these ancient icons, Eikons of PaintingSong contain a more futuristic portrayal of Christ as presented in the book of Revelation, including glimpses of His walk in ordinary life. The whole matter of Scriptures is to reassure us that regardless of where or how we walk, He is always with us, surrounding us with loving kindness and eternal grace, complete with instructions in righteousness. However, from the stern expressions usually depicted in the early icons, one might be convinced that it only reflects the Godhead's grave disapproval or impending judgement, rather than to understand the implied seriousness of absolute regal authority, autonomy, responsibility, reverence and worship due Creator-God as He watches over His creation from the heavenly realm. Kings mean business, they are not court jesters!

Ever had a time when all Mom or Dad had to do was give you "that look" and you knew you had better straighten up, or watch out! here comes the spanking. All I am saying is that FatherGod and Christ our elder brother, look out for us. On occasion we need help. One stern look from God and the devil cringes in horror, knowing that the spanking is coming and it won't be fun. There are as many ways as necessary to "read" an icon, depending on the message God is speaking and one's point of view and relationship with the Godhead. Simply, it's all about communication and relationship.
Much like the icons of old, Eikons are a strategic form and forum of prophetic art in today's world. Eikons of PaintingSong are created (as it was pointed out to me) with the contextual combination of both a devotional and sophisticated philosophical, theological experience and understanding of Scripture displayed in an expressive and contemporary voice, both spoken and unspoken.

Personally, I seek to present Jesus Christ glorified both in the fellowship of his suffering and in the power of His Resurrection. This is why I chose to include transparent watercolor Eikons that are so spectacular and realistic in the representation of his suffering which is displayed in the passionate painting "No Greater Love." In another watercolor, consider how the view of "Sacrifice" epitomizes John 3:16.

However in artistic contrast, one cannot overlook the brilliant color of saturated, suspended pastels Eikons. Intensely powerful, they highlight the revealed glory of His Presence throughout the remainder of the project. We know from Scripture, Jesus was a man, not much to look upon, but the beauty of holiness was evident in everyday life in the goodness and gracious deeds and ways of expressing the love Christ carried within and performed without, continually offered by the manner in which he lived.

So I again I ask, "Have you ever pondered the mystery of the Eikon? Ever wondered what those faces were thinking and listened for an answer?"

A Window to Heaven

December 21st, 2015

A Window to Heaven

To begin my journey, I hardly knew anything about Eikons when I first stumbled across them. So, in researching this particular art form, I soon discovered that icons were rarely created for art. Strangely enough, in the midst of something so mundane as research, which, by the way, is insanely exciting to me, the word "Eikon" came to light and something inside just "clicked." I had always thought icons were simply a style of ancient religious paintings. However, I found out differently as I scoured everything I could get my hands on to understand this elusive term, "Eikon." I was amazed! My spirit was jumping up and down! A genuinely, authentic "Aah ha! Moment!"

Simply, the word Eikon, commonly an Orthodox variant of today's spelling and pronunciation the of word icon, is a specific vehicle or conduit for communion allowing the Spirit of God to touch the heart and soul of His children as they reach out to Him. In modern terms, it is likened to today's altar at church, where believers humble themselves to receive a touch from God. These treasured Eikons are found in today's art galleries; notably, predominate in Orthodox Christian churches, and most particularly in European nations according to various sources. Such Eikons may take the form of a mural, wood panel, or artifact worn about one's neck.

I was amazed to realize that in today's world, prophetic art, could very well be considered an extravagant generational twin of the Eikon. Each display of imagery is comparatively a point of contact for spiritual communion between the heavenly and earthly realm; between Christ and the believer. As with prophetic art, the Eikon is also a cradle of hope wherein God whispers the telling of His love and salvation to humble hearts who have ears to hear and eyes to see the revealing of the Kingdom of God; all the while, assuring all, that God is readily available to answer prayers and grant understanding within their silent meditations and petitions.

These wonderful, intrinsic Eikons, earlier forerunners of a contemporary type of the prophetic or invisible speaking art if you will, do indeed facilitate devotional prayer and meditation by inviting the living presence of God to respond within this intimate conversation of the heart. As a reward of one's faith, Holy Spirit guided imagery encourages the receiving of various impartations, commonly: salvation, miracles, and healings through God's holy love; artistic inspiration, ministerial motivation, including innumerable spiritual encouragements; readily available to anyone seeking to improve the quality of their relationship with Christ no matter their calling or station in life.

However, for the sake of clarity to the faithful, I must say that I do not promote icons to replace the Bible, or Holy Spirit, or the finished work of Christ, but I only seek to share a gentle reminder that these visual memorials encourage us all: seek the face of God; restore our faith; know that He is perpetually available to us, and ever caring for our eternal future with Him. Contrary to occasional misconceptions or possible superstitions, icons have no "mystical" powers of their own. However, I do solemnly believe they have a God-anointed spiritual purpose. Thus, icons are not intended to be worshiped as idols nor worn as a talisman against evil, nor do they serve to deceive and turn the faithful from God. Rather just the opposite is expected and frequently occurs.

As mentioned earlier, Eikons were rarely created as a work of art, but rather as a companion to worship. Not only were earliest ancient Eikons used to educate the common folk who could neither read nor write, nor obviously obtain a copy of Scriptures in their own language, but rather functioned as prophetic tools pointing ultimately to Christ Jesus who is the express image of our heavenly Father, once again assuring the faithful of His divine promise of an afterlife within the eternal presence of the Godhead. In these paintings, the invisible world becomes a type of visual reality to the faithful, calling all to be spiritually minded in times of hardship and difficulty thereby trusting our heavenly Father even more. Eikons provide minuscule glimpses into the heavenly realm where the Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, has come to touch the heart of mankind in ways that only His divinity can conceive and He willingly partakes of through the humanness of humanity. . .

Digressing for a moment, remember the aforementioned "click" that I discovered earlier during my research? Well, in essence, referencing my own life, it seems that nearly forty-one years from that day, I found out "why." My answer to a mystery I've pondered all this time. It explains why I continuously felt compelled to draw/paint eyes and faces, profiles of someone and something I didn't understand but knew came out of my spirit time and time again. Faith is said to be the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Our calling in Christ is hoped for, yet we only see the evidence of it by our actions, not the purely physical substance of that holy essence called a "calling."

Basically, a "prophetic person" refers to any believer who carries Christ on the throne of one's heart and is usually aware of the deepening desire to follow Christ regardless of the level of consciousness or commitment. In doing so, at some point one is usually awakened to this truth and again is also aware on some level, that the Spirit of God communes within that person. "The still small voice" acknowledged in Scripture is not always a literal voice. Sometimes it's just a sense of something, more like a thought or a knowing, which in the end, proves itself verified as a "God-thing, producing only good fruit." Christ did mention there were mysteries of the Kingdom intended for believers to understand, including revelations that would indeed be realized even more and more as His Second Coming is profoundly evident. So, more times than not, one simply acknowledges or recognizes "that" particular something as His Voice. Scripture says His sheep will know His voice. Each person has their own voice pattern, including God. He speaks to hearts in ways they will recognize whether their minds can consciously discern the mechanics of His actual voice or not.

Nevertheless, after researching the Eikon, I began to understand, acknowledge and appreciate a lot of the clues I had been given over the years, but could not previously connect until the appointed time. Simply put, I am convinced that I have been painting Eikons all my life. Painting them in faith, not understanding the what or why, but obeying the Spirit within, always seeking to share the love of God in Christ with any and all that would care to spend a moment viewing the art that has been so intensely and faithfully produced on canvas. Yes, I am able to paint other things, but when it is all said and done, it all comes back to Christ, painting the dove eyes that keep watch over me and you. The eyes that see every person washed in His blood, clean and pure, clothed in a love so unimaginable it shines with a light so glorious, that I for one, know that I would be lost in a chilling eternal darkness forever without it. Thank God, the love and person of Jesus Christ himself will never leave me, nor forsake me, but has made a place of rest, a place of warmth, comfort, and safety where not only I but all who shall believe in Him, shall abide within His presence forever. I am convinced by both experience and research, as well as Scripture, that Eikons are truly a window to heaven. Wouldn't you agree?