God and Art Series: Artist conveys love and hope in paintings

Today we are visiting with Kelly Bermudez, an artist who owns Gentle Whispers Art and Visual Devotions on Etsy

Kelly lives in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Here is her story:


"I have always been creative by nature. I come from a family of artists. It wasn’t until after eight years in law enforcement and having to quit because of an illness that my eyes were opened to what I was born to do. During my battle with the roller coaster effects of Hashimoto disease I began to paint. God had been calling me to paint for some time but I didn't even know were to begin. I had never painted before. I just starting painting about a year ago. It helped to take my mind off of the illness and art became very therapeutic to me. Regardless of the trials we face in life, I've learned that if we hold on to love and hope we can make it through them all. I try to convey my love and hope in the form of my own personal 'Visual Devotions.' I am a very visual person and pictures really do speak a thousand words.


"Currently, I am working on a series called 'Gentle Whispers.' My inspiration comes from my quest to illustrate the timeless poetic love song, Song of Solomon. I have limited my color palette for each of these paintings in this series to gray scale and one bright color. I have chosen watercolor as my medium to bring this historical love song to life in the form of a visual devotion."

For many of us it takes an unforseen change in plans to get us to see that God has a different plan. Kelly's story is an inspiration to us all and a reminder that we're not alone. Thanks, Kelly!




What are we doing to forward the cause of justice?

I found a good article on Reject Apathy about ministering to people. Reject Apathy is an offspring of Relevant magazine, a good Christian publication for young people and anyone who wants a challenge.

What Does Justice Look Like

Social justice has take a beating from the far Christian right in the last few years with Glen Beck, who was on Fox News at the time, placing the desire to win social justice on the same level as communism and Naziism. He said, “I beg you look for the words social justice or economic justice on your church Web site. If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words. … Am I advising people to leave their church? Yes!” According to several news sources, later on in the show, Beck held up a picture of a swastika and one of a hammer and sickle, declaring again that “social justice” has the same philosophy as the Nazis and communists and that the phrase is a code word for both.

Now while it is true that some of the Catholic missionary orders in South America leaned toward Marxist philosophy to free the poor and oppressed from extremely far right dictatorships (dictatorships which are backed by the United States, by the way), Christians in America, as this article shows, are seeking to get involved in the lives of people on a grander scale. They are seeking to ease suffering. They are trying to be involved directly with people rather than just donating money to a cause. And, they are trying their darnedest to wipe out the ill effects of poverty. Some of them may think that equalizing everyone through government is the way to accomplish this, but on the whole I don't think that is the motive at all. They are trying to follow Christ's words in Matthew 25:

 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.

I use the word "they" because I don't think I am one of these Christians. This passage convicts me more than anything. I see my friend Dr. Joe Gorman going to Africa to build medical clinics, or people giving up their comfortable lives here in America to help the victims of sex slavery, or people working in soup kitchens, or ministering to people in prison. But, as the article in Reject Apathy asks ... what am I actually doing?

Sure, I'm trying to help people spiritually and to raise awareness on this blog. I am also trying raising my boys to become men of God. I donate money to people in need, but I don't give up a lot of time.

It's a good question to ask ourselves and then let God lead. If we did this where would he lead us?



The Year of Living Biblically

The Year of Living Biblically

I realize I'm a little slow on reviewing this book since it came out in 2007, but it is one you will want to read if you enjoy lighthearted lessons in spiritual growth. A.J. Jacobs book "The Year of Living Biblically", a memoir of the author's journey of living the Bible as literally as possible, is humorous and real. Although Jacobs does not claim to be a Christian or a practicing Jew - he is one by heritage - he treats both traditions with careful respect and genuine appreciation.

A self-proclaimed agnostic, Jacobs grew up in a secular Jewish household and believed that religion would fade away in time. "I was, of course, spectacularly wrong. So was I missing something essential to being a human? Or was half the world deluded?" Jacobs says on his website.

To find out if he had missed anything, Jacobs decided to live the Bible for one year and write about it. He studied the scriptures and wrote down all of the rules to follow then went to work. By the end of the year he had a wild beard, wore a lot of white and had learned that there were rules worth following in the scriptures. His commentary is peppered with good humor and also truth. Jacobs does not take the Bible lightly. I was impressed with how much he studied commentaries and other books relevant to his quest. He even participated in some Orthodox Jewish ceremonies, traveled to Israel, visited Jerry Falwell's church and the church of a snake-handling congregation. I found his commentary on fundamentalism and taking the scriptures literally very well done.

Although, it seemed that the author followed the Old Testament more than the New Testament, he still faced the main question of Christian scriptures with honesty: Will you follow Jesus Christ? I won't tell you what his decision was because part of the intrigue of the book is wondering what he decides to do at the end of the year. Would he continue to follow scripture?

"The Year of Living Biblically" is available through Amazon, airport bookstores and other outlets. It would be a good book to grab for your next plane trip. However, beware. People might think you've cracked because there are some parts of the book in which I couldn't help but laugh out loud. Not many books do that for me.


God and Art Series: Artist shares childhood love for crafting

Today we are talking to Jennifer Hine of Spring Arbor, Michigan. Jennifer owns Elegant Quirk on Etsy, a shop dedicated to selling organizational art for jewelry, keys, hats and scarves.

YBAL: Tell us a little about yourself and your artwork. When did you start developing your artistic-self?

Jennifer: I think that I've always been very artistic and creative. My mom was a big help in that, as she was always doing something crafty - cross-stitching, building dollhouses, you name it! We would always craft together on rainy days, and our gifts for my teachers at the end of the year were always homemade. I grew to love getting my hands wet in all kinds of artistic areas, including music. I have my Bachelor's in Flute performance. I was never the kid who was into sports, but was in band, art, and dance. The arts have always consumed my life.

YBAL: Have you received any awards or other achievements? Where can people find your work?

Jennifer: I haven't received any achievements for these, as they are a fairly new development. People can find my work at my etsy shop, through the direct link ( and at my facebook page,

YBAL: What attracts you to all the things you do for your shop - key racks, confetti and everything else? How do you gain inspiration for your work?

Jennifer: I love the key racks in my shop. This whole thing began when I made one for myself. I never intended on making more, I just needed to hang some jewelry. So out of that came my first creation! Being especially pleased with the outcome, I sent photos to friends, who all loved it as well. Some even wanting me to make them one! It was my boyfriend who suggested that I try selling them. I started up my Etsy shop, not really knowing the hard work that goes into it - the creating, photographing, listing, and actually getting yourself out there - and thought, "okay, maybe I'll sell a few."

As a fairly young shop, I'm proud of the accomplishments that I've made so far. It's good to know that people actually like what I have to offer, and it is so much fun to try to get into the mind of the customer and try to offer great new things. I'm constantly thinking of new ideas. I look forward to what the future brings, and I'm definitely glad I started this journey!

YBAL: How have the events of your life affected your art? How has art affected your life?

Jennifer: As I mentioned before, my mom was a enormous part of my creativity. I can't even imagine my life without creating and playing with arts and crafts. A few years ago, she passed away, but I can still remember the days we would craft together, and all of her projects that decorated our house. A perfect example of a creative spirit. I hope I will always be like that, and will be able to extend my creativity to others, as she did for me.

YBAL: When did you begin your relationship with God and how? How has your relationship with God affected your art? How has art affected your relationship to God?

Jennifer: My relationship with God really began in high school. I went to church with friends before that, but never really connected until then. I continued growing all through college. I know that my creativity is a gift from God, and I love to use it as much as possible. Especially as an artist and a musician, I try to create and play in a way that would be pleasing to God. I don't create "Christian things" in my shop, but I try to be a shop owner that reflects the love of Christ, and I hope that my customers can see that when they interact with me.

YBAL: Any future goals you'd like to share? Any encouragement for other artists?

Jennifer: I would just like my shop to continue to grow and be fun for others. I think that goal making is very important, so I have a lot of little goals for each month. For example, reaching 50 listings, listing two a week, 10 sales, etc. I would encourage new artists to do the same for a great start.

Probably the most beneficial thing I did was join an Etsy team. There are many out there, some very active, and some very quiet, on all different topics. You just need to find one that is good for you. I'm a proud member of the CAST team on Etsy, and have to say that they have been the most helpful, most encouraging part of the whole process. It helps to have people there to support you, and encouraging you to just keep going!

An interesting thing about Elegant Quirks is that Jennifer will donate 10 percent of all sales to the Greenview Foundation for research to find a cure for Hepatitis C. And, with certain items listed in the Hepatitis C Awareness section of Elegant Quirks, Jennifer will donate 100 percent to this worthy cause. To find out more, look at Jennifer's profile here.



'Craft Wars' - the celebration of 'kitsch'

As I was crocheting last night, I turned on the TV guide function in our television to see if there was anything interesting to watch. I saw that "Chopped" was on the Food Network and then I saw that "Craft Wars" was on TLC. Since I've never seen "Craft Wars" and have heard so much about it, I immediately tuned in.

"Craft Wars" has been receiving a lot of attention on crafting blogs, as you can well imagine. There was also an interesting article in "The New Yorker" about the show written by Alexandra Lange. You can read it here:

Don’t Put a Bird On It: Saving “Craft” from Cuteness

I have to say that after watching that seemingly very long 30 minutes of "Craft Wars" that Ms. Lange is correct in her assessment that the show "seesaws uneasily between the desire to make it beautiful and the desire to make it useful and usually ends up at neither."  The contestants I watched constructed what was supposed to be a "sophisticated" Thanksgiving table and mantel setting with bathroom accessories like plungers, toilet brushes, bath mats, shower curtains, toothbrushes - you get the idea.

"Craft Wars" is strangely identical to Food Network's "Chopped," a show that I enjoy watching from time to time, especially while crafting. On "Chopped," chefs are given a basket of ingredients that most people would not think of putting together. The chefs have a short time limit to make these ingredients into a delicious, well presented culinary masterpiece. On "Craft Wars", professional crafters have a longer period of time to turn weird items, like plungers, bath mats and toothbrushes, into a craft. The difference? It's actually useful to be able to do this in the kitchen, especially if you are short on money and high on ingredients that don't necessarily go together. With crafting, while many people take weird objects and upcyle or recyle into other items that are quite creative and perhaps useful, this isn't necessary for life continuance at all.

Don't think that I am knocking the creativity of contestants on the show. They did a lot with what they were given. What I am knocking, however, is the "kitschyness" (Definition? Sentimentality or vulgar, often pretentious bad taste, especially in the arts) of it all.

From "The New Yorker":

Craft used to mean something, and it would never have been made with Mod Podge. You can buy a tea towel with the William Morris quotation, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” (It is a hundred per cent linen, so it is both.) What Morris, a designer, entrepreneur, futurist, and leader of the late nineteenth century Arts and Crafts Movement, proposed was a return to the medieval craft tradition, in which objects were made by hand by skilled workmen, and priced accordingly. Rather than three sets of elaborately decorated transferware china, you would have one set of handmade and glazed plates. Rather than rooms full of elaborate Victorian furniture, you would own a few chairs, hand hewn and joined with wood, not industrial glue.

It is true that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and that one man's junk is another man's treasure, but what are we seeking to do with the things we create? Am I a master craftsperson because I can take bathroom implements and turn them into a Thanksgiving place setting? Or am I a master craftsperson because I have taken the time to read about my craft, learn the old ways of implementation while at the same time introducing new concepts into my work for an improved product? Is my heart and soul into what I am doing? I wasn't seeing that last night on "Craft Wars."

In her article Lange examines Etsy in the light of "Craft Wars":

On the other side there was Sarah Mosle’s feminist critique of Etsy, a female-dominated online marketplace for handmade goods, as selling false hope that you could make a profession knitting, painting, sewing, or soldering. But is that the point? Like Chartier, many of Etsy’s sellers are stay-at-home parents; like Crawford, many of them find creative outlet in the goods they make for Etsy. In a rebuttal to Mosle’s post, Sadie Stein pointed out, "the question comes down to, does DIY have value? It’s easy to dismiss—part of what rankles is that Etsy seems like low-hanging fruit, and an unfair target—but its larger cultural import is of a piece with a lot of progressive movements which Mosle would be hard-pressed to dismiss.” Etsians, too, are hand-making things for their souls.

I fnd this to be true. Many Etsians I know are either just trying to supplement their income or are just having fun. There are those who would like to make a career out of what they are doing, and who knows, with hard work and diligence that may happen. In effect, Etsy seems to be helping people fulfill the American dream of pulling yourself up by your boot straps doing what you love. I'm having a lot of fun with it.

Again, from Lange:

Given the interest in handicraft as an antidote to the machine-made world--and the growing desire to spend the time to make something unique, personal, and beautiful--why, then, does “Craft Wars” set the bar so low? Making things cute is not a business. It is not even a part time job. Instead, it’s a hobby. “Craft Wars” made me long for the heady early years of “Project Runway” when I was enthralled by the inherent drama of talented, thoughtful people making things (and making them well) on television.

In our crafting and art, we should always strive to have purpose in what we do. After I read this New Yorker article, I mentally examined the items in my shop and found that I do have a reason for making what I do. It is great to make beautiful, useful items, but sometimes art and craft should be fun too. A little whimsey can bring sanity to the more serious times in our lives. However, I'm not sure that "Craft Wars" provides that type of whimsey. What do you think?

Here are some comments from fellow Etsians, including myself, on The Etsy Blog.




Praying the Psalms

Sometimes I don't know how to pray. Ever have that problem? I know that I can offer short sentences asking God to do things, but that's not the way I want to pray all the time.

The ACTS model - adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication - is good, but at times it does not seem to address something deep within my soul.

These are the times when I've found that I need to pray with the saints of old. That's why I was so intrigued when I heard that people actually pray the Psalms. As a Protestant in what is considered a "low church" that had never occurred to me. What does it mean to pray the Scriptures? I wondered when people talked about it.

I got a taste of this practice when Mike and I visited the Benet Hill Monastery last winter. Everyday - as much as four times a day - the sisters gather to pray. They pray through song using the day's liturgy, which is all scripture. When Mike and I participated in one of their prayer times, I felt something connect on a deep level. Here we were praying the same scriptures that millions of people were praying around the world on that day. We were praying with the saints of old whose prayers echo down the corridors of time and become flesh within people who love God and want to do his will.

I have learned by reading about this tradition that there are monks who, as part of their prayer liturgy, pray the sections of Psalm 119 in a two week cycle. Psalm 119 is about loving and obeying God's law. An interesting feature of this Psalm is that it is constructed as an acrostic in the Hebrew alphabet. Each line in the stanza underneath the Hebrew letter begins with that letter. We lose that fact in the English translation but our translation does not take away all of the beauty of the Psalm and its truth.

The benefit of praying this Psalm daily to start would be in its repetitiveness. Some people believe that if we repeat something enough times, we'll actually begin to live and believe it. Also, it's a great way to store the Psalm within your memory. The Holy Spirit can then use portions of the Psalm to encourage you and others through you when needed.

I've included the Psalm divided in the daily sections. I am not sure which section is being prayed today but that does not matter. You can start this in your own prayer time, if you wish and know that others are praying part of the same Psalm as well.

Psalm 119

א Aleph

1 Blessed are those whose ways are blameless,
who walk according to the law of the Lord.
2 Blessed are those who keep his statutes
and seek him with all their heart—
3 they do no wrong
but follow his ways.
4 You have laid down precepts
that are to be fully obeyed.
5 Oh, that my ways were steadfast
in obeying your decrees!
6 Then I would not be put to shame
when I consider all your commands.
7 I will praise you with an upright heart
as I learn your righteous laws.
8 I will obey your decrees;
do not utterly forsake me.

ב Beth

9 How can a young person stay on the path of purity?
By living according to your word.
10 I seek you with all my heart;
do not let me stray from your commands.
11 I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you.
12 Praise be to you, Lord;
teach me your decrees.
13 With my lips I recount
all the laws that come from your mouth.
14 I rejoice in following your statutes
as one rejoices in great riches.
15 I meditate on your precepts
and consider your ways.
16 I delight in your decrees;
I will not neglect your word.

ג Gimel

17 Be good to your servant while I live,
that I may obey your word.
18 Open my eyes that I may see
wonderful things in your law.
19 I am a stranger on earth;
do not hide your commands from me.
20 My soul is consumed with longing
for your laws at all times.
21 You rebuke the arrogant, who are accursed,
those who stray from your commands.
22 Remove from me their scorn and contempt,
for I keep your statutes.
23 Though rulers sit together and slander me,
your servant will meditate on your decrees.
24 Your statutes are my delight;
they are my counselors.

ד Daleth

25 I am laid low in the dust;
preserve my life according to your word.
26 I gave an account of my ways and you answered me;
teach me your decrees.
27 Cause me to understand the way of your precepts,
that I may meditate on your wonderful deeds.
28 My soul is weary with sorrow;
strengthen me according to your word.
29 Keep me from deceitful ways;
be gracious to me and teach me your law.
30 I have chosen the way of faithfulness;
I have set my heart on your laws.
31 I hold fast to your statutes, Lord;
do not let me be put to shame.
32 I run in the path of your commands,
for you have broadened my understanding.

ה He

33 Teach me, Lord, the way of your decrees,
that I may follow it to the end.
4 Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law
and obey it with all my heart.
35 Direct me in the path of your commands,
for there I find delight.
36 Turn my heart toward your statutes
and not toward selfish gain.
37 Turn my eyes away from worthless things;
preserve my life according to your word.
38 Fulfill your promise to your servant,
so that you may be feared.
39 Take away the disgrace I dread,
for your laws are good.
40 How I long for your precepts!
In your righteousness preserve my life.

ו Waw

41 May your unfailing love come to me, Lord,
your salvation, according to your promise;
42 then I can answer anyone who taunts me,
for I trust in your word.
43 Never take your word of truth from my mouth,
for I have put my hope in your laws.
44 I will always obey your law,
for ever and ever.
45 I will walk about in freedom,
for I have sought out your precepts.
46 I will speak of your statutes before kings
and will not be put to shame,
47 for I delight in your commands
because I love them.
48 I reach out for your commands, which I love,
that I may meditate on your decrees.

ז Zayin

49 Remember your word to your servant,
for you have given me hope.
50 My comfort in my suffering is this:
Your promise preserves my life.
51 The arrogant mock me unmercifully,
but I do not turn from your law.
52 I remember, Lord, your ancient laws,
and I find comfort in them.
53 Indignation grips me because of the wicked,
who have forsaken your law.
54 Your decrees are the theme of my song
wherever I lodge.
55 In the night, Lord, I remember your name,
that I may keep your law.
56 This has been my practice:
I obey your precepts.

ח Heth

57 You are my portion, Lord;
I have promised to obey your words.
58 I have sought your face with all my heart;
be gracious to me according to your promise.
59 I have considered my ways
and have turned my steps to your statutes.
60 I will hasten and not delay
to obey your commands.
61 Though the wicked bind me with ropes,
I will not forget your law.
62 At midnight I rise to give you thanks
for your righteous laws.
63 I am a friend to all who fear you,
to all who follow your precepts.
64 The earth is filled with your love, Lord;
teach me your decrees.

ט Teth

65 Do good to your servant
according to your word, Lord.
66 Teach me knowledge and good judgment,
for I trust your commands.
67 Before I was afflicted I went astray,
but now I obey your word.
68 You are good, and what you do is good;
teach me your decrees.
69 Though the arrogant have smeared me with lies,
I keep your precepts with all my heart.
70 Their hearts are callous and unfeeling,
but I delight in your law.
71 It was good for me to be afflicted
so that I might learn your decrees.
72 The law from your mouth is more precious to me
than thousands of pieces of silver and gold.

י Yodh

73 Your hands made me and formed me;
give me understanding to learn your commands.
74 May those who fear you rejoice when they see me,
for I have put my hope in your word.
75 I know, Lord, that your laws are righteous,
and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.
76 May your unfailing love be my comfort,
according to your promise to your servant.
77 Let your compassion come to me that I may live,
for your law is my delight.
78 May the arrogant be put to shame for wronging me without cause;
but I will meditate on your precepts.
79 May those who fear you turn to me,
those who understand your statutes.
80 May I wholeheartedly follow your decrees,
that I may not be put to shame.

כ Kaph

81 My soul faints with longing for your salvation,
but I have put my hope in your word.
82 My eyes fail, looking for your promise;
I say, “When will you comfort me?”
83 Though I am like a wineskin in the smoke,
I do not forget your decrees.
84 How long must your servant wait?
When will you punish my persecutors?
85 The arrogant dig pits to trap me,
contrary to your law.
86 All your commands are trustworthy;
help me, for I am being persecuted without cause.
87 They almost wiped me from the earth,
but I have not forsaken your precepts.
88 In your unfailing love preserve my life,
that I may obey the statutes of your mouth.

ל Lamedh

89 Your word, Lord, is eternal;
it stands firm in the heavens.
90 Your faithfulness continues through all generations;
you established the earth, and it endures.
91 Your laws endure to this day,
for all things serve you.
92 If your law had not been my delight,
I would have perished in my affliction.
93 I will never forget your precepts,
for by them you have preserved my life.
94 Save me, for I am yours;
I have sought out your precepts.
95 The wicked are waiting to destroy me,
but I will ponder your statutes.
96 To all perfection I see a limit,
but your commands are boundless.

מ Mem

97 Oh, how I love your law!
I meditate on it all day long.
98 Your commands are always with me
and make me wiser than my enemies.
99 I have more insight than all my teachers,
for I meditate on your statutes.
100 I have more understanding than the elders,
for I obey your precepts.
101 I have kept my feet from every evil path
so that I might obey your word.
102 I have not departed from your laws,
for you yourself have taught me.
103 How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!
104 I gain understanding from your precepts;
therefore I hate every wrong path.

נ Nun

105 Your word is a lamp for my feet,
a light on my path.
106 I have taken an oath and confirmed it,
that I will follow your righteous laws.
107 I have suffered much;
preserve my life, Lord, according to your word.
108 Accept, Lord, the willing praise of my mouth,
and teach me your laws.
109 Though I constantly take my life in my hands,
I will not forget your law.
110 The wicked have set a snare for me,
but I have not strayed from your precepts.
111 Your statutes are my heritage forever;
they are the joy of my heart.
112 My heart is set on keeping your decrees
to the very end.

ס Samekh

113 I hate double-minded people,
but I love your law.
114 You are my refuge and my shield;
I have put my hope in your word.
115 Away from me, you evildoers,
that I may keep the commands of my God!
116 Sustain me, my God, according to your promise, and I will live;
do not let my hopes be dashed.
117 Uphold me, and I will be delivered;
I will always have regard for your decrees.
118 You reject all who stray from your decrees,
for their delusions come to nothing.
119 All the wicked of the earth you discard like dross;
therefore I love your statutes.
120 My flesh trembles in fear of you;
I stand in awe of your laws.

ע Ayin

121 I have done what is righteous and just;
do not leave me to my oppressors.
122 Ensure your servant’s well-being;
do not let the arrogant oppress me.
123 My eyes fail, looking for your salvation,
looking for your righteous promise.
124 Deal with your servant according to your love
and teach me your decrees.
125 I am your servant; give me discernment
that I may understand your statutes.
126 It is time for you to act, Lord;
your law is being broken.
127 Because I love your commands
more than gold, more than pure gold,
128 and because I consider all your precepts right,
I hate every wrong path.

פ Pe

129 Your statutes are wonderful;
therefore I obey them.
130 The unfolding of your words gives light;
it gives understanding to the simple.
131 I open my mouth and pant,
longing for your commands.
132 Turn to me and have mercy on me,
as you always do to those who love your name.
133 Direct my footsteps according to your word;
let no sin rule over me.
134 Redeem me from human oppression,
that I may obey your precepts.
135 Make your face shine on your servant
and teach me your decrees.
136 Streams of tears flow from my eyes,
for your law is not obeyed.

צ Tsadhe

137 You are righteous, Lord,
and your laws are right.
138 The statutes you have laid down are righteous;
they are fully trustworthy.
139 My zeal wears me out,
for my enemies ignore your words.
140 Your promises have been thoroughly tested,
and your servant loves them.
141 Though I am lowly and despised,
I do not forget your precepts.
142 Your righteousness is everlasting
and your law is true.
143 Trouble and distress have come upon me,
but your commands give me delight.
144 Your statutes are always righteous;
give me understanding that I may live.

ק Qoph

145 I call with all my heart; answer me, Lord,
and I will obey your decrees.
146 I call out to you; save me
and I will keep your statutes.
147 I rise before dawn and cry for help;
I have put my hope in your word.
148 My eyes stay open through the watches of the night,
that I may meditate on your promises.
149 Hear my voice in accordance with your love;
preserve my life, Lord, according to your laws.
150 Those who devise wicked schemes are near,
but they are far from your law.
151 Yet you are near, Lord,
and all your commands are true.
152 Long ago I learned from your statutes
that you established them to last forever.

ר Resh

153 Look on my suffering and deliver me,
for I have not forgotten your law.
154 Defend my cause and redeem me;
preserve my life according to your promise.
155 Salvation is far from the wicked,
for they do not seek out your decrees.
156 Your compassion, Lord, is great;
preserve my life according to your laws.
157 Many are the foes who persecute me,
but I have not turned from your statutes.
158 I look on the faithless with loathing,
for they do not obey your word.
159 See how I love your precepts;
preserve my life, Lord, in accordance with your love.
160 All your words are true;
all your righteous laws are eternal.

ש Sin and Shin

161 Rulers persecute me without cause,
but my heart trembles at your word.
162 I rejoice in your promise
like one who finds great spoil.
163 I hate and detest falsehood
but I love your law.
164 Seven times a day I praise you
for your righteous laws.
165 Great peace have those who love your law,
and nothing can make them stumble.
166 I wait for your salvation, Lord,
and I follow your commands.
167 I obey your statutes,
for I love them greatly.
168 I obey your precepts and your statutes,
for all my ways are known to you.

ת Taw

169 May my cry come before you, Lord;
give me understanding according to your word.
170 May my supplication come before you;
deliver me according to your promise.
171 May my lips overflow with praise,
for you teach me your decrees.
172 May my tongue sing of your word,
for all your commands are righteous.
173 May your hand be ready to help me,
for I have chosen your precepts.
174 I long for your salvation, Lord,
and your law gives me delight.
175 Let me live that I may praise you,
and may your laws sustain me.
176 I have strayed like a lost sheep.
Seek your servant,
for I have not forgotten your commands.


God and Art Series: Artist incorporates love of God into work

This week we are visiting with Lucinde of Brakel, Gelderland, Netherlands. Lucinde, a graphic designer, owns lucilight on Etsy.

YBAL: Tell us a little about yourself and your artwork. When did you start developing your artistic-self?

Lucinde: As a child I always loved to draw and write; that's where it all started. In high school I developed my skills a bit farther and I followed special art classes. After that I stopped a lot of creative work for a few years. I was busy studying and had a lot of other stuff to do. But in the last year of college I missed my creative outlet so I started to do some creative work again. I'm a graphic designer and love to take photos, so I started with photo cards with a biblical message. But I still wanted to do more creative work with my hands so I began making handmade cards again; making jewelry - and my own beads with polymer clay; T-shirts and more illustrative prints. I'm still developing that skill!

YBAL: Have you received any awards or other achievements? Where can people find your work?

Lucinde: I haven't received any rewards for my work. When I was in high school I once won the second prize for designing the cover from the "European School Agenda" but that's all.

I'm thinking about starting a blog. I would like to do that in English (especially through Etsy. A lot of my customers speak English), but I don't know if my English would be good enough for that (I'm Dutch). But meanwhile most of my work is found on Etsy or my Facebook: and for the Dutch readers on: where I sell more cards.

YBAL: What attracts you to print work? How do you gain inspiration for your work?

Lucinde:I wanted to share my work with friends, so I made cards and prints for them. And of course, in my work as a graphic designer I make a lot of prints.

Most of the time I get my inspiration from nature (looking at and making photographs of everything God has made) and the quotes are most of time directly from the Bible. I also surf around on the Internet to find inspiration (a lot of Pinteresting is going on here ;))

YBAL: How have the events of your life affected your art? How has art affected your life?

Lucinde: A lot of my work is affected by the events of my life. Most of the time I make prints that I can relate to, so the message is something that inspires me or touches me. The jewelry and prints for shirts I make are made in my spare time and they're a good way to get some distraction and relaxation in life. When I make something creative I can let go of the problems that are happening out there and just focus on the colors/texture/look and feel of the stuff that I'm creating.


YBAL: When did you begin your relationship with God and how? How has your relationship with God affected your art? How has art affected your relationship to God?

Lucinde: I grew up in a religious family, so I don't know a life without God. But when I was 19, I made the choice to follow God in my life. I try to search for the will of God in my life and to look what he wants me to do.

When I started to make the prints I wanted to involve God in that process. I wanted to do something with my talents and I wanted to show God/the Bible through my work. So I made the choice to make biblical prints to encourage and inspire people.

I think that making art brings me closer to God. I'm using the Bible for a lot of my artwork, so I need to read it often. I'm thinking a lot about the messages as well, while finding a way to get the message in a right and attractive way to the people.

YBAL: Any future goals you'd like to share? Any encouragement for other artists?

Lucinde: I still want to do more with my artwork and I hope that, one day, I would find a way to make it my job - making art about and for God. I'm still thinking about more and other ways to do that, but my main items will probably stay printed.

And the one thing I use to encourage myself, maybe it works for others too:

Keep trying, never give up and pray a lot. Talk to God about everything, the good and the bad things, the things you want to do and what you want to achieve.



"God on Trial"

God on Trial
On occasion my husband Mike and I enjoy watching films that challenge our thinking, especially in the spiritual realm.

"God on Trial", written by Frank Cottrell Boyce and directed by Andy de Emmony for Masterpiece Theatre is one of those movies.

And, where better to challenge God than in Auschwitz, the notorious Nazi concentration camp where life gave way to death everyday for reasons that were unapparent or ludicrous at best.

Based on a legend that Jewish Auschwitz prisoners actually put God on trial, the film asks eternal questions that have never been satisfactorily answered in this life, and which quite possibly never will be answered.

From the PBS website:

Why is there so much suffering in the world and what kind of God would allow it to happen? Universal questions about faith and philosophy are at the heart of God on Trial, which was inspired by the legend that a group of concentration camp prisoners conducted a mock trial against the Almighty God. From all walks of life, a physicist, a glove maker, rabbis, a law professor and at least one criminal weigh the evidence and offer thoughtful arguments taken from history, science, theology and personal experience. Featuring Antony Sher (Primo), Rupert Graves (The Forsyte Saga, Take a Girl Like You), Dominic Cooper (Sense and Sensibility, The Duchess), Stephen Dillane (Anna Karenina, John Adams) and Stellan Skarsgård (Mamma Mia!), God on Trial explores unfathomable loss and unshakable faith.

I recommend this movie to anyone who would like to think about the question of suffering. It would make a great discussion starter for a small group, a youth group, Sunday school class or for a family who likes to discuss the hard questions of life with each other.


A medical clinic built by cupcakes

For the last few months, I've been running the God and Art Series on Fridays. It has proven to be very popular and I appreciate everyone stopping by to read about these incredible artists who demonstrate their love for Jesus in what they make. This week, however, I've been working on a large order for a customer on Etsy and I was unable to write a post. The God and Art Series will return next week.

Meanwhile, I have an update from our friend Dr. Joe Gorman who directs Compassion for Africa. This is an update on the new medical clinic that his daughter Annie raised money for by selling cupcakes. Dr. Joe is in Africa right now. He sent this e-mail yesterday:

Dear friends and family,

I was very excited to make it to Namankwan in NE Ghana yesterday to see the medical clinic my daughter, Annie, has been baking cupcakes for since October. I’ve seen pictures of the clinics’ progress since ground was broken on Easter morning, April 8, 2012, but it’s another thing entirely seeing it with my own eyes. It truly was an unforgettable moment when I first laid eyes on it (I’ve attached several low resolution pictures of it and people from the community). I couldn’t help but reflect on Annie’s many surgeries, physical therapy that never seemed to end, countless hours spent on her feet baking cupcakes when it probably would have been better for her to be resting, and how she probably wouldn’t have lived past childhood if she had been born in a developing country like Ghana.

I was very surprised a few weeks ago when Pastor and District Superintendent Frank Mills, my wonderful friend and partner with Compassion for Africa, sent me a picture with the name of the clinic on it: “Annie Gorman Clinic.” Annie’s love for the Namankwan people is now known far and wide here in NE Ghana. As a “Thank you” for Annie’s efforts in raising money for the clinic, I received a rooster and hen yesterday as a sign of continued growth and blessing of our partnership with Namankwan. I told Annie the hen and rooster are her chickens and she needs to take care of them now. She assures me she’ll come and take care of them next year.

Yesterday, Frank and I met with about 50 village elders, both men and women, to talk about their hopes and expectations for the clinic. As we were talking, one woman’s words, as translated by Pastor Emmanuel of the Namankwan Church of the Nazarene, were especially poignant:

Everything lies on women’s shoulders here. When our children are sick, we are responsible to care for them. But then a huge problem arises: how will we take our sick child for medical help? Clinics are far away from us. This means we have to walk for 4-5 hours with a sick child on our back or pay someone to carry us on a bicycle or a “moto” (motorcycle—while we were talking yesterday we saw an obviously sick woman being carried on a “moto” on the pathway not far from the clinic). How will we pay for someone to transport us into town as well as for our sick child’s medical treatment? And if the child has to stay at the clinic, where will we sleep and how will we eat? (there are no guest rooms for parents and the rural poor do not have money to buy food in town).

So, you see the many problems we face here. But yet in spite of this, God is on our side. The clinic is now being built and it will save many lives and make caring for our sick children so much easier.

The nursing mothers in the villages also do not know how to take good care of themselves. If you do not know how to take care of yourself, then how can you take good care of your children? The clinic will help us to take better care of ourselves and children. The clinic will help us live better lives. This will make our entire lives less of a burden. God bless you and help you to do more everywhere you go—especially in the north since life here is so difficult.

It’s times like these when I feel the presence of God brush up against me. Meeting face-to-face with the people who will be served by the clinic. Seeing the faith and longing in their brown eyes. Hearing hope resound in their voices with my own ears. Being present with these my fellow human beings, my brothers and sisters in Christ, in northern Ghana, changes me. All of these experiences sink down deep into my heart and remind me why God has called me to be an accidental missionary in Africa. The needs here are great, but the resources of our God are even greater. Each of us with God’s help need to do what we can with what we have where we are. Rather than being depressed by the never-ending need here, however, I find my faith buoyed as I see with my own eyes the tangible difference the presence of Jesus is making in the Namankwan community.

As I walked around the medical clinic today with Frank and talked about how very close we are to offering medical services to the Namankwan/Denegu area and beyond (the area the clinic will service is somewhere around 40 x 50 miles and includes over 100,000 women, men, girls, boys, and babies), I am once again convinced that God is able to do immeasurably more than anything we can ask for or imagine (Ephesians 3:20-21).

Thank you again for your prayers for and partnership with Compassion for Africa. They are indeed changing the Namankwan, Ghana community one baby, one girl, one boy, one women, one man, one family at a time.

God bless you and your families,

Joe Gorman
Executive Director, Compassion for Africa

If you are able to give toward any of our projects, please send a check made payable to Compassion for Africa, 412 West Bayhill Drive, Nampa, ID 83686 and tell us which project you’d like your gift to go toward.

One hundred percent of all monies given to “Compassion for Africa” (; go directly to the project for which you designate them. There is no administrative overhead as any travel, transport, printing, postage or other costs associated with “Compassion for Africa” are paid through separate donations. Your gifts are making a world of difference one girl, one boy, one family, and one community at a time. Compassion for Africa is a registered 501(c)(3) with the IRS.

You can also donate to Compassion for Africa by purchasing Uhuru from WritingPlaces on Etsy. If you would like, the contribution of $10 would be made in your name or you can remain anonymous. Just let me know when you order.



Religious art on Etsy

I don't have much to say for once and thought I'd show you some of the religious-type art that's for sale on Etsy.  There is a great variety and people are very creative. Enjoy!