He Will Place You on His Shoulders and Carry You Home

~SFG He Will Place You On His Shoulders and Carry You Home 16 x 15 He Will Place You on His Shoulders and Carry You Home   (42 by 38 inches, oil on canvas on panel)

In November 2015, I had the opportunity to teach a workshop to a special group of soldiers.

Many had never painted before. I demonstrated how to do a master copy of “Starry Night” by Vincent van Gogh. I had one soldier who was so excited to paint. In the foreground of the painting he changed it and painted a path leading to a home. These soldiers had experienced a lot of trauma in their lives and were living with the after effects of PTSD.

When I asked him about the path he commented that he was painting a path to get home.

When seeing the painting, his counselor began to cry, and said: “Everyone should have a way back home.”

This experience was deeply moving to me.

In General Conference April 2016, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf gave the following talk. He said:

“Just as the Good Shepherd finds His lost sheep, if you will only lift up your heart to the Savior of the world, He will find you.

“My dear brothers and sisters, my dear friends, I testify that God sees us as we truly are- and He sees us worthy of rescue. You may feel that your life is in ruins. You may have sinned. You may be afraid, angry grieving, or tortured by doubt. But just as the Good Shepherd finds His lost sheep, if you will only lift up your heart to the Savior of the world, He will find you.

“He will rescue you.

“He will lift your up and place you on His shoulders.

“He will carry you home.

“With each step of faith on the path of discipleship we grow into the beings of eternal glory and infinite joy we were designed to become”.

This painting is an homage to the all those who long for home.

Sweet Hour of Prayer

Picture 209 Sweet Hour of Prayer   (40 by 30 inches, oil on canvas on panel)

“The praying Christ: That is the example to which we are to point others. The Christ of humility. The Christ of spiritual communion. The Christ who is dependent upon his Father. The Christ who asks for blessings upon others. The Christ who calls down the power of heave. The Christ who submits, yields, and obeys the will of the Father. The Christ who is one with the Father in at least one way that we may be united with him as well—Through prayer. That is the light we are to show to the world. It is the image of Christ.”  (Jeffrey R. Holland, Ensign, January 1996. 19)

Prayer has always been efficacious in my life. I wanted this painting to reflect that prayer was a priority in the Savior’s life. The scripture reference is Mark 1:35. Jesus was in Capernaum where he healed many that were sick of many divers diseases.

“And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.”

In April Conference of 2003, Elder Russel M. Nelson gave a talk entitled, “Sweet Hour of Prayer.” He concluded this address with the following hymn:

Our Prayer to Thee

We pray to Thee, our Heavenly Father,

With grateful hearts and fond emotion.

We thank Thee for our great Exemplar—

Thy beloved and atoning Son—

Who gave Himself as sacred ransom,

That we could live again with Thee!

Our joy is full, our song so gladsome;

Renew our faith and hope in Thee.

We pray to Thee, our Heavenly Father,

With thankful hearts and adoration.

We thank Thee for our loving Savior,

Who redeemed us from death and sin;

He gave to us His truth to brighten

Our path, to help us walk His way,

To love and serve, to lift and lighten

The lives of all who will obey.

We pray to Thee, our Heavenly Father,

With gratitude and deep devotion

For loving faith and endless splendor—

Eternal glory—bound as one!

We pray for mercy and forgiveness

And hope to know Thy holy will.

We yearn for Thee, we plead in meekness,

Thy trust in us may we fulfill.

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Bind Up the Broken-Hearted

Picture 132
Bind Up the Brokenhearted  (34 by 26 inches, oil on canvas on panel)

For me, the inspiration for my paintings is often combinations of my own experiences and the reading I do, such as the following:

Robert L. Millet said, “The cosmic Christ who creates and redeems worlds without number is the same gentle and good Shepherd who goes in search of one wandering lamb. He who holds all things in his power is the same who stills the storms of the human heart by a healing touch” (Alive in Christ: The Miracle of Spiritual Rebirth, p. 34).

Indeed, Elder Howard W. Hunter observed “whatever Jesus lays his hands upon lives. If Jesus lays his hands upon a marriage, it lives. If he is allowed to lay his hands on the family, it lives” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1979, 93).

According to Millet, “God has never promised us a life of ease or an existence free from strain and anxiety. We have not been promised that we would be spared bitter potions in this life. We have been assured that we are not alone and that if we trust in and rely on his mighty arm, we will be empowered and comforted in our trials; we will eventually be delivered out of bondage. “And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions” (Mosiah 24:14). Truly, “The Lord . . . gathereth together the outcasts of Israel. He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds” (Psalm 147:2-3) (Alive in Christ: The Miracle of Spiritual Rebirth p. 35).

Scriptural reference: Psalm 147:3

Master, the Tempest is Raging

Picture 182
Master, the Tempest is Raging  (42 by 30 inches, oil on canvas on panel)

I have a testimony that our Savior and Redeemer can calm the storms of life.
Mary Ann Baker was the well-known author of the hymn, “Master the Tempest is Raging.”
The second verse of this hymn describes in vivid detail our Savior calming an actual storm. With this same power, He calms the tempests that are a part of our mortal experience. Mary Ann Baker experienced many trials and extreme adversity due to the loss of her parents and brother to tuberculosis. She wrote how this challenged the very core of her faith, until “the Master’s own voice stilled the tempest in my unsanctified heart, and brought it to the calm of deeper faith and a more perfect trust” (Davidson, Our Latter-day Hymns, pp. 147-48).
Years earlier, my brother dreamed about this scriptural account and encouraged me to paint this painting. These experiences were the catalyst for the inspiration for this painting.

Scriptural reference: Mark 4:35-41

Divine Call

Picture 134
Divine Call  (43 by 31 inches, oil on canvas on panel)

This painting was inspired by a commission. The collectors invited me to paint the scriptural account of Alma 56:47. I know it was divinely inspired. The setting is inside a home. The son and mother engage in earnest prayer. The time of night is late, they had been on their knees for preparation for the upcoming battle. Prayer is efficacious in inviting that spirit to be with our children as they fight their earthly battles. The fire has burned down to embers symbolizing that their preparation had been lengthy. There is a bow on the ground symbolizing the battle to come.

I wanted to represent the love I have for my own sons. The desire to protect them is so strong. I wanted every mother to relate on a visceral level to the mother and son in this painting.

Sister Sheri Dew stated:

“ The stripling warriors‘ faith began at home. “They had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them” (Alma 56:47). Not only did those righteous, faithful, dedicated mothers teach their sons the gospel, but the stripling warriors listened, which almost certainly prepared them to follow the prophet Helaman into battle when the time came for them to do so. The lesson for us is clear: Choose carefully whom you listen to, and then listen. Choose carefully whom you will follow, and then follow. Listen to righteous parents and leaders, and certainly to prophets, seers, and revelators whose counsel is motivated only by their desire to teach truth and by their belief in our divine potential.” (“No Doubt About It”, Sheri Dew)

Happiness and lasting joy come only from living the gospel. Helaman said after leading his two thousand into battle, “I was filled with exceeding joy because of the goodness of God in preserving us” (Alma 57:36).

Sacrifice Brings Forth Blessings

Picture 281
Sacrifice Brings Forth Blessings  (The Widow of Zarephath)

The Lord often teaches using extreme circumstances to illustrate a principle. The story of the widow of Zarephath is an example of life-threatening poverty used to teach the doctrine that mercy cannot rob sacrifice any more than it can rob justice. In fact, the truer measure of sacrifice isn’t so much what one gives to sacrifice as what one sacrifices to give (see Mark 12:43). Faith isn’t tested so much when the cupboard is full as when it is bare. In these defining moments, the crisis doesn’t create one’s character—it reveals it. The crisis is the test (“Tithing-a Commandment Even for the Destitute” Lynn G. Robbins, April 2005).

Much of the inspiration for my paintings comes through experiences I had when drinking the biter cups of life. This is especially true of this painting. It is during these defining moments of adversity – famines, if you will – that I have come to understand “sacrifice brings forth blessings.” It is my desire to visually convey that true faith always manifests itself in faithfulness. The message of the Widow of Zarephath has tremendous relevancy today; it is through our choices we ultimately come to know God.

Scriptural reference: 1 Kings 17: 9-15

Martha’s Witness of Christ

Picture 026 Martha’s Witness of Christ

One of the most significant episodes in our Savior’s mortal ministry was the literal raising of Lazarus from the dead after he had lain in the tomb for four days. The setting for this dramatic manifestation of Christ’s power and love is carefully laid out in John 11. The Apostle’s skillful use of detail, his sense for drama, dialogue, suspense, crescendo, and climax match the doctrinal importance of this event. It is an astounding public miracle that illuminates the core truths about Christ and His Atonement. This was the concept for my next painting: Martha’s Witness of Christ

You know the story: Christ receives desperate word from Martha and Mary to come to Bethany, for their brother is deathly ill. Jesus deliberately delays His journey for two days, and then announces that Lazarus is dead and that He and His disciples must go to him. The disciples remind Him of the hostility of the Jewish leaders toward Him, even unto His death. Thomas simply says, “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (v. 16).

When Christ arrives in Bethany, Martha greets Him with weeping and a gentle rebuke: “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died” (v. 21). Martha’s complaint is followed by her fervent testimony: “But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee” (v. 22). Jesus affirms His own role and identity: “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live” (v. 25).

I have painted two paintings about Martha. Martha’s testimony is one of the most striking recorded testimonies of our Savior Jesus Christ. Her testimony echo’s that of my own.

“Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die, Believest thou this?

“She saith unto him, Yea Lord: I believe that thou are the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world (John 11:25-27).

The scriptural account continues at the “tomb of tears” where Lazarus had been buried. His sisters, the disciples, and other Jews were among the mourners. Some believe; some are critical. The intense grieving of the sisters, the wailing of the mourners, Christ’s own tears, the anticipation of His own death, the disciples’ fear of the Jewish leaders, the hostility of certain ones in the crowd, and the melancholy of the grave site–all of these constitute for us a crescendo of profound human emotion. Jesus commands that the stone covering the tomb’s entrance be removed. Martha objects, saying, “Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days” (v. 39). Christ says, “If thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God” (v. 40).

The stone is removed. Jesus offers a prayer of gratitude that reveals He had asked permission from His Father to stage this miraculous representation of the Atonement for the purpose of comforting wounded and grieving hearts, of testifying of His love and power, and of convincing the people present to believe the Father had sent Him (see v. 42).

The climactic moment comes when Christ cries out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth” (v. 43). Can you imagine that combination of hope, terror, and surprise the people feel when Lazarus obeys the command and rises, “bound hand and foot with grave clothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin” (v. 44)? The sight and smell of this dead man must have been more than some could bear. But then came Christ’s second command to certain others standing by: “Loose him, and let him go” (v. 44).

Think of it. Christ was commanding Lazarus to be freed. I invisioned  Mary and Martha as the ones privileged to render the service of removing the grave clothes and unbinding the wrappings from around his eyes, mouth, hands, and feet–the wrappings of the grave. For he lived again! Think of the joy!

For me the Lazarus story provides one of the most powerful metaphors of the Atonement of Christ for all humankind. We are all like Lazarus, beloved of the Lord, but wrapped about in the grave clothes of this world.

The Atonement is the central reality of our existence. It is the comprehensive instrument of hope, justice, and mercy in the world. In a significant way the Atonement will account for, reconcile, and redeem every injustice perpetrated in the history of this planet–all suffering, cruelty, guilt, violence against innocent and defenseless people, all accidents and ironies. It is the principle mechanism through which the work and glory of God can be accomplished, namely, “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life” of mankind (Moses 1:39). It is only by the grace of God that we are able to succeed.