Jeremy Sams Art Blog

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Celebrating The Ultimate Artist...God

"Psalm 104:24"
24x30 acrylic on canvas

"O LORD, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches." Psalm 104:24

As an artist, it's impossible for me to view such magnificent scenes of God's creation and not be overwhelmed with awe. In my quest to duplicate colors and moods, it becomes very plain for me to see my inadequacies. I struggle just trying to duplicate a scene in front of me. The problem lies in that I'm merely duplicating...but, on the other hand, God is no duplicator...He's no copyist...He's not building according to someone or something else...He's the original artist.

On Nov. 4, 2011, I was invited by Friendly Avenue Baptist Church to participate in the "Festival of Tables" where they honored God as the ultimate artist. It was a lovely night with music, dining, a wonderful testimony of a family on the mission field, and a special song by my wife Crystal..."I was Born To Serve the Lord". During these couple of hours, on stage, I was privileged with the opportunity to indulge in my own expression of thanks to God by painting this scene of Yosemite National Park, above.

We'd like to say a special thank you to Friendly Avenue Baptist Church for the hospitality, the prayers, and the opportunity to minister.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Our Little Girl, Selah...A Gift of Joy

Some nightmares seem to never end. Too often we've all had those reoccurring nightmares in the same night of sleep. It's as if you know it's not real but you if you could just wake up, you could find escape. Sadly, there are experiences in life that truly are nightmares, but there is no "waking up" for it to all go away.

Early Thursday morning, I was woken by my wife who obviously had not been sleeping. There was a slight panic in her voice. She had been experiencing, the day before, some pretty uncomfortable cramping. But this morning, she was fully aware that these were not normal cramps. She felt as if they were labor pains. So, to be safe and to alleviate our fears, we went immediately to see her doctor at the women's birthing center in Statesville. While I held my sleeping daughter Ellie in the waiting room, I heard a very familiar cry of agony coming from the examination room.

The nightmare has returned. I will never forget those horrifying screams as I rushed into the room, they were all too familiar. Once again, an ultrasound confirmed no heart beat.

We were left to weep and pray. We then decided to return to High Point to be near our family and friends and to examine what our next step should be. We were given different options of going ahead to induce labor or wait. It was obvious that the cramps she was experiencing was her body's way of taking care of itself by going into labor.

We called our doctor in High Point and began to make arrangements to deliver our baby. A couple of our midwives also came by to check on her at our house which was a great encouragement.

At around 5:30, the contractions began to become more intense, so we made our way to the hospital. I watched my wife with the help of our doula/friend Jennifer pace in the ER trying to walk through the contractions. Could these people who check you in have been any slower??? My goodness, what was only a few minutes seemed like an eternity as I watched her breathe and groan in the check-in office. Jennifer was pretty adamant telling the people to get her to labor and delivery NOW, of which the lady finally complied.

Finally, we were checked into our room and Crystal was checked for dilation. She was a zero. Crystal mocked her pain saying, "yeah, it's just my luck to be having these kind of contractions and not be dilated at all!" Her contractions were lasting up to 2.5-3 minutes with only about 30 seconds of rest in between each one. She walked around the room and rocked in her standing position refusing to take anything for pain. I stood in amazement and fear as I watched my wife and her doula dance this unusual dance of labor.

After 30 minutes or so of enduring some pretty intense contractions, Crystal cried out that she had to use the bathroom. Complaining of the extreme pressure caused Jennifer to hit the "call" button for the nurses. But, everything was happening too fast...Crystal stood and cried, "The head's coming out!" Jennifer and I were close by as she yelled "catch it, catch it!" So, I dove to the floor, held out my hands as Crystal stood, and caught this little warm sack.

I couldn't believe my hands was my precious little girl still in the birth sack. My hands were trembling...bloody...but I was holding a miracle. Even though I knew I was holding just a little lifeless body, it was still a very overwhelming experience. Now, I can see why doctors and midwives do what they do, as this rush of joy flooded through my soul knowing I helped deliver one of God's greatest miracles. This miracle may have not been alive, physically, but I can assure you, she is more alive than any of us!

If a doctor or midwife no longer gets joy out of delivering babies, he/she needs to hang up the towel. What an absolutely rewarding experience they must have. This caused me to think...if we, as fallen humanity, can be so filled with joy at the birthing of a much more is Christ flooded with joy as He births His own? I'm a sinner...however, redeemed... but still, every aspect of my being has been affected by the curse of emotions, especially. If I can get that much overwhelming joy out of delivering a physically lifeless child, how much more does the perfect Creator of joy...Creator of emotion...Creator of life...Creator of ALL much more joy and pleasure does He get in the new birth of His children! Oh, can you imagine what He feels when he breathes life into a soul!

Why did He go to the cross??? For JOY! WE are a part of HIS JOY!
"Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of [our] faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:2

Not only is He joyous for giving spiritual life, but I can imagine the joy He will feel when He resurrects our bodies to a glorified life. What an incredible event will take place when he gathers His children from the four corners of the earth, gathered together as His bride...Oh, what joy He will feel! We, as believers, are His treasures...not because of some inherent worth in ourselves, but because we are gifts from the Father!
"All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out" John 6:37
"And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day." John 6:39
Our security and worth as believers is based on the fact that we are gifts from the Father...the value of the gift is not measured in itself, but by the Giver of the gift. We are precious to Christ because we were given of the Father. All children should be precious to us because they also are gifts from our heavenly Father.

We chose to name our little gift, Selah. In Hebrew, it means to praise or exalt. It's also a term used to indicate a pause or a time to meditate and "think on this". For us, after our ordeal with losing our son, Zion, God gave us a little time of praise. She was a little pause in our life to praise God and a time of healing. Psalm 66 is the chapter that sealed our decision to use this name... read it carefully, meditate on it, and heed it:
" 1Make a joyful noise unto God, all ye lands:
 2Sing forth the honour of his name: make his praise glorious.
 3Say unto God, How terrible art thou in thy works! through the greatness of thy power shall thine enemies submit themselves unto thee.
 4All the earth shall worship thee, and shall sing unto thee; they shall sing to thy name. Selah.
 5Come and see the works of God: he is terrible in his doing toward the children of men.
 6He turned the sea into dry land: they went through the flood on foot: there did we rejoice in him.
 7He ruleth by his power for ever; his eyes behold the nations: let not the rebellious exalt themselves. Selah.
 8O bless our God, ye people, and make the voice of his praise to be heard:
 9Which holdeth our soul in life, and suffereth not our feet to be moved.
 10For thou, O God, hast proved us: thou hast tried us, as silver is tried.
 11Thou broughtest us into the net; thou laidst affliction upon our loins.
 12Thou hast caused men to ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water: but thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place.
 13I will go into thy house with burnt offerings: I will pay thee my vows,
 14Which my lips have uttered, and my mouth hath spoken, when I was in trouble.
 15I will offer unto thee burnt sacrifices of fatlings, with the incense of rams; I will offer bullocks with goats. Selah.
 16Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul.
 17I cried unto him with my mouth, and he was extolled with my tongue.
 18If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:
 19But verily God hath heard me; he hath attended to the voice of my prayer.
 20Blessed be God, which hath not turned away my prayer, nor his mercy from me."
In closing, I must ask you...are you a gift of the Father? How does one know if they are? It's simple...have you received the gift that God has provided? We are all sinners by birth, by action, and by our failure to treasure God and His glory. He, on the other hand, is a just God who will not at all acquit the wicked (Nahum 1:3) Because He is good and righteous, He must punish sin and not sweep it under the rug...He will not let the wicked go free. The good news is that this same just God sent His Son to die as a substitute for all who will believe. He is just and the justifier of those which believe in Jesus. If you reject this gift, you will prove to all creation that you in fact, were never a gift of the Father. But, now, God commands all men everywhere to repent and believe the not reject Him...He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but He has overwhelming joy for all who come to Him. Make your calling and election sure...prove that you are part of the "joy set before Him" by believing in Christ...which means valuing Him as your most supreme treasure.

I was asked by my good friend, Rick Cope, this morning, "Jeremy, what are you thankful for today?" In short, I am thankful for the gift of my daughter and that I am a part of His joy!...Selah

Soli Deo Gloria.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Grandfather Mountain Plein Air

Grandfather Mountain in Fall
8x10 acrylic on masonite en plein air

On October 21, 2011, plein air artists from all over North Carolina once again swarmed over the Sweetgrass Community in Blowing Rock, NC. I couldn't pass up this opportunity to paint along side of some incredibly talented artists.

The weather was beautiful with nice sunny skies...the only drawback was the wind and the chill. The last time I was here, in July, I ended up freezing my rear-end off in a downpour of rain... in JULY! It's October now, so I came prepared: 2 pair of thermal underwear, fleece, windbreaker, toboggan, gloves, 2 pair of socks, etc... I felt like the Pillsbury dough-boy all wrapped up. But hey, I wasn't frostbitten. 

 Me...warm, but cold-faced

I was privileged to paint with a good friend of mine, artist, Scott Boyle, founder of the Charlotte Plein Air Painters... a group that I'm currently a member of. We both share a passion for magnifying God and His glory through our paintings. 
While scoping out the property, we settled on a lake view with Grandfather Mountain in the distance. It was quite beautiful with the most brilliant blues reflecting in the water. So brilliant, in fact, that it almost looked unbelievable. I attempted to paint it...I mixed...I painted...I struggled...I got frustrated...I had a breakthrough!

 Landscape painter extraordinaire, Scott Boyle

Yep, I had a breakthrough...I turned my easel into the sun. I had straight sunlight shining on my palette and my canvas panel. Suddenly, the colors looked so dull. So, what do I do but react with artistic speed and precision! I was feeling good...feeling like I was accomplishing something. Then, at the epitome of my artistic fury, Scott reminds me, "Jeremy, be sure to turn your easel into the shade just to see what it looks like in different light." I believe the words that came out of my mouth at that time were something like, "HOLY COW!" The painting that I thought looked so awesome turned out to be one of the darkest valued paintings I think I've ever done. It was embarrassing it was so bad. It's so bad, I haven't even taken a digital picture of it, so don't expect to see it posted here. It goes in my "bad painting" pile...that same pile is growing, by the way. (Scott assures me that his bad painting pile is now several feet, that's encouraging)

So, lesson learned: paint in the shade, or at least have your canvas and palette shaded, if possible. Painting in the direct sunlight can make for an extremely dark painting, especially when you bring it indoors.

The painting at the top of the page was my second painting of the day. The wind died down enough for me to set up my shadebuddy umbrella and paint under it...Ahhhh, relief! What a difference a day...a little shade makes!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Farming For Joy!

Have you ever planted a garden? I had the privilege of growing some of my own vegetables this past summer and oh what a treat it is to be able to step out your backdoor and pick your supper! What a gratifying experience!

I thought I would be a real man this past year and do this the "old school" hand. I got my shovel and ho and went to work. Two days and many blisters and sore back muscles later, I had cultivated my own small garden. (note to self: tillers are our friend, don't deny them) After planting my little plants and a few weeks later, I began to see the fruits of my labor budding out. What a cool a little, plant seeds, water, then watch it grow.

Throughout this experience, I witnessed an interesting thing...did I cause the seeds to grow? No, they were underground. I had no clue what was taking place under there. The only responsibility I had was to plant and water. So, who or what caused these seeds to grow into these tall beautiful plants yielding delicious vegetables?

This is where an old principle that is taught throughout the bible begins to take a whole new meaning. One passage in particular comes to mind, 1 Corinthians 3:6-8:

"I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour."
 Notice who does the planting and watering: Paul and you and me. But, it's God who "gives the increase". This principle runs all throughout the Scriptures in almost all areas of our lives. We witness and evangelize, but it's God who gives the increase. When people are born again, they are born of God and His will, not by blood or the will of the flesh, or the will of man (John 1:13). yet, it is our responsibility to sow and shall they believe in whom they have not heard? (Romans 10:14)

This principle also applies to JOY. I must be honest here...over the past few months, one of my greatest struggles is maintaining joy. We know that true joy is a fruit of the Spirit according to Galatians 5:22. I say "true joy" because I want to make sure we differentiate deep satisfying joy with the fleeting temporal emotion we call "happiness". Don't get me wrong, being joyful will bubble out to your emotions causing happiness but you can also have joy in the midst of extreme suffering...However, we all know it's hard to be happy when you're suffering. True joy is finding satisfaction in God. He is our source of true joy.

The problem lies in, how do I get this joy? Can I wake up in the morning and command my heart to be satisfied in Christ? Can I command myself to not be depressed, like I command my fingers what to type here? The answer is, NO. I'm utterly useless in this area.

So, how do we solve this? Are we doomed to just sit and wait for God to miraculously produce joy in ourselves? How miserable we would be!

Our answer lies in the biblical principle of sowing, watering and reaping. If I want God to produce joy in me, then I must be satisfied in Him and this is accomplished by me doing my part of the cultivation process. I must sow and water. I'll list a few things that help me...there could be more for you, I suppose there's no exact formula.
  • Daily bible reading...even if you don't want to. Sometimes you have to force feed yourself. When you're sick, the last thing you want to do is eat...but it's usually the eating of nutrition that will stop the sickness.
  • Listening to Christ-honoring music. Music plays an important role in your emotions. Feed it with quality food.
  • Witness...a passion of mine is evangelism. Joy is an almost automatic result when I overcome those barriers of fear and tell someone the gospel or share a testimony.
  • Study a book or an article on the promises of God or His attributes. Our understanding of God is directly related to how we will live our lives. If my knowledge and understanding of God is shallow, then I shouldn't expect to live in much victory. The more I learn of my wife, the more I love her...the same applies with God.
  • Get Inspired...when I get stagnant as an artist, I surround myself in inspirational places and with inspirational people. Surround yourself with other can be contagious.
  • Take care of your physical active and get rest
  • Pray...just be honest with God and ask Him to produce fruit in you. The more you spend in relationship with God, the more He will manifest Himself to you.
 So, are you caught in the funk of little or no joy? Rejoice in the fact that God has designed you to find no satisfaction outside of Christ. He is our Bread of Life and our Living Water. It's now time to start cultivating! Get your spiritual garden tools out and get to work! The fruit of joy is waiting!