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Friday, 3 April 2015

At the Cross

It is Easter Friday. This is the day on which we as Christians commemorate the indescribable grace Christ Jesus showed us when He willingly laid down His life so that our broken relationship with God could be restored. I did not want to simply publish another blog today. Instead, I wanted to write a blog that would bring honour to Jesus and underscore His sacrifice on the cross.

 When contemplating what I would do for this blog, there was one single song that kept popping into my head every time, without fail. That song was 'At the cross'. I looked the words up and share them with you. I found that I did not know the words to the verses, but that it was merely the refrain that kept repeating in my head. I'll also give you a link to the song on Youtube.

  1. Alas! and did my Savior bleed
    And did my Sov’reign die?
    Would He devote that sacred head
    For such a worm as I?
    • Refrain:
      At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light,
      And the burden of my heart rolled away,
      It was there by faith I received my sight,
      And now I am happy all the day!
  2. Thy body slain, sweet Jesus, Thine—
    And bathed in its own blood—
    While the firm mark of wrath divine,
    His soul in anguish stood.
  3. Was it for crimes that I had done
    He groaned upon the tree?
    Amazing pity! grace unknown!
    And love beyond degree!
  4. Well might the sun in darkness hide
    And shut his glories in,
    When Christ, the mighty Maker died,
    For man the creature’s sin.
  5. Thus might I hide my blushing face
    While His dear cross appears,
    Dissolve my heart in thankfulness,
    And melt my eyes to tears.
  6. But drops of grief can ne’er repay
    The debt of love I owe:
    Here, Lord, I give myself away,
    ’Tis all that I can do.

It finally dawned on me that this was exactly what I had to make for the blog; a depiction of the chorus lines of the song. I knew right from the outset that I mosaic a wooden cross and use this as the focal point of a painting. The wooden cross hardly needs explaining, because it is a well-known fact that Jesus died on a wooden cross. I liked the idea of mosaic tiles on the cross, because mosaics always give you a broken picture, one that has lines running through it. If I had opted to paint the cross, or even to decoupage it, I could have had a whole. Instead I have the broken tiled pattern, reminding us that Jesus can take the pieces of our lives and rebuild it into something wonderful, just like a broken puzzle. Because He died and bled for us, we can be restored and live lives worthy of God's dream for us.

The first thing I discovered when laying down the tiles, was that they would not fit as is. Sometimes life simply isn't that perfect. Sometimes we need to be willing to break our own egos or opinions or wisdom to subject it to the will of God before He can make a beautiful picture of our lives.

Once I had cut the only tile that needed cutting to size, I laid them down again. This time I found that the horizontal line would not line up perfectly with the vertical line. This irritated me and I was perfectly happy to cut another tile when it dawned on me that this too was a reflection of our lives in relation to God. We need to strive to reach the point where our horizontal (earthly) lives do align with God's vertical (divine) plan for our lives. That is true. But at the moment when we come to the cross, God is willing to accept us as we are, broken and in need of mending and completely out of sync with Him. That is forgiveness. That is grace.

It was time to apply the glue to the tiles. This would make them stick. In a sense that is the blood of Jesus as He washes us in His blood and then gives us His Spirit as a seal to testify that we now belong to Him and that no one can tear us from His grasp ever again.

I put the cross aside to dry and when it was dry, I mixed some grout with water.

I plastered the cross with this grout and it looked rather miserable when I put it aside to dry. I figured this too was a comparison to our spiritual lives. When we separate ourselves from other believers and start mingling with the world, or sometimes just get too focused on our work, we tend to loose our shine. We loose our splendour. We become soiled by the dirt and the burdens of this world.

Once the grout was sufficiently dry, I pulled the cross over and started cleaning it with a damp cloth. In this action I was reminded of Jesus telling Peter that once we have been cleansed it is no longer needed to wash the head and the body. Now we only need to wash our feet. In this too Jesus knew and made accommodation for the fact that we would become soiled, but His grace included a plan even for that. Perhaps it is time we washed our feet again, or allow Jesus to do it for us.

It was time to start working on the background for the cross. I used a masonite board because it would give me a sturdy surface to which to stick the cross later on.

The masonite board was painted with gesso. Not only did this give it a nice white surface, but it also made the surface more adhesive to paint. Have you also found that God's word seemed to 'stick' to you better once Jesus had washed you whiter than snow?

I marked the spot where I wanted the cross to go and did a rough drawing of the chorus line: At the cross, at the cross where I once saw the light and the burdens of my heart rolled away. It was there by faith I received my sight and now I am happy all the day. I wanted to show the world as a journey with highs and lows. The cross did not change that. However, those who left their burdens at the cross would have a more joyful experience of the journey.

In Psalm 23 we are told that He brings to green pastures and I chose two vibrant greens to express that idea.

The bluer green was used to paint the furthest hill, while the more yellow green was used to paint the closest hill. The further things recede, they bluer they appear to be. This was a very easy way to create an illusion of depth. I wanted to paint a ring of light behind the cross and I would use a combination of yellow and white to do so. Light always reflects on its surroundings and the grass I had painted was too 'blue' to reflect this yellow. That is why I painted the grass with a very light layer of yellow, concentrating on the lighted areas that would reflect the most light.

I then started painting the light behind the cross.

I used Titanium White to accentuate the light and to blend it into its surroundings. I needed to make sure that the outer circle of light had a lot of white, so that I would not inadvertently create green when I started to paint the blue sky.

With the landscape in place, it was time to concentrate on the figures. They would largely be silhouetted against the bright light and I therefore used a rather dark brown to establish their postures and burdens.

I had a look inside my stay-wet palette, which was still wet more than a week after I created it. There were a number of colours I could use, but I would also need to add a few more. In the same way, God can use our pasts, with a few of His own additions to create beautiful pictures in our own lives as well as those of others.

I painted the clothes on the figures. Again I was reminded of the Bible passage which said that we gave Him our old tattered garments and He gave us a robe of pure white.

The next step was to paint the feet and the burdens. These were done in one step, because I wanted to paint the burdens in a very dark colour (as the feet were as well). The burdens were ominous negative things, not to be confused with gifts in bright colours.

I had to paint the minute details of faces and hands and for this I used the various interpretations of skin tone on the market. None of these are good representations of skin tones, but when the skin is such small blotches, they will work quite well.

In the last step, I used wood glue to attach the cross to the painting.

This is the story of Easter. My prayer for you is that you will get to know Christ as the Saviour He is, loving, kind and merciful. Today is a good day to decide that the rest of your life belongs to Christ. Do not delay or put it off any longer. He will welcome you, just as you are.

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