The Hour I First Believed



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Artist's Notes

Amazing Grace… I’m walking down a familiar hallway for what I know will be one of the last times. I’ve come to visit my sweet, 94 year old granddaddy. He greets me with a warm, toothless smile. He’s frail, but strong in spirit. He’s been longing for heaven for some time now, even telling us that he sees the gates and angels that await him. “Let’s sing,” he says. I ask what he wants to sing, and he chooses “Amazing Grace,” his favorite. Together, we sing the words that he truly believes. He has experienced so much of God’s grace in his 94 years, and though he mixes up some of the words now, we had a moment together that day that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. We had only two more visits after that.

'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved. How precious did that grace appear, the hour I first believed.” Seven years later, as I sang these words in worship, and as always, I remembered my granddaddy. But this time, I also saw what I knew will be my next painting, as clearly in my mind as if it was already completed.

A man, tattooed and masculine, is shackled, but Christ is releasing his chains. It is the moment of his salvation… the hour he first believed.

As with most of my “God paintings,” I knew that to not paint it would be disobedience. However, I wanted to use a model who had truly experienced God’s transforming grace so I started looking. I called the Nashville Rescue Mission that has a rehabilitation program for breaking addictions, and they directed me to a young man named Chris.

Read Chris’s Story

The Hour I First Believed is a painting that depicts freedom. It is a freedom that every person who accepts Christ experiences, though one person may feel the weight of their former life more than another. Romans 3:23-24 teaches us that “…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.How precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed.

Painting With Purpose

My hope is that this painting will be used in people’s lives who see it. How God uses my paintings is always a wonderful mystery to me, but I can’t wait to see what He’ll do with this one! Please feel free to comment and share this with the people in your life. Churches and ministries may use it after asking permission in their services or printed material.

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Mine For a Moment



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Artist's Notes

In the fall of 2008, while I was planning my wedding, a strong, courageous friend of mine was fighting for his life.

At age 34, Daniel Smith was vibrant, healthy, and full of promise. He was finishing medical school and running more marathons than I could count. He seemed to have his whole life ahead of him. On October 22, Daniel lost his 6-month long battle against squamous cell oral cancer.

I heard the news after coming back from my honeymoon. I know I cannot adequately describe how this news affected me, but I will try:

I experienced deep sadness, sympathy for his family and the painful sting of loss, all of which is to be expected. What I did not expect was to be confronted with the fear that Nate could be taken from me in a similar way.

Life was now fragile and unpredictable....fleeting. Of course, it always has been, but now I had this new person in my life that I wanted to hold on to so tightly.

For days, I considered the possibility of losing Nate. How would I be able to go on without this amazing man in my life? But this couldn’t really happen, could it? After all, God had given him to me; wasn’t that a guarantee that my next 50 years would be wonderful?

As naïve as that sounds, it really is how I felt. The evening I heard about Daniel's passing, I was struggling to balance loving fiercely with a willingness to let go. Then something happened that I can only attribute to God’s leading.

I saw my next painting in my mind, as clearly as you are seeing it now on your screen. It was an image of a girl playing in the field with her father. He had just let go of her hand, and she was running away, but smiling back at him. I knew I was supposed to get it on canvas.

Mine For a Moment is my answer to the struggle. It’s my reminder that we must not love less in order to avoid the pain of potential loss. The people in our lives, our children, spouses, friends and family members, are here with us now, and "now" is really all we can hold on to.

Nate is “mine for a moment,” and in this moment I will love him completely, knowing that his life is not in my hands, but in the hands of his Creator, who has seen each of his days before even one of them began.

I hope you will share this painting with someone who may need to see it. It is dedicated to Daniel Smith and to little Sadie Isabella Stout, whose life ended just 9 days after it began. My heart goes out to the families and friends of those whose moments here on earth seemed too few.

Mine For a Moment has its own website: MineForAMoment.com. There, you can request a print, donate to our cause, or share your story of loss.

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Unblemished



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Artist's Notes

Occasionally, I get a vision of a painting idea that won’t leave until I’ve painted it. The colors, composition, and other details are as clear in my mind as if I were already looking at them on canvas.

“Unblemished” is the result of one such vision. I was reading in 1 Peter, and I found this passage:

“For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. God chose him as your ransom long before the world began, but he has now revealed him to you in these last days.”

I got a picture in my mind of God as an old shepherd, embracing a perfect lamb, loving him, but knowing it was time to give him up. That lamb represents Christ. God allowed Jesus to come to earth and die because he loved US so much. In this way, many people who view this painting see themselves as the lamb, in the loving embrace of their Father.

It was two years between the time I envisioned this painting and when it finally came to be. The circumstances are incredible, and I hope you’ll take time to continue reading.

The search for a lamb:

After trying for months without success to find a nearby farm that raised sheep, a woman approached me at an art show one day and asked if I could re-design her business card. Her livelihood? Raising sheep! I kept it and started looking for a model.

The search for an elderly man:

He had to match my vision. A friend invited me to lunch one afternoon in November, but I accidentally came to the wrong location. Before I left, however, I saw a perfect, bearded man with a kind face. His name was Paul Shoun. I approached him and found out that he was growing his beard out for his annual Santa gig at the mall. He was a Christian, and loved the idea of the painting. He agreed to let his beard grow until spring rather than trimming it January 1st like he usually does. However, on January 5th, he called and said his wife really wanted him to cut it. “How long before the lambs are born?” he asked.

A hopeful phone call:

I immediately called the sheep tender, and asked her when she expected new lambs. She said, “You’re not going to believe this, but a little white, male lamb was born completely out of season on Christmas Eve! You can come tomorrow and photograph him when we bring all of the animals in. He’s growing really fast.”

Lining up a photographer:

Elated at the latest developments, I still had another detail to nail down. I couldn’t use just any photographer. It had to be Riley Spiller, who has done the majority of my photo shoots from Day 1. However, he lives in Missouri (and I in Tennessee), so this would be tricky. I called him, ready to offer him as much money as necessary to make the trip in the morning. He answered and said, “You’re not going to believe this, but I just came into Nashville to see some friends. I’ll be there!”

The day of the shoot:

It was obvious that this was coming together much faster and more amazingly than I could have ever hoped. Paul asked me what I wanted him to do with the lamb. I said, “Just love him.” I have never been around lambs, and I was a little concerned that he would try to get out of Paul’s arms the whole time. However, he was still and at peace, letting out a little “baaa” every now and then to his mother in the nearby stable. We took over 200 photos that day, and when I came home to look at them all, I realized that there was a cross in the background. None of us had noticed it during the shoot.

It’s clear to me that this painting was meant to be.

While I painted “Unblemished,” I do not feel that it is mine. In fact, it is the only painting I can't remember a single stroke I made with my brush. I hope you will enjoy its message, and feel loved.

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Redeemed



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Artist's Notes

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name; you are Mine.” Isaiah 43:1

This woman in this painting is in a dark place. She is trapped, and has been trying to get her freedom, but all it has done is made her weary and hopeless. She is tired and dirty, and her beautiful wedding gown is torn. She realizes that she cannot free herself on her own. At that moment, Christ rescues her. He reaches out and lifts her head with his tender touch. She looks up at him and realizes that he is, and has always been her only hope for freedom. She represents the Bride of Christ; the church.

A few years ago, a friend had told me about a short story he was writing about a captive bride and a warrior prince who was fighting to free her. Images of the bride were playing around in my head, when I spoke with my Mother, who told me about some things she had recently learned at a conference about redemption.

Immediately, everything came together, and I knew I needed to depict the images in my heart on canvas. I gathered the models and photographer, and we set the stage for what I hoped would be a powerful depiction of redemption.

It was winter, and the bomb shelter on my friend’s property was icy cold. A small space heater provided a little bit of warmth to us during the two hours that we spent photographing the models. Later, the woman told me that she had been experiencing some distance from God in her personal relationship with Him. She had a lot of questions and was in the process of sorting some things out. The photo shoot was a healing time for her, and having to look into “Christ’s” eyes and trust him for two hours actually reminded her of how much she could actually trust Christ. It was a turning point for her.

Since then, grown adults have wept in front of this painting. Women have poured out their stories of abuse, neglect, and fear to me, and have found solace in Redeemed.

I am honored that God has given me dreams and the ability to depict truths about Him on canvas. It is the highest goal that I can reach for in my journey as an artist.

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Eternal Song



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Artist's Notes

Sometimes an image I see grips me and speaks to my soul.  These images must be painted.

The photos that inspired “Eternal Song” did just that when I first saw them. A friend of mine was in London at a street festival. She saw this amazingly gifted old gentleman playing his violin masterfully, dancing in the street, oblivious to those who were watching him.

The sounds coming from his instrument were captivating, and my friend set out to capture the moment, if only on film.

I liken this old gentleman to God, and his violin to us… his children. He can masterfully play a beautiful melody through us if we will only let him.

A violin in the hands of an untrained amateur does not sound beautiful. “Eternal Song” reminds me that for my life to impact and enrich the lives of those around me, I must make myself at home in the skillful hands of my Creator.

This is my first painting that I consider to be a masterpiece. Years later, it continues to be one that I cherish.

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Maria



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Artist's Notes

Can the purpose of a painting be nothing but to showcase beauty?

This is a question that was raised more times than I can count while I was getting my degree in art. Art for art’s sake was something that strangely enough is looked down on in some circles.

I find beauty in faces. I am compelled to paint that beauty. “Maria” is a painting I completed for beauty’s sake. She has this intense, soulful expression in her eyes, and she captivated me.

Maria lives in South America. Her face reminds me of the little children who met at the Aqua Viva Orphanage in Chimaltenego, Guatemala. The original is displayed in my home, and reminds me that beauty can be cherished by anyone who wishes to embrace it.

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Sacrifice



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Artist's Notes

"Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." Ephesians 5:1-2

I am standing in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, and countless numbers of people are around me. They are talking, crowding, and moving on. Stunning beauty and architectural details that can only be believed if they are seen surround me. For half an hour, however, my eyes and heart are transfixed on a single work of art: Michelangelo’s “Pieta.” I am moved beyond words, and everything else fades into the background. This is a moment I’ve anticipated for years.

I believe with good company that this sculpture is one of the most magnificent ever carved. It is more than figures in marble; it embodies sacrifice and love. Sacrifice was Christ’s death on a cross for our sins. Love is what I see in Mary, holding the body of her son.

I wanted to depict the incredible moment that Michelangelo captured in marble with paint. It hangs in my home, a constant reminder of Christ’s sacrifice.

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Innocence



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Artist's Notes

In 2004, a devastating tsunami destroyed parts of Asia, and killed over 300,000 people. That’s over 100 times the number of people who lost their lives in the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center in New York.

I had the opportunity to go to Banda Aceh, Indonesia two months after the disaster. We were only 50 miles or so from the epicenter of the earthquake that caused the tsunami. Less than half of the 14,000 residents of this area survived. Standing on the beach, everything was leveled for as far as we could see. I found tiny flipflops in the ruins and wept for the lives that were dashed that day. It is hard to describe how we all felt the weeks that we were there. It was heart breaking.

Refugee camps were starting to form farther inland, and part of our team’s job was to bring rice and supplies to the survivors there. Children ran through the camps, seemingly unattended. Through the help of translators, we heard the stories of the survivors. We found that almost every family had lost someone in the flood. Mothers were without their children, and babies without their parents. Orphans were taken in by whomever would care for them. Everyone lived in tents and wore whatever was available to them.

It was at one of these refugee camps that I met the little girl in this painting. She had longing eyes and a sweet face. She stood there, alone, and looked as though she wanted me to take her home. I desperately wanted to. She could not understand what had happened to her family. She did not know that her life would never be the same again. She retained her innocence, and just wanted to be loved.

I came home and painted her. Her face reminds me that her people still need my prayers and that they should be not forgotten.

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Commodity



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Artist's Notes

It was 2001 when I first heard about the sex trade and child trafficking. Basically, the sex trade involves girls and boys as young as 5 years of age. They are kidnapped, purchased from their parents, or lied to in order to bring them into a captive situation. They are often taken across borders and used in the sex tourism industry, where they are isolated, beaten, abused, and prostituted. Many of them are forced to service up to 30 customers a day. What I learned shocked and saddened me, and I set out to see what I could do about it.

An opportunity came for me to go to Thailand and work with girls who had either been rescued from prostitution or were considered at risk (orphaned or homeless in targeted areas). These children were amazing and strong. They had suffered unreal abuse, but had found hope and a reason to smile. They live at the Abba House. I also visited the Red Light District of Bangkok, and saw things that are burned into my memory for a lifetime. They are unspeakable.

I decided to do a painting that would bring awareness to this growing and powerful industry. The result is “Commodity.”

In this painting, we see a young girl who is being prostituted. There is a doorway in the distance, in which a shadowy figure stands in watch. He is the brothel owner, and he has put her on passive display to lure in new customers. A sign on a nearby building reads in Nepali, “Offered for Sale.”

If you would like to help rescue girls and boys who are living with no hope, please support an organization that is fighting for them. Two that I highly recommend are The Abba House Foundation and World Vision.

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Paper Giclée 30x20 250.00
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All Was Not Lost



Artist's Notes

In 2004, a devastating tsunami destroyed parts of Asia, and killed over 300,000 people. That’s about 100 times the number of people who lost their lives in the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City.

I had the opportunity to go to Banda Aceh, Indonesia two months after the disaster. We were only 50 miles or so from the epicenter of the earthquake that caused the tsunami. Less than half of the 14,000 residents of this area survived. Standing on the beach, everything was leveled for as far as we could see. I found tiny flipflops in the ruins and wept for the lives that were dashed that day. It is hard to describe how we all felt the weeks that we were there. It was heart breaking.

Refugee camps were starting to form farther inland, and part of our team’s job was to bring rice and supplies to the survivors there. Children ran through the camps, seemingly unattended. Through the help of translators, we heard the stories of the survivors. Everyone we met had family had lost someone in the flood. Mothers were without their children, and babies without their parents. Orphans were taken in by whomever would care for them. Everyone lived in tents and wore whatever was donated.

It was at one of these refugee camps that I met this man and his son. His wife had also miraculously survived, making this family the only one that I met who was still whole. Everything they owned was swept away in the flood: their home, all of their belongings, food, and memorabilia. They stood outside of their flimsy tent, graciously accepted the rice we brought, and delighted in their son.

This man didn’t care that he had no home. He didn’t care that his family would have to start over with nothing. He didn’t care that he only had two shirts for his son, and he had to switch them out every day. You see, for him, all was not lost. He had his family, and he would trade no amount of security or possessions for them.

I came home and drew this man, and the expression on his face is a reminder to me that the most important things in life are not things at all. I hope that it reminds you as well.

Risen



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Artist's Notes

Occasionally, I get an idea for a painting that I know is not from me - it is inspired and it usually takes hold of me until I complete it. Redeemed, The Hour I First Believed, and Unblemished are two such paintings. Risen is also one.

This painting symbolizes Jesus’ resurrection. The empty cocoon represents the empty tomb, and the butterfly represents Jesus’ risen body, and our resulting freedom from sin. The red and white in the butterfly symbolizes Jesus’ blood and the complete purity that we have now that we have been forgiven. The falling piece of paper claims, “It is finished.” These were some of Jesus’ last words on the cross, and they are so powerful. They express triumph rather than defeat. Because of the truth of these words, we have life.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the very heart of Christianity. In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul reasoned, “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” In the same chapter he says, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins… If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” But then Paul triumphantly declares, “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead!”

On Easter morning some women and apostles went to Jesus’ tomb, expecting to find his body. But the tomb was empty, and the angel at the tomb told them, “He is not here; he has risen!” Later they saw Jesus face to face. I have not seen Jesus’ face, but I know that I will someday. His resurrection means that we all can. I hope that this painting elicits joy and celebration for the amazing work that was done through Christ’s resurrection.

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