Thursday, February 26, 2009


This composite began with a photo of a window! In my mind’s eye, I began to picture a place that was a shelter from the harsh winter. It is a surreal place. To me, "surreal" is exactly what the word itself implies "above real". Surrealism is a way for me to express spiritual and psychological things artistically . So this place is more than just a physical shelter, it is a place of warmth, safety and provision for the person who trusts in God. It is a "place" found only in the Kingdom of God: it is under His dominion and therefore receives all His benefits.

"Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?
Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?

So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.
But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." Matthew 6:33

Scriptures show a picture of the Lord Himself being the shelter for His people:

"For You have been a shelter for me, A strong tower from the enemy." Psalm 61:3

"I will abide in Your tabernacle forever; I will trust in the shelter of Your wings. Selah" Psalm 61:4

"And there will be a tabernacle for shade in the daytime from the heat, for a place of refuge, and for a shelter from storm and rain." Isaiah 4:6

"For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; In the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock." Psalms 91: 1-2

"He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. . .Because you have made the LORD, who is my refuge, Even the Most High, your dwelling place. No evil shall befall you, Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; for He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you in all your ways."
Psalm 91: 8-11

Staying in the shelter means being obedient:

"Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones. Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine." Proverbs 3: 3-10

Whenever I put a woman, princess or bride in a picture, it represents the "Bride of Christ". This is one Biblical representation of the Church, and because it is the last hour, the Bride should be busy "making herself ready". The model I chose for this picture had the look I wanted, but I was concerned about her pose for some time, and did attempt to change it. But after a while, the Spirit got through to me that this was just right.
Why is she looking in a mirror? Doesn’t this seem vain? While there’s much to be said about the Bride making herself ready, let’s just stick to what is expressed in the picture, and I’ll eventually get to the significance of the mirror.

In a prophetic picture of the Bride in Revelation, she is seen completely ready for her Lord:
"Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready. And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints." Revelation 19:7-8

In this artwork, the Bride is still getting used to trusting the Lord to keep her safe from the current conditions in the world, here represented as the dead of winter. She is still focusing somewhat on herself and her identity, not too concerned with anything outside her home. In her place of trust, she is safe, provided for and even full of joy.

My rooms also represent the inner being, here, that of the Bride in a state of "dwelling in the Lord". There are varying symbols of her bounty in the room: she’s warm, and she even has a different attitude than the world outside, full of life and the fragrance of the Lord (represented by the vines and the roses). Out there amid the snowy trees (knowledge) is an owl, which blends in with them (subtle): it is the wisdom of the world that has been shut out. She has light, however, and the three candles represent the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There is a jug for wine (Spirit) and a jug for water (Word).
There are apples in the shelter, which represent a fruitful life, a rich harvest, health, and desire– as Solomon put it: "Sustain me with cakes of raisins, Refresh me with apples, For I am lovesick." Songs 2:5. This lovesickness is a recurring theme in my pictures of the Bride, for she longs to be united with her Beloved. She still rejoices in Him though, being reminded of His will by the Spirit (the dove) who dwells with her and gives her peace.
She praises Him with music, represented by the violin. Because it’s a difficult instrument to play, she has to put in lots of practice! And she’s got loads of books! This is a little of my own preference here, for if I was to be "holed up", I’d want lots to read. But it stands for the Word of God, and how she’s getting instruction in His wisdom so she can rule and reign with Him.

I do occasionally use personal symbols (as occur in our dreams and we automatically know what they mean), and I sometimes use cultural symbols when they are generally known. The bluebird often signifies "happiness", and I use it to mean a true joy of heart and contentment. And to me, a hummingbird represents a passionate pursuit of God’s presence. The fuzzy cat is there to let us feel the comfort, and as a companion, for the Lord never leaves us or forsakes us, and He is the comforter.

There is also the element of waiting and preparedness, as shown in the Song of Solomon:

"A garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse, A spring shut up, A fountain sealed. A fountain of gardens, A well of living waters, And streams from Lebanon. [The Shulamite] Awake, O north wind And come, O south! Blow upon my garden, That its spices may flow out. Let my beloved come to his garden And eat its pleasant fruits." Songs 4: 12, 15-16

Part of the preparation is self-examination, thus the mirror. This doesn't mean we are to be sin-conscious or legalistic, just honest and open to the Holy Spirit's conviction. Most of the time we know what we are doing wrong, but often we ignore it, going into a state of denial:

"Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?--unless indeed you are disqualified." II Corinthians 13:5

"But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another." Galatians 6:4

But it’s not just self-examination that does the job, the Lord Himself examines us and purifies that which is faulty:
"Examine me, O LORD, and prove me; Try my mind and my heart." Psalm 26:2

Faithfulness to the Word and responsiveness to the Holy Spirit are absolutely essential to the preparation of the Bride:

"But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does." James 1:22-25

In this, she participates in the preparation of the work of her Beloved:

". . .that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish." Ephesians 5: 26-27

As the Bride hears His voice and obeys Him, she sees Him more and more clearly, and eventually will know Him as completely as He knows her:

"For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known." I Corinthians 13:12

"But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord..." II Corinthians 3:18

"Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is." I John 3:2

The Lord Jesus is drawing all His children closer to Him, preparing them with wisdom, knowledge and understanding so that we may live victoriously in this present age as shining witnesses for His glory. His desire is that we partake of all that He bought for us on the cross. He is our risen, compassionate High Priest in heaven, interceding for us at all times.
Jesus is our Beloved who desires a deeper relationship with each of us. He is revealing more of Himself in these times, if we would take the time to look. His purpose is to draw all believers into the unity of the faith and Spirit, so that together we can reach our highest destiny: to rule and reign with Him forever.

". . . the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints," Ephesians 1:8

"To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." Colossians 1:27


All the images used to make this digital "collage" painting are from (except for the bright pink roses). The list of credits and links can be found on my Flickr photostream, along with a larger view of this artwork:

"Shelter" is a photocomposite artwork by Karen Gladys Henry ©2009. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Mountain Top

As I pondered this piece, after I had finished it, I wondered to myself, "This doesn’t seem like a mountaintop experience to me! It’s too dark. What gives?" Did you have this reaction to it too?

I didn’t plan this artwork, as is usually the case. I began with a feeling, a need to express something for which I had no words or thoughts. Although the image is somewhat complex, with the layering, it is a simple expression. It is a picture of what it feels like to me, at times, to be in the valley, sharing the pain or burdens of others whose darkness or distress has overtaken them.(1-- this is the best I could do for footnotes, Scripture verses listed at bottom) It is the stark reality that although the light and peace of the Lord are always available, people don’t always live there. It is an expression of a desire for more of Him and the heavenly reality, remembering times of greater revelation, greater intimacy and greater glory, and a desire to rise above circumstances and reach a higher level of spiritual experience and power.

The female figure stands tall, though she appears lonely. She is located in two places at once– in the valley and on the top of a mountain. She has quite a vista– one of a sunset, and the other, the view from the mountaintop (2), and of the lion. So far in my pictures, the lion figure represents Jesus, the Lion of Judah (Judah = "praise" in Hebrew), who is the King. She is not afraid, as she knows this Lion, and He knows her. He is reclining, which indicates to me to "enter into His rest". His face is turning towards the viewer, which speaks to me of His interest and attention towards her. He is the focus of the picture. His presence is available to us if we accept the mountaintop as Reality, and approach Him, even in the midst of the darkness of the valley.(3) We may not necessarily see Him in all His glory, but we can interact with Him, receive what we need from Him, and lay our burdens at His feet. "Jesus loves me" is not a Sunday school platitude, it is Truth. The feeling here is not that this truth has been lost, but that a greater experience of it is desired and sought.

The Holy Spirit constantly works to prepare us for greater closeness and deeper relationship with Christ. He spoke to me more about this piece as I meditated on my desire and need for more of Jesus in my weariness and in the place of seeing the darkness around me and feeling others’ pain. Prayer is where the mountaintop mingles with the valley, and our praise is where we connect with Him, in thanksgiving and worship. And His word is the food He feeds us to strengthen us on our journey. I need Him so much. I need more of Him to impart to others. I must keep my lamp filled with oil to shine the light in the darkness. I must carry the mountain with me in my heart.(4)

There is a dark frame in the picture, only a piece of one, and it speaks to me not letting the darkness dictate to me what I see. I must see the big picture, the true picture, and not let the darkness and evil of the world be my frame of reference, to box in my viewpoint. I must see with the eyes of the spirit, with eyes enlightened by hope and truth.(5) I must hold firm to the promises of God.(6)

The swallow speaks to me to "not swallow" the lies of the enemies of my soul: the world, the flesh and the devil. It also gives me a picture of soaring freely above, in the atmosphere of heaven. I must make my own atmosphere in the midst of trouble. A swallow is not a raptor, it is a bird that pursues and eats flying insects, especially mosquitoes. This speaks to me of the ability to "eat" the things that "bug" or harass people and the things that bite and spread disease, by opening our mouths and speaking the word of truth in the appropriate moment and manner. This reminds me of Jesus saying "I have meat that you know not of" as He ministered to the woman at the well.(7)

The woman is standing in ankle deep water, which indicates to me the need to press on to the deeper things of God, rather than to stand passively in shallow water. This water is the river of God, which flows from the throne of His presence (from the mountaintop). The scripture in Ezekiel, one of my favorites in the Old Testament, gives us a good word picture of this.(8)

So, I believe this artwork is a visual to help locate us in our life and pursuit of God, and to warn us and encourage us. As Christians, we cannot constantly live in a "mountaintop experience" as we tend to think of it, we must love God’s creation and people as much as He does, and go down into the valley, moved with compassion, taking the Light of Life with us.
But we must keep going deeper and higher in our relationship with Jesus, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. If we do not, we will be swallowed up by darkness, and our light and effectiveness will be gone. Kingdom living partly entails moving mountains: casting the prideful mountains into the sea, and doing our part in bringing the mountain of His Kingdom down to the earth as He rules and reigns in our lives.(9)

Epilogue: I’m continually amazed at what the Lord communicates to me as I seek to interpret the art He inspires me to do. I hope this helps you receive what He was saying to me, and to the Church, His beloved people, who are to be His Bride.
(1) "Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." Galatians 6:1

(2) Since I took the photo, I know that it was early morning on the mountain. The sun is setting on the kingdom of darkness, but it is rising on the Kingdom of God.
(3) "I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Matthew 28:20
(4) "For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you." Luke 17:21

(5) "the eyes of your understanding* being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints" Ephesians 1:18

(6) "For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us." II Corinthians 1:20

(7) But He said to them, "I have food to eat of which you do not know." Therefore the disciples said to one another, "Has anyone brought Him anything to eat?" Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work. "Do you not say, 'There are still four months and then comes the harvest'? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! John 4: 32-35

(8) "Then he brought me back to the door of the temple; and there was water, flowing from under the threshold of the temple toward the east, for the front of the temple faced east; the water was flowing from under the right side of the temple, south of the altar. He brought me out by way of the north gate, and led me around on the outside to the outer gateway that faces east; and there was water, running out on the right side. Again he measured one thousand and brought me through the waters; the water came up to my knees. Again he measured one thousand and brought me through; the water came up to my waist. Again he measured one thousand, and it was a river that I could not cross; for the water was too deep, water in which one must swim, a river that could not be crossed. He said to me, "Son of man, have you seen this?" Then he brought me and returned me to the bank of the river. When I returned, there, along the bank of the river, were very many trees on one side and the other. Then he said to me: "This water flows toward the eastern region, goes down into the valley, and enters the sea. When it reaches the sea, its waters are healed. And it shall be that every living thing that moves, wherever the rivers go, will live. There will be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters go there; for they will be healed, and everything will live wherever the river goes."
Ezekiel 47: 1-9
(9) "Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed together, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; the wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found. And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth." Daniel 2:35

All Scripture quoted from the New King James Version

Photo art by Karen Gladys Henry, copyright 2008. All Rights Reserved. Credits for licensed images are on Flickr, link in the title of this blog.