Easter Emotions– from despair to confusion to joy

How often does it happen that we think God isn’t doing anything, or at least not what we want him to do, then find out that he’s actually doing something amazing that we just weren’t seeing? Jesus’ resurrection is the greatest example of that, as the women who went to his tomb and his other disciples experienced a full range of emotions from despair to confusion to joy. Let’s walk with them this week as we ponder their experience that first Easter morning.

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” Then they remembered his words.

When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened. Luke 24:1-12

Monday: The women, desiring to give Jesus a proper burial, prepared spices to anoint his dead body. Put yourself in their place and imagine how deep their grief and despair must have been, ever since his death on the cross.

Tuesday: Jesus wasn’t there! Imagine the women’s confusion and upset when it seemed even his body was gone. Ponder the fact that, like the women, we can misinterpret what we see, and God may actually be working in marvelous ways that we can’t yet comprehend.

Wednesday: When the angels told the women what had happened, they remembered Jesus’ words and believed. Ask God to help you be open to the truth, no matter how inexplicable it may seem and how frightening or disturbing the message might be.

Thursday: Imagine how overwhelmed and excited the women must have been and eager to share the good news. Ask God to so fill you with faith and resurrection joy that you are bursting to share this good news with others.

Friday: The disciples didn’t believe at first, because they considered the women’s words nonsense. Do you ever dismiss a message or evidence without even evaluating it, because you don’t consider the messenger reliable? Pray for the humble attitude needed to receive truth openly.

Saturday: Peter, who had recently denied Jesus while depending on his own strength, was now open to learning. Allow your doubts, questions, and even failings to motivate you to seek truth and to ponder the evidence for Christ deeply.

How beautiful on the mountains
are the feet of those who bring good news,
who proclaim peace,
who bring good tidings,
who proclaim salvation,
who say to Zion,
 “Your God reigns!” Isaiah 52:7

this week between Palm Sunday and Easter, we remember Jesus’ suffering
for us, from the time he entered Jerusalem, through his crucifixion and
burial. As we walk through this week, we’ll look at prophetic verses
from Isaiah, written nearly 700 years before the crucifixion, as well as
some of Jesus’ words recorded in the gospels. Let’s ponder these
passages deeply, thinking about how they speak to us and our faith or
lack of faith, and allow them to fill us with gratitude for all that
Jesus has done for us.

As [Jesus] approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and
said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you
peace– but now it is hidden from your eyes.” Luke 19:41-42

What in my life robs me of the peace Jesus offers and causes him to weep over me? Ask God to reveal what is hidden from your eyes that is keeping you from experiencing his peace.

Who believes what we’ve heard and seen?
   Who would have thought God’s saving power would look like this? Isaiah 53:1
Do you believe the gospel message? It’s different than anything the world has to offer, and that is good news!
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
   a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
   he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Isaiah 53:3
Jesus was despised, rejected, and humiliated, even by those whom he loved and for whom he suffered. Come to him with your own hurts, shames, and ways you’ve been rejected, knowing he has suffered in these ways for you.

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love
has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.  John

Imagine a friend who loves you so much that he or she would choose to die in your place so you could live. Jesus did that! Ponder his amazing love today, and pray that you would grow in your ability and willingness to sacrificially love others.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
   he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
   and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
   each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
   the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53:5-6
Jesus took all the punishment for our sins– pierced, crushed, punished– for each of us, even though he had no sin. Sit in silence a while, meditating on what great love it took to do that for us, for you. How will you respond to such love?

And [Jesus] said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be
rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he
must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” Luke 9:22

Jesus told his disciples that he would be killed and then would be raised to life on the third day. He did indeed rise, and tomorrow we celebrate that resurrection. Today let’s ponder all that led up to his resurrection, so that tomorrow we can celebrate with true joy.


My yard, still patchy with snow, is bright with snowdrops blooming in abundant clusters. It’s too cold and windy to paint outside, so I cut a few blossoms and brought them into my studio, where I’ve been playing with different colors and styles to capture these intrepid heralds of approaching spring.

Snowdrops rise from cold earth
standing firm against late winter’s bluster,
prophetic blossoms heralding hope

Weekly Prayer Guide: Denying Oneself

I’ve decided to start putting the weekly prayer guide that I write on my blog. This one is a bit late for this week, but I figured I’d post it anyway, and after this will post them at the beginning of the week, for those who like to use them in their prayers each day.
he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever
wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and
follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but
whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What
good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?
Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed
of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of
Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with
the holy angels.” Mark 8:34-38
Jesus calls us to deny ourselves so that he, rather than our own self
or desires, is at the center of our life. Beyond denying ourselves some
pleasure, this means yielding control of our life. Let’s meditate on this
Taking up our cross means following Jesus no matter what suffering or
death that might involve. Are we doing that every day?
In what ways are we tempted to try to save some aspect of our life at
the expense of living fully for Christ and the gospel? Let’s ask Jesus to
strengthen us to live more fully for him.
Ponder the value of eternal life in Christ as compared to what the
world has to offer. Ask God to increase your longing for him.
Friday: There is no way we could have bought or earned eternal life. Thank God for the incomparable gift of life for your soul.
Saturday: Pray for sufficient faith and courage to stand firm when you’re tempted to deny Christ in any way.

Painting with My Mother and Sister

On Saturday my mother, Patricia Thompson, and my sister, Jennifer Thompson, came to visit for the day. We had lunch, then watched a Tony Van Hasselt DVD (“Watercolor Fun in Nature’s Studio”), then we spent the rest of the day painting. Even though the DVD was about painting outside, we elected to paint inside my warm studio, because it was 33 degrees and snowing. We had a wonderful and inspiring day together! I am so thankful for our shared interest in art and the good time we can have together.

We painted from a photo I had taken of a carriage house in Millbrook, NY. I’ve driven by this stone building with a tile roof many times and every time have thought that it looks like a painting waiting to happen.

Jennifer painting
My mother painting

left to right, my mother’s, mine, Jennifer’s

My painting wasn’t finished yet, and I believe Jennifer has also added to hers since this photo was taken.

You can see Jennifer’s blog at http://jenniferashethompson.blogspot.com/. 

“A Yankee and a Liberal”

It’s taken me a while to get around to posting about my trip home, because I came home with the flu and am only now really getting back on my feet. I think I can thank the state of Georgia for the flu.

Here’s some writing I did about my drive through Georgia– not my favorite part of my trip:

A Yankee and a Liberal 

“And this one,” the man’s dark eyes radiated anger as he jerked his thumb toward me, “this one’s a Yankee and a Liberal.” 
I’ve never quite known the definition of “redneck,” but I knew this man for one, and I knew he wasn’t safe. I glanced about the rural filling station convenience store, as the man chanted something about the Mason-Dixon Line. A woman behind the counter, another woman at the front of the line, then two lean, grizzled men, one middle-aged, one older. I quickly ducked behind them on line, keeping my eyes lowered and my mouth shut. I felt a bit less exposed and vulnerable behind the two men, but I didn’t want to incite the man anymore than my presence already had. I knew he was trying to rouse the group against me, but my brief glance had assured me he wasn’t winning any friends in this place. 
How had he known I‘m from up north? I was in a friend’s car with Florida plates, and I had known better than to open my mouth and let my accent betray me. I think that mystery was part of what kept me anxious and on guard during my drive through Georgia a few days later. 
I was driving home from Florida, alone except for Rowan, who was sleeping peacefully on the floor in front of the passenger seat, securely buckled in his canine seatbelt. He wouldn’t be able to reach me to help if anyone hassled me. My plan was to stop and sketch or paint anytime a pretty view captured my attention, and there were plenty of pretty views in Georgia. Most of all, I loved the nearly ubiquitous pecan orchards with their majestic trees rising tall and dark in their winter starkness. They would look great sketched in sepia ink on an off-white paper. 
I longed to stop beside the road and sketch, but something in me kept telling me to keep going, that it wouldn’t be wise to be seen stopped beside the road in my car with New York plates. Several times I pulled off the main road to find a quieter place to sketch, but each time I decided to keep going and content myself with sketching in my mind. One such back road crossed over a creek, and I almost missed the sign with the name of the creek. I turned around to go back and read it—“Murder Creek.” I kept going. 
When I finally crossed into South Carolina and then North Carolina, the dark feeling lifted, and I freely and frequently stopped to sketch or stretch my legs. I’m not sure what it was about Georgia, but I don’t intend to plan any painting trips there anytime soon. I’m happy to be back home in the north now; I’d rather be a “Yankee and a Liberal” than a hotheaded redneck any day.

After a morning in Asheville, NC browsing galleries (Fun!), I meandered along the Blue Ridge Parkway and other roads toward Boone, where I’ve been wanting to go for years to visit Cheap Joe’s, my favorite art store. After leaving Boone, I continued north, pulling off to sketch when I saw pretty views. And finally this Yankee is back where she belongs, north of the Mason-Dixon line.

North Cove View from Blue Ridge Parkway
Table Rock View from Blue Ridge Parkway

Boone, NC, where Cheap Joe’s is located!
Draper, VA exit off I 81
Buchanan, VA exit off I 81

Everglades 2013

After my visit to the Florida Everglades two years ago, my friend Shirley and I began dreaming about going there together someday, since she lives only a few hours from the Everglades and we both love nature, birds, and wildlife. This week “someday” came, and we drove to the delightful little town of Everglades City to spend two days exploring and birding and enjoying the awesome sights and sounds of marshes, swamps, and islands. On the way down to the Everglades we saw a Crested Caracara eating carrion beside the road– a first for both of us and a great start to our adventure!

The first evening we went to a small boardwalk and watched Anhingas settling in the treetops for the night. This was the first time I noticed the light purple feathers that are longer and fluffier on the back of the males’ head and neck. (click on photos to see them larger)

After watching the Anhingas, we drove along a rather bumpy 17 mile road (the same road on which I had seen a panther two years ago). We didn’t see a panther, but we did see an owl in stark silhouette against the setting sun. As we sat in the car and watched, the owl moved closer and closer, always perching in the crooks of dead trees. At one point on the drive we turned off the car, opened the windows, and sat in silence, listening to the night sounds and watching fireflies, with not a light in sight and no sounds of traffic or people. The night was brimming with life, and we sat in silence allowing it to quiet and fill our souls .

The next morning we took the Thousand Islands National Park Boat Tour- a wonderful time of fresh air, birds, and mangrove islands.


Anhinga with a big fish
After our boat tour, we had lunch at the Havanna Cafe on Chokoloskee Island.

The view from our table
Painting the bougainvillea and palms

After lunch we cooled off in the air-conditioning of our rooms for a while, since Rowan and we were all getting overheated. Poor Rowan wears a thick fur coat wherever he goes, and right now is dressed for winter in New York, not mid-80’s in Florida.

When the sun was a bit lower we headed back out to the Big Cyprus Bend Boardwalk, which wends its way over half a mile through swampland.

Straight up a taaalll tree trunk
Barred Owl beside the boardwalk
Strangler Fig- starts life as an epiphyte, then grows downward and grows roots
Royal Palm

Mama or Papa Bald Eagle flapping on their HUGE nest
Great White Egret at the end of the boardwalk

 One of the birds we really wanted to see was the Roseate Spoonbill, and we’d heard that some had been seen at the Marsh Trail, so we headed there after our swamp walk. The Marsh Trail is open during daylight hours, and by stretching the definition of “daylight,” we got to see and hear the marsh in the fading light at the close of the day. We didn’t see any Roseate Spoonbills, but we saw and heard quite a few Black-crowned Night Herons. We also saw hundreds of White Ibis perched in a row of mangroves, but there wasn’t enough light to get a photo of them.

The next morning we headed back to the Marsh Trail before turning homeward, and we both saw our first Mottled Duck! We also saw several Roseate Spoonbills flying over and one posing nicely near the pathway.

 Blue-winged Teal and Mottled Duck

Roseate Spoonbill

On our way back to the car, we heard a White-eyed Vireo– another first for both of us! He was very hard to find in the shrubbery, but I finally saw him and got a photo.

White-eyed Vireo

Two wonderful days of birding, exploring, and shared wonder at a beautiful piece of God’s creation.