Mandarin Orange – Watercolor

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I finished my mandarin orange for 2021. This was a very challenging painting. More practice in brush techniques, rough and shiny surfaces, and light and shadow were all part of the process.

I learned many lessons, but I think the one that will stick with me the most has to do with reference photos. The reference photo for this painting made the inside of the peel look deep orange. So painting true to the reference made the orange look alien! (We’ve never seen a mandarin orange with a dark inside to the peel.) Lots of adjustments, changing the format, scrubbing with plain water, and the artist’s stubborn streak saved this orange from a hiding place far, far away from view.

Likewise, if the reference image we have for our life is faulty, we will not turn out as we were intended to be. We are made in His image and intended for His pleasure. But if we don’t see Him clearly, we won’t get to know Him well. Then He cannot help us, heal us, discipline us, and grow us into His image. He will help us fulfill His purpose for us, if we allow Him to make some adjustments, change some things, and scrub us with His water. He won’t give up on us and hide us away from view. (Oh, possibly for a while to make the major changes, but not for too long.) He wants us to be like a light on a hill that shows others the way to Him.

Mandarin Orange – Graphite

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Happy Chinese New Year! I’ve wanted to paint a mandarin orange for CNY this year. Wow, they are complicated! So, I’m starting to prepare to paint by doing a graphite study first. Although it’s not orange yet, it is a mouth watering mandarin!

I really don’t like to deal with the skins of navel oranges, which was the only kind of orange available when I was growing up. I was delighted to find these easy to peel, sweet, juicy oranges. I have loved this custom of sharing mandarin oranges for Chinese New Year all the years I’ve lived in Malaysia.

In Cantonese, the words meaning the custom of giving mandarin oranges is called, ‘giving gold’. Giving these oranges is a symbol of our desire to bless the recipient with prosperity and all good things.

So this Chinese New Year, I pray that our loving Heavenly Father will bless you with good health, wisdom, and all you need to meet your needs and enough to share with others!

Bird of Paradise

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The Bird of Paradise Flower

Imagine my surprise the first time I saw the Bird of Paradise flower. My foster family in Colombia, South America, gave me a bouquet of these while I was an exchange student. I loved their shape and vibrant colors. Now in Malaysia, I see them planted in hedge rows! They are very common, though they look so exotic.

At this time, most of us in Malaysia have to stay home most of the time and elsewhere the weather is mostly shades of grey. I have delighted in painting these gorgeous flowers to remind us there is still beautiful color around us and there’s plenty to cheer our hearts.

Why not look today for bright and beautiful things to focus on and share a spark of life with someone who feels down?

Why We Do What We Do?

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Do you ever wonder why we do what we do? All around us we see the poisoned fruits that grow from diseased decisions. People hurt; lives ruined; abounding disillusionment. Yet we, who choose to follow the Bible’s ways, may be seen as beings from another world. (In truth, we are!) Yet even in the face of criticism, incredulity, and sometimes animosity, we continue doing what we know is right.

I like the British command for horses to get moving. They simply say, “Walk On.” Somehow that seems so appropriate. Not, “Giddy up!”, but “Walk on!”

The following words were found in Robert Griffin III’s locker when he left Redskins Park. He was a star footballer whose career ended due to a string of injuries. He was known as a strong Christian, but he was tested by the collapse of his dreams. These words are also attributed to Mother Teresa.

“People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends, and some genuine enemies.
If you are honest and sincere, people may deceive you.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.
In the final analysis, it’s between you and God.

I was thinking . . .

What do we do anyway, caring only for God’s approval?

Why do we give our time, our strength, our money?

Why do we do battle with our fears, be they many or few? Some fears are constant battles; some are short, tough skirmishes. But we face them and go on. Anyway.

There are hundreds more, “Why do we . . .?” questions we could ask.

But our answers come down to this:

Our deepest desire is to love, honor, and serve our Father.

Our lives are not lived to do as we please. Our hope and goal is that our lives will lead many more to follow God and His plans for their lives.

The world will not understand us. Even some of our friends and relatives cannot understand our passion. Some, misunderstanding our passion, get quite angry at our choices. And, wherever we are in this increasingly hostile world, trouble or persecution can break out at any moment.

But at the end of the day, at the end of this life, we want to hear, “Well, done good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your master.” We do it for Jesus.

As Paul said, “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” — Galatians 6: 9

Don Harris and Marty Nystrom wrote a great song about that. Here are the words.

Don’t grow weary in doing well,
Don’t surrender in the fight;
Keep on storming the gates of hell,
Keep on doing what you know is right.

For there will be seasons of testing
And there maybe weeping for a night,
But soon we’ll be reaping the blessing
If we keep pressing on towards the prize.

Keep on praying in the Spirit,
Keep on walking in the light;
Don’t be fearful or discouraged,
Keep on doing what you know is right.

Orange Inside and Out

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Orange Inside and Out

I wanted to learn techniques I could use to paint a Chinese New Year orange. This is just an average orange. Chinese New Year oranges are Mandarin oranges. There are other techniques I’ll have to learn to paint one of them. But this was great practice in the rough skin and the juicy sections.

That pitted skin is thick and really protects the inside. If you drop an orange, you probably won’t be able to see any damage done to the inside. If you drop an apple with its smooth skin, you will definitely see the damage to the fruit of the apple.

This made me think about what kind of a skin do I have. Am I thin-skinned and easily bruised by any little bump I receive? Or am I more like the orange that can take pretty serious bumps without being bruised inside?

I used to be thin-skinned. Although I didn’t show my bruises as much as some apples, I was hurt inside. I thought because no one else could see the bruises, I was OK. Eventually, I needed help. God sent me help in the form of my mom and dad and their prayers for me. When the bruise was exposed, God was able to do His healing work in me.

I think over the years I’m more like the orange now. I get bruised from time to time, but don’t usually have much internal damage from the hurt. I allow God to work in my heart much sooner and the center of my life is not much damaged by the bruise. I realize the analogy doesn’t work completely, but maybe it will give you some insight into how you deal with hurts.

If you are hurting from some ‘bruise’ you have received, why not tell God and allow Him to begin giving you the help you need to not allow that hurt to damage the center of your life?

Psalm 139:23-24 – “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”