Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The day that my life changed...

I've been wanting to share something that has been in my heart for some time now. It's something very personal to me. It is my testimony to how the loving Grace of God has changed my life. Those close to me already know my story of how I became a Christian but I felt in my heart that it was time for me to share it all with you. This is who I am...

My Testimony: Easter Sunday 2005

My Father has been more than patient with me through the years. He has not only had His eyes on me, but He has also blessed me in many ways. It was not until He broke me, that I truly looked to Him and received His gift. He saved me!

This is my story, but my journey has only just begun.

I couldn’t have ever wished for a more caring family to be born into. My upbringing was one that was completely out of love. My Father and Mother were always there for me. They raised me in all the right ways. They helped me up when I was down. They supported me in reaching for my dreams. Most importantly, they loved me unconditionally and always kept God in the center of their marriage. I was blessed with an amazing sister, Katrina. Though she is my younger sister, I have always looked up to her. She married a great man in Ralph and they both have been a wonderful example of what marriage is all about. Their two children, Andrew and Nathan, are a blessing to us all. I also was given a younger brother, Jeffrey. He has a great heart and I love him dearly.

Not only was I blessed with a loving family, but I was also given a gift to paint. This gift developed through the years and has become part of who I am. The blessings and rewards from using this gift are many and continue to overflow.

But the biggest blessing of them all was when Nadine came into my life. A beautiful young woman from Germany entered my life and filled my heart with love. My love for her can not be described in just words. All I can say is that I get lost in her when she is around and I daydream about her when I am alone. I am not complete without her.

So you can see, that I was blessed and these were just a few of the blessings. However, I never looked to the One who had given me all these things. Instead, I became obsessed with myself. I was blind to my own sin. Though, I was a so-called Christian, the word was meaningless. I would say, “I’m a believer. My belief is a more personal belief.” Boy, I was blind. The irony in this is that a “more personal belief” is one who believes in him self. That was me to a T! I was living behind this false front. I was living a lie and my Faith was in question. Everything that I saw was through my own eyes and everything that I thought was with my own sinful mind. In other words, I was successful in my career on my own merits. The blessings and gifts were earned. The love was deserved. The good deeds that I would perform and the gifts that I would give only made me more self-righteous. Everything I did was of MYSELF!

I always thought of myself as a thinker, a dreamer and one who prefers to be in solitude. I lived in my own world and I was my own ruler. In ruling my world, there were times that felt good and there times when I felt guilty. I was high on my pedestal and down hiding behind my pedestal, almost on a daily basis. I would sin and justify my sin. I would overdose on confidence and have spells of depression in my loneliness. I was obsessed with myself inwardly and outwardly I couldn’t see clearly. I couldn’t see over the walls that I had built. I became blind at times to the needs of those close to me. I fought with the ones who loved me. I was critical of those who were around me. I was jaded, angry and lonely. In all this, I would continue to look into myself for the answers and I would continue to walk within my walls and linger in the dark shadows of my castle. I was truly lost in my world, The World of James Browne. I was alone and bound by my own Sin.

Just over a year ago, I was in the middle of illustrating two books. I was coming off my most successful year to date and I was set up for an even greater year in 2004. My ego was through the roof, I was the furthest away from who God was and I was completely and utterly uninspired. My walls were cracking! My pedestal could no longer hold the weight of my boastful self. My body had grown weak from carrying my burdens, and yet my mind was a river of thoughts that continued to flow, racing at times, stained by Sin. My heart was empty. That is when the physical pain set in.

I was diagnosed with a syndrome called Prostatitis, which is a very discomforting and sometimes chronic syndrome. It is often called “The Headache of the Pelvis” and it’s forecast for the “quality of living” is very dismal. After three unsuccessful treatments of antibiotics I was completely spent. I was in so much pain. I couldn’t sit down to paint. I couldn’t make love to my Nadine. I was scared and the pain worsened when I worried. My mind kept racing. My sleepless nights were spent on our bathroom floor. Week after week I would lay there in fear and even though my Sunshine would lay there beside me, I was still afraid. Afraid of my own SELF! I laid there completely crippled in the dark shadow of my pedestal. I was completely broken. My life as I new it was at an end. My reign was over!

As I laid there one night, a week before Easter Sunday, completely alone and in tears, …… He touched me. For the first time in my life I received Him, my personal Savior. I became my Father’s child. It was He who sought me out! It was He who broke down the walls around my world! It was He who knocked me off my pedestal and crippled me! It was He who took my Sin and washed it away so that I was not bound by it any longer! It was He who brought the light into my darkness! It was He who filled me with His Spirit to work me over and brake me! It was He who said, “My sweet child, it is now time.” HE SAVED ME! He filled my heart with His love, cleansed my mind clean, and gave me my new eyes to see reality!

My life in Him is now my reality. I am no longer blind and bound by my Sin. I believe in the Way, the Truth and the Life. I am now under His rule, under His Grace. My purpose here is no longer my purpose, but His Purpose. I no longer dream to be known for my paintings but rather to be known for who used me. I pray to Him to use me for His Glory, for His Will. With my new eyes I see the needs of those around me. I give because I feel the Joy of His Spirit in my heart. I am often overcome with tears of joy. I no longer want TIME for myself but I’d rather give it away to others. I am no longer comfortable being in solitude, rather I have the urge to be with people instead. In fact, I am not comfortable in any of my old ways. I no longer have fear. When the physical pain sets in, it is only a reminder to focus on Him. His Spirit enlightens me. I now hunger for His Word and yearn to know my Father better. I thank Him, not only for my blessings but also for my struggles. When temptation sneaks up on me, I focus outwardly on Him and when I do sin, I ask for his forgiveness and I seek His help to learn through my weaknesses. I pray for His direction and that He will continue to use me.

In reality, I see a dirt path that I am to walk on. This path is the Way and it is surrounded by a fallen world. This path may be hard to stay on at times especially when it becomes very narrow with ditches on either side. There may be boulders or fallen trees that may block the way. But the Truth is that Faith will guide me even if the Way is dark. It is by Faith that I will take this path, focusing on His awesome power, His Love for me and the promises that He has given me, which is Life. In all this, is a knowing that I will see my Father face to face at the end of this journey and in beginning of the Everlasting journey. However, it is very important to add that this is not only my journey to be with Him, but also, along this path is my purpose. My purpose is not only to mature in Him and be prepared for what awaits me down the path, but to help those in the dark onto the path, so they too may see the Truth, that Jesus paid with His Life for this Way so that ALL may travel on it.

There are two other people I wanted to mention that God used as witnesses to help guide me to becoming a true believer. The first is Sharon. Her words of comfort and direction were so special to me in my time of need. I love her for what she did for me. The other is Don, who has been a dear friend of ours for years. He not only is my closest Brother but he is also my mentor in helping me mature in Him. I love Don for who he is and what he is.

I wanted to also thank all of you, my Brothers and Sisters, for your love and prayers. For your fellowship and your open arms. Both Nadine and I have been so blessed, not only for each other and our new found Faith in Him, but also for the joy that we see in your faces. It is an honor for me to be here in front of you, in front of Our Father, on the day that Jesus Christ became Our Savior. He died for us! He loves us all and He only wants us to receive His gift.

In closing, I wanted to share a special painting with you that I had painted five years ago. It is called, “Comic Relief”. Every time I used to look at it I used to see myself in the painting, almost as though I was looking into a mirror. I liked what I saw. It wasn’t until Brother Don wrote a poem about it that I realized that it wasn’t me in the painting anymore. I would like to read this poem to you.

In a courtyard, on a pillar of stone,
sits a young jester, all alone.
All is kept out by walls all around;
Solitude unbroken, not a lonely sound.
Of the outside world all he sees,
mountains, cloud filled skies and tall green trees.
At his right is a thorny red rose;
its alluring smell permeates his foolish clothes.
On the cold stone he sits and reads,
the Book of Life with truth that frees.
The shadowless dial down by the wall,
reminds him, there is no time, answer the call.
The Book says, "Take the path that leads to the gate.
Get off that pedestal before it's too late.
Leave the walls that imprison your soul,
Flee before time and solitude take their toll."
His Gilded Book says, "run now to the gate,
run to the gate that few will take.
One gate to freedom, one gate to a cell,
through the one gate a desert, the other a well."
To the one gate, he sees a dirt path well trod,
to the other gate a path of untracked sod.
He asks his Book, "which gate do I take?
It's to the well and freedom my journey I'll make. "
"To the gate rarely used," his Book says to go.
The allure and the thorns of the rose hold him back;
to start he must cross the well trodden track.
A call he hears from the well beyond,
temptation aside, he decides to respond.
Off the stone and across the dirt, on the path unseen he flees,
to the far gate he runs, and beyond he sees,
A land celestial, with emerald trees,
In the center, a pool, with strange light did glow,
He paused at the gate, but his Book said, "go!"
So to the glowing pool he did run,
all around him was light, but there was no sun.
At the pool he kneeled, the water invited, he drank deeply,
his spirit now excited! As his eyes lifted, a Shining Man on a bench he did see.
And a voice of pure beauty said, " Come sit with me."
As their eyes met, tears of love and joy blended in the pool beneath,
the Shining Man said, "Oh fool of men, you've finally come to the place of Comic Relief. 

I love my Father for saving a wretch like me. Praise Him!


Chris said...

Absolutely beautiful and inspiring! Thank you

narerozi said...

Beautiful and thank you so much for sharing ~ hugs

Charli Armstrong said...

That was beautiful!

Sheree said...

Thank you for sharing your testament of faith. We all fall away sometimes and have struggles but it is by his glory and love we are brought back to our father.

yaamas said...

Chris, Narerozi, Charli and Sheree, Thank you for your sweet words. It means so much to me to share my story and even more that you were touched by it. God bless you.

Deeply inspired,

Anonymous said...

Brother James,

How courageous and transparent of you to share who you are with all of us. Your poetic soul told the love story of you and your Savior with the same beauty as your paintings tell of childhood and wonder. I was reading an essay by George MacDonald (1824-1905) last night on The Imagination and he said that "when God wants a great drama, he creates a Shakespeare." So when God wanted ethereal paintings of childhood innocence to inspire us and call to us, he created James Browne!
Your sister and fan,

Joanne :-)

A GMD devotional called Diary of an Old Soul is in sonnet form free at:

Check out September 15, 16 & 17 They remind me of your testimony!

Anonymous said...'re such an inspiration. I applaud you for your honesty, as I know personally how hard it can be to open up like this. I found your testimony to be so real, honest and inspiring, it brought me to tears. May God continue to bless you in your walk with Him on that narrow but beautiful path.

Your sister in Christ,


yaamas said...

Joanne, I am truly touched by your words and I want to thank you for being such a special friend and I thank God that our paths crossed and it all started with a gift from you years ago, a George MacDonald book. I love you for that.

Jess, your testimony was a "means of Grace" for me sharing mine. Thank you my dear sister and may our sweet King keep you close to Himself. I look forward to meeting you along that narrow path, Jess.

Carmen Medlin said...

Wow James, thank you so much for sharing your testimony! I had to come to an end of myself also for me to recognize God's call. They were some of my most painful days, but I'm thankful for them. We really don't realize the pain that worship of Self inflicts on ourselves (and those around us too, for that matter). Sometimes, the only choice God has to soften our hearts is to let us make ourselves as miserable as possible so that we'll no longer be able to look to ourselves to fix the problem. It was certainly that way with me. But thank God that He looked on us with compassion even at the height of our self-inflicted misery! I'm glad to have you for a brother in Christ.
God bless,

yaamas said...

Carmen, thank you for what you wrote. It truly touched the heart and I am so thankful to be surrounded by others who see the same truth. God Bless you, sister.

Michelle Palmer said...

Thank you for sharing your heart, your testimony, your art~
Wishing you joy!

Mahogany said...

great painting & peom! what's your brothers full name? i would like to use the poem for a project of mine for school and really need to give him credit.

Hana Augustine said...

I just wanna say that.. what happened to you, dear sir, happened to me in the exact same way.. those walls, solitude, etc.. and yes, HE set me free and now i, too, draw for HIM not for me or other people any longer.. =) PRAISE.THE.LORD..

yaamas said...

Thank you, Hana! I was really touched by what you wrote and what a joy it is to hear of and witness His saving Grace. I read your testimony and It took me right back to when Jesus made me His...hehe, I still have some of my greatest communion with Him in the bathroom. He will never forsake and He loved us before the world was created and most of all, He paid the price for so that we would have eternity with Him. Here's to walking with the King of Kings!

yaamas said...

Thank you Michele, for your very kind words. God Bless

Thank you, Mohogony....don't know if it's too late due to my tardiness in responding. The author's name is Don Hartle.