When Life Seems Upside Down (Cindy Kaney)

I contacted Cindy Kaney in hopes of learning more about what I heard through grapevine. Did she really paint upside down? I was intrigued and wanted to know more about this interesting perspective God had graced her with.
There were many things I learned from my conversation with Cindy, but there were two major take-aways that I would like to share with you, our reader. Today, I will focus on why she sometimes paints upside down. In the second part I will tell how God used her gift of painting to show how He is the Resurrection and the Life.


Once asked about her seemingly strange painting technique she began to explain the method behind the madness. She had been taught by her art teacher to challenge the brain by painting in unusual ways. For example, he often encourages the class to turn the canvas upside down or to the side in order to change the brain’s ability to paint what it thinks it knows. Another technique is to paint with the hand you are not dominant in. Cindy, who is right handed, paints left handed.
But where I see God at work in this story is this… there has been mention in recent sermons of a needed perspective shift for the believer. I’ve shared my own marred perspective of desiring a house more than desiring the LORD to use me where He has currently placed me.
Cindy has been taught to voluntarily change her perspective while painting in order to cancel her brains, “I know how to paint this.” She brought out newly finished painting of Mirror Lake (canvas on the lower right). While painting her copy of God’s masterpiece her mind’s eye saw the branch-filled tree and she thought two things: I know how to paint branches and this is going to be so tedious.
Her teacher’s response was a change in perspective. She turned the canvas upside down and began painting tree branches. Suddenly the branches became fun to paint.
Also, while painting the picture while on its side she no longer saw the reflection of the mountain. Instead she saw the shape of the water around the mountain.
She turned the picture right-side up and pointed out two things my untrained eye had not picked up on. Look closely at the tree. Can you see a face hidden within the branches? Now look at the reflection of the tree. What do you see there? That’s right. A cross.
Some of us need a change in perspective. As Dave Ludwig shared in his sermon on God’s faithfulness through the life of Abraham, why do we see God so clearly at times and later lose focus? What happened with Abraham that he could worship God so steadfastly and yet tell Abimelech that Sarah was his sister… twice? And the man who left all he knew to follow God’s call on his life followed his wife’s encouragement and slept with Hagar to “help” God along and bring about the long-awaited heir. How can we as humans do that? How do we so easily lose perspective?
Sometimes, I know, we lose perspective and God becomes blurry in the background because, just as Cindy’s brain is now challenged looking at things that no longer make sense, our faith can be challenged when life around us feels upside down. Upside down feels wrong to us. We scramble to make sense of what we see.
But the problem comes when we are reminded that we serve not a God of the seen but a God of the unseen.

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10

What if He was painting the picture you thought He should be painting. Things are going just as you had planned. Life is good. Life is easy. Then, for a perspective change, He turns your life, your canvas, upside down? Now our brain scrambles to make sense of what’s happened and why He do such a thing. We lose precious time trying to stuff our Creator into a box we can understand.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9

But the point is to see God, not that mountain painted on the canvas. And it’s times like that our mountains can be erased by the Great Painter…

(Jesus) said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’, and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20-21

And sometimes God will choose to leave the mountain there. It’s powerful and painful moments like these that are ours eyes must stop seeing the mountain and instead begin seeing that shape around it, as Cindy explained. It’s no longer the mountain that we marvel at; it is the LORD, the Maker of All, that we can now be amazed at. And isn’t that the greatest reward we desire most of all? To see God where we did not see Him before? To see God holding us in, hemming us in, protecting us, and teaching us, where before we saw just a mountain?
While Cindy Kaney and I were exploring this idea of living a seemingly upside down life in more detail she shared with me something she had learned from a Bible study on prayer. She said our eyes see about 10% of what is real. She says, “If the spectrum of light were represented in a diagram eight inches long, only one quarter of one inch would represent visible light. Also, reality is made up of both what I can see and what I can’t see. My reality includes the power of God, the plans and purposes of God, the present-tense voice of God, and the promises of God. Also the sovereignty of God, the lordship and authority of Jesus, the work of the Spirit, angels, Satan and the hierarchy of Satan’s realm. What I can see, earth and the circumstances of earth, are only a minuscule portion of the whole continuum of reality… In the life of faith, circumstances never fully define.” (portions from “Live a Praying Life” by Jennifer Kennedy Dean)
In our humanness we long to focus our eyes on something, so we focus on things our eyes can see. For example, we choose to focus on finances, the negative pregnancy test, the failing marriage, the job loss, etc. We focus on the mountain rather than the unseen God.
Sisters, we must not lose perspective. We must not lose hope. We, God’s masterpieces, must allow our lives to be turned upside down in order to see the way God sees. And who knows, maybe as that mountain loses focus for you the friend or coworker or art teacher that has been quietly watching you will begin to see that face in the trees, that cross in the water.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. Hebrews 11:1-3

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