Images & Words


Genesis to Revelation in one image!
Still my favorite album cover and one
of my all time favorite recordings.
Strangely enough, as I was growing up, access to soul touching images and words came mostly through my record collection.  Hours were spent pouring over beautiful album art and liner notes that often included extensive interviews and even at time sci-fi stories!

Daniel Amos' legendary Alarma
Chronicles, complete with sci-fi story!!
My faith journey exposed me to beautiful words in prayer as well, mostly through hymns and spiritual songs.  While I wasn't afforded ready access to the common images of the greater Christian community, I had rich enough fare.  Chart evangelists came through sometimes and  sparked my young imagination.  (See Clarence Larkin's Charts)  Again, hours were spent pouring over the amazing details in the colorful end-time maps.  Also, at times musicians would spice up their concerts with very cool video art (Daniel Amos and Mortal were great at doing this!) and somehow this all worked together to help me connect with God deeper.

It is only recently I have begun to embrace the vast deposit of images, lyrics and prayers of my entire faith tradition.  Instead of a once in a while artistic encounter, I now find myself surrounded with beautiful images and prayers.   Since this has happened I have felt more connected with a bigger heavenly family than I'd ever imagined.  I have even felt consoled and loved by the many people who composed the prayers and hymns and are represented in the images.  It was and still is so powerful!

St. Photini, also known as
"The Woman at the Well".
Her story spoke to me in recovery.
When something like this happens to me, it isn’t long before things cross pollinate and grow into something. The outgrowth of the past decade or so of contemplations, prayers and journaling can be seen in the little creations below.  I have found that they represent the longings of many human hearts.

How do I know this?  Well, as I encounter people day to day I try to listen to their heart’s longings.  When I resonate with them, it is only natural to share the beautiful images and words that have helped me connect with God and quench my own spiritual thirst.  If I have them handy I give them one of my little homemade prayer cards.  Other times I simply send them a link to an appropriate song or music video from my little online radio station/playlist:  Light My Way FM.

If any of the little image/word combos below resonate with you, simply ask for what you want in the form to the right where it says "Contact Farmer Fred" and I'll give you some... as many as you want and/or I can afford.  I don't charge for these little creations, but some people have asked if they can give something back or at least pay it forward so others can be blessed as well.  If that describes you then please do so by using the tool on the right.

Samples of prayer cards I give away
These prayers and images have been cross pollinating on the
farm for years and have finally grown into a form that
is easy to give away to others that find them helpful.
Notice that these are not the polished high quality prayer cards you see in religious book stores.  They are simply 4x6 photos with a printed sticker on the back.  Most of them I have set to a simple song or chant which you will eventually be able to download if you like.  I have harvested the images from the web and the prayers from various faith traditions.  I've cross pollinated and grown them together for years here on the farm.


Facing east in my studio.  Standing
in front of these images I feel
surrounded by the loving people
they represent.
A note about copyrights: The goal is to support the artists that create these beautiful things if at all possible and direct you to the sources of their work. Unfortunately the original artist is rarely known.  My intent is never to resell their work for any profit of my own (see Photon Farms Financials), but rather as I feel led to bless others I give them little reminders to think about God and say a prayer.

Perhaps you know about the artists that made some of the web harvested images below.  If you do, please let me know and I will link to their work online and give them the credit for the work.

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STAYING IN THE MOMENT

This is one of my favorite images ever!  It is a slightly different perspective on Jesus helping Peter out of the water.  He had sunk down in it because he took his eyes off Jesus and started looking at the waves.  Yes, Jesus is standing on top of the water, reaching down into the water to pull him out.  Sometimes I feel like this many times per day so I can REALLY relate to this!

Interestingly enough, this is one of the few images that I can connect you to the actual artist who painted it.  Please support the artist (Yongsung Kim) by clicking here and purchasing his work if you are so moved!  He has many other beautiful paintings in addition to the one I'm showing here.

I also love older Byzantine versions of this image.  On the flip side of the image I included moment prayers that have bubbled up in my heart over the last few years.  They are simple and sing a bit like nursery rhymes, but they work when I remember to use them.


For me at least, it is all about staying in the present moment as much as possible.  However, to get there I must release the past moments to God's care and completely trust Him to transform them into something beautiful and good (no matter how poorly I acted).  Then with future moments, especially the ones that I'm dreading, I completely trust that he is already there waiting, ready to counsel me on the way to behave lovingly and console me should it prove painful, for after all, He has endured a bit of pain along the way and knows how it feels to be unfairly treated.  He goes before us into every moment (Mt. 28:7).

Bottom line, and this is important to us with serious abandonment issues, He will never let us go through it alone.  Even when I step out of the boat and start looking at the waves and sink under the waters, he smiles and reaches down through and pulls me back up.  He never leaves me.

Click here to download or listen to the Moment Prayers intoned.  Ordered: past, future, present.  Beginning by letting go of the past, acknowledging that Jesus is already there waiting for us in any future moment, dreaded or otherwise, we then center back to the present moment and strive to stay there to do the next loving thing.

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THE LITTLE WAY

The Little Way is one of the icons and prayers I give away most.  I found the icon on the web and I've heard it was created in Bulgaria (the Eastern Church would say it was 'written' there).  The little prayer on the bottom came from the lips of my 3 year old granddaughter when she was missing her Momma and my Pastor pointed out that this is exactly the stupendousness of the Incarnation of Christ, for he chose to say this... of His own good will he chose to need us forever and ever (Yes the same God who could have stayed eternally happy in the pure love of the Trinity).  The little prayer around the icon is the three 'words' of our Mother Mary and the prayer on the back I have been distilling from the consecrations of many Saints.  Fr. Michael Gaitley shares many of these consecrations in his books " 33 Days to Divine Mercy" and "33 Days to Morning Glory", books I return to year after year to reconsecrate my life to the Lord.

This prayer helps me stay surrendered to God and completely dependent on Him.  It seems to resonate with some and the beauty of the icon draws people in as well.  Perhaps it will bless you too.

Click here to download or listen to this prayer intoned.
Click here to download or listen to the guitar music I've written for this prayer.
Click here to listen to me really struggling to sing this prayer... you've been warned, haha!

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHURCH!

This is my favorite icon of Pentecost.  I love the way Momma Mary is central in the scene with the Spirit of her son coming down right over her head.  In much of Christian Iconography, the women are not even included in the painting!  This one however shows it more in the spirit of how the scriptures record it, the women were there and as my pastor has often said, Mary was most likely instructing “the boys” on true faith. The legend of Mary's faith is extraordinary.  In fact it said that they had to gently remove her from Jesus’ grave because she alone was certain in her heart that he would rise again and she wanted to wait for it… from that same trust and deep understanding of her son’s words she was able to instruct the boys from the period after his resurrection to Pentecost, especially the nine days after the ascension in that upper room, waiting for the Spirit to descend.  Women played an "equal to the apostles" role in the early Church and in my understanding that hasn't changed today!  They played different roles perhaps, but not less important.  This leads to my next favorite icon of one of my favorite people that Jesus interacted with...

Click here to download or listen to this prayer being intoned.

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THE WOMAN AT THE WELL

Eastern Christians ask St. Photini to pray for them with this prayer
The longest recorded conversation of Jesus with another person was the woman at the well.  That probably means something and it is important!  Byzantine Christians call her St. Photini which means "Enlightened One".  I encountered her long before I knew her name or the rest of her story in my first stumbling steps towards recovery, for she was used as an example of one who had been drinking from shallow wells and mud puddles but found an endless supply of Living Water in Christ Jesus.  I wear her name around my neck because it reminds me that true connection with God is the only thing that can truly satisfy my hunger and thirst for infinite, intimate, consoling love.

Photini's Story (aka the woman at the well)
Like many of the early Saints, Photini's story is legendary.  Her and her sisters converted along with the rest of her village and went on to stand in front of Nero himself, eventually martyred by him.  She evidently enraged Nero by leading his daughter Domnina to Christ.  Domnina in turn led all her hundred servants to Jesus as well.  Nero was not amused.  Anyway, you can read the rest of the story by clicking on this photo of the back of my wall icon.

Photini was given the title of "Holy Great Martyr" and "Equal to the Apostles" by Byzantine Christians.  This is quite an honor I am told.  For me her spirituality is both profound and simple: All my endless longings can be fulfilled in God alone, and once I trust in God regarding this fact, he can do great things through even me, who like Photini have felt like an outcast in more ways than one.  God delights in doing great things through his little ones who trust Him.  This is so consoling!

Click here to download or listen to this prayer being intoned.

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DRINK THIS - NOT THAT

Theotokos of the Inexhaustible Cup.  Mary the Mother of God presents her
Son Jesus in the Eucharistic Cup as if saying:
"My child, drink this, not that.  This will truly satisfy, that cannot."
When it comes to recovery from addiction, most people think of Alcoholic's Anonymous which was born in the 1930's.  From it's very foundation it was a spiritual program of recovery, calling on the God of one's understanding for help.  People from various religious and non-religous backgrounds have benefited from AA and it's many spin-offs.

What some do not realize is that AA was birthed from Anglican and Catholic Church programs in the Eastern United States.  In fact, Bill and Bob changed very little of the substance of those original programs, they only divided the steps a little more distinctly and after much debate, made the controversial but brilliant move of opening it up to anyone no matter their belief system or lack thereof.  So it would seem that God cares about all his kids, not just those that fill the pews of any given church on any given Sunday.

What is even less known is that over a half century before AA was born, God moved mightily and some would even claim miraculously in Russia to combat the alcoholism that ran rampant there.  The Russian Church depicts the Mother of God presenting Christ to us in the Eucharistic Cup.

What is the meaning of this?  It runs deep and though many thousands may have been miraculously healed from merely looking at this icon (read the history for yourself here or go to the official current US website for the Inexhaustible Cup) the rest of us who still struggle with addiction and vice can tap into that healing stream in a slightly more measured fashion.

As many have expressed it down through the years, if I am struggling with compulsive behaviors that I seem powerless to stop on my own, it is most likely because I cannot trust that God has something better than that which I'm addicted to.  Those of us in recovery have learned over time that God can be trusted and he wants to become our all in all.  The step 2 prayer itself says "God, I know I don't need ________, whatever it is I'm really longing for please help me find it in you".

I now believe that human beings are created hungry to connect with the infinite, intimately forever.  Yet even knowing this, we still try to feed our God-hunger with temporal things.  The truth is, nothing here on earth was ever meant to even remotely fill that hunger or quench that thirst.

I further believe that earthly things were meant to point us to ultimate heavenly realities.  Food and drink are all good, but if I think they can satisfy me, it goes wrong sooner or later.  And so it goes with any other drug of choice:  Sex, illicit and licit drugs, music, binge buying, etc.  Only God can fill our infinite longings because only God is infinite.

So I share this little prayer card because it has been a constant reminder of these truths to me, moment by moment.  Having passed through the Eastern Byzantine door at one point in my past, I became familiar with the beautiful epic hymn (called an Akathist, as in not standing because it is too lengthy!) in honor of this miraculous icon.  You can see the hymn in its entirety here, but all the calling on the Theotokos (Greek for 'Mother of God') to have compassion and pray for us may unnerve some not accustomed to such verbiage.

Perhaps the takeaway could be this:  God cares about us so much and he never despises us in our time of need and desperation; think of the parable of the prodigal son.  Jesus cares and wants to feed us himself.  Jesus' Momma cares too and prays for us and like most Mommas, she doesn't let a little impurity or dirt bother her, in fact it only moves her to more compassion.

In fact, even though we killed her son, she still wants to adopt us as her own.  (Jn. 19:26-27)

Click here to download or listen to this prayer being intoned.

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I SURRENDER ALL

Surrender.  'Islam' in Arabic.  It is not only the key to anyone's recovery from addiction but also the bedrock of a true relationship with God.  That point where I say, "Ok, God, You are God and I am not!".  In 12 step groups it is the third step and is reworked moment by moment, one day at a time.

The icon I've chosen to remind me to surrender is perhaps one of the most famous and oldest on earth.  It currently resides at St. Catherine's Monastery in Mt. Sinai.  It is called Christ Pantocrator which roughly translates, "Christ Ruler of the Universe".

It seems appropriate to bow in front of the ruler of the universe as a Christian and say this surrender prayer to Him, asking only for greater love for Him.  The St. Ambrose Prayer book that I borrowed the prayer from was edited and published by my former Pastor.  Many beautiful prayers come from that book!

Eastern Christians often use this icon as a focal point as they say the Jesus Prayer:

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.

This prayer isn't about focusing on the words but rather is designed to keep our minds busy with calling simply on the name of Jesus in order to keep out other distracting thoughts.  It's a displacement prayer of sorts I suppose.  It takes much practice to get that going but can be extremely effective.

I use both prayers often and they truly help me.  Perhaps they will resonate with you as well.

Click here to download or listen to this prayer being intoned.

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THE LITTLE FLOWER

St. Therese of Lisieux, aka "The Little Flower"
When I first encountered the teachings of "The Little Flower" (some refer to St. Therese that way) I instantly felt I had someone I could relate to.  She realized humility regarding our own poverty attracts the mercy of God.  This somehow makes perfect sense to me and I'm proud to have figured it out at last!  (HAHA... just kidding.)

But all joking aside, there is a reason that the Church recognizes St. Therese as an exceptional teacher in embracing one's poverty and placing one's entire confidence in God's goodness rather than one's own ability to please him.  Her little way of humble confidence was lived out in a short and ardent life in love with God in service to others.  It earned her the title of "Doctor of the Church" which is no small honor.

St. Therese, via Father Gaitley's book "33 Days to Divine Mercy", was the main contributor to the prayer that bubbled up in my heart that I call "The Little Way" in the prayer card towards the top of this page.  It is counter to the way the world would have us operate.  Yet for me it works.  Perhaps you feel the same.  If so, feel free to reach out publicly in the form below or privately in the form to the right.

Click here to download or listen to this prayer being intoned.

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THE TWO MOST  LOVING HEARTS

Growing up I was always looking at pictures of Jesus and His Momma from a distance.  I wasn't part of the Church life that illuminated what these images were about.  I have come to find out a couple things about images in general.  Notice first of all the ones to the right.  Notice they kind of look European, not from the Middle East, right?

Well, I used to get ticked off about that.  I mean, why not make the image a bit more authentic?!?  I would try to find others to agree with me and heap disdain on the schmultziness and syruppy romanticism of the artwork.  It worked... others agreed with me.

But then all at once I heard that still small voice speaking to me, lovingly, patiently... "Son, perhaps it isn't so bad that various people groups imagine (see the root word image here) Jesus as looking like them, like their tribe.  Aren't some of the most intriguing accounts of the incarnation worded something like "And the word became flesh, and moved into our neighborhood..."?  Isn't it good and right for each people group to make Jesus look like someone from their own neighborhood?  The fact that the European images are the most popular doesn't mean that it is bad for Europeans to imagine Jesus looking like them.  It's ok for Africans, Polynesians, Asians and Native Americans to depict Jesus looking like them too!  Of course we both know he took real flesh from a Middle Eastern woman of Jewish descent around 6 B.C. and therefore looked more like the Jesus cast in 'The Shack' than any other Hollywood depiction, but so what?  The point is that I. Became. One. Of. You."

Yeah.  Ok, so a little compassion towards people who imagine Jesus looking like them would not be amiss.  Ok, Lord you're right!

"Thank you son!"

And so it went.  My education in understanding images that looked silly to me mostly came from gentle conversations with the Holy Spirit.  How did I know it was the Holy Spirit?  Well.. I bounced it off other Christians and well, it just sounded so loving.

Anyway, I digress.  The image above speaks of the two most famous hearts on earth, at least if we measure how much attention has been given to emulating their qualities.  Long before I began praying anything like the prayer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, I was asking God to give me a heart like His.  I saw how miserably short I fell to being loving like Him and I kept asking to have the same kind of love that He does.  Low and behold, I found that MANY other Christians have felt the same way and that there are volumes of books and hundreds of beautifully composed songs and prayers to that end.

The same is true with the Immaculate (pure) Heart of Mary.  What does that mean without waxing too theological?  It means that she completely trusts God, always has, always will.  She is a model of trust, faith, hope and love.  I believe she did it so well that we should all attempt to trust God, be surrendered to his will, receptive of his life giving love, etc. as she was and is to this day.

There is so much more to this but suffice it to say that I want to love like God loves, and for me, Mary leads the way in that so I look to her for guidance in how that is done - human to human.  I mean she is after all the one spouse of the Holy Spirit that actually physically gave birth to God in the flesh.  True, God wants to marry ALL OF US... (Rev. 19:6-9) but Mary has a unique perspective on that marriage and can teach us all a little bit about trust.  Legend has it that she was so sure of her son raising from the dead (He did after all tell them He would) that she refused to leave the tomb and had to be gently removed.

Anyway, I want the absolute love and trust that these two hearts have so I often ask God for it.  I ask Mary to pray for it too.  Maybe that is too weird for some of you (I know it was for me for years!) but perhaps not.  If it helps one person it is worth sharing.  Peace.

Click here to download or listen to the Sacred Heart of Jesus prayer intoned.
Click here to download or listen to the Immaculate Heart of Mary prayer intoned.


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A PERSONAL PRAYER PATH

This is my little prayer path that I walk several times per day.  As you can see, many of the images are depicted above and explained in detail.  Each of them has a prayer to go with it and I find it incredibly focusing, consoling and helpful to pray them at fixed times throughout the day.... or whenever I feel alone... or whenever I'm facing a stressful situation... or whenever the Spirit moves me!

It is my ambition to combine the whole cycle; some of it will be in simple chant, other parts sung quietly with my guitar.  We'll see how soon I get time to do that.

The next ambition is to take that song and make it into a video with the prayer path image illuminating the appropriate icons for each part.

I only share this to show what works for me.  I don't expect it to work for anyone else really, we all are drawn to different aspects of God's love and have different heroes of the faith that we look up to.  That's ok!  In fact it is beautiful.

This is a work always in flux as the Spirit of Jesus is constantly opening up new vistas to my heart.  I am grateful for this!  Perhaps my journey will somehow bless you and encourage you on yours.  If it does this for even one person, then it was worth the time it took to write this!

God's peace to you!
































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