Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Thoughts on Art and Rest

As one who currently works in a primarily administrative role at work, I often long for the respite that creative activity brings.  I can turn on the music, pull out the collage materials (or sometimes design software) and go to town.  It happens this way usually: joy, rhythm, creativity, sputtering out....tired.  And I fear that this initial joy is only the result of not often having (or taking) the opportunity to make art these days.  Then I remember that creativity is a discipline, as well as a delight. 

I've been reading a couple of books on sabbath-keeping.  One is called Sabbath in the City by Bryan Stone and Claire Wolfteich (who happen to be my brilliant supervisors at work).   One of the major themes that the authors pick up as integral to Biblical sabbath-keeping is Creativity.  "The first [theme] emphasizes Sabbath as a time of awed respect for God as creator and for the wonder of the created world, an imitation of the divine rhythm of creation and rest, work and Sabbath.  Biblical texts clearly link Sabbath to the creation story: So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation (Gen. 2:3)."  I wonder about the process God encountered as he created the world.  The word "work" often brings to mind images of difficulty, obstacles, and even drudgery; but somehow I cannot believe that creating the world was drudgery.  There must have been bursts of joy as each new thing blossomed, birthed and breathed. 

Often, creativity=rest for me these days, but I remember times of rigorous studio work in years past, where the art was truly the work of the week.  Did God the Creator feel this burden?  He did, in fact, need rest afterward, and calls us to the same.  It is amazing that art can refresh and frustrate, sometimes simultaneously, and I celebrate this beautiful and exhausting gift of being made in His likeness. 

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I can't believe I heard you...

Every time I hear from God (usually in times where I really needed to hear from him), I look back and marvel at the fact that I was able to detect his Voice.  Voice with a capital 'V'.  How can the still, small Voice be so grand?  The beauty of his Word is arresting, and after the fact, I can never remember how.  But I know I heard. 

Thank you, Father, for your Voice and your Word.  Thank you for deciding to come and be with us in Jesus, and for continuing to speak through your Spirit.  You paint us pictures and write us poems.  I can't believe I heard you...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Gray Hearts and Minds: Faith, Morality and the Beauty of Contrast

Christ has died.  Christ is risen.  Christ will come again.

If you are a visual thinker like me, these words may radiate with clarity and light for you.  These core truths that we, as Christians, believe both settle and enliven my spirit each time I read or declare them.  These words slice the darkness from the light, creating a bright space for God's people to dwell.

In our society--in art, culture, friendships, and even our faiths--have we made too much room for gray?  The very first of God's people muddled the waters pretty quickly after a black and white line was drawn: Do not eat of this tree.  The gray dissolves both Boundaries and Beauty.  As the metaphor goes, we are God's children, and all children need boundaries, no matter how adult we have become in our faith.  I recently read a theological discourse in favor of a "mature Christian sexuality outside of marriage" as long as the members of the relationship are committed to one another.  I don't usually like to engage such specific and pseudo-political topics in a public forum, but when I read this article, all I could see in my head was an image of a human heart, turned gray.  There are many areas that we humans muddle either mentally or emotionally for the sake of a sense of freedom, autonomy or comfort; this was Adam's (and Eve's) problem in the first place. 

Muddling certain moral and theological concepts also strips us of much of the beauty of our faith.  Darkness and light create contrast, one of the core elements of design.  The element of contrast helps us to see rightly and to experience beauty.  I admit, there is beauty in nuance, as well, but it takes a more trained eye to see; and I do believe that there are some artworks, like some areas of our faith, that merit dramatic clarity.  Note the image of Rembrandt's Descent from the Cross. (taken from http://www.christusrex.org/www2/art/rembrandt.htm)

My church closes with a Rwandan benediction each Sunday which captures the aesthetic grandeur of Christ's redemption, and paints a clear picture of the gift of contrast.

Christ the Sun of Righteousness shine upon you and scatter the darkness from before your path, and the blessing of God almighty, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be among you, and remain with you always. Amen.


Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Questing and Questioning

I was talking with an artist friend today who is moving to Vancouver to work exclusively on painting.  She has just completed her Masters in Theology here in Boston and wants to now focus on her art-making.  In her description to me of reasons for this move, she began to ruminate about the nature of theological academia.  Boston, in particular, is a very academically driven city, with little room for failure, and sometimes, even less room for faith.  A sort-of theological humanism persists in many places.  Evaluation and questioning rule the schools, as is the case in many seminaries world-wide.  Asking questions is an obvious and excellent learning tool, but if you never leave this place, what happens?

If you are always questioning the One you love, the relationship will never be stable.  These words came out of my friend's mouth and made me reconsider my whole concept of theological education in a moment. So my question is this: Is there a difference between 'questing' and 'questioning?'  Can we seek the Lord with all of our hearts without constantly doubting and re-evaluating?  Is it ever academically viable to be still and trust that your most important relationship is secure, even if you don't understand all of its implications?

So, my friend is moving to Vancouver to paint, and I must confess I am a little jealous.  There is peace in the absence of questions (for awhile).

Tuesday, August 03, 2010


New work.  Some visual thoughts on wives that work, but want it all!  What does God desire for women whose multi-layered callings seem too complex to manage?