Art and Faith II

Slightly revised reflections from one of my first attempts, nearly 10 years ago, to craft a blog post.

Previously PUBLISHED ON April 11, 2010

I believe my faith has moved from “truth and principle” as the driving force to a picture of “God initiates; Ron responds.”  I’m leaving behind: Ron does A, B and C … so God will do D.

Love grows.  Strong initiator + eager responder.

We have serious questions about each other.  Why suffering?  Why unexpected death, illness, financial struggle, relational struggle?

Scripture looks less like truth and principle and more like paradox, irony, with beautiful relational interplay’s.  And Oh?  Did I mention mystery?

Communion shifted from somber reflection on sin and failure to:

What is it about bread?  So plain, ordinary, often accessible, that, when brought to Christ, yields a kiss, a healing, scales falling from my eyes?

“Hunger and thirst, O Christ, for sight of Thee

Came between me and all the feasts of the earth.

Give Thou Thyself the Bread, Thyself the Wine

Thou, sole provider for the unknown way.”

~Radbod of Utrecht~

I notice a shift from “I choose,” (that Arminian[1] shadow placing undo power and hubris in my hands) to “I respond.”  Response means I’m watching intently for God’s creative new initiations (do you hear the chimes dancing in the wind?) and readily responding, often secretly, to His whispers, crumbs, presence.  Hey!  The good news is not truth nor principle as much as the Person behind it all.

Now, that ushers in art!  Art is a way I can explore this person.  Art is the means of my discovering how wonderful I’ve found Christ to be.  The passions run deep and strong.  Passions that look like a Cellist weaving and swaying, eyes closed, as music fires like neuronal transmissions from his fingers and bow.

No more dulling my pain, suffering, confusion, or blasphemies.  I remember Christ, the suffering servant, I notice alongside me.  Art lets me catch the hints, the glimpses.  For the moment, that’s enough.

O, how can I write about this?

O, how can I praise with new words right for these moments?

Editors note 12/1/19: Ten years have passed since thinking this way and I’m not so sure “Ron responds” hasn’t shifted so sometimes it looks like: “God initiates; Ron squirms, questions, demands, screams, bawls, whines, shakes his fist, crosses his arms and stomps his feet, then comes to the end of himself, lays his deadly doing down, and learns to trust.”

[1] Arminianism, a theological movement in Christianity, a liberal reaction to the Calvinist doctrine of predestination. The movement began early in the 17th century and asserted that God’s sovereignty and man’s free will are compatible.





4 thoughts on “Art and Faith II

  1. Wow… there’s a lot of deep stuff going on here! It’s going to take a lot of pondering with my simple, linear-thinking brain to understand the path of your thinking.

    However, one phrase did remind me of something.

    ” Art is a way I can explore this person. Art is the means of my discovering how wonderful I’ve found Christ to be. The passions run deep and strong.”

    This was almost 40 years ago, but I was at a worship symposium and the speaker was teaching that the original intent for art was worship. The original intent for EVERY form of art was for art to be a gift from God where we would blend a stirring from within ourselves with the anointing from the Holy Spirit and bring it out into an expression of worship.

    The world has perverted every form of art, but art’s original purpose was a gift to help us express love and worship when words alone would feel too… one dimensional.

    Traditional church kinda tells people that you can only worship by just one of the arts: music. And only music provided by the “professional” church musicians. (This is related to the implication that a ministry can only be accomplished by someone with a lengthy degree, lots of cryptic letters after their name, and knighted to some important-sounding position in the four walls of a church.)

    Art is any creative medium that helps you express love and worship to the Savior: music, ballet, painting, mime, chalk on a sidewalk, cooking, writing, sculpting with play-dough, chain-saw carving, or landscaping!

    Ok, so art is something that helps us to worship God. Then you also say this:

    “Art is a way I can explore this person.”

    Wow! I hear you saying that art will take us into new realms of discovering the infinity of God’s love and greatness that other vehicles can’t reach. Maybe that’s one of the things we get to do in the eternity of heaven.

    That’s a radical and powerful thought, Ron! That’s going to challenge me to be more open and expressive to God.

    Children, while they are still young and naturally “tuned into” their heavenly Father, and before they become self-conscious about everything, are this way by nature. They skip in the sunshine, splash in the water, dance in the flowers, talk to the play-dough, and repeat Bible stories to their dolls.

    And they love mommy. Perhaps “art” will be glue and popsicle sticks, or a macaroni and pipe-cleaner bracelet, or maybe just crayon scribbles on paper… “Here, mommy – this is how much I love you!”

    Guess where that “art” is going? On the most important display venue in the house: the refrigerator. For months. Possibly years.

    We should open our concept of worship – even when our attempts are only “scribbles.” You can be sure the Father will have them proudly displayed on His fridge to all the angels!

  2. Federation Starship Enterprise, “going boldly” somewhere in the Alpha Quadrant…

    Bridge: “Captain, ship off the port bow!

    Captain: “Shields up! Go to Red Alert!

    Ship’s Klaxon: “Whoop! Whoop! Red Alert! Whoop! Whoop!

    Ron, your last paragraph cracks me up:

    “Editors note 12/1/19: Ten years have passed since thinking this way and I’m not so sure “Ron responds” hasn’t shifted so sometimes it looks like: “God initiates; Ron squirms, questions, demands, screams, bawls, whines, shakes his fist, crosses his arms and stomps his feet, then comes to the end of himself, lays his deadly doing down, and learns to trust.” ”

    Ha! How true for all of us! Here we are, 60+ year old men – supposed to be entering our elder season as sage patriarchs – and if God shows up to say something, give direction or correction, out comes the pouting lip and we reply, “What if I don’t wanna?”

    Shields up! Go to Red Alert!

    When our defenses go up, we’re not listening anymore. And in the Star Trek world, the transporter cannot get through the Defensive Shields. The shields have to be dropped in order to bring someone aboard ship.

    What are we doing? “Grieving” the Holy Spirit.

    Do not grieve [offend, make sorrowful] the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
    Eph 4:30 NASB

    When we’re defensive, we command, “shields up”. We’re saying to the Holy Spirit: “Talk to the hand – because my ears will not be listening…

    Classified Defense Secret: “Shields” have a weakness – we can’t keep them up while we’re laughing.

    Ron, you have a humorous way of humbling yourself in many of your writings – just laying them out in the open and explaining your human foibles. Your readers get a laugh as they see themselves reflected in what you are saying.

    Whoops! Shields went down and Jesus just transported aboard!

    Me: “It’s funny the way Ron tells it and gets it out into the light… it doesn’t seem so bad.

    Jesus: “ There is something similar in you that I’m putting My finger on…”

    Me: “Yes, I see it.”

    Jesus: “The stronghold starts falling just by you coming into agreement with me, and confessing it.”

    Me: “Yes, Sir… You are right, Jesus.”

    That’s a crucial piece of the ministry to the Body that you are operating in, Ron !

  3. Ron, your postings are like anointed seeds that burrow into the heart and do not give up until they produce fruit.

    You mentioned art and worship and how you love both – I think art and worship are two sides to the same coin: love. Or, to expand this analogy from 2 to 3 dimensions, love is the diamond and art and worship are just two of its many facets…

    New York state, 1988. The Hughes family is out ice skating. John, once student captain of the Cornell University Hockey Team, is now a father coaching his sons as they practice hockey on a homemade backyard rink.

    His daughter, Sarah, refuses to be kept on the side while watching others skate. Dad finally buys Sarah a pair of skates and laces them on her tiny feet. At three years old, the little Jewish girl gets out on the ice to learn skating with her daddy and big brothers playing Hockey.

    Thirteen years later, sixteen year old Sarah is again at the side of an ice rink with her skates on. Though the rink is empty, the stands are not – 50,000 people are watching. It’s the 2002 Winter Olympics at Salt Lake City, Utah, and Sarah is first up in the final event that will determine who will win and lose in the woman’s figure skating.

    How did Sarah get here? At three years old, Sarah quickly demonstrated that she was very competitive and talented… she seemed to be gifted for moving on ice. At four, dad got Sarah a skating coach and by first grade, she was performing in local ice specials; and, at eleven, Sarah was first in the North Atlantic Regional.

    As she grew older, Sarah advanced through the junior and senior skating ranks. And, as is required of anyone with visions of competing in the Olympics, everything in life is turned to focus all your study, training, and discipline into developing your gift into excellence – Sarah is getting up at 4 am 6 days a week to practice skating and ballet.

    In the national competitions, Sarah seemed to finish just behind the “favorite” girls. In 2001 she got a break and earned first place in the Skate Canada International and third place in the 2002 US Figure Skating Championship and was selected for the US Olympic Team.

    In researching, I found the rose-colored glasses of sports history seem to have washed this part of the story away, but I recall a bit of … “snobbery” from the other girls towards Sarah. The more advertised and media selected favorite girls had the attitude of , “ We are more fancy and more pretty… we have more medals… we are high fashion and sophisticated… we are Ice Princesses. You are just country girl sliding on ice.”

    Sarah turns and faces the open ice rink. She is only in fourth place, again, behind the “popular” girls. Behind her they whisper, “Go out and take your turn, Hockey-girl, but the medals already belong to us”. Sarah has a choice: “I can get or I can give. I can go out and try and get my medal or I can go out and give to those who came.”

    As Sarah glides out to take her position, she seems set free with new courage and strength. Even before she begins, people are taken back by the genuine smile and joy on her face, the fluid grace of her ballet-trained movements flowing down to her fingertips, and the peace and confidence in her poise as she stands alone in the light, waiting for the first note.

    In the first moments of Sarah’s routine, I saw the radiance of glory beaming from her face… and in a blink I was allowed a glimpse beyond the “veil” of the seen and saw into the unseen. Then I understood… I saw the hearts of the other girls – their attitude that the medals already belonged to them… it was just a matter of formality to them to go out and skate their routine and get the medals due to them. I saw their high noses and haughty eyes towards Sarah – like high school girls in a clique looking down at the outsider girl. I saw Sarah’s courage in face of disappointment – for all her life that she has ever known, every atom in her being has been honed to excel in her gift. And now, at the last event, she is only in fourth place, again behind the girls who snub her, and not even in the standing for a silver or bronze. Then I heard the Father’s heart saying, “Sarah has humbled herself to Me… willing to just go and skate her very best and give to others. She has chosen to go out and “give” instead of “get”. I have anointed her in this moment with joy, beauty, and grace. Sarah will never again skate to this level of perfection… afterwards, she will briefly try, but she will move on and wisely treasure in her heart this miracle and not waste her life striving to recapture a past glory. Sarah has laid aside getting glory for herself and chose to give her gift for the enjoyment of those who came. In her choice to give to others, she is worshiping Me.”

    For the next four minutes, time vanishes as Sarah “worships”. I know nothing about figure skating, but I was transfixed… something with more anointing and power than “just skating” was happening. Even now, almost 20 years later as I watch this again, my eyes tear up just from her fluid grace, and the joy shining from her face as she gives the beauty of her gift from God for others to enjoy.

    The commentators are astonished… she completed seven triples… her entire performance was one movement in flawless grace… no one has yet skated to this level of perfection and beauty! Leaving the rink, Sarah is more astonished than anyone as she announces, “I’ve never done that before in my life!”. The favorite girls go out to “get their medals” but no one can match Sarah’s anointed worship.

    Sarah wears the gold.

    Sarah’s performance at the 2002 Olympics:

    The attitude of the heart changes everything. Outwardly, the technical movements appear fundamentally the same, but the unseen, inward attitude of the heart working in love changes everything. It changes our deeds from a performance – getting glory from men, to worship – giving glory to God.

    I remember a story about a musician and his teacher. The musician had mastered an advanced and challenging piece of music and demonstrated the achievement of his assignment to his teacher. When the student finished, he turned to the teacher. The teacher looked at him, paused for a moment, and then said, “You have correctly articulated every note and technical feature of this difficult piece. But… your music is dead – there is no “life” in your music. You do not have this music in your heart, you have it in your head. Without a love and passion for this music in your heart the outward performance of it will be technically correct but dead… dull, lifeless and without feeling. It will stir nothing in those who hear it.”

    41 And He sat down opposite the treasury, and [began] observing how the people were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums. 42 A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent. 43 Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; 44 for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.” [Mark 12:41-44 NASB]

    1 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. 2 “So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. [Matthew 6:1-2 NASB]

    Though the outward mechanism of what we are doing can appear, from the surface, the same, it is the below-the-surface attitude of the heart working in love, and sacrifice, that changes everything. From “getting” to “giving”. From seeking the approval of men, to giving worship to God.

    1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, [which is] your spiritual service of worship. [Rom 12:1 NASB]

    The unseen attitude of the heart working in love changes everything. The routine things in life are renewed with excitement… everything we do is now eligible to become our “spiritual service of worship”!

    42 And whoever gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.”[Mat 10:42 RSV]

    40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for Me.'[Mat 25:40 NIV]

    Simple becomes ministry
    Routines “played from the heart” becomes spiritual service.

    Love transforms ordinary into worship.

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