Sunday, May 31, 2015

Sunday Afternoon Tea - Living Beauty as a Christian

Art at a favorite coffeehouse near campus.

Recently I was looking through an issue of the beautiful magazine called Bella Grace, admiring the prose and the poetry and the photography.  Thinking about the prompts throughout which are provided for one's own journaling.  Embracing the subject of Art and Beauty in everyday life.

But I noticed a pattern as I read through some of the articles and I checked the biographies of the writers.  Yes... many of these writers embraced a more "spiritual" or "New Age" way of thinking about life.  It made me sad in a way.

How often I have noticed this through the years.  Oh, I know there are Christians who make beautiful Art but one must admit... there is not a whole lot available in the realm of magazines, popular music, art galleries, etc. which represent Art created by one who walks with the Holy Spirit of the Risen Lord taking up residence.

If anything, we who were bought and paid for with a Price so amazing should be the most creative of peoples.  He who created the entire Universe lives within us.  He leads us and guides us and has given us His Book, the only real How To Guide to Living.

I suppose my surprise... which began in my early walk of Faith... has stayed with me because I didn't grow up attending church.  Perhaps because my early mentors of the Faith were the Schaeffer's books and they wrote a lot about art and music and design and such.  I don't know, it could just be my own more creative makeup that causes me to notice the lack thereof in general society. 

As I was pondering how few Christians are known for their art today, I thought of the song Larry Norman sang back in the 70s which rocked the then Christian music world.  That song?  Why Should the Devil Get All the Good Music?

While there is nothing like the theology of music to cause arguments amongst the brethren and split entire churches, one has to realize what artists such as Larry Norman and Keith Green were trying to get through to the entire church at the time.  Art is the language of the soul to the generations... and society was going through a quantum leap of changing at that time.

It is rather amusing that the generation of the Jesus Movement is now the generation of the church in their 60s and older.  Those of us with gray hair and grandchildren.  I wonder how many of us retained the wonder of those early days walking with Christ?  How many of us continued to make Art as we lived each day throughout these past decades.

Judging from the state of the Church today... I'd say few of us.  We let Life get to us.  A quote my husband loves from the movie Hook is, "Peter, you've become a Pirate!".  Should you never have seen the movie (a favorite in this home), Peter Pan is now an accountant and has no humor whatsoever.  The film is about how that all changes.  ;)

But really... have we who started out with such fresh love for the Lord... with Art in our hearts... with the longing to share the Truth of His Love and His Beauty to the entire world... have we become Pirates just like the middle aged Peter Pan?

Let's face it, life is hard.  But it is hard for everyone.  What is it about so many Christians that we stopped bringing Beauty to our world in His Name.  Could it be that... unlike those before us in the Renaissance... we did not equate our love for God with Beauty? 

That there is something less spiritual about living a life that incorporates making things beautiful?  Is that why those who are honestly hungering for spiritual Truth turn their back on the Church and embrace New Age nonsense?  I found it very attractive before He led me into all Truth through salvation in Christ.

There are those of us who love making our life a work of Art.  Simply.  Within the realm of our families and friends.  Never perfectly.  But as the Master Artists of old did... all to the Glory of God.

Soli Deo gloria!

When we take the time to set an attractive table and serve food which we have put some thought into as to color and texture as well as nutrients, we are sharing God's Art.  When we pick flowers and put them into a vase on the kitchen table, we make Art.  When we choose beautiful music as a background to a party, we make Art.

When we journal with words and paper and paints and colored pencils... whatever our chosen medium... we make Art.  Whether just for our own enjoyment or perhaps someday to pass down to a loved one.

When we pick up our pen or sit in front of the screen and write about life lived the best we can given all the challenges of today's world... we make Art. 

What we do does not have to have a Scripture verse stamped on it to be "Christian".  

When we invite friends over for a lovely meal, we don't have to give a sermonette for it to be "Christian".  Neither do we have to wear a cross when we put thought into our getting dressed for the day to  look "Christian" (albeit I do have a favorite cross to wear).

What makes our Art Christian?   Our walk with the Lord.  What we do and we say in our everyday life.  For often all we can give to Him is our Attitude.  But when we treat people with love and compassion and grace... even when it is not deserved at times... then our Art will show that we belong to Him.

When we tell the hurting friend we are praying for them (and we really do), when we take a loaf of homemade bread to the lonely elderly person and tell them we are praying for them (and we really do), when our attitude has been one that brings Glory to God without ever giving a sermon... they will know Who is behind our Art.

What can you do this week to bring His Beauty to the world?  What our mothers and fathers and grandparents and generations before us have done as they planted gardens and put delicious food on the table and wrote a poem and cleaned their homes to make them attractive and wrote a letter and baked a pie and sewed the little dresses and knitted the sweaters and pieced the quilts and carved the wood and took the jug of cold lemonade to the neighborhood children.

Perhaps in this fallen of worlds, those of us who follow the Lord will never draw the world to us with the Art we make.  But He calls individuals to come to Him and perhaps through the Beauty in our individual lives, we become someone He can use to show the world that giving one's heart to Him can make a person's life one of Beauty... no matter what life throws at us. 

Because of Him.  Not us.  Never us for we are imperfect.  He knows we are "made of dust".  But with Him in us and through us... we live Beauty.

NOTE: Bella Grace is a fairly new magazine published by Stampington & Company.  Most are only available where I live at Barnes & Noble, although Where Women Cook and Where Women Create can be found at some grocery stores now.


Vee said...

Oh we could have such long conversations concerning these things...we may already have. Somewhere in there I was reminded of something B.J. Thomas said about not being a Christian singer, but rather a Christian who sings. I feel similarly about blogging...I am not a Christian blogger, I am a Christian who blogs. (And I think that I have already mentioned this before.) All I know is that I support the premise that Christians will be pretty exceptional as they yield their wills to His. Now why does Dr. Ben Carson also come to mind? Thank you for making me think! Hook, eh?

Anonymous said...

Thank-you! This was beautiful and encouraging! I believe God, the master Creator, put creativity in all of us. I love how you point out all the different was we create! I've already hit the 60 mark, and I just started taking drawing and painting classes! Never took art classes in school so I'm starting from the very beginning. Didn't think I had it in me! I'm just doing it for my own pleasure and I'm enjoying it. No pressure! Thank-you for sharing your perspective. I got a kick out your referring to our generation as "gray-haired and grandparents!" I've got the gray hair, but I'm not a grandparent, yet! Hopefully someday!
Laura C.(WA)
P.S. It was fun to see a photo of you with your "grand dog" in a former post!

Deborah Montgomery said...

I can see the influence of Edith Schaeffer here in your writing. I loved her book The Hidden Art of Homemaking. It greatly influenced me and how I thought about homemaking. Creating beauty in the every day honors Him.
One thing I think is really sad is that most Christian music, books, and movies seem to imitate the secular style (and often poorly at that), rather than showing a different, more beautiful way. As you say, we should be the leaders in all things beautiful and creative! I agree with you and Vee; we should be Christians who create, it should flow out of our love for Him; it will naturally be beautiful. If we try to be people who just put a "Christian" stamp on things it will look false.

tealady said...

Such good words to read on this beautiful Sunday.I agree all the way, a few years ago I was working with a woman 20 years younger and while talking it turned to the Bible and she turned to me and said the Bible was so out dated,I started to laugh until I saw her face, she was not kidding.I just walked away,I'll be honest I could have used this wisdom then.

Mrs.Rabe said...

I have been influenced by Emilie Barnes and Edith Schaeffer who taught me that it was okay to create beauty in my life. It is a good thing, and it speaks to our souls, and to those that God puts in our lives. Living Art I like to say. A pretty table, a pretty mug to drink from, music to listen to, flowers on the table etc...

I'm writing a blog post now, but I so agree with your thoughts here, friend!


Anonymous said...

I am reminded of the scriptures in Exodus 35 about Bezalel whom God filled with His Spirit, and gave him ability, intelligence, knowledge, all craftsmanship to devise artistic designs. . . for work in every skilled craft, and inspired him to teach. He filled him with ability to do every sort of work done by a craftsmen or by a designer. God is the author of all things beautiful and I think has put that in us to appreciate beauty in our lives. Thank you for your post this day. Blessings, Sharon D.

Kate said...

There are entire christian denominations who discourage music, even singing. What kinds of music to listen to, what is good art and so on. Who think keeping a pretty house or wearing something pretty is vain. You have to wonder if we read the same Bible or how can they look at earth around us, the incredible colors and beauty and wonder if God loved plain ? The Bible itself says the wildflowers are better dressed than Solomon in all his glory.

I think all people secular and christian have the ability to create and appreciate beauty. Secular people have no one telling them what is right and wrong, they just create what they want. Some of it is good, some bad. We have many christians on the other hand stifling creativity IMO because they have been told it is wrong or it does not follow a set of rules on what someone (mostly a narrow minded someone) thinks is 'pure'. For example when many good christian musicians with a heart for God are looked down upon especially the older generation and older pastors because their music is contemporary and not hymns how can creativity flourish ? Talent is God given, by the same God even if the person is born 200 years ago or 20 years ago. Respect must be given to contemporary christian artists too by christians especially older regardless of their taste for creativity to
flourish. JMHO.

tealady said...

Mrs Rabe, I was so happy to see a fellow fan of Emilie Barnes, I have spent many years buying the whole collection of writings.

Judy said...

I often think one of the saddest reflections of Christian's poor opinion of art is represented in many children's Bible story books. So many of the illustrations are mere caricatures of the complex individuals they are meant to represent, painted in harsh, garish colours. I have been delighted to discover a recent gem which takes both the story-telling and the art seriously, "For Such a Time as This: Stories of Women from the Bible, Retold for Girls" It is written by Angie Smith and beautifully illustrated by Breezy Brookshire.

Judy said...

Also, Brenda - if you would like to take a look at a brief video describing the process of putting the art and stories together in "For Such a Time... there is one here - it's lovely.
(I imagine your grand-daughters might treasure this book.)

Annabel Smith said...

Like Vee I am a Christian who blogs. I like that!
I think I have been drawn to beautiful things since I was born! Nature is God's art and if we appreciate that I think it is a glimpse of heaven.
There is a lot of ugliness in the world. I saw too much of that today. We need to think on all things lovely, pure, beautiful... we are instructed to do it. So surrounding ourselves with beauty, as we can, is very good for us. It neednt be anything expensive, some flowers from the garden, a lovely tea cup, a nice table cloth, all work for me.
SImplicity is beautiful. And creativity that is lovely is making a meal from not much, making the most of what we have...
this is divine creativity!
Creativity seems to bring great contentment too. they are all tied together! xxx

Rebecca said...

I guess that's why I've come to enjoy the exercise of blogging. So MANY artistic, creative people out there with an almost limitless audience! I love how God's people "find" each other & for the opportunity blogging gives to support & encourage each other.....