I want to help you understand something. I want to clue you into something very important. You may not believe me. I didn’t know this until just the last few years. Indeed, it is still difficult for me to grasp this idea.
You are an artist.
The other day I was watching a sandwich artist make my dinner. I had dropped Jan off at the mall where Lauren, our daughter, works. She wanted to do some shopping and they would just come home together. My job was to pick up Andrew at my in-law’s, as well as our supper.
The young man behind the counter sliced the bread just right. He stacked the vegetables just so and put the meat in perfectly. He wrapped the sandwich perfectly when he was finished.
It was art.
Here’s the secret, though. It wasn’t the first time he had done this. It had come after many hours of practice.
Maybe you think it’s silly to consider making sub sandwiches art. Take any other job or task. Watch someone who is really good at it. My father-in-law, for example, can look at any nut that fits a bolt and tell me what size it is. How? He practiced an art for so many years that he can see things that the rest of us can’t.
Take anything you do. It may be a hobby or avocation. Do it enough and it really becomes an art to you.
What does that have to do with a blog that is normally about faith? Everything.
Do you pray? Most of us do. However, have you heard some people pray? Their prayers are art. I’m not talking about using flowery speech that sounds as though someone is trying to impress the audience and the Lord. I’m talking about those prayers where you can tell someone has practiced being in the presence of the Lord.
How about the ladies who keep the babies in the nursery? You know the ones, those that can calm just about any baby down. They’re almost baby whisperers. They love babies so much that they just seem to be able to say and do the right thing to keep them from crying.
All of this is art.
There is something you do that is art too. Something that you want to practice every chance you get. Something that you can use to glorify the Lord.
Something that makes you an artist.
What is your art?
I am not much of an Enlightenment scholar. I know that it was a time of great change throughout Europe and affected almost all phases of life.
As I understand it, those leading the charge of the Enlightenment had one goal in mind. They wanted to replace authority and tradition with reason and self-sufficiency.
Don’t misunderstand me, I am not against reason. I am not against self-sufficiency. The problem is that for those pushing those ideals, it was and either/or prospect. You had to adhere to one or the other.
Descartes is famous for being part of the Enlightenment. We probably know him best for one thing that he said: “I think therefore I am.”
God told Moses when He appeared to him through the burning bush, “I AM THAT I AM.”
I’m not sure of Descartes intentions, but in a sense I think he was saying that, since he had become enlightened, that he was his own god.
The funny thing is that it reminds me a lot of what happened with Eve and the serpent. The serpent told Eve that she would be like God if she ate the fruit. Basically, he told her she could remain like she was or she could be enlightened to be like God.
I don’t know if Descartes or any of the Enlightenment folks gave much thought to this idea, but it seems like they were just replaying Eve’s original sin out again and again. They were pushing God aside and making themselves and their ideas their gods and idols.
It has been played out over and over. That’s what those building the Tower of Babel did. How about Nebuchadnezzar or any number of Babylonian kings? Rome’s Caesars declared themselves to be worshipped as gods. This problem keeps being a problem throughout history.
The problem is that there was no true Enlightenment. Did people know more? Perhaps, but we have thousands of years worth of information at our fingertips. It does not mean that we have been enlightened.
Without Christ, our minds are dark and hardened. Our minds need to be renewed and enlightened.
Fortunately, Jesus is the Light. Where our minds and hearts are closed in darkness, He will open them with not just any light. He will open them with His Light.
He will enlighten the eyes of our heart. We must remember that He is the God who said, “Let there be light” and there was light. He shines His Light into our hearts and takes the blind and makes them see.
Some things improved during the Enlightenment. Man did not. The only thing that will change man’s state is receiving the true enlightenment from God.
Have you been enlightened?
A few months ago there was a rash of apartment fires in Knoxville. By rash, I mean two or three is a month’s time. It seemed highly unusual, and the pain each family faced was compounded by the fact that Christmastime was upon everyone. Tragically, there was even death involved in one of them.
I don’t know about you, but the idea of dying due to fire especially terrifies me. There are other ways I don’t want to go, but fire is near the top of the list.
A few years ago, Andrew and I were burning some boxes and other paper trash out in our driveway. We live out in the country and can get away with that a little bit better than those of you who are city dwellers.
The fire got a little hot, a little too hot. A piece of burning paper floated off and landed in the hayfield. It was December or January, so the hay wasn’t growing yet, but it was dry. A fire started in the field and quickly began growing.
Panic took over as I imagined a five acre field burning up or worse. Armed with a tarp, a ten-year old boy and our dog’s water bucket, I set out to put the fire out. I won the battle, but I was afraid that I wouldn’t for a bit.
A black circle was a reminder for a while of what might have happened and how fortunate we were.
I’m sure that some people drive by the apartments I mentioned and are reminded of the same thing.
One thing I feel confident in saying. When the fires started, no one took their time telling others to get out.
No one is subtle about telling people to get out of a burning building.
I wasn’t subtle in telling my son what to do in helping me battle the field fire.
Why? We don’t want anyone to die. We don’t wish for danger to truly affect anyone. And let’s be honest, we wouldn’t want anyone to subtly tell us about the danger around us.
So, subtleness is out the door and the window at this point. You need to know something.
The wages of sin is death. If you’re human, you have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. You are slaves to sin. You only have one way out. The Way.
If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe that He rose from the dead, you will be saved.
You need to be saved if you don’t know Him.
If you do know Him, you need to quit being subtle. You need to pull the fire alarm. You need to bang on doors and alert people to the danger they are in.
You need to arm yourself with everything you can to help put the fire out.
Quit being subtle about it.
Do you remember when you were on fire for Christ?
I know that you think that you are now. I pray that you are. Unfortunately, for many of us, the new has worn off.
When we first came into a relationship with Christ, we knew something needed to change. Our lives couldn’t stay the same. Even for us who grew up in church, we knew that our lives couldn’t stay the same as before.
We met resistance. After all, we probably weren’t bad people before. We followed the rules. We helped our neighbors when they needed it. We might have driven a little fast, but that was the extent of our criminal behavior. We said grace. We said ma’am. If some someone was into that, well, we may or may not have said the next line of the Hank Jr song.
We were encouraged to slow our roll. Whoa. Whoa. Whoa. Don’t get too excited. After all, we were new to this thing of following Christ. We had a long time to figure things out. We needed to learn the language and the culture. Let things settle a bit before we get going on this journey with Christ. We didn’t need to be like all of those Jesus Freaks who turn the world upside down.
Heaven forbid if we wanted to make any changes in the church. After all, some of the folks had been there all their life. It needed to stay exactly the same until they were gone. Then we could change it, but why would we want to? We would be so old by that time that the services would be a nostalgic reminder of the good old days. Those young folks could change it once we were gone. Hadn’t I heard that before somewhere?
Why would we want to do any of the work in the church? Sure, teaching a Sunday School class was fine. Otherwise, that’s what we have staff for. Visitation? We’re paying the preacher for that. Someone’s sick in the hospital? If the preacher isn’t there with you during the surgery, it’s time to have a talk with him. If that doesn’t go well, let’s get the deacons involved.
I could go on and on. It’s sad really, isn’t it? Many of us are beaten down by this resistance. Sometimes it’s subtle and sometimes it isn’t. The goal, however, is the same no matter what.
Reduce us down to something less than what Christ intended us to be. To make us followers of something other than Him. Hope that tradition, nostalgia and ambition will replace the Person we follow.
To take the fire that was once burning hot for Christ and make it burn for something, anything else.
Do you remember when you were on fire for Christ?
Have you ever heard God whisper?
I normally have some noise going on in my life. It might be something Read more…
It is early morning as I write this. I’ve been up for a while now, but the sun has yet to come up over the mountain, nor shine through the back windows of our home.
Everyone else is still asleep. It’s our day off, though Lauren has to go to her part-time job a little later today. I got up at the same time as any other normal day. I tell people this sometimes and they shake their heads. They don’t understand, and truth be told, I don’t fully understand it either.
For one thing, I wake up at the same time everyday. Once I do, I can’t go back to sleep. My mind begins to move, to work. I think about everything I want to do, everything I want to write.
The question, if I wanted to ask it, might be what makes a writer write. What makes someone want to do this so much that they would rather put their fingers to the keyboard more than almost anything else, definitely more than sleep.
What makes a writer write? Or a painter paint? A musician to play? I think that is the common thread with artists and creatives. There is something deep within them that causes them to want to produce their work more than almost anything else. They feel more alive when they are creating their art than when they are doing almost anything else.
I’ll let you in on something. When I do this, when I get up early before anyone else, when it’s just my keyboard and me, there is another important element that joins me. It’s the Lord. This becomes an act of worship that is difficult to describe to anyone who doesn’t experience something similar.
The painter understands. The musician gets it. I even know some deer hunters that empathize with what I am describing. When a person practices the craft they are called to do, they feel as alive as they ever have in the midst of producing their art.
Maybe you get it. You’re a gardener. Digging in the earth releases something deep within in you, an act of worship that is as powerful as any other act of holiness of which you are a part.
You like to fly fish? You practice your cast over and over. You can instinctively see the deep pools where the trout hides waiting for your fly to strike. And when you catch your day’s limit of fish, you bless the Lord for what He has given.
I don’t know what you are called to do. I just believe that there is something that summons you, something so strong you will neglect, no have to neglect, many other things just so that you can do it. So that you can worship in your own unique way before the Lord.
I encourage you to find it. You may have to throw a lot of spaghetti on the wall to see what sticks. Once you do you will wonder how you ever were able to get by without it. That’s why I get up early to write.
And a painter paints.
What makes you feel alive more than anything?