The Christian and The Arts

photo from google
I am incredibly blessed to be a part of a living, thriving body of believers. I often marvel at God’s blessings to me in this, and can’t be thankful enough that I get to be part of it.
Part of what I love so much about my brothers and sisters is the perspectives and the gifts they bring to the brotherhood. Today we were blessed to hear about church history from a man who knows and enjoys his stuff and delivers it in an interesting and informed way.
He went into some detail today about monasticism and the role that played in church history. I must admit to a certain fascination with the subject and one of my very favorite books deals extensively with this subject.
There is a certain beauty in the starkness and the austerity of that lifestyle. Sadly, a lot of these stories didn’t end well, with corruption becoming prevalent in the monasteries. 
I picked up the book again and am re-reading it. It is incredibly well-written, crafted by one who knows how to work words.
After I put the book down and turned out my light, my mind began wandering toward the other end of the spectrum.
The Arts.
As a conservative Anabaptist Christian, I haven’t heard much teaching on this subject. We choose to live simply and abandon all for Christ, estranged from the world in mind and thought.
But there are those among us who are Artists of sorts. Gifted with the pen, with a voice, with a quick and keen mind. People who feel things deeply. People who are often misunderstood. And honestly, sometimes I don’t know what to do with it all.
It feels frivolous, to care or be concerned with such things when the world is falling apart. When people are being beheaded and bodies are stiff with death from ebola.
And yet, I think God designed us for worship, for expressing our thoughts and feelings to Him beautifully and with care. Yes, it can easily be taken too far and turned into something else. Something called pride. When we use our talents and display them to draw attention to ourselves, to create spaces that cause other people to admire us unduly and cause jealousy (aka social media), that becomes a problem.
When I feel a thrill upon reading a well written line, hear a difficult chord sung beautifully, admire a beautiful painting or hear a brilliant, well-delivered address, I need to realize that God wants me to enjoy it. But He is most pleased when I walk in obedience, when I live well in the ordinary, when my feet get dusty with the common.
He created us with the capacity to enjoy and the need to worship. As individuals we worship differently and uniquely. While He loves the worship of hundreds of perfectly on-pitch voices of talented singers, I think He still thrills to the off-key, but enthusiastic praises of another group. He is praised in the well-written, but also in the writings of the uneducated. He values the childish paintings of a three year old as much as perfect portraits of the talented.
He is adored in the simple, as much as in the talented.
Is it wrong to enjoy the beautiful and the well-done? Absolutely not! But if it is anything more than a natural out -working of a heart turned towards it’s Maker, beware.
Madeline L Engle’ says it well:

The purpose of the story or music or painting is to further the coming of the Kingdom, to make us aware of our status as Children of God,
and to turn our feet towards HOME.

 

image also from google

Be blessed, and worship well!
Vicki

On my bedside table edition II

Hey friends,
So it’s mid-September and we’re all pretending it’s fall. Kelly made delicious pumpkin cookies yesterday, and I had a cup of hot tea this afternoon.
I sweated afterwards and realized I wasn’t fooling anyone. I also pulled out my heavy white comforter and fuzzy blue blanket in case it ever decides to get cold.
Today was a wonderful day at home. I did some much-needed organizing and cleaning in my room, cleaned up the kitchen, did some laundry and enjoyed a pan of delicious roasted vegetables for lunch. I don’t know how I got to be the ripe old age of 26 and was never educated on the delectableness that is roasted veggies. I thank my friend, Tina, who enlightened me last weekend. My life will never be the same.
Basically you just chop up whatever veggies you have (I did cauliflower and carrots), drizzle them with a goodly amount of olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, (I also used garlic powder and seasoned salt) and bake until soft. They retain their form (as opposed to cooking them till soft), plus develop flavors that I know not from whence they come. It’s nearly like eating candy, but they are quite healthy, which makes me happy. Do try it!
I decided to do another post on books I’ve read recently. I enjoyed hearing what you all have been reading when I posted about it here.
This summer has been quite busy, so I haven’t read as much as I sometimes do, but I do have a few to show you:
It looks like biographies was my thing recently 🙂 All of these books are true stories, and while I recommend them all, there are parts in Breaking Night and Wings of the Morning, that are a bit graphic. Breaking Night is the story of a young girl who grew up in a very dysfunctional home, with drug addict parents, and her story of overcoming it all and getting on with her own life. This is not a religious book or written in a religious framework. The peek into a life so sad, so devoid of all that a child needs, was heartbreaking, and I had to periodically put it away because it was more than I could handle.
Unbroken did the same thing to me. It took awhile for me to get into the book. The first couple of chapters are not very interesting, but lay a framework for the rest, which is riveting. It is the story of an American fighter pilot who crashed into the ocean, his days of survival on a raft and then his capture by the Japanese  and his life in a Japanese prison during WWII. The themes are resilience, hope, and forgiveness. The graphic description of the horrors he endured was more than I could take at times, and so I just put the book down and came back to it when i felt ready.
I think I talked about my love of Andy Andrews books, and the Heart Mender may be my favorite. It is also a true story from WWII. Two people one German and one American, whose spouses were victims of the war, find themselves thrown together in the most unlikely way possible. I won’t spoil it for you any more but do read this book! I was thrilled to find another Andrews book at a thrift store, entitled Island of the Saints. As I eagerly started reading, it seemed way too familiar,too much like the Heart Mender and I finally looked and discovered it is the same story, but with a different name. I will happily send the copy to any interested reader. It’s like sending a friend to a friend 🙂 Just comment below if you would like it and I’ll try to get your address and get it sent out.
Unplanned is the story of a lady who leaves an abortion clinic and joins her former enemies in an effort to save babies. It is another heartbreaking story of the horror that goes on in those places, but also of the goodness and mercy of the Father, who wants and yearns for those people as well.
Wings of the Morning is also an interesting read. A Cuban fighter pilot flies a daring, secret mission to the U.S where he seeks political asylum, and later secretly returns for his family. It is the kind that has your toes curling and your fingers clenching as he crosses forbidden airspace with moments to spare.
The next stack is my to-read pile:
The Hardest Thing to Do is the sequel to The Hawk and Dove Trilogy, that I raved about in a previous post. I bought the book as soon as it came out but couldn’t get into it. I am determined to try again, and read it the whole way through.
I’m also enjoying scribbling and sketching and journaling in these fun notebooks. TJMaxx has a ridiculous paper goods aisle.

I’ve been meaning to blog about this for awhile, in case it is helpful for anyone out there. I have a binder that I keep a collection of all my favorite writings in:

 

Whenever I read something interesting, fascinating, though-provoking, or inspiring I cut or print it out and put in there. 
I have handwritten quotes,

A piece from a World or Time magazine:

A number of Slices of Infinity by RZIM

and a poem or two. I love it because they are all contained, and I can easily access them when I need them.
Our thoughts are still frequently in Liberia. We continue to get emails from our friends who are struggling because of the inflated food prices, and whose relatives are sick but have nowhere to take them because health centers have closed.
And I am always looking for updates on Dr. Sacra, the last American doctor with ebola to be flown back to the U.S. In my last post I said that Kent Brantley could be our family doctor from Liberia. Interestingly enough, that is who Dr. Sacra is/was. He was our American doctor over there, and we rested easy, knowing that in a medical emergency, he could take care of us. I am glad he is improving and being well-taken care of in Nebraska. We were hoping he would be flown to Emory, which is a little over an hour from here. Kent and Nancy were flown there and successfully treated. 
That’s it for now. What have you all been reading?