Food Bank Epiphanies

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The last two months I’ve been the recipient of some reasonably heavy lessons of understanding. I was just standing in line at the food pantry. I’m learning more here than in my Biblical Doctrine class my first year at Bible college. Amazing! But again, maybe not.

My 10 Commandments of the Food Pantry

  1. Jesus has a special connection to the poor among us.
  2. The needs are tremendous as many lack food. (This may be a new concept for some.)
  3. The Church has the mandate and potential to meet these needs.
  4. What the government does is often just confusing the real issues.
  5. The stigma in receiving food seems to be temporary.
  6. Understanding and wisdom are more important than the box of food.
  7. People will stand in line for a long time to help their families.
  8. Most people are nicer than they used to be by going to the food bank.
  9. Some people’s abundance should be given away.
  10. You can never have too many boxes to use to carry stuff (and avoid the milk.)

What is worked inside is far more than what we get standing in line. Many things can happen once humility and need does its work inside. There is a powerful comradeship that can develop. Strangers become friendly when they are in line. There is a kind of a mutual understanding that proceeds out of poverty, and takes root, and spreads.

I honestly believe the distribution of food is only the secondary benefit. I really think the spiritual work is the new found work done in people’s hearts. There should be a dignity that saturates this work.

The Church Leader’s Ten Quotes on Giving

  1. You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.   Amy Carmichael
  2. I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare.  C.S. Lewis
  3. The measure of a life, after all, is not its duration, but its donation.   Corrie Ten Boom
  4. Get all you can, save all you can and give all you can.   John Wesley
  5. Christian giving is to be marked by self-sacrifice and self-forgetfulness, not by self-congratulation.   John Stott
  6. God doesn’t look at just what we give. He also looks at what we keep.   Randy Alcorn
  7. Our giving is but a reflex of God’s giving.  Sam Storms
  8. God made all of His creation to give. He made the sun, the moon, the stars, the clouds, the earth, the plants to give. He also designed His supreme creation, man, to give. But fallen man is the most reluctant giver in all of God’s creation.   John MacArthur
  9. Nothing that you have not given away will ever be really yours.   C.S. Lewis
  10. I will place no value on anything I have or may possess except in relation to the kingdom of Christ.   David Livingstone

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God’s Authentic Artisans

photo: aalmarkllc.com

Sculpture is 3-D art. It can be made with marble, glass, metal, wood, plastics. It can be carved or cast, welded or painted. There can be sculpture using light, sound, water, kinetic (moving), land art, and environmental enhancements. It’s just one way to be creative, with many applications.

Sometimes we can define and confine sculpture far too simply or narrowly, but there are so many ways to communicate visual art. There are so many ‘cutting edge’ efforts, showing the creativity of people who are themselves created in the image of God. When we create, we emulate the Creator. It’s something worth pondering: God creates beautiful snowflakes, and we make ‘Styrofoam’ cups. (Hardly creative.)

There are over thirty uses of “skillful” people in the Old Testament alone. The Hebrew word used is carries with it the idea of “excelling at a task– an artisan.” When both the tabernacle and the temple were constructed, the Holy Spirit directly commanded the selection of artists and artisans to design beauty right into their work. There was nothing that was prefab or shoddy. The work done was meticulous and took patience.

13 And King Solomon sent and brought Hiram from Tyre. 14 He was the son of a widow of the tribe of Naphtali, and his father was a man of Tyre, a worker in bronze. And he was full of wisdom, understanding, and skill for making any work in bronze. He came to King Solomon and did all his work.

1 Kings 7:13-14, ESV

I’ve come to the place where I see talented people, with enhanced skills in many places: they are mothers, fathers, mechanics, plumbers. They are teachers and nurses, lawyers and accountants. They all excel at what they do, and it’s great when they are acknowledged and honored. They are creative in their work, “and full of understanding.”

When they go to work, they will carry out their duties with a flair. Some will have an awareness of God’s presence– some may not be aware. I was hospitalized a few years ago, I remember quite clearly a lady who came in and mopped my floor. She was skilled at her task, thorough and even artful. Tears came as I thought about her working. I felt humbled by her kindness. She was truly a minister of God’s grace on that day.

There is a line from Bernandos novel, “A Diary of a Country Priest.” It’s at the very end of the book, and the protagonist is dying. His attendant was disturbed by his inability to get a priest to come and minister the Sacrament of Last Rites. The dying man, looked at his friend, “What does it matter? Grace is everywhere.” Looking at the housekeeper, that same line came to my mind– grace is everywhere!


The man who carved the flourish above is a master carver. He is also a pastor and lives in Florida. His website is at http://www.aalmarkllc.com/ and he has posted a short video on YouTube,  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TTIuxKz5joc&w=640&h=360. He is a true example of a great woodworker.

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Creativity– Coloring Outside the Lines

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“So God created human beings in his own image.
    In the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.”

Genesis 1:27

“Christianity is not about learning how to live within the lines; Christianity is about the joy of coloring.”

— Mike Yaconelli (Dangerous Wonder)

I know that this is not Bible, I have thought a lot about this and I can see no direct biblical correlation.  But my topical Bible lists dozens of occupations requiring giftedness.  And I know deep down that our Father is full of creativity.  He has done things that are exceptionally innovative, he reveals imagination in everything he has created.  Think about a butterfly, or the color purple, or, wonder about a giraffe.  And your house cat is a work of intense beauty and motion that rivals anything found in the Louvre.

When we first begin to color with crayons, we are told that we must color in the boundaries.  Our picture will get taped up on the classroom wall if we can manage this feat.  We become aware that this ability is extrapolated into the different areas of living life.  The desire to be accepted and appreciated squashes anything creative we might do.

Perhaps, these issues that involve us being creative, do need to be stifled or shut down.  I suppose we could make a case out of this.  We definitely as believers should avoid these theatrics, and conform into a homogeneous place of acceptability.  The Japanese have a phrase, “The nail that sticks up will be hammered down.”  But I wonder, why then do we desire to create and imagine things? Why do I want to write, paint, dance, sculpt, sing, and play the guitar?

Each of us carries a deep sense of aesthetics  or what is beautiful.  We instantly understand beauty when we see it.  We stand in front of a Van Gogh in a museum, or before Michelangelo’s’ statue of David.  They collectively undo us.  We step back and take a deep breath.  One becomes gentle in the face of such wonder and beauty. And after all, we create really for “an audience of One.”

Dance of the Joyful Bride
Dance of the Joyful Bride

We were built for creativity and beauty.  It is part of our DNA.  It also means that we have been created in God’s image.  When we pick up our crayons, we are revealing his presence.  When we color, our Father notes what we have done.  Some may see a scrawling.  But they honestly do not matter.  The Father completely understands and is thrilled.

“It’s like you come onto this planet with a crayon box. Now, you may get the 8-pak, or you may get the 16-pak, but it’s all in what you do with the crayons–the colors– that you’re given. Now don’t worry about coloring inside the lines or outside the lines. I say, color outside the lines! Color right off the page!”

Waking Life

I’m of the firm opinion that we need to communicate to our children the wonderful gift of being creative.  We must release them, to imagine and be inspired.  We need to encourage them to use their crayons, even if they color outside the lines.

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Just One More Dance [Scandalous Joy]

Do the Dance-- For Him
Do the Dance– For Him

14 And David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, and David was wearing a linen ephod.”

2 Samuel 6:13-15

When I start to dance, you had better head for higher ground!  I am without question the world’s worst and the clumsiest of all.  And since my brain surgery it has gotten even worse.  I need to use a cane now, because of all that.  (If you look up “klutz” in the dictionary you’ll see my picture lol.)  Even so, I do love the idea of dancing, but I’m like Bozo, the circus clown, on roller-skates.  I lurch from side-to-side and I’m always on the verge of falling on someone’s lap.  Which is a real hoot!

But there is just one dance that I am waiting for. It is the dance I will have with my Savior.  There will be a day, in a place and time where He will call me and I will dance.  It will be remarkable for me, and its a day that I anticipate and hope it comes soon. (I have been practicing, lol.)

To dance is to liberate your heart.  You must cancel out all self-consciousness.  If you are self-aware, you will never enter into the joy and wonder of the dance.  You will be a perpetual wall-flower, living only on the edges.  And, you will be very sad.

It seems you must dance in your heart, before you can ever dance with your feet.

I desperately want to dance.  I see Him clearly on that day when I have no cane, and am as graceful as I hope to be. I will not be watching you, (sorry) but I will see only Him.  I believe that my heart will beat exclusively for Him.

Some of you have been crippled; smashed in the awful gears of life. But I also know that your life can be also astonishingly full of grace– you have endured so much, and yet Jesus intends to occupy your thoughts and vision.  When I am with Him, my heart will finally be free to dance. You will find Him to be the “Dancing Lord.’

“Young women and young men, together with the elderly, will celebrate and dance, because I will comfort them and turn their sorrow into happiness.”

Jeremiah 31:12-14

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The Melancholy of Edvard Munch

munchDecember 2, 1863 – January 23, 1944, he was a Norwegian painter. He is regarded as a Symbolist and a forerunner of expressionism. He focused on themes of fear, anxiety, melancholy, and death. He did not believe in heaven, or other Christian themes or doctrines, as far as I know.

My intention is to reintroduce you to an artist that I highly esteem.  The challenge I suppose is to understand the issues that Munch discovers in his work. He clearly taps into the ‘angst’ of the modern man, and what he does perpetuates a mindset for our generation.

Obviously these paintings are just an introduction, and I understand that they are selective. I have refrained from any kind of interpretation, other than laying down a general principle–  to Munch, color is everything.

Munch was probably not a cheery person. He essentially was driven by anxiety through his whole life. It seems that he could be very ambitious. His classic work was “The Scream” which he made several versions to sell. He used different mediums to do this– tempera, lithograph and pastel. Interestingly, “The Scream” is a favorite target for art thefts. It captures the minds of every modern thinker.

Within our culture, “The Scream” is iconic. Warhol, Gary Larson, Dr. Who and even “The Simpsons” have cashed in on a parody of it.

Quotes

“I painted the picture, and in the colors the rhythm of the music quivers. I painted the colors I saw.”

“Painting picture by picture, I followed the impressions my eye took in at heightened moments. I painted only memories, adding nothing, no details that I did not see. Hence the simplicity of the paintings, their emptiness.”

“For as long as I can remember I have suffered from a deep feeling of anxiety which I have tried to express in my art.”

“Disease, insanity, and death were the angels that attended my cradle, and since then have followed me throughout my life.”

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The Scream, 1893
Munch’s best known painting ^

 

The Sick Child (1885)
Melancholy, 1894
Melancholy, 1894
Golgotha, 1900
Golgotha

Some of My Paintings

Here are some paintings I’ve done over the last few years. I hope that they bless you somehow.  All were painted out of a long season of deep depression.  Painting these (and a lot of others) was the only thing that kept me sliding off the edge.  Some might ask, how can you create these out of your Bipolar Disorder?  To be honest, I am just as mystified as you. None of these are ‘perfect,’ But made in a time when I was under a certain ‘strain.’ But they are what they are.

One of my favorites.

An artist has been defined as a neurotic who continually cures himself with his art.”  (Lee Simonson)

“The Bipolar Mind”

“Three Crows Having Lunch”

All of these paintings have been given to various non-profit organizations, for the handicapped and the mentally ill.  To me, that is the place they belong. “If you have two loaves of bread, keep one to nourish the body, but sell the other to buy hyacinths for the soul.”  (Herodotus)

Kachemak Bay, Alaska (with moonlight)

Straight on view
This was painted when things were really bad.
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“California Poppies”

Judging Others: A Dangerous Post

Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged.”

Matt. 7:1

This is probably the most common sin that people commit. We stand in judgement more often than we realize, and it turns into an automatic response over time. The pointing of the finger has become an art form, and we can be deliciously mean and be applauded by others at the same time.

Our culture has been steeped in the judging of others. We point our fingers and focus our attention on the things that are not appropriate. Christians have a built-in knack for doing so and are tailor made for practicing this sin.

Repeatedly we are told not to judge others. And we repeatedly we do so. The Word tells us we are not to point our fingers, and Jesus was clear on this issue, stating that our own forgiveness would be nullified if we wouldn’t forgive. This is a little too much truth for us and we look for detours that circumvent so we spare ourselves the act of forgiving.

On the other hand, we demand that we be treated fairly by others. We expect leniency and a fair shake. We become hypersensitive to any perceived slight or a voice inflection. We wince under unjust judgments. We resent unkind fault-finding. We demand that people shall judge us fairly. We claim forbearance and charity in our derelictions in duty and for blemishes in our character. But can we expect other people to be any more lenient towards us than we are toward them?

We squabble and position ourselves into the best light possible. The words of Jesus get nullified or interpreted so repentance is avoided. We say we have a gift of discernment, and Jesus is begging us to drop every particular issue.

37 “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”

Luke 6:37-38, NLT

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