26 January 2008

Wisdom Wears a Clown Suit

I talked with my sister on the phone this evening. She is, due to stages and seasons (I know, I know), bowing out of this SoulPerSuit study in Proverbs too. (Someday, y'all, we'll be meeting over these great feasts around The Table and we will get to oooh and aaaah over this blessed cuisine together!! Blogging and phone conversations are a decent substitute though- beggars can't be choosers.)

To an unbeliever, the Apostle Paul might as well be in a clown suit when he writes this letter. And the Corinthian Christians form a traveling circus troupe upon reading it.

Here's what Abby, the Poet of Influence, shared with me tonight regarding wisdom:
17God didn't send me out to collect a following for myself, but to preach the Message of what he has done, collecting a following for him. And he didn't send me to do it with a lot of fancy rhetoric of my own, lest the powerful action at the center—Christ on the Cross—be trivialized into mere words.

18-21The Message that points to Christ on the Cross seems like sheer silliness to those hellbent on destruction, but for those on the way of salvation it makes perfect sense. This is the way God works, and most powerfully as it turns out. It's written,

I'll turn conventional wisdom on its head,
I'll expose so-called experts as crackpots.

So where can you find someone truly wise, truly educated, truly intelligent in this day and age? Hasn't God exposed it all as pretentious nonsense? Since the world in all its fancy wisdom never had a clue when it came to knowing God, God in his wisdom took delight in using what the world considered dumb—preaching, of all things!—to bring those who trust him into the way of salvation.

6-10We, of course, have plenty of wisdom to pass on to you once you get your feet on firm spiritual ground, but it's not popular wisdom, the fashionable wisdom of high-priced experts that will be out-of-date in a year or so. God's wisdom is something mysterious that goes deep into the interior of his purposes. You don't find it lying around on the surface. It's not the latest message, but more like the oldest—what God determined as the way to bring out his best in us, long before we ever arrived on the scene. The experts of our day haven't a clue about what this eternal plan is. If they had, they wouldn't have killed the Master of the God-designed life on a cross. That's why we have this Scripture text:

No one's ever seen or heard anything like this,
Never so much as imagined anything quite like it—
What God has arranged for those who love him.

But you've seen and heard it because God by his Spirit has brought it all out into the open before you.
I Corinthians 1:17-21 and 2:6-10 (The Message)

So, where do we go to claim our red rubber noses?

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25 January 2008

Wisdom and Folly

Our SoulPerSuit group going through the book of Proverbs has been contrasting wisdom and folly.

What marks a person as a fool?
What makes a person wise?
Are fools destined to be fools forever? Is there any hope?
What does the world consider wisdom, and how does it compare to what the Lord defines as wisdom?
Is there a foolishness that masquerades as wisdom?
Is there wisdom that appears to be foolishness?

I only have an answer for the last question today.

Comparing "The Enticers" to Lady Wisdom in Chapter 1 of Proverbs, I get a sense of secret whispering and the low tones of the foolish sinners. "The Enticers" want to keep their ways under wraps, speaking out of the sides of their mouths. They're keeping it cool, looking acceptable on the surface.
Not so with Lady Wisdom! She's in the busy marketplace, at the corners of the streets, shouting her invitation to the world- "Come to me and find life! Ask me and I shall pour out my riches!"

Wisdom is willing to look like a fool in public so that she may save just one ignorant youth from destruction. Wisdom makes a ruckus. She makes a spectacle of herself. She causes a scene. Without concern for her own reputation or the opinion of her neighbors, Lady Wisdom pleads with any who will listen.

Someone else was scorned and despised. He called out to the spiritually ignorant wherever and whenever he found them. He shouted in the marketplaces. He stopped traffic. We esteemed him not. There was nothing within him that we should be drawn to him. And he did not consider equality (and social standing) with God something to be grasped. We thought he was a fool.

Jesus Christ was willing to become a fool in the eyes of the world in order that he might purchase us from the slave market of sin.
"And if that makes me crazy, they can call me crazed. I'm happy to be seemingly naive..."

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23 January 2008

Our adventure in Stewardship

Hi, this is Ellie and Rebekah.
We did a school project that helped the neighborhood.
We did a unit on stewardship, stewardship means using and not
abusing what God has given us.
We cleaned our neighborhood sign.

This is what the sign looked like before we cleaned

We took off the letters on the
sign and cleaned them.
Once they were dry,
we made funny words
out of the letters.
Our neighbors wanted to
help too.

Ellie, don't paint the camera!

Rebekah's painting the back of
the sign.

This is our little sister, Anna.
She's helping paint the sign
Isn't she CUTE?!!!

This is Ellie, Mom and Dad.
E is for Ellie,
S is for Steve,
and T is for our last name.

Rebekah is holding the letters
while Dad drills them in.

This is the sign after we
Ellie felt important and proud.
Rebekah felt that we had done something good.
The neighbors kept saying even now how
a great job we did.
Stewardship goes with cleaning our
sign because now we don't have to
buy a new sign.

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21 January 2008

8 Thoughts on Art

Heather tagged me with a meme, and since it is my personal blogging mission to bring an appreciation for the arts into the daylight of our blogging community I'm tweaking my answers to reflect the arts.
Heather's ok with that. She's a black-turtleneck-wearing-beatnik-bohemian-artist-type.

1. One art experience that changed your life.
I had a French teacher in 9th grade, Mrs. Jordan. She taught... French. But she took an entire quarter out of the school year to teach our class art appreciation. I'm sure she stuck to the French artists (there's more than a handful) so we could count it as "French cultural studies."
There's a distinct memory of the question in my mind at the time. As much as I was completely eating up these art appreciation lessons, I kept asking myself, "What in the world does this have to do with learning to speak French???"

Well, not much. And then again, quite a lot.

Through Mrs. Jordan's enthusiastic love of art- so much so that she would suspend her lesson plans and push the envelope of "pertinent educational topics"- I began my own journey of adoring the arts and seeing them as quite pertinent to all areas of life.

2. One artist you go back to over and over.
Michelangelo Buonarotti.
Isn't it completely flabbergasting how human hands and a chisel can make something so delicate from a hunk of stone? I am in awe.
The Florentine Pieta is probably my favorite piece of his. I could look at this all day long.
I really want to touch it someday.
I think they'd toss me in the slammer if I did.
Click to view full-sized image
Florentine Pieta

Did you know that even though he is most famous for painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo never consider himself a painter? He underwent months of self-tutoring and interviewing other fresco painters before he even touched paint to plaster in the Sistine Chapel. Then he had to design and engineer his own scaffolding for the project (so he was also an engineer). And he was constantly frustrated with his work on that ceiling. And very glad to say goodbye to the Sistine Chapel.
Imagine Michelangelo's chagrin when the His Holiness, the Pope, called him nearly 25 years later. "Hey Mike, I've got another fresco job for you."

Sigh. What's a sculptor to do?

Click to view full-sized image

Rebellious Slave

3. One piece you want in your living room.
I'd love one of Georgia O'Keefe's giant still lifes.
O'Keeffe, Oriental Poppies
This is called, Oriental Poppies.

Bottom line for my living room: Large scale. Bold colors.

4. One art documentary you'd tell the world to see.
Rowan Leaves and Hole

Rivers and Tides, with environmental artist, Andy Goldsworthy. Mr. Goldsworthy's use of natural elements and the manner in which he plays up time, seasons and perspective will knock your socks off. His diligent communion with the natural world is something that resonates deep inside each of us. Watching him work is a delight no matter how far removed from the pulse of nature one might be. City slickers and remote mountaineers alike will be blessed by Goldsworthy's sculptural interpretations of the ebb and flow of life on this planet. My kids were fascinated with this film.


5. One work that made you cry.
Frida Khalo's, The Two Fridas.

Kahlo's work used to really disturb me. It still does. Now that I know how disturbing her life actually was, I understand her art a bit better. I'm not so squeamish about all the gore. (The gore is where she makes her point though- her work hits you on a very visceral level. Kahlo strikes me as a very visceral personality. She certainly lived quite a visceral life.)
This self-portrait speaks volumes about the internal conflict Frida encountered on a daily basis. The chasm between who she wanted to be and the identity she presented to the world, what she once dreamed for her future and how that future really played out, the heartbreak she brought upon herself or continually suffered for one reason or another.
Of all the modern artists I've come across, Kahlo does the best job of capturing and portraying her inner world. She obviously felt things very deeply. Her art makes you want to either retch or weep or look away, so she succeeds at making the viewer feel deeply too. (Sly girl.)

6. One artist who's talent you wish you had.
Click to view full-sized imageClick to view full-sized image

Leonardo Da Vinci.
He was so adept at so many things. I admire his ability to think mathematically and scientifically, and yet that he didn't allow his logic to stilt his art. Though he desgined flying machines and analyzed celestial orbits, his drawings and paintings remain always tender, fluid, and sensitive. It is a rare person with the talent to use both sides of his brain so effectively. He was a true renaissance man.
And I feel like a dolt next to him.

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7. Two artists you've recently become interested in.
(A) I recently vacationed in Kaua'i and found this fun artist. She works mostly in oils, but every painting I saw in the gallery had some kind of mixed media element incorporated, which is a big plus in my book. A playbill, an old cruise line ticket, a strip of metal flashing, sheet music...
Meet Brigitte D'Annibale.

This is called, Goodbye Surfer.
That turquoise, gold and red is fetching, isn't it?

The Spirit of Aloha

It's just not your typical Hawaiiana. I like the ragged edge. Her drippy paint approach adds an ethereal quality. (And any trip to Hawaii is near-ethereal in my book.)

(B) These are bright, quirky, outlandish pieces with quite a dose of humor. And the coolest thing of all?? They're QUILTS.
Pam Rubert and her PaMdora's Box series are simply amazing. I can only hope to have my skill set together like this one day.

Towers of Babble


Take Me to Your Dentist (complete with zipper teeth)


This is Late Date on the long arm quilting machine, so you'll believe me that these are quilts.


8. One book on creativity you're reading.
In a nod the the originating book meme that this used to be, I'll mention a book. I'm intrigued by this book anyhow so I might as well gush about it here.

I was looking for a volume of Emily Dickenson poetry over the weekend, just minding my own business, when I spied this title:
Make Us Wave Back.

Double take... "Huh? What's this?"
Triple take... "Such an intriguing title. What's this book about, I wonder?"

The complete title: Make Us Wave Back: Essays on Poetry and Influence, by Michael Collier. For some time now I've had a pedestrian interest in the influence that poets have on society. Given the luxury of time, I'd surely make a more serious study of this poet-philosopher phenomenon. So I bought the book. (In a pedestrian sort of way.)

Here's my first favorite bit- Collier recounting a memory of one of his university mentors, William Meredith,
In response to a question about his relatively low output of six poems per year, he (Meredith) said, "I wait until the poems seem to be addressed not to 'Occupant' but to 'William Meredith.' " ... As a teacher he was interested in getting his students to see that our job not just as writers but as men and women was to avoid the default status of 'Occupant.'
As an artist, how much of my work comes from me, deep down and truly from within me? Do I own it? Does it come from my identity, from my own footprints along the path of life? Am speaking of things I know nothing about, relying on hearsay?

I don't know a single person that enjoys looking at mass produced art, or sitting around reading books compiled of junk mail thoughts. May it never be that my words or my work is addressed from "Occupant."

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09 January 2008

... And That is Why I Have Issues with Ariel

** Scrolling through my unposted blog entries today, I found this. I wrote this over the summer, in the context of a SoulPerSuit study we were doing on the book of Esther. Charity and I had also been briefly discussing The Little Mermaid. (I used to love that movie. My father disagrees with my opinions about the flick to this day, so decide for yourself if it's a movie with an agenda.) The following is my own reflection on what stirred in my heart as a teen.**

Esther, Erin, and Ariel. Three teenage girls.

Like most teens, they want to be accepted. They want happiness. They want a certain amount of independence, a certain amount of adulthood., a certain amount of credence. Like most teens, they sometimes make choices that are less-than-wise.
Some might even call these choices "foolish."

Esther, a teenager living in 470-something BC, is an orphan raised by her cousin, Mordecai. She is subject to his authority, living in his household, eating his food, benefiting from his protection and provision. Esther honors Mordecai. She listens to his words, she follows his advice, she honors his father-ship in her life. She obeys him.

Now, Mordecai surely makes faulty decisions. Sometimes his advice is lacking. Sometimes he doesn't listen well and sometimes he speaks a little harshly. His human eyes can't see the end game. His human mind can't completely grasp the wisdom of Yahweh. But he loves his adopted daughter and every word of wisdom he issues in her direction comes from that heart of love.

Ariel is a teenager growing up on the bottom of the sea. She's a mermaid. The daughter of the king. Ariel is the youngest of many sisters. (7, 10, 12? I forget. Let's just say there are a lot.) But all her older sisters are... well... old. And boring. And they always obey King Triton. The goody-goodies. Did I mention that they were boring?
Ariel is adventurous. She wants more than a boring existence as a princess. She wants to be where the people are, wants to see them dancing and walking around on those "feet-things." Wants to know about fire and why it burns. Isn't that noble?

Triton loves his daughter. He wants to see her grow and blossom into the mermaid she is meant to be. He wants to provide for her, to protect her from the dangers of the world, which includes the dangers of entanglement with humans. He may be a little gruff, may hand down a few too many ultimatums, might lack a few listening skills, but his words issued in Ariel's direction come from a heart of love.

Ariel is independent though. She is open-minded and free-thinking. And she is "in love". (Which makes all the difference in the world when you're deciding whether or not to obey your parents, don't you agree?) Since Triton just doesn't understand her, he is obviously not worthy of the honor of obedience. So Ariel chooses to do her own thing. Because only she can know what's best for her.

Erin is growing up in a Christian home filled with love, discipleship and laughter. The eldest daughter in a family of six, she is the first to cross the threshold of many of life's doorways. Her parents are feeling their way through the teenage years right alongside her. (Having no previous experience, what else can they do?) But they temper this feeling-their-way-in-the-dark parenting with Biblical principles and with loving authority. Yes, they make faulty decisions. They sometimes decree unilateral family rules out of convenience rather than individualized discipline. They'll even admit that sometimes they parent with a desire for their own comfort rather than a desire to be conformed to the image of Christ. They are flawed parents. But they love their daughter and every word of wisdom that issues from them in her direction comes from their hearts of love.

Erin knows this. But sometimes she doesn't feel like obeying. And sometimes she doesn't feel like honoring. So she just doesn't.

You see, Erin is a Christian teenager with flimsy convictions. She values her independence. She thinks she knows what is best for her. Her parents don't. God doesn't. (Well, ok, in theory God knows what's best, but seriously, what's the big deal with a little divergence from the plan every now and then?) Erin can handle herself. She is wise beyond her years, she is slightly smug and slightly arrogant. But you'd never know it to look at her. In fact, she doesn't really even know this about herself either.

Until she becomes a mother.
I see my teenage years from a whole new perspective now.
I watch the Little Mermaid through the eyes of a loving parent who wants the best for her three daughters.
I read the story of Esther in a different light.
Now that I've become a mother.

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04 January 2008

Another Installment in the HUH??? Chronicles

My seven year old today:

"I wish the World had a tongue.

And I wish it was Maryland."