Thursday, May 10, 2007

Whatever is Lovely

My parents encouraged me to pursue art--to be educated about it and enjoy it, whether I produced it or someone else did. They played symphonies on the record player on Saturday nights after dinner, bought imaginative books for us to read, turned to the channel to watch The Nutcracker during the holidays and pretty much praised any of their kids who attempted to paint, write, play an instrument or sing. Some of us were more creative than others, but we all were aware what beauty was.

And I was interested in art like most of my siblings. I used to take apart old costume jewelry and make contemporary designs with the beads. I wrote poetry and edited a literary journal in high school. I was chosen for a weekend art field trip to Seattle with two upper classman by my high school art teacher. I fought with my parents for years over the practicality of an art career. They won. I gave it up completely in every form and pursued science in college instead.

No more poetry, bead design or anything else creative for a long time. When I married, I started to work with interior design mostly out of neccessity than desire. Most of our furniture was second hand or fourth hand, and I found that with a few scraps of material to make curtain swags I could transform what was yard sale trash into "shabby chic". I then started a few crafty hobbies that I learned from friends and turned them into wedding gifts or baby shower gifts, especially since we didn't have much of a gift giving budget back then. After awhile, my hobby became a women's ministry when I brought my Christian friends together with a few non believing friends to make fabric covered photo albums. Creative, but hardly art.

I have not heard a lot of sermons about art, or read books that take art as a Christian endeavor really seriously. It's treated pretty much as a side issue and truth be told, I think most Christians are very cautious about art. Perhaps it is considered worldly, a waste of money or a distraction. And perhaps in many cases, that's true.

Then there is art that attempts (and succeeds) to communicate something of God. When Seungeun played a familiar hymn for our church's Maundy Thursday worship service, she played it simply and there was a second when time seemed suspended on one pure note and it took my breath away. A lot of people play the piano, but at Seungeun's hands I heard and felt the power of God through art.

A few moments later, her husband, Bart, played another hymn on his violin in a manner that reminded me of Bach's Chaconne. He did not merely perform, I felt, but was praying to God. It was beautiful because it seemed to have a fullness to it that went beyond emotion. I haven't felt that since I heard a soprano soloist in Seattle 19 years ago, the church was not only full of her voice, it seemed, but the Holy Spirit as well, because she did not bring the attention to her talent but to God whom she was worshiping. That pointed me towards a lesson which could be applied to a lot of other things in life.

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