Posts Tagged ‘art’

I have a problem that I must confess. I have wanderlust. Wikipedia defines wanderlust as the strong desire for or impulse to wander or travel and explore the world. It has become a passion of ours to see new places, meet new people, experience new cultures, and learn new things. This week my wife and I are on a getaway celebrating our 33rd anniversary. We are in Oahu, Hawaii at a hotel on Waikiki Beach. While most of our trips are planned out a year or more in advance, this one dropped into our schedule 2 months ago when a “deal” fell in our lap. Now wanderlust itself is neutral, not necessarily good or bad. Like any strong impulse though it has the potential of becoming an idol. And this morning a disquiet has settled upon me as I realize I must deal with this reality in my life.

The standard definition of idol is an image representing a deity or god. A little broader definition of idol that better captures the message conveyed in scripture is anything that takes the ultimate place of priority in our life other than the Lord God. When I look around I see many people giving the place of priority in their life to people, things, and experiences other than God. It is incredibly sad to see a child so doted upon by their parents that they begin to actually believe the world revolves around them. In this case the parents often make the child an idol reinforcing the natural self-centered tendency that most of us struggle with. Or the person who is obviously wealthy to the point they lack no material comfort, yet they continue the quest to acquire, have, and hold onto because stuff, or position, or power has become their god. Not only can I see this in others, but when I turn and look inside, I realize this tendency to elevate people, things, or experiences to an unhealthy level still resides in me.

I recognized the uneasiness stirring in me later in the day yesterday as we filled a second day with adventure. Meeting our photography tour guide at 5:20 am to begin a Sunrise Photography tour, we had the briefest of times for our devotional. From then on the day was busy. I laid my head down at 10:00 pm Hawaii time with thoughts of things done, things still to do, plans still to be made. Body exhausted, my mind was still busy, but sadly, God was not in my first thoughts. Honestly, I didn’t pause to really spend time talking and listening to Him much at all.

For me, clarity often comes in the morning and so it was today. It is a real issue and I am ready to deal with it. I slipped out on the balcony about 4:30 am, confessing my waywardness and ready to make changes. The Lord put in mind capturing my thoughts (hence you are reading them now) and to open the Word. As He often does a snippet of scripture was persistent in my mind… “Why are you so downcast, oh my soul?”

I looked it up and had to laugh. Psalm 42 is what I was looking for. I made bold the verses that made me laugh because we are in Hawaii, visiting waterfalls and swimming in the pounding surf. God can be very specific (or in this case Pacific) when He needs to be. At the end I will close with the Psalm since God fully deserves the final word.

You see, God wants us to enjoy good things. He loves people and wants us to love them fully… with His love. He has no problem with our use and enjoyment of things. He lovingly provides them for our benefit and use. And life is made rich by new and varied experiences. God works in these experiences to stretch and grow us. The issue is simply do we have God in the proper place in our lives or is He an after-thought?.. Or is He even considered at all? Are we living a life that makes knowing God and growing in that relationship with Him the pivot point of our life? Are we living in such a manner that others recognize that He is real by the way we live?

I see my disquiet for what it is, a gentle nudge from the Holy Spirit to check my priorities and be sure God was not lost in our enjoyment of this beautiful place. And so, Lord I do. You are my priority. I put my hope in You.

‘As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?

My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”

These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng.

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.

Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.

By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me— a prayer to the God of my life.

I say to God my Rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?”

My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, “Where is your God?”

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.’ Psalm 42:1-11

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Florence, Italy is a beautiful and historic city.  We visited on day 3 of our Mediterranean vacation.  Aside from the stifling heat and crowded conditions I was enthralled by the architecture, culture, and food. One of the highlights was entering the Duomo which is one of the largest cathedrals in the world. Admittedly the day was one of hustle and hurry from place to place as we tried to cram as much as possible into the day. One of the main reasons I enjoyed the Duomo is because we were able to slow down and just sit quietly for several minutes.

I have studied only a little of the history, but I understand that the Medici family was particularly powerful and influential in supporting / leading the development of much of the most beautiful of what we see in Florence. Not everything about the Medici family was magnanimous though. In fact a lot of the stories were anything but flattering. However their efforts were used to create the beautiful place Christin and I were able to sit.

Gazing upon the frescos and sculptures my mind rested upon the God who gives wonderful gifts and talents to man. A thought struck me that persists – the art in Florence and specifically within the churches was sometimes helpful to me in my meditation upon God. But at other times it was distracting by degrees. So the question arises – what is the true value of art?

It seems to me that the highest purpose of art is to speak to the deepest parts of our consciousness and point us to God. Admittedly I begin from a standpoint of knowing that God exists and that He wants to be involved in our lives. While He chooses to remain out-of-sight for the most part, it is not because He doesn’t want to be known. On the contrary He desires a relationship with us, but He wants that relationship to be one of faith rather than sight. So when I think of the highest purpose of art I see that it is to draw us into an acknowledgement of the one who gives gifts to people and creates beauty in this world. For many people art speaks more eloquently to the spiritual part of them than rhetoric ever could.

Another purpose of art I believe is to stretch us, to see things that we might overlook otherwise. I know the few moments in the Duomo made me realize I had allowed some of the negative “press” about the Medici family to cloud my perspective of Florence and this powerful family. That is not to condone things they may or may not have done, but it does mean I can look upon them as I do every man and acknowledge, “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Hopefully their religious acts did not get in the way of meeting the savior personally. Jesus was able to stretch me as I sat on a little bench against one of the cool, stone walls gazing upon the grandeur of the place. My hope is He did that for the Medici family and for the hundreds and thousands who have passed through this beautiful city as well.

As we leave Florence I am stirred by the many generations that have gone on before me who have sought to honor God in their day and in their way. I pray that you and I may leave a lasting legacy, perhaps not with stones and blocks, frescos and sculptures, but with good deeds done and faithful obedience to the One who has called us to Himself.

Have a blessed day today and always!

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