In this Holy Day season of Christmas, I am reminded by a Brother, Christ (like wrist) Otto, author of Mary: When God Shares His Glory, of the many parallels that we artists share with Mary, the mother of Jesus. The late Madeleine L’Engle, author of the master work, Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art, also drew on these parallels by reminding artists of the need to be available to the work Father asks of us. In submission and surrender Mary said, “Let it be unto me according to Your will.” In this way the Word became Flesh and dwelt among us, Immanuel.
If we artists will adopt Mary’s submission to the work, we too can participate in this act of incarnation of His Word. Through us, in the cause of Father God, our art is also a form of His Word becoming flesh.
We might want to ask what our inspirational source is for the art we make. Is it our own mind, our own intellect? Or is our source, in relational-faith, none other than the Beloved Father Himself? And when the angel of invitation appears in our hearts, do we choose to accept Father’s invitation to make the work? Will we venture, with Him, into the invisible spiritual realm and render our experience as artwork to share with God’s people? If our relational-faith with Father God is indeed the sole source of our work, then can it not be said that we too participate in the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us?
We artists, as the Charashim of God (His creative artisans), are we not Spirit filled? Do we not posses the closest of intimate relationships with Father God? Do we not participate in our own Mystic Union, that He is in us and we are in Him?
The Holy Spirit came upon Mary and she conceived. In our own spiritual union with Father God we too can experience the conception of works of art that Father desires to share with the world. In this way we participate in the incarnation of His Word. But, are we willing to surrender our own agendas and yield to Him for the benefit of our fellow human kind? What is Father God asking each one of us to “enflesh,” as L’Engle says?
The choice is ours, dear artists. It’s always been ours.
For more than a decade now, perhaps even many decades, I’ve carried three daggers of pain in my soul; how mankind treats Father God, how mankind treats one another, and how mankind treats the Earth, our home.
In themselves, these are driving reasons why I so love the intercessory prayer that Father Himself has lead me to. Most people agree that these three attitudes and actions are indeed human ills. Creation in and of herself was never meant to suffer ailments. These were brought here by humankind through our choice to rebel against Father in favor of the myth of independence. There is nothing, not one thing, in the human pantheon of so called solutions which will ever remedy these ills.
The solution, until the entire world is redeemed, is intercessory prayer. Through intercessory prayer, we’re given the peaceful tools to bring about God’s transformations of humanity. In this way we avoid the useless and futile participation in rancid political, economic, or social processes. In this way we, through the authority given to us from Jesus Himself, are releasing God’s purposes and power into the hearts of other people. With Holy Spirit, we are helping to change the attitudes of people’s hearts.
Intercessory prayer is something of a healing tranquility dart. Our prayers of loving intention find their targets and infuse those selected lives with the offer of Father God’s love, of peace, and transformation. This transformation occurs through real relationship with Father God. This isn’t mere religion, a human invention and a matter of the head. This is relationship, a matter of the heart, which Father intends for each and every one of us.
Father loves all of us without exception. What He doesn’t love are those demonic followers of Satan, those rebellious minions of death. Father’s desire is that none of us should be lost, not one, and intercessory prayer is very possibly the single most powerful means human beings have been given to help accomplish this.
Through prayer, we can wash ourselves of the pains and agony of futile human existence. We can distance ourselves from the lies and influence of our enemy, the Liar. We can easily move from an infected heart of death into Father’s living, loving Presence. Where we’re healed and brought into joy. Here, in Father’s Presence, we’re engaged, enlarged, and empowered to shower His children (that is all of us) with His life changing eternal love.
In prayer we’re not closing our eyes in futility, and begging God to make the demons and monsters go away. In prayer we’re directly participating in the transformation of the human condition, one heart at a time. Prayer is proactive with an effect far more powerful than any public rally of mere political or social awareness ever conceived.
Prayer is deeply personal, peaceful and involves we human beings in the change our world so badly needs. Prayer ticks off the Liar and frightens his minions who flee at a word from us.
Father God gave Jesus all authority and He exercised that authority to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the leper, and drive out demons. (Matthew 10:8) That same authority is given to every believer through His Holy Spirit. Jesus told His disciples, and by extension, all of us that whoever believes in Him will do the works He has been doing, and even greater things than that. (John 14:12) Having been given such Cosmic authority to lose Father’s power into the lives of others, how can we so readily accepted the pathetic lie that we’re incapable, or that miracles don’t happen anymore? If miracles don’t happen anymore it is only because we do not take up His mantle of loving prayer and use the authority we’ve been given to release the Power of Love into the world.
If the world is so filled with the hideous mistreatment of Father God, the mistreatment of one another, and the rape and pillage of this Earth, it is no one’s fault but our own. Father desires to correct all of these and more if only we’ll take up our authority and pray.
I am remembering a recent spiritual encounter. I was on a journey in the spirit. I don’t recall where it was I went, but in this vision, I received my Book of Destiny from Father God. What I received was an infinitely long scroll, a large and wide one. When it was given to me, it unrolled off into the distant heavens. On that scroll I saw dozens of images which I perceived to be the artworks that Father and I would be making in the forever more. Suddenly those images rose up off the face of the scroll and began a storm of pictures flying round me. It was as if I was in a gentle tornado of art encircling me. The images slowed and finally stopped. They just hung there in space. At the bottom of each image embers began to form and to slowly consume the artworks, right up to the top. The images vanished each in a beautiful glowing line of embers. Then I saw a fragrant smoke rising up from the artworks, rising above me to Father God. I suddenly knew what this vision meant. Father was speaking to me, spirit to spirit, while I was in that vision.
The scroll, instead of a book, was a sign of an eternal journey. Father and I will now be on an eternal journey of creativity. The images, of course, are the art that He and I will birth and release unto the world, and quite probably the heavens. The rising of the images from the face of the scroll represents their release. Once completed, they are released unto Father, and unto the world. Their burning was a deep reminder that the art, in the end, is a gift of sacrifice to Father.
Just as Bezalel, Oholiab and the other Charashim (artisans) completed their work, they quickly disappear from God’s word to be forgotten. There is a very good reason for this. The work wasn’t about Bezalel. It was about the people’s relationship to and worship of Father God. At God’s command, Bezalel was chosen, filled with the Holy Spirit, and created a body of work comprised of Heaven on Earth, just for Father God. We know it as the Tabernacle in the Wilderness.
So too am I to be forgotten by men, but not by Father. You see, it is Father God who is to be seen, praised, and worshiped through the art, not the artist. My artmaking is not for my personal fame and fortune. It is not about me at all. This art Father and I make together is all about Him and the relationships He wants to establish in the lives of those who will encounter that art. It’s as if His Spirit speaks to those who engage the work. It’s as if the work is somehow a window into something Father wants to share with us as individuals, a personal message from Him.
I do this work because I love Father. I love our relationship. What I do, who I am, what I become is all a gift from Father. Those gifts are then returned to Him with interest. I am one to whom much has been given and from whom much is required. There is nothing I can be offered in its place that I would value more.
I will always remember that vision. I will always ruminate upon its elemental, relational significance. I savor it because my Lover has chosen me, has honored me to become one of His Bezalel artists, one of His Charashim. I am one who dwells in His Divine Presence 24/7. As one of His believer/tabernacles, as all believers are, I am filled with the Holy Spirit. I have a hard-wired spiritual connection with Him and together we co-create in that Mystic Union to give birth to art.
Maybe it’s because I’m a Philomath – I love learning, but I do love a good book. I tend to gravitate toward non-fiction dealing with faith, art, faith & art, and creativity. The latest I’m doing a deep-reading on is Gregory Wolfe’s Beauty Will Save The World.
This culturally engaging, faith-driven, affirmation of creativity has got me by the ear-lobes and I’m so excited that I want to share just a few brief thoughts.
“My own vocation, as I have come to understand it, is to explore the relationship between religion, art, and culture in order to discover how the imagination may ‘redeem the time’.” Gregory Wolfe /pg-2.
Last October as the guest of Dick Staub, Nigel Goodwin, and Jeff Johnson, I attended a special gathering of thoughtful creatives and, like everybody else, was asked to give a 10-minute talk about my art practice; who I am, what I’m doing, and where I’m going. As I prepared my talk it occurred to me that; “What essentially interests me is the power of art, in all media, to alter the course of culture to the glory of God. I am searching for how art can communicate God’s love to the world without the trappings of mere religion, either to the Body of Christ (His Church) and to the world.” Lew Curtiss / Oct-2012
I was not many pages into Gregory’s book and realized that, here in my hands, lay much good instruction to that very process. This is why I couldn’t wait to write about this book even before finishing it.
“Just as Christians believe that God became man so that He could reach into, and atone for, the pain and isolation of sin, so the artist descends into disorder so that he might discover a redemptive path toward order.” GW / pg-6.
Further; “If art cannot save our souls, it can do much to redeem the time, to give us a true image of ourselves, both in the horror and the boredom to which we can descend, and in the glory which we may, in rare moments, be privileged to glimpse.” GW / pg-8
More and more do I encounter affirmations regarding the very high calling of faith-driven creatives of all media. More and more do I read and am further convinced that faith-driven art is the second voice of the Church (the Body of Christ), right alongside ordained clergy; that faith-driven artists – serious artists – share the same heritage in the tribe of Levi, and that we are sanctified and consecrated as God’s scribes and messengers in this world. More and more urgently – and Gregory emphasizes this in his book – is the need for serious, deeply rooted, faith-driven creatives to get to the work God calls each of us to do within His giftings and missions to each of us.
When I am finished with this first reading, this book will be annotated, highlighted, underlined, tabbed and tagged as it takes its place alongside the other reference works on my Artist’s Bookshelf; Walking On Water / L’Engle; Culturally Savvy Christian / Staub; Purpose Driven Life / Warren; The Artist’s Way / Cameron; Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain / Edwards; The Creative Habit / Tharp.
It’s called The Rape of Europa, and I’m not talking about the famous painting by Titian (1562). This historic story began as a best-selling book by author Lynn H. Nichols and was published in 1994. PBS produced an extraordinary two-hour documentary in 2008 based on the book. In fact Nichols is featured as a major commentator in this masterful exploration of the most monumental culture theft in human history; the wholesale theft of Europe’s cultural and artistic treasures by the Nazi regime in World War II.
Previously I’ve seen another documentary telling of the extraordinary efforts of the Monuments Men, those professional artists and art historians who over saw the return of these same priceless treasures to their rightful owners. What sets The Rape of Europa apart is the incredible in-depth look at Hitler’s thinking and justification for this horrible crime, the means and methods used by Nazi soldiers in these thefts, and the callous regard by Hitler’s inner circle regarding the “collecting” of art. Not only do you come to understand the “how”, but the “why”.
This is a riveting, engaging look at a very dark episode in world art history, the displacement, and sometime loss of cultural treasures, and the impact such removal has on the people of the nations being robbed. This is historic documentary at its very best.
From the official PBS website;
THE RAPE OF EUROPA tells the epic story of the systematic theft, deliberate destruction and miraculous survival of Europe’s art treasures during the Third Reich and World War II. In a journey through seven countries, the film takes viewers into the violent whirlwind of fanaticism, greed, and warfare that threatened to wipe out the artistic heritage of Europe. For twelve long years, the Nazis looted and destroyed art on a scale unprecedented in history.
The Rape of Europa is a “must see” for anyone concerned with the question of the power of art in culture and society. If anything, beyond the crime, this story demonstrates the deeply seated affection nations have for their cultural heritage, and how its presence and potential loss threatens national and social identity and integrity.
Never let anyone say that art is superfluous. This remarkable story proves otherwise. If nothing else can be said, our value of something is often found only when it is taken from us.
Check it out from the library, buy the DVD, but see The Rape of Europa. You’ll never look at art or art history the same way again.
For more fascinating information you can see the official PBS website, or the official Europa website. Both are filled with in-depth, interactive materials of this unprecedented episode of cultural history.
Lastly, here’s a link to the production company, Menemsha Films of Venice, CA., where you can read reviews, see production photographs and more.
Look. Listen. Become More.