Category Archives: Christians

Guest Blogger Amy Maddox

Guest Blogger Amy Maddox

I’m happy to welcome my friend Amy Maddox as guest blogger today. Amy is a talented writer who is working on her first novel while raising a husband and three children. You can read more of Amy’s thoughts—and see photos of her artwork—on her own blog, Something Deep and Witty. Without further ado, here’s Amy.
For the record, writing is art.
 
Of course, a lot of other things are also art: music, photography, painting, movies, sewing, gardening, cooking, crafts. The list goes on and on. And when I’m in the middle of making a lampshade (more on this later), it’s easy for me to understand that I am creating art. After all, I have glue and scissors. Aren’t glue and scissors prerequisite tools for art?

But writing? When I’m in the middle of it, I forget that it’s art. I read other people’s writing and can see the connection clearly. But when I’m doing it, I doubt. I struggle to find the words. I type, I delete, I stare into space. But just so we’re all clear, writing—even your writing, even mine—is art.

But back to the lampshade. I recently made one for my office. It was a long, sometimes tedious project, but I am very proud of the results. I’m proud of how nice the shade looks, for the money I saved, for the incredible blessing of having an office to decorate after months of unemployment. But I’m also proud of the expression of myself that is in the shade. In the process of reflecting on the project, I found myself wondering if I love the lampshade.

I don’t actually love the lampshade. It is, after all, an inanimate object with no soul. But there is also something of the eternal in this lampshade because I made it. There is something of the eternal God in me, both because I am created in his image and because he has redeemed my brokenness, and so because of the great care and time I put in making the lampshade, and because it is an expression of the art that is in me—art that is ultimately from God—there is something good and eternal in this shade, this art I have created. And so I guess it’s more accurate to say that I love God, but part of my love for God is reflected in the lampshade. He and I created it together. His expression of beauty and art, and more, his patience and care and grace, are all built into this silly little shade. So if I say I love the lampshade, really what I’m saying is that I love the art that God has created in my life.

I feel much the same way about writing—the writing that is, after all, art. In the same ways I used fabric and glue and thread to create art for my office, I use pen and paper (or, more likely, keyboard and screen) to create art. The lampshade is so much more than the sum of its parts, and so writing is so much more than just the words on the page. It is passion, aspiration, faith, doubt—the sum of the human experience can be expressed and understood in writing just as it is expressed in other types of art.

And ultimately, art is good and speaks to our souls because it expresses something of the eternal. This is the power of writing, of singing, of things we create that words cannot express. We are made in his image, all of us, and something of Elohim, the Creator God, lingers in us. But we who are redeemed—and whose art is redeemed—have a special privilege, a special responsibility. As God created, so we create. As he penetrates the soul with the word, so can our words be used by him. Writing is an act of faith-ing, of speaking, of yielding, of wielding. Our art can show life and light to the world.

And so, God—whether we actually use his name or not—uses art as a revolutionary force. A friend of mine recently said on her blog, “The heart can be a wall. But if you put hinges on a wall, it becomes a door. And culture [or art] is the hinge. What a revelation to me, the culture-lover! No wonder I am so in love with culture–it has opened up my heart to God.”

When I was young, I enjoyed the hymn “How Great Thou Art.” The words stirred my young soul, and my mind gave image to the timeless words:

O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.
Then sings my soul, My Savior God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art . . .
The problem was, I didn’t understand archaic English at that age. When I sang “How great Thou art,” I thought we were telling God how great his art was. Look at the worlds he’d made! Look at the stars! Hear the thunder! That’s some impressive artwork! It wasn’t until later that the truth hit me like the aforementioned thunder. “How great Thou art” really meant “How great you are!” I felt so silly and childish.
 
But, oh, isn’t it the deepest truths that sometimes come from little children? In the intervening years, I’ve returned to that original understanding and come to appreciate it, and God, and my own creativity, in new ways. And so when I sing, however infrequently, that old hymn, I choose to think, How great your art is, God.

And how great our art can be, too.

For more on creating art with our words and our lives, see Emily Freeman’s blog, Chatting at the Sky. She has been writing about art all this year.

 

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A Christmas Card in April

A Christmas Card in April

I like to take my two dogs for a walk in the cemetery near my house. If I get there early enough, I can let them run off leash for a while, and they love that. A month ago, while Sophie and Cooper were chasing squirrels and leaping over headstones, I found a creased and red-stained Christmas card in the grass. There were no headstones in the immediate area, no indication of where the card had come from. I opened it. The words inside were heartbreaking: “Merry Christmas in heaven. I’ll love you forever. I miss you so much.” It was addressed to a man and signed by a woman (I’ll call her Margaret).

About thirty feet from the card, I found an envelope, also stained red. The front of the envelope read “To My Dear Husband.” I imagine the stain came from a Christmas wreath with a red bow—such wreaths were everywhere in the cemetery, even in early April. Snow and rain had leached color from the bow onto the card. Someone had torn open the envelope, removed the card, and tossed them both to the wind. And for some reason I found them. I’ve been praying for Margaret ever since.

So why did I find the card? If you had asked me ten years ago, I would have said it was coincidence. Forget the fact that if I had arrived in the cemetery just one minute later, the wind, which was wild that day, would have blown the card far from the path I always walked. No, like any sensible twenty-first-century woman, I would have invoked coincidence.

But ten years have passed, and I’ve learned something: To believe in coincidence is to deny God’s infinite creativity. Coincidence is the product of a withered imagination. It reduces God to something more manageable in our minds.

Imagine a God who, on a windy day in April, would send a tattered Christmas card blowing my way. Who would allow one of His children the privilege of praying for another of His children and thereby have her take part in the Great Dance. Who would bless my simple walk in the cemetery. It boggles the mind, doesn’t it?

Still, some people prefer chance to a wily, artistic God. There’s safety in coincidence. For one thing, coincidence absolves us of responsibility. If coincidence sent the card my way, there’s no reason I should pray for Margaret. For another, coincidence turns God into a cosmic couch potato with little interest in His creation and no stake in how events play out. We hardly need bother with a God like that. He has no claim on us—and sometimes that’s just the way we like it.

Was God surprised that I took the card as a sign to pray for Margaret? How could he be? Did Margaret need prayer? Yes, I think so. And knowing how I think, the God who controls the wind sent the card my way. Only the unimaginative would call that coincidence.

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Cloud of Witnesses

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12:1 Those who make up this biblical cloud of witnesses—Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Rahab—are impressive figures, butContinue Reading

Howls of Derisive Laughter

I recently saw a video of a speech Christian musician Rich Mullins gave in 1986 to a Christian youth organization in which he said he’d given up watching Monty Python movies. “This was a hard one for me,” he explained. “Because I love Monty Python movies, and I had to stop watching them, because IContinue Reading

A Little Thing

A Little Thing

Last week I was up and out of the house early to drop a couple pieces of mail in the mailbox a few blocks from my house. I was looking ahead to all I had to do that day—not much of it pleasant—and as a result I was already in a gloomy mood. I wasContinue Reading

Happiness and the New Pagan Chaplain

“If being a pagan makes me a better person and makes me happy, that’s all that matters.” —Mary Hudson, the first pagan chaplain at Syracuse University  “I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that.” —C.S. Lewis In doing research for my novels, I sometimesContinue Reading

I Don’t Belong: The Anne Rice Syndrome

I Don’t Belong: The Anne Rice Syndrome

There’s a joke that goes something like this: One Christian tells another Christian that he loves his church because the people there accept him, warts and all. “They love me for who I am, they accept me, and they don’t judge me.” The other Christian replies, “That’s not a church, that’s a bar.” When IContinue Reading