Saturday, October 29, 2016

Visiting Brahms at the Farm

Today we went to visit Brahms.   Although we all are excited to see each other,  Miriam always expresses her excitement more.  She seems to miss her sibling a lot.

 Brahms gave us an official tour of his stomping grounds - UC-Davis Student Farm where he works as the Lead Student Farmer.  He seems very happy working there.  He enjoys the people he works with and most of all learning new skills and knowledge - everyday.  At the farm they produce organic produce supplies all the Dining Commons  and other restaurants at the university.  It is a very sustainable farm and Brahms had a very pleasant experience as an intern.  Now he is one of the regular staff working the farm.

 As a horticulturist who worked on a research station, I envy his experience in production that I never had.  But as a mother I am very happy for my son.  I think that his experience at this job is making him a very responsible guy learning the value of agriculture, labor and people.  God is good to him.

Of course I had to have our picture taken by the vineyard.  :)   We had a fun day with Brahms.  And then Tim brought Miriam and I to the mall so that we could shop at Lush.  :)

Friday, October 28, 2016

Art: Retelling and Recreating (Part 2)

If art is retelling or recreating an experience for others to see which in turn results in our own sense of joy, then living is art in itself.

We live the way we do because we had experienced something.  We eat because we know it makes us feel satisfied.  So we feed our children or our pets.  When we give food to the poor because we know how it feels to be hungry and would not desire hunger on anyone else.

Art is sharing an experience.
One of the things that inspired me to draw was seeing an illustration of a plant in one of my gardening magazines.  I tried to copy it with my own hand and pencil; with careful observation and a a lot of erasing and redoing I was able to replicate the picture to some extent.  And after comparing my work with the original picture I felt a sense accomplishment.  Everyone lives the way we live because of our experience.  We experience something and because we think it is beautiful we recreate it.  Of course we all have our own criteria of beauty.

A long time ago, the bible tells us, God sent his son Jesus Christ to the world in the form of flesh and blood so that the world can experience Him.  Jesus Christ, in spite of his deity, came as a regular man to show mankind what a beautiful life looked like. God wants man to experience that life that delights Him so that we might be able to copy it.  It was not easy but He did it because he loved of the world.  The life he lived was so radical that some didn't see the beauty in it.  However, some saw it very clearly.  So starting with his disciples, people begun to mimic and retell the truth that they experienced. The apostle Paul, for example, was so  convinced that he had a sharp grasp of that life - he writes in a letter to the Corinthian church (1 Cor. 4:16), "Therefore imitate me."  He had a first hand encounter with Jesus Christ which changed the way he understood God and the way he lived because he believed.  In turn he urges the church to recreate what they experienced and he helps them by modeling Jesus.  Like a model on the runway sporting a piece of clothing based on the way the designer intended it be worn, Paul was living his life according to God's design copied straight from Jesus' life.   Through his writings the story is retold to us even now.  Through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we can experience Christ the way the early believers experienced Him.  As Christians it is our purpose to recreate our experience of Christ through the story that we live.

Art requires practice.
Some of the artists I admire, I found out, have been drawing for a long long time.  Some of them have been drawing for 20 years before they became known!  Basquiat for example started doing art when he was four!  And here I am in the second half of my life learning to draw an apple - with much difficulty.  But that's alright.  Art can be learned at anytime.  The only thing required is to start doing it - and practice.  Will my drawing of an apple ever look like that of Basquiat?  No, because I'm trying to copy a real apple fruit and I practice at it.  As a Christian will I ever love the way Jesus Christ lived?  No. Because God is still working on me.  But God in heaven can see whether I desire to retell His love and practice bit by bit everyday.

Paint God's love for the world to see.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Art: The way I understand it (Part 1)

I am currently teaching myself how to draw and paint. The process is rather slow because of my lack of knowledge about the topic.  But I don't mind because there are other lessons I learn along the way every time I pick up my pencil and paint brush.

So far, I am beginning to understand that...

 1.  Art is recreating a personal experience. In painting or drawing, it is recreating what we see or imagine;  in gardening it is the careful arrangement of plants that we know reflects beauty that we had experienced at some point;  in cooking there is art involved.   When we tell someone about a movie we saw - it is art.  When you write about a thought that crossed your mind - that is also art. When you exaggerate to mimic a presidential candidate you don't like, that is an exercise of art!  We recreate our experience for others to get a glimmer of the original experience.  

Art is a personal expression.  And this expression varies in style depending on the depth or focus of experience.  That is why art is interesting because they are always different with every artist.  As Ralph Ammer puts it, "learning to draw means to learn a new language - your language."  Don't worry if your artwork does not look perfect.  It is based on your own experience and imagination - and only you know what's in your head.  My daughter Miriam often tells me that my drawing does not have to look exactly what I am copying - as long as it gives the impression of what I intend to portray.  It is alright to paraphrase.

2.  Art is meant to be shared.  When we engage in art we bring to light what we have witnessed - either physically (as in fruits on a table), mentally (as an imagined story), subconsciously (as in a dream).  Art is meant to be shared and not the other way around.  When art is used to get something back, then it begins to become business.   This is when art begins to loose its intended value.  We share art so others can experience it also.  In some ways art is an aid to living in a community of people.  Not everyone can have a firsthand experience of something and so we bridge the gap through retelling and recreating.

3.  Art is a choice.  Either we do art or not at all. Sometimes we just decide to remain as consumer of  someone's artwork.  All the years that I was raising my kids, there were colored pencils everywhere in the house.  I hung my kids artwork on the walls or on the fridge but I never pick up a pencil to draw anything.  But I chose other forms of recreating back then.

In this age of the internet and social media, it is easy to remain a consumers.  We see something, we like it, and when feeling adventurous - click and share.  And there you have it.  We're done.   It is a noble thing to appreciate other's artwork but solidifying our own experiences by recreating them help us understand things around us better.  Take advantage of the world wide web platforms to make a statement.  We can produce something to share to the world.  Never mind that it is not grand.  Never mind that others seem better than you.  You have your own style and your own experience to recreate or retell to share.

When I posted one of my earlier sketches on Facebook, one of my friends asked me if I am not worried about possible comments or feedback about my artwork.  And I said, no.  Because I do not have anything to hide or to defend.  I didn't have any training at all and I do not claim to be a master.  Any feedback at that point is a lesson I need to learn.  :)

With these thoughts in mind, it seems to me that living is art in itself.  And I will talk more about it in my next post :)

Is living an art form in itself?

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Superstar and Judge

A couple of nights ago we went to see Casting Crowns and Matt Maher and Hannah Kerr in Concert.  It was good to see the whose voices are the tunes that I like to sing and listen to.  My family has been a big fan of Casting Crowns for as long as I remember.  I do like the style and the lyrics of Matt Maher's music but I just learned his name before the concert.  Hannah Kerr is a promising artist - I like her songs.  However, the point of this post is about something else.

Every once in a while during the concert, the lights would be directed towards the audience.  Maybe to reassure the performers that the people are enjoying and therefore to be encouraged.  With my cell phone I was able to capture a picture of the people standing and singing with M. Maher.  When I looked at the picture the next morning, it occurred to me that the sight could have been a miniaturized version of what we can look forward to when we get to heaven: People of all nations singing together praises to the Lamb who was slain.  It is a beautiful sight!  To imagine that the whole world of believers will be in there singing to the Lord is hair-raising.  And yet, the bible says that only a soft glimmer of what's to come is all we know and can imagine.  I think that God wants to surprise His bride. I'm fine with that!  What has been revealed to us are truths we must treasure as anchor of our hope until we get there.

One Person on the Throne.  In heaven the Superstar will be on stage - the throne.  "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor  and glory and power, forever and ever!"

Our favorite band will not be on stage. We will not be screaming because our most respected artist speaks of something we believe.  We will not be whistling at the musical rhythm nor screaming at the drummers' boss beat.  No.  We will have undivided focus on the true superstar - the only one worthy of awe.  He is the only one we will be praising.  Jesus Christ, the King of Kings.

We attend Christian concerts but most of the time we are fan-girling the artists.  Yes, we close our eyes when we sing the lyrics that says "Holy Holy Holy..." but it is highly questionable whether we are focused on God.  When we hear the artist say something we believe is true we scream.  I doubt that we are screaming at the paraphrased truth from the bible.  Maybe it is as simple as the thought that my pet artist is theologically correct.

One Person-Audience and Judge.  Here on earth before we get to heaven, we are on stage during our whole life - to please an audience of One - God.  Here on earth his eyes are on us.  Our approval rating is determined by Him alone.

The ratings we get from the people we respect are null when it comes to our eternal position.  The spotlights on the people we so favorably followed in our days will be turned off.  And we will stand in front of God and we will be measured based on how much we loved and obeyed Him.

I am reminded of the presidential candidate Donald Trump when he said that he thinks he won the debates based on polls done by different agencies and he names a few including ABC.  But according to Stephen Colbert, ABC did not do a poll.

It is sad that we live our lives trying to get high approval rating on all accounts but often times we are using the wrong polls to determine our success.

If we analyze the lyrics of the songs of these artists, we get the message.  Because they based their songs on the words of the bible.  But in the Christian life there is a great divide between knowing and living out a truth.  Like a little kid getting carried away by the box instead of the toy inside.

"Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts."  ~Psalm 139.23

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Grace and Hospitality

"The grace and hospitality we receive from God at His table compels us to offer grace and hospitality to the 
hurting and broken in our world."  
~ Mike Lueken  

Today at church we had a communion service, as with every first Sunday of the month.  Pastor Mike Lueken talked about the table - the communion table - as an example for us to follow in the way we lead our lives in this world.  Indeed, the table depicts a picture of the ultimate grace and hospitality even shown to mankind.  Based on Ephesians 2:1-10, we were undeserving of God's grace but He chose to grant us mercy so that we could join Him at His table. Through faith we enjoy an abundant life with Christ.  But it should not end there.  Instead we are called to extend the same (maybe not the same but even just a percentage of what we received) grace and hospitality to others.  This hospitality is not always in the form of material things but of kindness, forgiveness, acceptance, understanding and all other good things,  I know from experience that it is way easier to judge and reject than to love someone who does not measure up to our standards. And yet the communion table reminds us that we were dead in out sins, but we were offered life.  You and I were not the last walking dead in our circle.  It is about time we live according to the life that we have been given.  A life born of mercy, grace and hospitality.  

This week I will find ways to be intentional about extending grace and hospitality starting with the people closest to me and then radiating outwards.  Help me God.

It has been three months since we started attending at Oak Hills Church.  One of the things that I appreciate is that Communion is handled in a solemn way.  Communion is taken very seriously at Oak Hills.  And that's a good thing!