Reflections on Art, Faith, and Life

Month: March, 2013

Review of “Life After Art”

Matt Appling has delivered what I believe will be one of the finest and most important books of this year! Let me say up front, that some of you will see the title, “Life After Art,” and immediately think ‘this is not for me – I don’t do art!’ When you do, you will actually help prove one of the books main points. Matt launches into a poignant, and I believe accurate, description of how the lack of creating has produced our current world and world-view.

The author has done a fabulous job with the content, and Moody Press has done an equally fabulous job in creating the book’s design. The cover is artistic, appropriate, and attention-getting. The layout and flow of the book, with different-colored text boxes scattered throughout the pages, is clear, visually attractive, and very easy to read.

Matt weaves his way through the following topics:

  1. why we are all born naturally creative
  2. how we lose our naturally born creativity
  3. society suffers an epidemic of lost creativity
  4. relearning how to create within the boundaries of life
  5. relearning how to take necessary risks
  6. relearning how to be a creator

Matt has a compeling story from his own life: realized talent at a young age, studies in college, various careers and attempts to find his passion and purpose, and finally, landing in his present position as an elementary school art educator. Coming from and maintaining a faith heritage, a direct link is made between the gifts given and the Giver. All the way through the narrative, Matt connects creating with the Creator!

The premise is that when we are in kindergarten, we freely create – because we don’t “know” any better. We are merely attending to our inherent wiring. As we age, we slowly become aware of other people’s opinions, the degree of our skill-set (or lack thereof), and the “impracticality” of creating. All of these add up to many people abandoning something they loved when they were 5. Notice, I did not say “losing” – the author believes this aspect of our true nature lies dormant in too many people. It needs awakening in order for a life to be as full and rich as intended.

Matt’s premise: art is for everyone! Espousing this certainly incudes anything that involves being creative. We should not leave that part of ourself in the kindergarten room. We should not listen to the voices that would steer us away from that guileless love of creating. We should not put stock in the criticism that causes us to neglect something we used to love to do and something we were created to do. In the author’s own words, “this is a book about faith, family, hope, disappointment, dreams, failures, and all the other things that make up adult life.”

We have largely and sadly allowed the “stuff of life” to cover up the desire to find beauty and to create beauty. The resulting cultural and personal shift is to our detriment. Part of the solution is re-establishing the self-unawareness we used to have, the unbridled joy of creating, and the ability to feel comfortable in the inexactness of the process.

Matt has some compeling verbiage on how listening to the majority’s voice has taken us away from some of the things and ways that make us most happy. Re-igniting our creative self, particularly when coupled with re-igniting a direct tie-in with the Master Creator is presented as a way out of the abyss so prevelent today in our culture.

If you are an artist of any sort – you simply MUST read this. If you are not an artist – you simply MUST read this. I believe the tenets suggested by Matt will result in more of us finding our “true north” – both aesthetically and spiritually. Whatever you do, create with purpose!




The Getaway

Recently my wife and I went once again to “our place.” It is a lovely state park in NE with secluded cabins, and all the wonderful accompaniments. Thankfully my wife knows me better than I sometimes know myself – we scheduled this getaway to keep me from working through my entire spring break. It was “nectar of the gods” for my spirit and soul. It was a precious time for our relationship as well. As usual, I needed it more than I realized. 

I promise not to go the land of “too much information,” but reflecting on the experience brought not only relational insight, but in addition, some spiritual perspectives. That is the intended focus of this post.

Let me begin by listing some of things that make our “time away” so wonderful: glances, touches, smiles, laughter, serious conversation, stillness, silence, just being together, reflection, staying connected to each other, no time constraints – clocks/watches irrelevant, much less noise than normal, minimal distractions, fresh air, new perspectives, and priorities re-arranged/confirmed.

I can’t imagine my life or marriage without these fabulous “escapes!” I am blessed beyond belief to have someone to share this life with that helps complete me and assists God in the work He’s trying to do in me. As I sat in the quiet, at the edge of the woods, the faint smell of charcoal in the air, a glorious cup of coffee in hand – I couldn’t help but reflect on how the very things I’ve just described are also essential elements in keeping my relationship with God as it should be.

Relationships take both time and purposeful attention. I’m always glad to give those to the woman I love so much – am I always glad to give time and purposeful attention to the One who loved me enough to die for my sins? Do I offer Him the stillness and silence necessary to hear His words for me. It is SO hard to quiet the voices of culture and hear only His voice. Do I commit often enough to the time that takes?

Do I enjoy “just being together” with God – you know – “hanging out” with my Creator and Redeemer? Is He “fresh air” for my spiritual being? Do I long to stay connected? Do I seek times where the watch/clock doesn’t matter and we can address each other with less noise and distraction? Do I let Him realign my perspectives and priorities?

I want to challenge all of us – myself at the top of the list – to want Him even more than we want those on earth we love. I truly believe the best thing I can do for my wife is not to love her more than anything – it is to love God more than anything and allow Him to continue to mold and shape me. I know – easier said than done – but the difficulty shouldn’t alter the effort or commitment necessary. I believe the more I allow Him to “finish the work He began” in me, the more I will be able to love my wife and make the necessary sacrifices, with the right attitudes, to serve her as she deserves and as would please Him.

If you have a prayer list, and wouldn’t mind putting me on it, it would be great if you would pray that I will more and more want a vibrant and vital connection with the Father – one that shapes my heart, soul, and mind, and one that increases by ability to hear with Spirit ears, see with Spirit eyes, and move at His impulses!

I would love to hear your thoughts and perspectives – it is indeed a journey for all of us, isn’t it? Praise Him that He is the ultimate GPS!