Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Beauty is saving my life

So Sarah Bessey is hosting a synchro-blog on the question "What is saving your life right now?"

Go to www.sarahbessey.com to read the rest of the entries.

I know the answer to "Who has saved your life?"  I know that I am saved.  But this question is different-what is saving your life right now?  What makes you want to go on?  What is helping you to survive?
So for me, in this time of painful transition, in this time of weaving a new life in a new place in our old country...in this time of sacred painful grief as we left our sweet foster son behind in China while he waits for his new family...in this time of great change....the thing that is saving my life is beauty.
It's the beauty of living in this new place where the skies are blue and the view of Mt. Hood is stunning.  If we are in the right place, we can see Mt. St. Helen's too...all flat from when it exploded many years ago.  It's  the beauty of driving up the coast and drinking in the beauty of wild ocean, green plants, fog and moss.  It is deep beauty that brings up deep emotion and that is helping us to heal.

It's the beauty of art and the spare, elegant prose of Makato Fujmura who says this:
I've heard many Christians say, "Why should we care about art and culture when we know that all will be burned up in the coming judgement?  Aren't our souls the only thing that is eternal?  Should we not be focused on saving souls?"  Yes, absolutely we should be concerned about our souls, but to what end our we saved?  The Bible from Genesis to Revelation, notes the Creator God infusing his goodness into creation and then using his children to fulfill creation's purposes.  Those who are called to be the children of God (Romans 80 are to exercise their creative gift to become vessels of God, to partake in the creation of the New Order.  While God does have the power to destroy all that is wicked and sinful, he often chooses to sanctify (as in gold) rather than burn away (as in dross), transforming our works.  As the Bible makes clear that God's desire is that the children of God be sanctified, surprisingly, God will also sanctify our works, so that our works may last beyond Christ's Judgement Day (1 Corinthians 3).  The Bible is filled with this promise of an enduring culture of God.  If we are saved for both the new heaven and the new earth, then we had better begin "storing up treasures" by bringing grace into our ordinary, earthly days. (Quote from Refractions page 145)

Soliloquies:  Inner Castle by Makoto Fujimora.

The beauty of silence is saving my life.   The silence of Revelation 8 when the world is silent in awe for half an hour.  The silence from the Psalter:  Psalm 62 "For God alone, my soul in silence waits, from Him comes my salvation.
The beauty of words is saving my life.  The books that we have gotten off my mother's bookshelves, from library sales, thrift stores and used book stores. I feel like a thirsty man in a desert as I look at all the books I have to read.  I've picked up fiction, poetry, Shakespeare and Henry Nouwen.  I picked up an old copy of the Book of Common Prayer and it's beautiful words for Communion, Weddings, Funerals and more.  It's so    restrained and elegant and true.
Elizabeth Barret Browning wrote.
Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God:
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes.

My shoes are off.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

On Books, knitting and Car Talk

Paul and I are still winding up the Coast of Oregon.  We love this kind of road trip. We go as far as we like, stop wherever we like to look at things and then stop for the night.  Paul drives and I look out the window.  I can not read or do anything in a car.  A few days ago I tried knitting my sock...which lead to an upset stomach and Altoids.  We share a love of the NPR program Car Talk.   We love Prairie Home Companion. I love classical and sacred music...Paul lets me listen to it....for a while.  We listen to contemporary Christian music....until we need a good dose of NPR talk shows.  It all works well for us.
Paul and I share a deep love of used book stores and since we have been back in the US, we have been to many. Our first full weekend in the US, we went to the library book sale at my old high school.  You have to get a number to get in-it's very popular. Books are about $1.00 - $3.00. You can only buy 12 books but the selection was fantastic!  They have side rooms where you can get other, less popular books.  I picked up a few Shakespeare plays and an old copy of the book of Common Prayer.
So here are a few of the books that I have read since we have been back.  Our week at re-entry in Fresno included no internet access in the apartments and lots of free time.  It was wonderful.

The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht.  I picked this up at the airport in Korea.  It was 12 won and I had 12 won that I wanted to spend.  This is the story of a young woman's relationship with her grandfather.  It takes place in a post-war Baltic country (the author fled Yugoslavia)  and is a fantastic mix of reality and fantasy.  The young woman in the story is a doctor serving after the war.  Her grandfather goes on a short trip and dies.  She tries to find out what happened to him and in the process remembers the many stories that he told her.  I loved this book.

The Coffee Trader by David Bliss.  A Portuguese Jew tries to become rich by selling coffee in Holland during the 1600's.  This is a thriller of a different speed-who is good, who is bad, who will deceive, who will win in the end?  The history of the coffee trade is pretty interesting.  I really like this book.

Refraction by Matoko Fujimura.  This is a book about art and culture and faith.  Fujimura is head of the International Arts Movement and an artist himself.  His writing is beautiful and elegant and spare.  I don't want this book to end.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Spirit helps us open our eyes to see the extraordinary in the ordinary

We are driving up to coast of California and Oregon.   It is so beautiful that I hardly know where to look and  how to process it all.  Deep greens and blues, wild ocean and tall mountains.  Two weeks ago I was riding my bike in a large industrialized city in China.  Now I am here.  I have these two parallel worlds...they exist at the same time on the same planet.  It feels surreal.

Makoto Fujimura in his exquisite book Refractions:  A journey of faith, art and culture  says this - Artists are often found at the margins of society, but they are, like the shepherds, often the first to notice the miracles taking place right in front of us.  Since sensationalism, power and wealth dominate our cultural imagination, we may not be willing to journey to the ephemeral, as the Japanese poets of old have, to see beauty in the disappearing lines or to see poetry in a drying puddle of water.  The world seems to demand of us artist-types that we be able to justify our actions, but often the power and mystery of art and life cannot be explained by normative words. 

Tree Grace by Makato Fujimura

My art reaches for the heavenly reality via earthly materials.  The intuitive core of my creativity, like the shepherds heart drawn to the birth of a Saviorm simply desires to pay homage to the mystery of the moment.  Lest we miss the birth of the Savior.  Lest we fail to glimpse the glory of heaven hidden beneath the earth.  The Spirit though, can help to open all of our eyes to see the extraordinary in the ordinary, whether the materials be extravagant minerals or a blackboard, whether we are watching and artist work or observing a special needs child. 

So this is my new blog...weaving a new life.  Finding beauty in the ordinary.  It has a different focus than my other blog which recorder our life in China.  On this blog, I'd like to write about beauty.  I'd like to write about books that I am reading, socks that I am knitting, music that I am listening to. I'd like to write about the pain of transitioning from one country to another and our attempts to make sense of all of that.  I'd like to write about the integration of faith and life and books and poetry.  I'd like to write about learning how to weave!  Not just anew life but literally learning how to weave.
Will you join me in looking for beauty in the extraordinary ordinary?