Wednesday, January 26, 2011

God is "Right-Brained."

Have I got a story for you!

But first, let's put a little context on this before I tell you the tale.

"Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness... So God created man is his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." (Gen. 1)

Now it's pretty clear that we do not look like God physically, since he is a spirit & such. So what does it mean to look like God?

Most would argue that humanity has god-like attributes, and that we were given responsibility to be his representatives and caretakers of his creation. I would agree with this. But I would also go farther. Since through out this first creation story/poem, we see God being an extremely generous creator, I would argue that it is only natural that humans are creative too. AND that when we are creating things, we are simply doing what God hard-wired us to do. (Wether we give God the credit for it or not.)

OK, on to the story.

So this past Saturday I went to my friend's art gallery. They were holding their annual "Monster Drawing Rally." They bring in a bunch of artists from around the State & country. Some are famous, some are new to the scene. They get in groups, and for an hour one group will do their artsy thing and create. Once they are done, and the creation is hung on the wall, you can purchase it for $35. (If more than one person wants it, then you have to draw a card for it. No haggling allowed. Personally, I think a fight to the death would be more engaging.)

A gal I know who works there told me that her friend bought a piece two years ago for $35. It's now worth $10,000. (Yeah, I know what you're thinking.)

The artists love it. The onlookers love it. Everyone gets to do their thing and also chat with all the folks there. It's win-win.

I had never been before, but I'll ever miss it from now on. There was a lot of energy in the air, and I got to meet some very interesting people. To be honest, I don't really "Get" a lot of art stuff. A good deal of the time I will look at a painting by some modern artist and wonder if they might actually have it hung upside down. Still, it's not often that I get to be in a room with a couple hundred people and know that I could whoop the butt of 90% of the guys there.

So ANYWAY, I'm wandering around looking at all of the stuff, and this one painter catches my eye. (And it wasn't just because she was really cute...but that didn't hurt either.) It was a gal named Melissa Loop. She was using very bright & vivid water colors to create "Islands of Utopias" her words. I watched and spoke with her for a long time. I really liked the colors. (Especially since January in Minnesota is a big pile of frozen gloominess.) So I made up my mind to buy the piece she was working on.

Turns out, I couldn't buy a thing until it was put on the wall. So I would just have to be patient, which is not my strong suit. I ended up staking out a place near the framing wall in the thought that this would most likely be the spot where it would be hung. I was ready to tackle any & all who might desire said object of my affection. (Violence & Art often go hand in hand, you know.)

Well, it turns out that while I was waiting and waiting...for 45 minutes, I began to look at the other stuff on the wall. I kept glancing back at one picture in particular. My eyes kept looking over at it for some reason.

The picture was a pencil drawing of what looked like a table. It had hymnals placed neatly across it. The entire piece was black & white, except for one hymnal with a red stripe in the pages. I couldn't keep my eyes off it. What did this one bit of color on a black & white drawing signify?

So I looked down at the very tiny printing at the bottom of he picture. It said "Process of selecting Elders, Mennonite church, hymn w/slip of paper." Art & Church on the same page...and in a secular, bohemian setting with bolted & pierced people in birkenstocks smoking?!?!?! (Blasphemy!) OK, that hooked me. I really, really had to meet the artist so I could understand this piece.

Her name is Emily Atchison. She looks a lot like Elvis Presley...except for more tattoos. I found her to be extremely interesting.

It turns out that Emily had grown up in the Mennonite church. She explained to me that when it is time to pick new Elders, they believe strongly in the providence of God. Someone in the church will set out bible or hymnals in the pews. One of these books will contain a colored slip of paper. The folks up for being an elder have no idea which book has this slip. They will simply have a seat. When it is time, they all open their hymnals. Whoever has the hymnal with the slip of paper is the one that God has chosen to be an Elder.

It's kind of like the whole "Urim & Thummim" thing from the Old Testament. For more on that, click here. )

Well, I certainly didn't miss the irony that this whole time I had been desiring a different painting. I wanted Melissa's. I had picked THAT painting. But THIS picture of Emily's chose ME. Honestly, I almost teared up on the spot.

I talked to Emily about her spirituality. She said that she no longer practices, but that her Mennonite upbringing is still very central to her. I asked her how she was treated when she would visit her old church, with all her tattoos and "Alternative Lifestyle" thing going on. She told me that they make no judgments, but just accept her. That was when I DID start tearing up.

I looked around the room. I could feel the presence of the Creator God in that room. I could see God blessing what was going on. That doesn't mean that most of the folks there cared about God one way or the other. But it was clear to me that God cared very deeply about them. As his image bearers, they were creating...just like they were supposed to. He was blessing them. He was testifying to them through their creativity. He was calling to them. He was telling them how much he loves them and wants them to be in harmony with him. (Call me crazy...which is probably rather accurate, but that IS what I saw and felt.)

I don't ultimately know what will be Emily's relationship to Jesus. I can see that a foundation has been laid. I know that most churches would not be very comfortable with a person with her appearance walking in the door. That is truly a shame. But there is one church that will still love her.

I met some artists that night who are Believers. I found it interesting that every one of them almost seemed apologetic that they were both Believers AND artists. That's kind of a sad indictment of the American church that they should feel that way. God is an artist after all.

Right-Brained people are creative types. Sometimes art can confuse people. Often times it offends people. Americans love to be offended. "Christians" seem to specialize in getting offended. "Religious" people prefer to have everything neat & tidy. (That seems to give them more time to judge others.)

Many years ago, I went to the Sonshine Music Festival. Me and a bud went into one of the tents that sold souvenir thingys. We saw that they were selling some artists' rendering of a very "Caucasian Jesus" with a big grin on his face and tears streaming from his eyes. We both ran out of the tent with the dry-heaves. We looked for a garbage can, but when we did, Jesus was already there barfing uncontrollably into it after having viewed the same drawing. (Yes, sometimes art can be VERY offensive indeed.)

How come I can see & hear the presence of God in piece by Mozart, a guitar riff by Neil Young, or in that drawing by Emily? Could it be that God simply can't be contained by the little boxes that we try to stuff him into?

God is a creative TYPE. Sometimes he can confuse people. Often times he offends people. YHWH is the Creator. He is an amazing artist. He must be Right-Brained.



P.S. In case you get curious, the picture at the top of the post is the actual drawing I bought. (And NO, you can't have it! :P But you can come with me next year to the Monster Drawing Rally.)

This is a link to my buddies' gallery.

This is a link to the artist whose painting I originally wanted to buy.

This is a link to artist whose picture I actually did buy. To see her works, click on the links to the left on her page. (Warning!!! There ARE some "Nekked" pictures in there.)

This is a link to an artist that I had a very cool conversation with.

I'm gonna go get my coloring book out now. I'm almost able to stay inside the lines.


  1. Good insights, Joe. Keep sharing your journey with us.
    Oh, and I too, liked the picture.

  2. Joe,

    Thank you for sharing this story......for your sense of humor....and spiritual awareness. Being able to see through the eyes of the great creator, to seek the mystery, to overcome the images of God that make us and this world ill and broken....ahhhhh that is the trick...

    I've been fortunate enough to experience the Monster Drawing Rally with Emily....she is my daughter and I a member the of Church she told you about.

    When I was Emily's age, I too denied the existence of God.......but experiences like the one you have shared have continually affirmed what Marcus Borg describes as the "something more".

    How I wish I could recognizing the "presence" more often on my journey.....your sharing on this blog has helped that along......thank you.

  3. That has to go down as the coolest comment I have ever received...and totally our of the blue. God has a tendency to completely surprise me, especially on nasty winter days.

    I have no idea how you stumbled across my blog, but thank you for the remarks.