Chapter 14 of The Story (with this chapter occurring approx. 930-848 BC) involves kings fighting for supremacy and kings using geographical high places for their own ambition. The words “high places” occur 5 times in this chapter. In one instance, after King Jeroboam built two golden calves he built shrines for them on “high places”. Later, idols were also made of metal, “Asherah poles” were made to worship the deity Asherah (2X), sacred stones were set up “on every high hill and under every spreading tree”, and an altar and temple were later made to worship the deity Baal. (Artistically, other items listed in this chapter included “treasures of the temple of the Lord and the treasures of the royal place”, gold shields, bronze shields, gold [4X], silver [3X], stones, and timber). In contrast to his predecessors, King Asa “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, as his father David had done” and got rid of the male shrine prostitutes and the idols that had been made. He even demoted his grandmother Maakah from her position as queen mother due to her creating a “repulsive image” for the purpose of worshipping Asherah. King Asa cleared the land of Judah of all its idols. However, King Asa did not remove the high places. King Asa had it right. Proper perspective involves looking upwards – towards God as the Creator – rather than for a person to elevate themself – and create with the intention of elevating themselves and accomplish their self-centred and ambitious objectives and to ‘be worshiped’.
God commanded Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you”. I can remember when in 2001 my wife Becky and I packed up and moved from Toronto, Ontario to Winnipeg, Manitoba, where we continue to live with our family. I had been invited by Providence University College to teach and direct an itinerant physical theatre ministry team and Becky was going back to school at the University of Manitoba to earn her Bachelor of Education. It was not easy for me to leave Central Ontario – where I had been born and raised. My family still lived there. There have been other occasions when I have followed God’s calling as an artist – moments which I have never regretted. Saying ‘yes’ to God asking ‘Will you do what I ask you to do?’ is always the best response.
Artists, and all creators, take a risk when they share their creation – expressions of themselves. Is my creation good? Will it be liked? If it is not received well – does this reflect poorly on me? As artists we are often hardest on ourselves in the moments following our sharing of our art – self-critiquing and potentially regretting. In Genesis we read that due to humanity’s wickedness and people’s inclination to evil, God decided to destroy the human race that he created, saying, “I regret that I have made them.” However, Noah – a righteous and blameless man – found favour in God’s eyes. Despite God’s regret, he was able to find the good and positive in his creation – in Noah and his family – and choosing to spare Noah and his family, and at least 2 of every kind of living creature (male and female). God told Noah to build an ark. While he provided certain specifications for the ark (type of wood, how to waterproof it, and dimensions), he left the creative details of the ark’s design up to Noah. Following the flood in which all but Noah’s family and the creatures on the Ark perished, and God established a covenant with Noah, God continued to share his love for artistic beauty – creating the rainbow that would be a sign of the covenant between God and the earth. The rainbow – a creative risk by God – that so very often evokes a ‘WOW!’ from the beholder – an exclamation mark to his reboot of creation.
“In the beginning God created…” In the Genesis creation narrative, we can make significant observations about creativity and, in turn, art. The heavens and the earth were the blank canvas on which God created – the earth was “formless and empty” and dark. Everything began with God and was his idea. The Spirit of God was present from the beginning of the creation process. In the words, “God saw that […] was good” we see that he paused, ‘stepped back’, evaluated his creation, and was able to give a positive self-review. The 7th time this phrase appears in this passage the significant adverb ‘very’ is added – “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good”. As artists generally do nowadays, God also names his parts of creationworks – “God called the light ‘day’”, before he gives names to other parts of his creation in following verses. Regarding sources of inspiration in art, God made humanity in his image. The variety of God’s creation is indicated in the words, “The heavens and earth were completed in all their vast array”. After God formed (Days 1-3) and filled (Days 4-6) (Barr, 2011), God set an example for artists when he rested on the 7th day. He blessed the 7th day and made it holy “because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done”. Creation was also aesthetically strong – “Trees that were pleasing to the eye” and, later, mention that Eve saw that the fruit of the tree was “pleasing to the eye”. Finally, as Adam Barr writes, “God [is] the supreme storyteller. Unlike a human author who relies on words and print to convey a story, God is enacting a grand narrative in flesh and blood, neutrons and nebulae.” God’s creation as described in Genesis is the beginning of humanity’s witness to his creativity – creativity that he has imparted to people in varying degrees.
I can remember many years ago as a teen in our church youth group we read through a book entitled The Life of Christ in Stereo. It took the Gospels and combined them into an easy-to-read, chronological narrative. A significant part of the strength and power of the ministry of From The Top over the past 25 years, by God’s enabling, has been our highlighting of stories and themes from the Bible in an artistic way – through sight and sound. To complement my ministry and leadership with From The Top I have read the Bible chronologically. Now, from September 2017 until June 2018 I’m going to be working through the recent book The Story by Max Lucado and Randy Frazee (link: http://www.thestory.com/what-is-the-story/). The Story is the story of the Bible, God’s great love affair with humanity condensed into 31 chapters bringing together the stories, poems and teaching of the Bible. I’m embracing this opportunity for study, reflection, growth and service, and artistic expression. As the President and Artistic Director of From The Top Arts, I want to invite any of you who are interested to join me on this creative journey. I’ll be posting my responses as an artist to this book as I read through it, and Scripture. I invite you to write with your responses – in text or via whichever artistic medium you create. Please let me know if you would like your responses shared here on my blog The Restless Artist. More details to come in the next few weeks.” (‘The Story’ can be purchased off Amazon for under $18 [Kindle for $15]).