Vincent Van Gogh had a favorite expression: “sorrowful, but always rejoicing.”
Henri Nouwen said of Vincent:
“His life and paintings illustrate the three components of the spiritual life.
In solidarity we cry out with those who suffer.
In consolation we feel deeply with those in pain.
We offer comfort by pointing beyond our shared human pains to glimpses of strength and hope.”
Vincent himself wrote: “In a picture I’d like to say something comforting, in the same way as music.”
Art has a way of re-framing the darkness we experience in our sorrows, and helps us to see the light and the sunshine of hope that brightens life once again.
We have cried with those who suffer and felt deeply with those in pain this week.
We need comfort to be pointed beyond our pains to glimpses of strength and hope.
May we find this comfort in a glimpse of the sunflowers after the sorrows.
“I’m thinking of decorating my studio with a half dozen pictures of sunflowers, a scheme in which raw or broken chrome yellows will burst forth against various backgrounds — blue from the palest Veronese green to royal blue — and framed with thin wooden strips painted in orange lead.
The kind of effect you get with stained-glass windows in Gothic churches.” – Vincent Van Gogh
Finally, brothers and sisters, fill your minds with beauty and truth. Meditate on whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is good, whatever is virtuous and praiseworthy. Philippians 4:8 VOICE
Help us Lord to decorate our lives today with sunflowers, to rejoice again in light and life, and find comfort in the beauty of the glimpses of strength and hope all around us.
More Beauty From Brokenness:
Today’s post is shared by Sue Riger from A Painter’s Journey
…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. Isaiah 61:
In the 70’s my school showed us film clips of atom bomb survivors.
The radiation poisoning caused unthinkable suffering. Bandaged people walked aimlessly among the ash and rubble.
My school taught that the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki ultimately saved lives by ending WWII. But my gut writhed with the atrocity. I wondered how recovery could be possible.
Incredibly, post-war Japan produced a group of artists in the early 1950s who believed beauty emerges when something becomes damaged or decayed. The Gutai group professed that a thing’s inner life is released during the process. Breaking from traditional Japanese art, they produced this figure:
The concept reminds me of Lodgepole pine trees.
High above the forest floor, their cones are sealed shut by resin. In patient dormancy they wait for the liberating furnace of a forest fire.
Only intense heat will melt the resin and release the seeds from the tree’s crown.
In this way beauty emerges from destruction and ashes.
Borrowing a phrase from the 70’s — this next part really blows my mind.
Isaiah says we are to receive crowns of beauty instead of ashes and that we will be called plantings of the Lord, oaks of righteousness!
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor. Isaiah 61:1-3
Jesus – despised, rejected, scourged, condemned to die – received a crown of thorns.
Beautiful because he willingly took it all for us. Without the suffering Jesus bore, we could not take part in the victory he offers to us. He descended into death. Total surrender.
Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. John 12:24
Oh happy news! On the third day Jesus emerged from the grave. He is alive and we receive crowns of beauty instead of ashes. By faith we join him – sprouting new growth in the midst of a suffering decaying world. Restoring broken hearts. Setting the captives free.
…all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe—people and things, animals and atoms—get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the cross. Col. 1:18-20 MSG
I’m sojourner. Here for a lifetime and hoping to make it count. For me, creativity is a fun gift from God and an avenue to display gratitude for the beauty around us. My husband, three great kids and four giggly grandkids fill my life with wonder and joy. Whether looking through the lens or holding a paint brush, the creative process is a way for me to thank God for surrounding us with so much beauty.
Connect with Sue at: apaintersjourney.com
More Beauty from Brokenness:
God made my life complete when I placed all the pieces before him. When I got my act together, he gave me a fresh start . . . I feel put back together, and I’m watching my step. God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes. Psalm 18:20-21, 24 MSG
Broken. Used up. Rejected. Abused. Abandoned.
These words defined the story of this dresser as it sat in the broken furniture section of the Re-Store. A $5 orange sticker pleaded for someone to recognize a splinter of hidden value left.
$5 for solid wood.
$5 . . . the price for hope.
The artist saw it . . .
The redeeming value.
The new life.
The hidden beauty.
A renewed purpose.
Adopted for $5 and brought home, the artist set out to redefine it for its new future.
Dictionary pages – words that define life – were pasted over damaged skin and frame.
New handles, new paint, and hundreds of pages later . . .
God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes. Psalm 18:24
Take our brokenness Lord.
You are THE ARTIST.
Redefine the abuse, abandonment, rejection, pain and sorrows.
Redeem us to new life.
Rewrite the text of our lives with YOUR WORDS OF LIFE.
Make us beautiful and useful to your kingdom once again.
Praying for God to redefine us in the light and life of His truth today.
(My daughter Sarah, who sees the beauty that can become from brokenness, redefined the life of this dresser.)
Beauty from ashes, that what God promises us.
Beauty, recycled and made new from the broken pieces of our lives..
We celebrate the amazing and sometimes miraculous beauty of recycled and reclaimed art…and renewed artists.
More Beauty from Brokenness:
For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help. Psalm 22:24 NIV
The face of Jesus
from Michelangelo’s Pieta in St. Peters Cathedral, Rome
He has not hidden his face from you in your suffering.
He has heard your cries.
He has brought you victory.
They did not conquer the land with their swords; it was not their own strong arm that gave them victory. It was your right hand and strong arm and the blinding light from your face that helped them, for you loved them. Psalm 44:3 NLT
For you, He made his face visible.
For you, He made LOVE visible.
This art piece by Cornelia Parker was created from the charred remains of a Southern Black Baptist Church destroyed by arsonists.
There is beauty here, each charcoaled fragment a girder of praise miraculously risen from the rubble.
Pendant pieces of resurrection; once sheltering a family of worshipers and housing a home for hearts that desired to draw closer to God.
Fire, at the hand of man, sought to destroy it all.
Yet fire could not destroy the home of praise that lived in the heart of each believer.
No fire ever can.
When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. Isaiah 43:2 NLT
I will make my home among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people. Ezekiel 37:27 NLT
Praying for God to crown you with beauty today.
To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. Isaiah 61:3 NLT
More Beauty from Brokenness:
God made my life complete when I placed all the pieces before him. Psalm 18:20 MSG
Because, in the words of Pope Benedict XVI, art has the ability to:
“speak to the heart of humanity, to touch individual and collective sensibilities, to call forth dreams and hopes, to broaden the horizons of knowledge and of human engagement.”
These pieces of art by the Nigerian artist El Anatsui are made from discarded liquor bottle caps. On a walk one day he came across a trash bag of these caps, brought them back to his art studio, and began to create art tapestries by linking them together with copper wire.
But the art is more than art to El Anatsui:
He also feels a connection between Europe, Africa and the Americas . . . because alcohol was an item traded for human slaves.
The destructive effects of alcohol have fueled abuse of many humans all over the world, destroyed many a family, and left many discarded hearts with sorrows, wounds, and lingering regret.
I stood in front of the first piece of art and cried, for how alcohol has created brokenness in my own world. As I moved to listen to other pieces, I cried for how alcohol continues to create brokenness in our world.
Just this morning I read a news article of a teenage girl who drank too much at a party, and in a semi-conscious state was stripped naked and abused by two drunk teen boys. Nobody at the party stopped it.
I wonder, if she could see this piece of art, would she see the small piece of it that is the story of her life–rewoven into a tapestry of hope, beauty and new life?
Would she, could she, see how much more the divine artist–THE creator, God–can take the pieces of brokenness in all our lives and weave them into a tapestry of such beauty?
I cry more. Perhaps, just perhaps, this is a small glimpse of the beauty of heaven . . . where all brokenness is redeemed, all the stories of our lives are joined, and every discarded remnant of pain turns to joy.
Where we become beauty from brokenness.
I pray you hear the hope in this art today–the hope for the beauty that can be wrought from the broken pieces of your life and mine.
The art of El Anatsui is currently on exhibit at:
The Brooklyn Museum through August 4, 2013
The University of Michigan Museum of Art through May 5, 2013
Meet El Anatsui and see more of his art on this short video:
More Beauty from Brokenness:
The truth is beautiful and the true and beautiful go together:
beauty is the seal of truth.
– Pope Benedict XVI, February 2013
“Dear Artists, You Are the Custodians of Beauty”
Hundreds of people mulled about, talking, pointing, examining, and exclaiming in wonder. My husband, ten year-old daughter and I sat in stunned silence.
I wiped tears from my eyes and could only stutter to speak as my whole body vibrated in the presence of such overwhelming beauty.
Later, we entered St. Peter’s Basilica and experienced the indescribable beauty of Michelangelo’s Pietà.
I am not Catholic, and I had heard many voices over the years criticize and reject the “ostentatious” and “too ornate” nature of the Catholic church’s cathedrals and art. I had been influenced to believe that being too “showy” was wrong. That “real” faith was supposed to be unobtrusive, plain-loving . . . and most of all . . .quiet.
I walked under the magnificent rotunda, where I finally succumbed to the force of the beauty that surrounded me. With tears running down my face I looked up into that beauty, divinely inspired and wrought with human hands, and begged God to explain it to me.
“Why, why God, do you need all this? What am I supposed to think about all this ornate-ness? Surely, it can’t be your desire that we focus on such things!”
His immediate response to my spirit was firm and loud: “Do not despise the worship of my people.”
To create beauty is an act of worship.
We were created to create it. To worship. To speak loudly and ornately and even obtrusively of the beauty of God.
We are, as Pope Benedict said, the custodians of beauty:
You are the custodians of beauty: thanks to your talent, you have the opportunity to speak to the heart of humanity, to touch individual and collective sensibilities, to call forth dreams and hopes, to broaden the horizons of knowledge and of human engagement. Be grateful, then, for the gifts you have received and be fully conscious of your great responsibility to communicate beauty, to communicate in and through beauty! Through your art, you yourselves are to be heralds and witnesses of hope for humanity! And do not be afraid to approach the first and last source of beauty, to enter into dialogue with believers, with those who, like yourselves, consider that they are pilgrims in this world and in history towards infinite Beauty!
Faith takes nothing away from your genius or your art: on the contrary, it exalts them and nourishes them, it encourages them to cross the threshold and to contemplate with fascination and emotion the ultimate and definitive goal, the sun that does not set, the sun that illumines this present moment and makes it beautiful.
May there be more preachers of this beauty among us.
More Faces of Beauty:
©2013 Linda Crawford
This is small section of an art piece by Sono Osato. She created it by gathering discarded objects from the streets of lower Manhattan and then embedding them in beeswax, paint and asphalt.
There are so many things hidden in the chaos of it when viewed from a distance.
Lost and discarded objects that once had a connection to a human life…or lives.
Up close, I see…
A belt buckle. A hinge. A razor blade. A button.
Keys, lots of keys.
And a nail on a red background.
“This could be the art piece of my own life,” I thought.
I saw the hidden objects as buried stories of connections to people, events, and sorrows.
The button torn from a favorite childhood dress.
The razor blade held in the trembling hands of those who threatened to die.
The hinge from the locked door of my frightened heart before God.
The keys to that door…so many keys…that I had thrown away in my lost youth.
A nail, still covered in the blood of sacrifice, that finally set me free…
This is beauty from brokenness — up close.
Later, as I looked back at the pictures, I saw this art piece from a distance once more.
This time, the focus shifted outward from self, to a broader, more encompassing vision of the hidden beauty in the chaos of life…
I saw the young girls who just lost the buttons on their favorite childhood dress this week, and became enslaved in sex trafficking.
I saw the abused women who still bear the welts from the buckle of their abuser on the flesh of their hearts.
And I saw the prodigals…the sons and daughters who have been lost in the chaos of life…some discarded, some who ran far away, some afraid, and some simply unnoticed and neglected.
These are the lost ones, still out there in the streets, waiting for us to see.
Waiting for us to notice them and see, really see, the art piece God intended them to be.
Waiting for us to show them the blood-stained nail we carry in our hearts. To open our arms, enfold them in an embrace, and celebrate.
What was lost can be found.
Make it so Lord, make it so.
He had this moment of self-reflection: “What am I doing here? Back home, my father’s hired servants have plenty of food. Why am I here starving to death? I’ll get up and return to my father, and I’ll say, ‘Father, I have done wrong—wrong against God and against you. I have forfeited any right to be treated like your son, but I’m wondering if you’d treat me as one of your hired servants?’”
So he got up and returned to his father. The father looked off in the distance and saw the young man returning. He felt compassion for his son and ran out to him, enfolded him in an embrace, and kissed him.
The son said, “Father, I have done a terrible wrong in God’s sight and in your sight too. I have forfeited any right to be treated as your son.”
But the father turned to his servants and said, “Quick! Bring the best robe we have and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and shoes on his feet. Go get the fattest calf and butcher it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate because my son was dead and is alive again.
He was lost and has been found.”
Luke 15:17-24 The Voice
Click the photos to read previous Beauty from Brokenness posts.
He reached down from heaven and rescued me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemies, from those who hated me and were too strong for me. They attacked me at a moment when I was in distress, but the Lord supported me. He led me to a place of safety; he rescued me because he delights in me. Psalm 18:16-19 NLT
I had an entirely different post planned for today.
God planned this one.
It’s been a rough week for me, and I’m sure for many others. The physical pain I have battled for over three years decided to attack me with a vengeance again this week.
And on these days, all pains begin to hurt.
On these days, when I can barely breathe beyond the physical pain, the voices of the bullies decide to take advantage of my weakness. They rise up from the past and start to ridicule, poke, punch, and knock me down again.
You are nothing. You are worth nothing. You are ugly.
You think you’re a little angel–but you’re NOT!
I writhe against the pain, battling to believe in the beauty that is me.
And even though the physical pain does not yield, the emotional battle must be won.
The lies of the bullies were not, are not, and never will be true.
We have all been wounded by words, some more than others, and as I fight the lies once again tonight (even as I write this), I wonder if perhaps we can go to battle together…to drown out those voices that sneak in to exacerbate our pains.
Today, let’s create a bully-free zone in our lives.
Let’s speak LOUDLY and OFTEN of the beauty we see in one another.
Let’s share the message of healing–the message of love–the message of beauty.
Share the video below. God put this video directly in my path last night…because I needed it.
I believe you do too. And somebody you know needs it.
Watch, allow God to reveal your beauty, and share. So many of us need to hear the message of beauty…over…and over…and over again.
Praying for all the wounded, broken, and in pain today.
Past Beauty from Brokenness posts: