Friday, June 28, 2013

Master Artist, Gourmet Chef, and Me

I don't know very much about art. Truth be told, I still put the sun in the corner of my paper with sunglasses and a smiley face. My art education roommate in college told me that's what kindergartners do. So that's the extent of my art expertise.

But I can recognize a good painting when I see one. At least, what I consider good. And as cliche as his art may have become Thomas Kinkade is known as the 'Painter of Light' for a reason. His paintings seem to glow with something ethereal and divine. The cottages aren't just cozy or his country churches merely quaint, there's something in them that we want to experience.

I am not a great cook either. I have a whole shelf of cookbooks that I've never used. Sticking to the same tried and true recipes, meals aren't very exciting around here. There's a reason my husband gets excited when were invited over for dinner. It's not that I'm a bad cook, just not a very confident cook.

But I can recognize a good meal when I have one. On our honeymoon we splurged on an expensive dinner at one of Bobby Flay's restaurants. Curtis had the steak, I had the lamb chops. His steak was the most perfectly seasoned, perfectly prepared cut of meat either of us had ever tasted. I practically licked my plate clean my lamb chops were so delicious. It was a meal that left us wanting more and we often talk about returning to NYC and eating there again.
Outside of Bar Americain

In the last few days, weeks, I've experienced the true Painter of Light doing work in my life. The Master Artist has been at work, layering in fresh colors, highlighting new details, tenderly adding depth, purposefully giving dimension to His created work--my life, my heart.  The Gourmet Chef has awakened a hunger and thirst for Him.

I've grown up in the church so I have a good amount of base knowledge of the things of God. As I've grown up and matured, through questioning, life experience, and lots of reading I've added to that base knowledge. But I'm afraid to admit that I've been subsisting on boiled down tidbits in certain areas. It's not necessarily my fault or the fault of my teachers but it's been subsistence all the same. And God has decided it's high time I feast on the Word and put some spiritual fat on my base knowledge bones.

This time, instead of teaching me through an emotional experience, or perhaps because I've given my attention willingly instead of forcing His hand to strip me of my distractions, I'm learning differently. I'm seeing  a beautiful methodology being used by the Artist, a rich feast prepared by the Gourmet Chef.

He showed me a lack of discipline in my life and asked me to focus my striving on simply being disciplined to meet with Him intentionally and consistently. The discipline led to a few reminders on obedience, because the two go hand in hand. He asked me to eliminate some of the noise, like Facebook, so that I could hear Him more clearly whenever He called. The Master Artist was adding some depth to my stark canvas outline.

And once that work was begun (this is a lifestyle for a lifetime, not an acquiesce for a moment) He taught me many things about prayer that I had never even considered before, let alone been practicing. The true power and purpose of prayer, the longevity and legacy of prayer, the sacrifice and intercessory abilities of prayer. Too many things to clumsily recount here. Perhaps most importantly, I've come to finally understand the real power of praying His Word, of claiming it for myself and standing on its Truth. It seems absurd that a good little Sunday School girl like me has taken twenty-eight and a half years to really digest that wonderful morsel but I've always been a picky eater.

Every lesson I've ever heard on prayer has boiled it down to some simple formula (A.C.T.S. or each finger on your hand stands for something to include in prayer or just pray the 'Our Father'--it was good enough for Jesus). But that's not it at all. It's not a formula, it's not a boiled down tidbit, something easily contained and explained in one half-hour Sunday school lesson. Prayer is one of the vast wells of Spiritual water, of God's goodness, even of divine mystery. The more you know about prayer, the more there seems to know about prayer, much like God Himself. I believe that's by (His) design. Just as the more you read the Word, the more you keep returning to the Word because it's always the same but forever revealing new depths of truth. Much like God Himself. A masterpiece invites the viewer to gaze a little longer, to come back and see the painting in different light, to consider the beauty from all angles. God does all this and more.

God has taught me about time and numbering my days, about seeing my service to Him as simply organizing and He's doing the doing, about giving worth and precedence to my priorities the way He does. And in all of this, He has taught me about Himself. To learn about the things of God--prayer, Scriptures, service, time, priorities--is to learn about God. And instead of just another fact-finding mission to satiate my intellect, this has been a gourmet feast on God Himself to satisfy my soul. Not satisfaction for all time, but like any nourishment, one meal at a time, one day at a time. Like manna falling from Heaven, more must be gathered and digested each day to keep my soul satisfied.

It's not for the painting to decide when it's finished but the painter. I am clearly an unfinished work but I hope to be one of His masterpieces. I want to be a canvas on which He can leave His unmistakable and indelible signature. I want to be a painting that reveals something inside people want to experience for themselves.

And just as I've been fed on the Word of the Lord, and the meals prepared by others in His name, I want to feed those hungry souls the good things of God. I want to nourish as I've been nourished.

I've been given new light and dimension. I've been strengthened and nourished. And the Master Artist, the Gourmet Chef is just getting started.

*If you're searching for some extra nourishment for your prayer life, these are the books I've been reading:
Handle With Prayer by Charles Stanley
The Prayer of Hannah by Kenn Gividen
Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver
A Busy Woman's Guide to Prayer by Cherri Fuller
On my list to read soon:
Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? by Philip Yancey
The Circle Maker: Drawing Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears by Mark Batterson.
Please feel free to leave any titles on prayer that have strengthened and nourished you, or added new light and dimension to your prayer life!

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