The Art of Life


Brad and Beth sent me “One Thousand Gifts,” and in their quiet Aussie way suggested I might like it.

It added a gentle half-inch to the pile of unread books by my recliner in the library.

Months later, Deborah wrote with simple Prophet frankness, telling me I needed to read it.

It added a very unwelcome bulging half inch to my computer bag on the next flight.

It was a long flight.  There were the ever multiplying e-mails clamoring for a response, each representing a life, replete with shame and dignity, hopes and fears, joy and grief, seeking to find some seeds of life from my journey that might fit theirs.

I left your lives waiting while I dutifully dipped into the book, conflicted.  It felt like a duty, but I complied with minimal expectancy.

Quickly I felt the low-grade shame fade away.  I had felt guilty for not reading it sooner, then saw how the Master Craftsman had been meticulously preparing me to be able to engage with this message a different way than I would have six months ago.

It isn’t always about my mess ups.

I savored her artistry.  A palette of 26 primary colors became a Prophet’s majestic adventure with ten thousand bold and subtle hues and shades.

As a diligent apprentice I sat appreciatively at the feet of a master feeling my own gifting unfold another petal under the bright light of her finely honed dominance of the art form.

Her topic is worthy of the medium.

God.  Man.  Life.

Who has the responsibility to infuse the chess game of life with the fragrance of God in the midst of the competition and carnage of a zero sum game?

And how?

“The liar defiantly scrawls his graffiti across God’s glory, and I heave to enjoy God . . .  Satan strangles, and I whiten knuckles to grasp real Truth and fix that beast to the floor.”

Again…

“Twice I had stood in the same pew as John had, at the funerals of both his sons, and I turned and had seen for myself , how John stood with the congregation and sang it clear, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”  Twice John sang his lifelong favorite verse before the coffins of his sons.  I can still see him brave through each line sung, the tears of faith streaming down his cheeks into his smile.

“My throat had swelled raw in this sad awe, and I had turned away, drowned in grief waters all my own.”

I marveled at the depth of a life lived with the rawness of “sad awe.”

And the kid who was legendary for staying up until 3:00 to finish every book begun, read two more pages of this one and stopped to ponder again.

Copyright November 2011, by Arthur Burk

Eastbound over the Pacific, in a really old bucket of bolts

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9 Responses to The Art of Life

  1. Susan K says:

    Without even reading the book, The Art of Life, the title alone gives me pause. It is so true that to truly live life takes a bit of artistry. Those that want to create a picture with depth must learn how to layer colors and not be afraid of black. I know I don’t want to live superficially, a quick sketch as a child might draw who is in a hurry to play. I wouldn’t want my canvas to sit there while I watch others on TV live. I’ll skip that blank canvas thankfully. All i know is I’m learning it’s ok to take time to make my picture life-bearing and seeking to have Christ reflected in it. I want to read that book.

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  2. So glad you were blessed! I am reading this one through for the second time and reaping even more. Ann Voskamp has a worthy blog at http://www.aholyexperience.com/. Her beautiful photography speaks as well as her words.

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  3. Carol says:

    I am in awe of wordsmiths who are able to craft the language using words as paint, causing even the mundane to dance again. I have been a fan of Luci Shaw for years; thank you for introducing me to another poet to savor.

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  4. Julia A says:

    Thank you for mentioning this book, Arthur. I began reading yesterday and it was just what I needed at this point of my journey!

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  5. Megan says:

    I had not heard of this book before and didn’t have it on any lists … yet! But I have thought about those lines more than once since I read the blog. I admire the bigness of spirit and courage to wrap her arms around mysteries that most people desperately avoid. The phrase “sad awe” will stay with me. It so describes the juxtapositioning of emotions. It’s a bit like “terrible wonder” – which also describes a kind of awe that is not joyous … but oh, so very real.

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  6. Rosa says:

    I’ve had that book for several months,and cant bring myself to read it yet….waiting for the right time.Just reading her blog makes me feel that raw ache of some kind of longing.

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  7. Darla says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I had 2 friends tell me about this book and how I need to read it. Thanks for your nudge too! (I had looked at the author’s blog and loved the poetry, writing, pictures & beautiful music – really ministered to my spirit).
    Blessings on your travels & work today.

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  8. Susan says:

    I’m so encouraged! I heard about this book from a completely different source. I’m on the waiting list at the library, but maybe I’ll go out and just buy it. It sounded like a good resource for increasing my thankfulness and celebration skills, especially as a Servant.

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  9. Genie Howard says:

    Dear Arthur,
    OK, I sent you a book too. It is a sort of math book rather than a “Christian” book. I know you need more to read like %^$#. But this one explains to me how God uses chaos for our good. I hope you will look at it because it goes with your passion for healing the land, and understanding our Great Father, our Dear Brother, and Holy Spirit, and how they work. It is about Chaos.
    Don and I send you our love, Genie (alias Eugenia) Howard

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