My husband and I recently purchased new bedroom furniture. The set we replaced was a dark pine waterbed collection that we bought in the early 80’s. We long ago abandoned the waterbed, substituting a more traditional foundation for the free-float mattress. Years ago, I took a saw to the thick wooden canopy and cut it off. That caused the ends of our bed to just be rough-hewn posts, which I masked with a few artistic decorative tricks. However, in spite of all the attempts at up-dates, our bedroom looked like a throwback to a style long ago abandoned. We decided it was time for our bedroom to tell a new story. Out went the heavy, dark pine and in came the soft, cherry wood.
Times change and the culture reflects those changes. What was once hip, mod, and groovy becomes outmoded (like those adjectives just used!). Styles, practices, technology, and vocabulary are constantly being reinvented and remade. The look and sound of the old times mark the past era. New ways and new trends arrive on the scene, and everyone acquiesces to the times. I guess we could say that culture is constantly remodeling itself.
We tend to call each remodel the ‘new and improved.’ Stores across the nation are filled with books telling us that our culture is being remodeled from the Modern Era to the Postmodern Era. Attempts to upgrade Modernism have failed, so it is being replaced by the new philosophy called Postmodernism. Modernism promised to deliver peace and prosperity through science and knowledge. However, threats of nuclear horrors, continued poverty and hunger, lack of personal fulfillment, and many other human ills have produced a generation that no longer believes that a social utopia will be attained through adherence to rigorous external principles.
The ‘new and improved’ philosophy promises happiness through personal experimentation. Postmodernism is remodeling our culture from ‘dos and don’ts’ to ‘whatever.’ Each individual is free to experience the revolving door of trial-and-error in a search for truth, integrity, meaning, love, and inner peace. All religions are equal – practice yours. All love is equal – choose yours. All opinions are equal – speak yours. Welcome to our ‘new and improved’ culture!
In the midst of this cultural remodeling, we have more than one new ‘bedroom set’ from which we can choose. Instead of moving forward into Postmodernism as the answer to the disappointments of Modernism, perhaps society should return to a first-century Christian lifestyle based upon faith, brotherly kindness, generosity, and sacrificial love. Values recommended within the pages of scripture are a viable antidote to the untenable moral standards, dysfunctional relationships, material excesses, and abusive power that are found today in American culture.
A question lies before us. Do we embark upon our own path of personal experimentation that may result in a disheartening and unfulfilling search for the ‘new and improved’ social utopia? Or, do we hear the words of Christ that promise us life and life abundantly, that promise us guidance through the ebb and flow of cultural trends, and that promise a heavenly utopia to those who love God and His commandments? These are the days of remodeling – what new furniture will we choose: Postmodernism or Christianity?
Every week I have the honor of writing an article for the newspaper. Every week, knowing that a deadline is approaching, I begin looking for a theme or some point of inspiration upon which to base my writing. Some weeks it comes easily. An event takes place, an incident occurs, a wonder arrests my attention, or just another episode in the saga of life transpires. The story that I wish to tell is virtually written before my eyes and all I need to do is put words to the picture I see. Those are the weeks that deadlines are non-deadly.
Other times, however, I sit down with my computer in my lap and the blank screen matches my blank mind. I write a few words, hit the delete key, and start again. I forge my way through bad ideas, labor over good ideas that go bad, or work with good ideas that go nowhere. Trial and error, hit and miss, attempt and fail coupled with tenacity and the pressure of a deadline have the uncanny ability to produce an end result. I think that is amazing. I much prefer the inspiration and ease scenario over the brainstorming and labor archetype, but both ends of the spectrum seem to be methods by which I fulfill the task of producing an article.
I more frequently accomplish the work that is required of me out of obligation rather than out of inspiration, motivation, and stimulation. This is probably true of most of us. Rarely, if ever, would our employer exempt us from coming to work on the basis that we felt no internal prompting to show up. Few parents release their children from homework or chores because emotional invigoration is absent.
Setting my hand to an assignment seems to draw out the talent, skill, training, and ability resident within. Duty places a demand upon potential, summons the aptitude, and extracts from the gift. Duty actually creates the consistent platform upon which talents can be regularly displayed. Duty demands constant production, thereby not allowing my forte to be undeveloped, unexercised, and unchallenged. Whereas, if I waited only for the occasional inspiration, I might discover that I am less productive and even less creative.
Inspiration is awesome. Bring it on! I go to church, to prayer, and to the Scriptures for inspiration. I love a good book, a movie, or a song that moves my heart and stirs a new fresh breath of ideas within me. I muse, ponder, and reflect in hope of gaining new insight and perception. Without the enlightenment, all of my production would eventually be less productive, and the deadlines would be met with dead, non-vital compositions.
I’m glad life has a balance of both. While I am waiting for inspiration, may I be found faithfully laboring in my assignments. And, while I am working, may I be always attentive to the fresh breeze of inspiration that may blow in my direction.
In 1501, a young sculptor found a huge piece of flawed Carrara marble in a cathedral courtyard in Florence, Italy. Deemed unusable because of imperfections, the marble had been untouched and unchanged for almost one hundred years. When asked to do something with the mineral rock, the young man measured the block and noted the location and size of the flaws.
For three years, the sculptor chiseled and shaped the marble skillfully. In his mind, he envisioned the final statuette. He calculated how he would discard the flawed areas, aggrandize the impeccably marbled stone, and fashion a figure out of the best of the rock. Finally, an 18-foot towering image of a young shepherd boy was unveiled. The masterpiece was a bigger-than-life representation of David, the illustrious shepherd who became king of Israel.
Michelangelo was renowned for his art during his lifetime and his fame continues throughout the generations. He is reported to have said: “In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it.”
Michelangelo possessed an amazing gift: to see the greatness within, to view the potential untapped, to embrace the prospect available. He demonstrated an incredible character trait: to chip persistently at the obstacles, to chisel relentlessly at the unusable, to labor patiently against the opposition. He received an honored reward: to bring reality to the dream, to create substance out of hope, to release freedom to the vision.
Each of us may have a little Michelangelo within. The seamstress who envisions the dress when viewing the bolt of fabric, the carpenter who sees the finished piece of furniture in the unfinished boards, the father who sees a full-grown son in the tiny infant in his arms: all of these are examples of that sculptor’s spirit. Anyone who refuses to discard the inspiration in spite of possible flaws has the potential to create a masterpiece.
In his lifetime, Michelangelo was often called Il Divino, meaning the divine one. Undoubtedly, the name was attributed to him for his craftsmanship and excellence of artistry. Whatever the exact origin of the title, the attribute of divine is probably nowhere more clearly personified than through the ability to release beauty from the flawed and rocky structures of life.
In the beginning God created the magnificent cosmos from a condition the Bible calls ‘without form and void.’ The nation of Israel was sculpted from slaves while the Savior of the whole world had lowly beginnings in a manger. Joseph went from prison to palace and Elisha transitioned from farmer to renown prophet. And, most astonishingly of all, the Bible affirms that the average man can be changed from sinner to saint by the amazing grace of the divine.
Each of us has a rock before us and a dream within. Each of us has the ability to release that dream through persistent chiseling. Each of us can create our own masterpiece, if we will but chip away at the cold, stony, and unrelenting obstacles to reveal the masterpiece inside.
Life is a series of progressive or upward steps. We are constantly called upon to forsake that which is lesser to press into that which is greater. Kindergarten gives way to grade school; the preoccupation of youth is superseded with the duties of adulthood; the knowledge gained in training is swallowed up in the wisdom acquired by experience.
We are always growing, changing, enlarging. Places that once seemed tailor-made for us become too small as we outgrow the garment of our current stations in life. A parent views the physical growth of the child, which necessitates the purchasing of a new wardrobe, as a regular and predictable event in life. The child’s body reflects changes; his mind encompasses new concepts; his skills enlarge and mature; his potential is released. And, all this is natural.
Adulthood comes; but it is, by no means, a fixed or stationary thing. Life is too large to be comprehended in 21 years. Our capabilities are too numerous to be explored within the first few decades of living. Life is a series of opportunities for enhancement. I vividly recall leaving the family home to go away to school. My heart was filled with fear as I walked away from the security of home and hearth. Saying good-bye (even temporarily) to my parents and parting with my high school friends in order to embrace my future was no easy task.
I once heard it said that the measure of a man is that he is willing to lay aside the very things that he loves for a higher cause. However, if we become unwilling to spend what we have already gained in order to advance to the next valuable stage of development, we may find ourselves in a stale, stagnant and retarded state of being. Time is linear, not cyclical. Time and history move progressively forward. We age toward death. New Year’s Eve heralds the opening of New Year’s Day. If we fail to appreciate this benefit of life, we relive our past and recycle our yesterdays, spiraling downward into a lack of purpose and destiny.
Whether the past is pleasant or painful or whether the future is bright or hazy, life moves us onward into this great exploration of a broader place. Sweet memories of the past remain while destinies and hopes loom on the horizon yet to be explored. The Apostle Paul stated that he was always forgetting what was behind and reaching forward to what was ahead, pursuing as his goal the rewards promised by God’s heavenly calling in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14).
May this New Year find you in passionate pursuit of your destiny, faith-filled obedience to heaven’s mandate, and fearless conquest over every obstacle! Happy New Year 2020!