Makoto Fujimura and the Sacred Language of Art

These days most Christians who are passionate about influencing the world focus on issues of social justice. Or maybe they develop an allegiance to certain types of theology. Very few people, it seems, turn their time and attention to the arts, and not just popular forms of art you so often see in music and film, but serious art like literature and painting that endure through the centuries.

Thankfully, there are a few people who are serious about their craft and who create art, not for art's sake, but for the sake of Christ and his Kingdom. In literature, Marilynne Robinson comes to mind. In the world of painting, no one shines brighter than Makoto Fujimura. Not only is Makoto one of the world's most highly regarded artists, but he is that rare breed of creative geniuses who has given his life to uniting artists with "Christ-centered spiritual direction."

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What the Chilean mine rescue teaches us about sin

Like the rest of the world, I was captivated by the impressive rescue of the Chilean miners trapped thousands of feet below the earth's surface for 69 days. In a world where a lot of these kinds of things often turn out badly, it was heartwarming to see a rescue plan that worked.

There are lots of angles on a story like this. The resiliance of the miners and their belief that they would be rescued. The resolve of the mining company and the Chilean government to get every man out alive. The unabashed joy of the rescuers and the families as the miners emerged on the surface one by one. All of these mini-dramas within the larger story made for great theater.

As I watched the drama unfold, I was happy for the miners, but I couldn't help but think about sin. Not the sin of the miners or anyone else involved in the story, but a metaphor for sin and how God has put together a rescue plan for each one of us.

Anne Rice is out, Katy Perry is in. Oh the humanity!

In the middle of all the hype and angst about Anne "Interview With a Vampire" Rice leaving Christianity, a new story has emerged, albeit with a little less fanfare. It seems as though Katy "I Kissed a Girl" Perry has decided to tell the world, "I'm still a Christian." Or at least that part of the world that read her recent interview, "Sex, God and Katy Perry," in Rolling Stone magazine.

Talk about a spiritual cage match made in, er, heaven. Wouldn't you just love to get the 68 year-old Rice--raised Catholic, turned atheist, Catholic again, and now somewhere in between--in a room with 25 year-old Perry--raised Pentecostal by tongue-speaking parents, not rejecting her faith, but not exactly serving as a wholesome role model for all of her music fans? Wonder what these two spiritual titans would say to each other? 

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Create Stuff That Lasts 500 Years

Makoto Fujimura, the world-renowned painter, has often referred to the "500-year question" when it comes to creating art. What he's asking is this: What would it mean if serious artists--painters, writers, sculptors, architects and the like--created stuff with the view in mind that their work could last 500 years? Would it change the way they paint, write, sculpt, and design? 

Before you answer that, think back 500 years from right now, to the year 1510. What kind of stuff was being created around that time (give or take a few years)? I did a brief search, and here's what I came up with:

  • Michaelangelo finished his masterpiece, David (1504)
  • DaVinci completed the Mona Lisa after working on it for four years (1503-1507)
  • Construction of St. Peter's Basillica in Rome began (1506)
  • Michaelangelo finished painting the Sistine Chapel after four years of work (1508-1512)
  • Luther posted his 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany (1517)
  • William Tyndale finished his English New Testament translation (1526)
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The man I met in the attic

My father died when I was four. I grew up never knowing much about him. My mother remarried a wonderful man who adopted me and loved me. I didn't have a burning desire to find out who my birth father was until my wife and I decided to visit Minnesota a few years ago to visit the place of my heritage. Maybe to find Dad.

I'll never forget the experience. Karin and I stayed with my father's older brother, Sam. As you can guess, it didn't take long for Uncle Sam to ask me if I wanted to see photos of Dad, as well as some letters he had written. I quickly agreed.

The three of us climbed up into his attic where all the stuff was stored in an old trunk. My uncle pulled the light on with a string, passing around fading photos, reading letters aloud, and listening to Uncle Sam tell story after story.

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Why Not Go Deep?

I've been thinking about going deep lately. Something clicked in me after meeting with Jim Belcher, former pastor of Redeemer Prebyterian Church in Orange County and the author of Deep Church. Jim is leaving the church he planted almost ten years ago to move his family to England and work on a second book, which will most likely have the word "deep" in it. Jim seems to have hit a nerve with the idea of going deep, whether it's a church or an individual.

We didn't get deep into the subject, mainly because Jim is moving in a few weeks and every minute in his life counts right now, and he couldn't spend any more time with me than it took to consume a $4 Dennys value breakfast. But our conversation was enough to get me thinking:

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To Pray or Not to Pray?

Everybody sure is talking about prayer these days. Between the hoopla over the National Day of Prayer and Franklin Graham's insistence that he be allowed to pray inside the Pentagon, prayer seems to be on everybody's lips, media included. That's a good thing, right? I'm not so sure.

Consider how we got to this interesting place, where the very idea of public praying has become controversial. First, U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb in Madison last month found the National Day of Prayer, established by Congress 58 years ago and held on the first Thursday of May, to be unconstitutional.

Then, on Aprill 22 the U.S. Army "disinvited" Franklin Graham, who had been scheduled to speak at a Pentagon National Day of Prayer event because his comments about Islam were "inappropriate.'

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Lessons in control and character from Tiger and Phil

You don't have to be a golf fan to appreciate what happened at the Masters on Sunday. You just have to be a fan of the twists and turns of human nature. There in the final round on the storied Augusta National golf course, two titanic golfers were pitted against each other. On one side you had Tiger Woods, the world's number one golfer, working through difficult circumstances created by his own woeful behavior. On the other side you had Phil Michelson, the world's second best golfer, dealing with difficult circumstances outside his control.

Throughout the four-day golf tournament, Tiger thought he was in control, but he wasn’t. He played well for a guy who's been off for four months, but his shots were erratic. And his occasional verbal outbursts belied his stated intentions to be a different kind of golfer. As the afternoon shadows lengthened and he slipped further from contention, Tiger seemed to get smaller and less significant. 

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Can Buddhism Lead to Christ?

Tiger Woods is back, and the world is watching. Some are watching for the golf, others for the story of recovery and redemption in play. Me, I'm watching for the Buddhism.

If you recall, just a couple of months ago Tiger held that rather strange and staged "mea culpa" press conference, the one where he apologized all over the place and then pointed to Buddhism as the rock upon which he was going to stand. Tiger hasn't mentioned Buddhism since, but that doesn't mean he hasn't made good on his intention to return to his religious roots. Come to think of it, was that Tiger's deceased father or was it the spirit of Buddha speaking to Tiger in that kinda creepy but somehow fascinating Nike commercial?

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Holy Shabbat! A Sabbath for the Rest of Us

Leave it to a group of Jewish hipsters to remind us Christians how important it is to observe the Sabbath for what it is: a day set apart for the Lord.

Shabbat--the Hebrew for Sabbath--is big with Jews, some would say the biggest Jewish holiday of them all. For Jews, Shabbat begins on Friday evening at sunset and ends on Saturday night "when three stars are visible in the sky." On Shabbat, Jews "remember that God created the world and then rested from His labors" (Genesis 2:2). Shabbat is considered a festive day to pray, read, eat, drink wine, spend time with family and friends, and basically rest.

But Shabbat is Jewish, right? So what's that to the rest of us? As it turns out, plenty. And it took a bunch of Jewish artists, thought-leaders and tastemakers operating under the banner Reboot to tell us Gentiles what we're missing. In their search for "a modern way to observe a weekly day of rest," the folks at Reboot created the "Sabbath Manifesto" as "a creative project designed to slow down our lives in an increasingly hectic world." 

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Stan's entire life has been wrapped in content: selling, writing and publishing books and resources that help ordinary people capture a glimpse of extraordinary things.