catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 12, Num 4 :: 2013.02.15 — 2013.02.28


The gifts of friends

Ca’ d’Zan Mansion, the dazzling palatial home of John and Mable Ringling of Ringling Circus fame, stands in regal splendor on Sarasota Bay in Florida. John Ringling’s Museum of Art flanks his mansion. It contains his personal collection of masterpieces featuring paintings and sculptures by the great Old Masters including Rubens, Titian, El Greco, van Dyck and Gainsborough. A replica of the David by Michelangelo, Greek statuary, Italian fountains, and a bay front terrace of marble in mosaic patterns further grace the grounds. The Ringling complex of mansion, museum, courtyards, rose gardens, banyan groves and nature walks produces a lavish and awesome display of human creativity and imagination.

The Master Creator who gifted these artists with skill and talent in the physical realm has no less gifted other artists in the spiritual realm. Just as artists of paint and clay and stone reflect His love of ingenuity, originality and inspiration, so His spiritual artists produce a similar beauty with their works reflective of the Creator’s character. The impact of their art leaves the world around them throbbing with the heartbeat of God.

I know several of the world’s most inspired artists personally. They paint and sculpt not with brush or knife, but with the imagination and creativity of spirit-filled lives. Their masterpieces do not hang in renowned art galleries or auspicious museums. Audiences do not gather to gawk at their work and marvel at their talent. Their labor does not sell for thousands of dollars. These artists paint with the colors of love and encouragement. They mold with kindness. They write with joy and goodness, and the world they touch is embossed with the Creator’s hand. The works of these Masters adorn the walls of our hearts. We stand breathless with the beauty of God’s handiwork through the lives of these obedient artists.

My personal museum abounds with the originality of these Grand Masters of spiritual art. My friend Sue’s artistry would rival any Monet. Subdued shades of kindness blend with her active imagination. She organizes a birthday party for me, invites our friends, orchestrates a dinner and conversation to encourage me, and videotapes the event. I am not present. Eventually, I view the video, 12,000 miles away in my Chinese home. A portrait of love from a faraway friend now graces my gallery.

Another of the Masters, Donna, designs art with encouragement and fabric. “Wrap yourself in God’s love,” she said, gifting me with a full-size, handmade quilt. Each square holds a heart, and each heart a Bible verse, direct from the inspiration of God. “For I am your provider and I meet all your needs … My plan for your future has always been filled with hope … You are my treasured possession … For I am your greatest encourager.” The words seep into my deepest being, and I am enveloped in their warmth. The quilt enfolds me. A masterpiece of encouragement, unrivaled in the art world, is added to my heart’s gallery.

As bold, brash and startling, as any Van Gogh, Lois splashes the colors of excitement and fun across the canvas of her daily life and the lives of those around her. Unexpectedly, she splatters a gleaming star on mine — tuition to a writers’ conference — because “You can do this, darling! You really need to write!” And the sky is alit with possibility, more brilliant than the original Starry Night.

Friends mix through our daily journeys, like the subtle paints of the Impressionists, with phone calls, a pot of soup, a dinner or movie invite, a pan of brownies, a birthday breakfast, a surprise gift at the backdoor, their presence in the hospital room, cards. Their creativity abounds and deepens the hue and richness of their works of art. My personal collection of masterpieces is not a static representation of genius displayed in a museum. It moves and breathes with God’s power and presence as He changes and molds my life through the touch of those around me. 

I survey again the imaginative works of spiritual sensitivity and artistry in my gallery. I stand amazed and blessed. No museum of antiquities here. Rather, a temple of love, kindness, friendship and goodness imaginatively shaped by the Great Master’s hand.

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