Lessons in an Art Gallery

by Marcia Lee Laycock, @MarciaLaycock

There was a hush on the fourth floor of the Vancouver Art Gallery as we entered, almost a reverence, I thought. People meandered quietly through the halls and rooms, taking time to study the paintings on the walls and read the commentaries and quotes from the artist’s journals. As I joined them I was aware of my own sense of awe. Emily Carr was an artist I had admired since I was a child. Her work always made me pause, drew me in, made me aware of something beyond myself.

The quotes on the walls captured my attention as well. This woman, who is famous in my own country and beyond for her depiction of the west coast region of Canada, was a woman of faith, struggling to comprehend the greatest mystery there is – the deep, deep love of an all-encompassing God.

Emily Carr’s work depicts that struggle, that striving to faith, that longing to comprehend that which is unknown yet deeply sensed. The first quote visitors to the Vancouver Art Gallery saw as they entered the exhibit was “Art is Worship.” Ms. Carr worshipped with every stroke of her brush, the swirling movement in her work drawing the eye up toward the heavens. A painting labelled Untitled, one of my favourites, is especially strong. The artist’s love of creation and its creator shouts from the canvas.

Emily Carr saw the divine in the deep dark forests of British Columbia and in the work of others, especially some members of the Group of Seven who welcomed her as one of their own. She was dumbfounded, while at an exhibit of their work, to see one of Lawren Harris’s paintings, Mountain Forms, ignored even by a priest. “Surely he would understand,” Ms. Carr wrote in her journal, “Wouldn’t the spirituality of the thing appeal to one whose life was supposed to be given up to these things? He passed right by …”

I understand Ms. Carr’s frustration. So much that is redemptive in this world goes unnoticed at best, scorned and ridiculed, at worst. Yet those things that draw us all closer to our creator are enduring. Mountain Forms was recently auctioned for just over eleven million dollars.

As I wandered in that gallery that day I was not only stirred by how Emily Carr drew us to the Divine through her work but by the recognition that we can all do the same, whatever our field of endeavour. We have all been created to express praise and adoration through everything we do, whether we work in oils or with words, whether we sweep floors or design buildings, whether our work is recognized or ridiculed. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters … It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:23,24).

I was also struck by the reality that Ms. Carr caused me to praise and worship without saying a word. There was no banner declaring “Jesus saves” scrawled across her paintings yet we are able to stand in the midst of those deep dark forests and worship with her. It made me wonder, does my art cause people to worship? Does it cause them to ponder the depth of God’s greatness and goodness? Does it glorify Him? Walking among Emily Carr’s paintings made me pray it may be so.

TWEETABLES

Lessons in an Art Gallery by Marcia Lee Laycock (Click to Tweet)

Ms. Carr worshiped with every stroke of her brush.~ Marcia Lee Laycock (Click to Tweet)

We have all been created to express praise and adoration through everything we do.~ Marcia Lee Laycock (Click to Tweet)

Marcia Lee Laycock writes from central Alberta Canada where she is a pastor’s wife and mother of three adult daughters. She was the winner of The Best New Canadian Christian Author Award for her novel, One Smooth Stone. The sequel, A Tumbled Stone was also short listed for a Word Award. Marcia has three novels for middle grade readers and four devotional books in print and has contributed to several anthologies. Her work has been endorsed by Sigmund Brouwer, Janette Oke, Phil Callaway and Mark Buchanan. 

Abundant Rain, an ebook devotional for writers is available on Amazon. It is also now available in Journal format. 
Her most recent release is Celebrate This Day, a devotional book for special occasions like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Thanksgiving. 

Sign up to receive her devotional column, The Spur

When the Boat “Planes”

by Marcia Lee Laycock, @MarciaLaycock

When I was about nine years old my father taught me how to run the small motor on our ten-foot boat. I was thrilled that my father trusted me enough to let me take it out all by myself.

I was cautious at first, only going out on the lake when the wind was down, and only opening the engine’s throttle half way. I would chug around our small bay and come back to the dock, feeling very mature. Then one day my dad went with me. We ploughed along the shore for a while. Then Dad turned to me and made a hand motion indicating I was to open the throttle more. I moved it a couple of notches. He signalled for more. I took a deep breath and opened it up, all the way.

Then it happened. That old boat rose up and began to plane – the power of the motor was enough to overcome the resistance of the water and lift the boat. It made my heart soar as it almost seemed to fly across the lake. When we returned to the dock, my dad smiled. “Don’t be afraid of it,” he said. “The motor is made to drive the boat forward.”

There have been times in my spiritual life when I’ve been like that old boat and motor, chugging along with little energy or delight. I knew the truths of the Christian faith, the disciplines that are meant to move us forward in our faith, but I was only employing them half heartedly, with little faith that they would really make any difference. The doubts and fears of life had crept in and were blocking my sight, blocking my effectiveness.

Recently that has begun to change. I’ve been pondering the meaning of what the Apostle Paul meant when he said, “But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.”

I have always believed that Jesus, by dying on the cross, opened the way for me to come into God’s presence, but I am just beginning to comprehend that He also opened the way for us to have complete union with Him and His Father. In John 15:5 Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

The power of that realization is beginning to make my spiritual life like that old boat when it planes. Suddenly I’m soaring.

God has trusted us with gifts and talents and all we need to do good work (like writing novels and devotionals and poetry that sings). We are empowered to do that work when we do it in Christ, in His power and wisdom, not our own.

“If anyone speaks (or writes), they should do so as one who speaks (or writes) the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ” (1Peter 4:11 parentheses mine).

TWEETABLES
When the boat “Planes” by Marcia Lee Laycock (Click to Tweet)

Suddenly I was soaring. #InChrist, #Christian novels, #Christian writers~ Marcia Lee Laycock (Click to Tweet)

God has trusted us with gifts and talents and all we need to do is work.~ Marcia Lee Laycock (Click to Tweet)


One Smooth Stone

Alex Donnelly is running from his past, the police, and from God. The Yukon is a good place to hide until a young lawyer shows up at his cabin with news that draws him back to his birth place in search of the truth about his family. What he finds throws him into turmoil once again. What will it take for Him to surrender?


Marcia Lee Laycock writes from central Alberta Canada where she is a pastor’s wife and mother of three adult daughters. She was the winner of The Best New Canadian Christian Author Award for her novel, One Smooth Stone. The sequel, A Tumbled Stone was short listed in The Word Awards. Marcia also has four devotional books in print and has contributed to several anthologies. Her work has been endorsed by Sigmund Brouwer, Janette Oke, Phil Callaway and Mark Buchanan.

Five Loaves, Two Fish and You

By Marcia Lee Laycock, @MarciaLaycock

Five Loaves, Two Fish and You by Marcia Lee Laycock

It is the only miracle Jesus performed that is recorded in all four gospels: the feeding of the five thousand. At the beginning of the segment in Mark 6:31 to 44, we see a Jesus who is tired, disciples who were no doubt exhausted. Jesus tells them to come away with him to a quiet place, to rest.But it was not to be. The crowds preceded them. No wonder the disciples asked Jesus to send them away. Their excuse was a good one. They had no food. But it says Jesus had compassion on the people, so he didn’t do as his followers asked. Instead, he said, “You give them something to eat.”
Of course, the disciples’ response was all about the practicalities: where would they get that much food? How would they pay for it?

But Jesus isn’t stymied. He tells them to go and see what they have. Five loaves and two fish are all they find. But Jesus has a lesson in mind. He tells the disciples to organize the people into groups. I wonder if that wasn’t so that they could be easily counted, so that the magnitude of what he was about to do would be forever remembered as a miracle.

You know the end of the story – all are fed, all are satisfied. Only then does Jesus send the people away.

It is interesting, and perhaps significant, that in the Greek, Jesus said, “Give them you to eat.” An interesting turn of phrase, that, one which we would do well to ponder. How are we, as followers of Christ, to do that? Of course, you know the answer – give of your time, your skills, your knowledge. Give them your very life, the new life God chose to open to you, the life of love and mercy, the life of grace and peace. Show them that light so full in you it spills over, upon and into them.

How are we, as writers of faith, to do that? In that same way, nourish them with your unique stories of mystery and faith, of love and God’s grace. Feed them with words that will turn their faces toward the source of all nourishment. Feed them with hope, with the universal stories that touch hearts and minds, stories of how God has met needs and revealed Himself, even in times of stress and chaos when hope grows thin.

And give them your story, your testimony of what God has done and is doing in your life. Be vulnerable, be authentic. Give them your art, your music, your work, with hands and heart and will for only this, to give, to pour out, for His glory.

For you are Jesus to them. Give them you to eat.

TWEETABLES

Five Loaves, Two Fish and You by Marcia Lee Laycock (Click to Tweet)

Give of your time, your skills, your knowledge.~ Marcia Lee Laycock (Click to Tweet)


Be vulnerable, be authentic.~ Marcia Lee Laycock (Click to Tweet)

One Smooth Stone

Desperate to escape his past, the police, and especially, God, Alex Donnelly picks a good place to hide – the Yukon wilderness – but he finds even there his is pursued. What will it take for him to discover that no matter how far you run, God will find you, and no matter what you have done, God will forgive you?



Marcia Lee Laycock writes from central Alberta Canada where she is a pastor’s wife and mother of three adult daughters. She was the winner of The Best New Canadian Christian Author Award for her novel, One Smooth Stone. The sequel, A Tumbled Stone was short listed in The Word Awards. Marcia also has four devotional books in print and has contributed to several anthologies. Her work has been endorsed by Sigmund Brouwer, Janette Oke, Phil Callaway and Mark Buchanan.

To Make Oneself the Echo

by Marcia Lee Laycock, @MarciaLaycock

Maurice Blanchot has said – “To write is to make oneself the echo of what cannot cease speaking.” As we become echoes of Christ, we will know He has given us our writing not only as a means to speak, but as a means to hear and understand.

As pastor’s kids, my daughters were often asked to participate in the service in our small church. Our eldest, Kate, was asked to sing once, when she was going through a bit of a rough spot in her teenage years. When the Sunday morning came, this is what happened –



On our way to church, my daughter and I:

“Did you arrange for a pianist?”
“No.”
“You’re doing this acapella?”
“I guess.”
“What song…”
“I don’t know, yet.”
My voice, rising a decibel or two. Or maybe three:
“Then maybe you’d better postpone…”
“No. I want to sing.”
“But you should have arranged…”
Her voice, rising in irritation. “I know, Mother, but it will be fine. I’m going to sing.”
I sighed. Oh, my daughter.

Between Sunday School and the main service, I found her in an empty room, her finger in a hymnal, her face turned toward the light of a far window. I opened my mouth, closed it again. Her eyes were open, but it felt like the room was full of prayer.

In the sanctuary,she sat in the front pew, one long leg thrown over the other, the hymnal in her hand, finger still in it. She took a bulletin, scanned it, opened the hymnal, moved her finger to a different spot. Again, I sighed. Oh, my daughter.

They called on her, just before the sermon. She took the hymnal with her, left it closed, and sang: Joy of Man’s Desiring. The room filled with it, her voice, her face, her body yearning for it, drawing us up with her, up into the presence of our God. I held my breath. Oh, my daughter.

And later, I prayed forgiveness on myself, my need to work all things into my plan. I prayed release for all of us, to His will, His Spirit. And then I smiled.

Oh, my daughter.

When that incident happened, I did not understand what it was I had learned. I only knew I had been deeply moved. Something in my spirit had responded to something in that song, and more, to the attitude in which it had been sung by my daughter.

Because I had been moved, I needed to write it. As I did, I began to understand what it was God wanted to teach me. Madeleine L’Engle has said, “The discipline of creation, be it to paint, compose, write, is an effort toward wholeness.”

When we are moved deeply, when we then attempt to express that moment, that experience, we move toward wholeness, the wholeness that is in us because Christ is in us. This, I believe is what we all have been called to do, for ourselves and for our readers.

TWEETABLES

One Smooth Stone

Desperate to escape his past, the police, and especially, God, Alex Donnelly picks a good place to hide – the Yukon wilderness – but he finds even there his is pursued. What will it take for him to discover that no matter how far you run, God will find you, and no matter what you have done, God will forgive you?



Marcia Lee Laycock writes from central Alberta Canada where she is a pastor’s wife and mother of three adult daughters. She was the winner of The Best New Canadian Christian Author Award for her novel, One Smooth Stone. The sequel, A Tumbled Stone was short listed in The Word Awards. Marcia also has four devotional books in print and has contributed to several anthologies. Her work has been endorsed by Sigmund Brouwer, Janette Oke, Phil Callaway and Mark Buchanan.