When a musician’s performance is flawless, when an athlete’s competing is without error, when a potter throws the perfect pot, when an orator delivers the consummate, stirring speech, the ease, the simplicity, the aplomb, all elicit oohs and aahs from onlookers. But the reality is that none of the above was effortless or simple or from purely natural ability. These who earn our undying respect (and a tinge of jealousy) have worked tirelessly and determinedly to get to the place where we appreciate them today. A piano professor once told me that the breeziest, most lilting musical passages were devilishly difficult to master. I discovered the truth of his statement attempting to conquer a composition written by a guy by the name of Chopin (you may have heard of him). The flow, the airiness, the serendipitous aspect of this piece was, as prophesied, a pianist’s nightmare. Later, there would follow works by composers like Bela Bartok, whose atonal, Hungarian folk tunes, with the weirdest of time signatures, could cross eyes, bring on headaches, and stymie the most rigorous student of the instrument, and 20th Century musicians like Schoenberg, who ‘routinely slammed two chords together for their dissonance, evoking a raw, spooky power that landed harshly on the ear.’ He famously stated, “New music is never beautiful on first acquaintance.” (If I might chime in with a personal note here, not on second or third either.) Beyond music’s challenges, all forms of art involve perseverance and a belief that the insane amount of work required is worth the pain, the effort, the many disappointments on the road to fame and fortune, or at least to a livable wage. And oh, how we love the finished products! How thrilled we are to experience the fruit of their labors! How we eagerly gossip the good news about these professionals once we’ve been exposed to their perfected artforms!

There’s a sense in which Jesus calls us to perfect his artform, his Kingdom-of-Heaven-revealing joy, confidence, purpose, integrity. The acquiring of these characteristics is, no surprise, the lifelong challenge of this journey to the Father’s heart. Our starting place is an abyss of sin-spattered exile bridged solely by the voluntary, humiliating death of Jesus himself.  But brilliantly bridged it is! Hallelujah! (you may want to stand and do a wee victory twirl here). Once we are given sufficient, if trembling, grace to believe that he’s serious, that we are truly invited (truly wanted even!) we embark on this never-before imagined journey of transformation. Through our obedience (as wobbly and precarious as a baby mastering the art of walking on ice) we begin experiencing more and more glimpses of Jesus’ fullness. We take on more and more of his golden attributes, his divine character, his perfected artform, if you will. And by the way, you all shine a Jesus reflection onto me, filling my joy tank with gratitude for him and for you. Thank you! (OK. I know some of you just rolled your eyes because you are not perfect. I’m not talking perfection. I’m talking about the clear evidences of your growing intimate relationship with Jesus. They show, and they look really good – I mean really good!)  Looking forward to more ‘shine’ tomorrow at 10 AM, 3 PM, 4 PM. PD

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