How Worship is Not a Lifestyle

intimacy with God

Perhaps enough time has passed now that I can say this without being labeled a heretic:

“Not everything we do is worship.”

There… I said it.

Over the past 20 years, I would say the idea of worship-as-a-lifestyle has become a fundamental assumption in the American evangelical church. In recent years I’ve heard the phrase less often, but my feeling is that’s because church leaders feel that the point has been made.

A decade and a half ago it seemed any discussion on worship referenced this idea. When Rick Warren’s best selling book, The Purpose Driven Life, came out in 2002, “worship is a lifestyle” was the punchline of his chapter on worship. Referencing Benedictine monk, Brother Lawrence, Warren helped cement the idea in the minds of American churchgoers.

In 2019 the idea is alive and well in evangelicalism. Here’s a sampling of results from a quick Google search:

“Worship isn’t simply an event or a place—it’s an orientation. It’s a way of life. It’s the result of our decision to exalt God above everything else.” (Tony Evans)

“Worship is so much more than the songs that we sing on Sunday morning. It is the life that we live the rest of the week.” (Daughterbydesign.wordpress.)

“Worship isn’t an event to attend and watch. It’s a lifestyle to be lived.” (unknown)

“I think worship is a lifestyle, first of all.” (Michael W. Smith)

“if the vital essence of that inner experience we call worship is a being satisfied in God or a cherishing Christ as gain above all things, this accounts for why Romans 12:1-2 portrays all of life as worship.” (John Piper, 1997)

“But worship is more than just an allotted time to sing songs of praise. We have been called to a lifestyle: living in a way that glorifies our heavenly Father, worshipping Him at all times and in many ways. Through this life of worship, God is welcome in all aspects of our lives.” (2017, YWAM Perth)

Harold Best, author and Dean of Wheaton College Conservatory of Music, says it as bluntly as anyone:

“There is no one in this world who is not, at this moment, at worship in one way or another, consciously or unconsciously, formally or informally, passively or passionately…for, you see, the desire to worship was created in us, not as an add-on, but as an intrinsic part of our very nature” (Harold M. Best, When is Worship Worship?).

I Love these people
Before going further, I want to state a couple of things. I hate divisive speech. I love Rick Warren, John Piper, YWAM, Michael W. Smith’s worship albums in particular, and probably all the other people quoted above. Furthermore, I love the impulse that has moved them to make these statements. I fully agree with the point they are making.

Their point is this: As followers of Jesus, our whole heart and all of our lives should be devoted to God. For us there should be no division between sacred and secular; between Sunday morning and the rest of the week. They are talking about “abiding in Christ” and living full out for Him. I get it, and I fully agree. These are my people.

They are simply using the wrong word to make the point.

Nitpicky much?
In the Bible, the word “worship” actually means something specific. What if, in our zeal to inspire each other to fully devote our whole lives to God, we inadvertently discourage the worship He truly deserves? This is what I think is happening. This is not simply me being picky about semantics.

Test me on this. I contend that the Bible sets forth the meaning of worship in this way:

Worship is intentional, physical expression of one’s love for God.

We may feel many things toward God. Those things may be good things, but they are not necessarily worship; they are something else. We may petition God, we may lament, we may feel grateful, we may cry out for help, we may express joy, we may express anger, fear, doubt, or frustration toward God.

These things are all part of being relationally connected with God, but worship specifically expresses our awe and love for God through physical expression. It is something we do for, and intentionally toward, God, because He is worthy. Ideally, we do not worship “to get something out of it,” or “because it is good for us,” or “to get ourselves into a right frame of mind.” Worshipping God may indeed (or may not) do all of those things for us, but that is not the point. We are not the object in worship.

The physical expression piece
Why am I harping on physical expression? Because that is how the Bible describes worship. Because we are physical, as well as spiritual, beings. It is true that God has granted us spiritual rebirth but we are not, and never will be, disembodied spirits.

But can’t I worship by thinking worshipful thoughts toward God? Can’t I “bow down in my heart”? Isn’t that still a form of worship? *

I’m open to correction here, but if we want to take our instruction from the Bible, I just don’t see that idea in there. Thinking worshipful thoughts toward God leads to acts of worship, but it is the physical expression of the inward heart that is the act of worship. The thought or feeling is the beginning, but the physical act completes our worship.

Therefore you will see throughout the Judeo-Christian scriptures a multitude of physical expressions of worship directed toward God: singing, playing musical instruments, bowing, kneeling, lifting hands, falling down before, shouting, and dancing.

I must hasten to add here that the physical act alone amounts to nothing if the heart is not behind it. Worship is an expression of love; a demonstration of one’s heart.

Ask yourself, “Why resist employing your physical body in worship?”

*(Interesting to note: the only time I see the phrase “heart bowed down” in the Bible is when someone is in a state of grieving. It does not seem to be a phrase pertaining to worship).

Why Does This Matter?
This probably only matters to those who desire to be worshippers of God.

Years ago at a worship conference, I heard a speaker say that when he is eating Doritos after the service in the church foyer, he is worshipping God just as much as when he is singing on stage.

I disagree.

I would also take issue with Harold Best when he says:

I wish there were a word in English which would at once mean both living and worshipping in an indivisible union, because that’s what God originally intended. This was how Jesus lived – thirty three years as a living sacrifice – no moment spent not worshipping…Thus it is quite easy to see how Adam and Eve were continually at worship in whatever they did – not once in seven days – but continuously: moment by moment, action by action, breath after breath…” (ibid).

But the scriptures don’t quite say this. Read it for yourself. There is no clear indication that Adam and Eve worshipped God at all. Indeed, this may have been part of what led to the fall of man – perhaps they regarded God too lightly, or took their relationship with Him for granted. I would argue that is apparently what happened.

I contend that these writers are conflating “worship” and “communion with God.”

We can indeed live moment by moment in communion – in relational unity – with God because of the salvific work of Jesus, I agree! But what if worship is actually something else? If we think we’re worshipping when we’re mowing the lawn, or changing the baby’s diaper, or eating Doritos while chatting in the church foyer, we may never see the need to set apart time for focused, intimate worship of God.

This would be the equivalent of a marriage wherein the lovers never actually set aside intimate time to express their love for one another. After all, they live moment by moment in a spousal relationship and in the knowledge that they love each other, right? So why set aside focused time to physically express their love?

In this sense worship is analogous to romance. Romance is not incidental or accidental. It involves 1) set apart time, 2) focused thought and attention, and 3) making one’s heart known through some physical expression.

The same can be said of worship.

We’re very busy. Could our belief that “everything we do is worship” conveniently be keeping us from actual worship?

In a similar vein, my pastor, Pat Sokoll, recently referred to his earthly father in a way that made this point beautifully. He observed that men in his father’s generation generally thought in terms of expressing their love for their families by being good providers; by faithfully working hard to serve their families. In their minds, their lifestyles showed their love for their families. (And they were right in thinking so). Yet many of these same men failed to express their love to their children by saying “I love you,” or by hugging them, or by kissing them, or by stopping work long enough to focus attention on their families.

Yes, serving is a crucial aspect of caring for one’s family, but it is not an excuse for neglecting to express intimate love interpersonally. It is the same with our relationship with God.

A Brief Word Study
The original languages reiterate these two aspects of love. Throughout the Old Testament scriptures, two words are most frequently paired together when describing worship: “bow down” and “serve.”

Example: “You shall not bow down or serve them” (Ex 20:5).

This is the first of the 10 commandments; to have no other gods before YHWH. Over and over we see these words paired together to describe worship, either of YHWH Himself, or of false gods. These are the two sides of the worship coin.

The Hebrew word translated “bow down” (shachah) is often translated “worship.” In the New Testament, its Greek equivalent (proskuneo) literally means, “to kiss toward.” So both the Hebrew and Greek words literally describe physical expressions of adoration. Jesus uses “proskuneo” during His discourse with the Samaritan woman when he says the Father seeks worshipers who will worship Him in spirit and truth.

It is this word, proskuneo, that we usually have in mind when we speak of worship, worship music, worship services, and corporate worship.

By contrast, the Hebrew word translated “serve”, (abad), and its Greek equivalent, (latreuo), refer to service, including priestly temple service such as the ceremonial killing of animals. In Hebrews chapters 9 and 10, the descriptions of old covenant, priestly temple service (translated “worship”) use the word latreuo.

The verse most universally used to support the worship-as-a-lifestyle idea is Romans 12:1: “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship(NAS).

Ironically, the word used here is not “proskuneo,” the word usually translated as “worship.” The word used is the word for service: “latreuo.” Paul is saying our temple service is no longer the sacrificing of animals, but is now the presenting of our whole selves to God. Our evangelical friends would be more correct to teach “service-as-a-lifestyle,” since that’s what Paul is urging here.

Arguably, (proskuneo) worship cannot be a lifestyle because it is by definition set apart from the daily stuff of life. Thus biblical worship encompasses both the daily grind, and also holy, undistracted intimacy; the quotidian and the transcendent.

Conclusion
It is not uncommon in modern church services to see congregants not actively participating in worship. Many churches encourage a “casual atmosphere” where people can sip a cup of coffee while they sit back and passively listen to the worship music. Is this inspirational? It certainly can be. Is it worship? I don’t think so.

Is this a legalistic approach to worship? To suggest that (proskuneo) worship cannot simply be thinking reverent thoughts toward God?

Well, can you say you’ve taken communion if you think about the body and blood of Jesus shed for us, but never actually partake of the physical elements?
Can you say you’ve been baptized if you consider yourself dead to your old way of living, but never actually go under the physical water?
Can you say you’ve expressed your affections to your spouse if you are never verbally or physically attentive and intimate?

I’m advocating giving God the worship that He deserves, both as a lifestyle but also, perhaps more fundamentally, in set apart, focused attention. I believe our intimate worship toward God will inspire and inform our lifestyle.

Part of the beauty of being human is our physicality. By the redemptive work of Jesus, God has given us His Spirit as well, making us “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet 1:3,4). Jesus said the Father is seeking worshippers who will (proskuneo) worship Him in Spirit and in truth. Let us be the kind of worshippers with whom the Father looks forward to connecting. When we gather together corporately in worship, may our corporate expression be one of conscious, undistracted focus, and love toward our Creator.

I welcome your thoughts and insights below.

My Brother’s Heart: A Tribute

Hanging with my big brother on my first Christmas.

Hanging with my big brother on my first Christmas.

The world just lost another good man. He died peacefully in his sleep at age 57. No one knows why.

I was lucky to be his little brother. Growing up with Craig was a blast. He was hilarious. When we were kids his mind was always cooking up something interesting or mischievous. He could easily have led me into bad things, but that just wasn’t my brother’s heart. His moral compass was always oriented to creative and reasonably harmless pursuits.

Craig was passionate about everything he got into. He got me interested in drawing when I was just a little kid. I feel a little pensive about this now. He really liked drawing, and I wonder if he would’ve pursued a career in art if it hadn’t been for me. He was well above average in his ability, but I happened to be innocently but extraordinarily gifted. Everyone soon made a big deal about my art and assumed out loud that I would grow up to be an artist. This became part of my identity. I thought he simply lost interest in art. He ended up following my dad into construction work, which didn’t really work out well. I wanted to ask him about all of this someday.

Craig was a collector of things. When we were kids it was Mad magazines and Marvel comics. Beginning in his teen years, it was music. I grew up listening to the music of my older siblings – mostly my brother’s. For better or for worse, I still know all of Bernie Taupin’s lyrics to Elton John’s early recordings. As an adult, Craig amassed a huge, diverse music collection and became an avid concertgoer and music festival attendee. If you ever attended the Cornerstone festival in Illinois, put on by Jesus People USA, my brother was there.

Somewhere along the line, my brother devoted his life to following Jesus, passionately, of course. He was blessed with a great crap detector, but he didn’t use it to be harsh with people. He might privately call out a friend, but he used it as much on himself as on anyone else. Despite being outspoken for the truth, when he recognized that he’d been hurtful or wrongheaded, he was humble enough to ask forgiveness. I loved his heart.

As an adult I got to see his heart up close, when he endured a very painful divorce. I don’t know that I could have, or would have, been able to love and forgive as he did had I been in his situation. The depth of his forgiveness was astounding to me. During this time, after hearing his heart, it struck me that he had the mind of Christ. His example was inspired and inspiring.

Craig’s honest walk with Jesus enabled him to cut through and navigate the Southern Baptist, Evangelical subculture in which we grew up. He understood that the point was not to follow a religion, but to follow a person: Jesus. He understood that following Jesus is not about religious legalism and rule-keeping, but about relationship, while still holding to the fidelity of the Bible.

This could be seen in the testimony of two men who stood to speak during a public sharing time at Craig’s funeral – two different men, from two different backgrounds. You could guess their background by their appearance. One guy came from a Christian fundamentalist background. He described how my brother had helped him break free from religious legalism, and helped him to come into the freedom that the Spirit of Jesus brings, (…“where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” – 2 Cor 3:17.) Apparently their conversations often revolved around some of my brother’s “objectionable” Christian music.

The second guy came from an opposite place. He explained that when he came to Jesus, he didn’t so much mind letting go of the drugs and the drinking. But he was a metal head, and it was disheartening for him to entertain the idea of joining a legalistic Christian subculture with lame music. Somebody sent him to my brother, who introduced him to some legit musicians whose music didn’t fit this guy’s stereotype of Christian Music. They became buds. When I shook this guy’s hand afterward, he reminded me that I had met him once, camping with my brother at a Cornerstone festival – home of alternative Christian music.

In our immediate family, my wife and I have a saying: “Life is about relationships.” This idea often helps us choose where we spend our time and energy. This saying derives from the greatest commandment as stated by Jesus: Love God, and love people; all of God’s instruction depends upon these two things (Mat 22:36-40.) I never heard Craig say the words, “life is about relationships,” but at his funeral it was clear that he lived them as well as anyone I know. His life was all about pursuing God and investing in people.

Craig was a great dad, and he poured his life into his two lovely daughters, Jenna and Dana. Here are a couple of comments from their Facebook friends:

He valued the opinion of every person he spoke with, no matter what age you were. He taught me the value of presence. The art of conversation. Looking back, I can’t remember a time that I saw him ever leave first! Whoever he was with or wherever he was, he was fully there. Serving as our Sunday School teacher & one of our college group leaders, he taught so many of us young adults how to appreciate art & seek the truth & beauty of God in things like film, music or just being outdoors…He made all of us feel important; believed in. Like our voices mattered… – EC

Craig sought out God in everything and was excited to talk about it. To my group of friends, he was not just someone’s dad or the Sunday school teacher or the adult supervisor. He was our friend. We invited him to all of our parties, we went to the movies with him, we camped together, we ate meals together, we talked about life, we talked about God and His creation… – MT

There are many ways that people look at death. Some see it as a natural, even a beautiful, thing – a mysterious portal into the next stage of existence. Jesus didn’t see it that way. Jesus wept at death. He spoke of Himself as the resurrection and the life. Paul spoke of death as an enemy that Jesus came to destroy. He described the resurrection of Jesus as the first fruits of a great harvest that would follow. The Bible describes a salvation that encompasses our entire beings – body, soul, and spirit. Death is a separation. God promises to restore total unity. I suppose we should expect nothing less from an all loving, all powerful, and all good God.

I loved my big brother’s heart. I admit that I’m frustrated and sad that he is gone. I expected to have a lot more time with him. We had a lot of catching up to do.

Here’s looking forward even more to “the restoration of all things.”

The last picture of my brother and me. Craig Lee Freeman -  January 5, 1958 to July 27, 2015

The last picture of my brother (on right) and me – Dec 2014.
Craig Lee Freeman – January 5, 1958 – July 27, 2015

Watercolor Out the Wazoo!

Perchon-watercolor detail-scott freeman

In previous posts I’ve talked a bit about a crazy watercolor technique that I like to use. I was once unenthusiastic about watercolor because I generally found it to be wussy and boring. Then, when I worked at Hallmark I found some guys using watercolor in a way I had never seen it used before. Eventually I took a work shop from these guys, (Craig Lueck and Johne Richardson,) and fell in love with the medium of watercolor. I remember the first night after the workshop; I dreamt of blushes of watercolor flowing into each other.

So, over the years watercolor has become a secondary medium for me, right behind my favorite medium of oil paint. However, since the beginning of this year, I have worked almost exclusively in watercolor due to the list of projects and commissions I’ve taken on. Furthermore, I’m scheduled to teach this crazy technique this coming January (2015) in a Saturday workshop at Schissler Art Acadaemy, in downtown Loveland. So I’ve definitely got watercolor on the brain right now. (Which, I admit may have been a better title than Watercolor Out the Wazoo.)

In the course of pulling together some samples for Schissler Art Academy, I ended up going through a lot of past work, and I think it’s fun to look at as well as being fun to paint, so I thought I’d show some to you. A lot of it is available in greeting card format on our ZAZZLE SITE, and also as fine art prints by contacting me directly. I even still have a few select originals around as well, for those of you who have money to burn. (The originals are several times more expensive than prints.)

For those of you who are art nerds, I’ll say that I pretty much only use oils for my fine art. However, I use watercolor for a whole range of artistic expression, including fine art, but also for my commercial illustration, which includes my children’s storybook illustration. In fact, watercolor is almost exclusively what I use for commercial illustration, because I feel this technique presents a unique and striking look. Following is a survey of some of my favorite pieces from over the years.

 Masters copies:

The Visitation-watecolor by Scott Freeman

“The Visitation” based on a 16c painting by Mariotto Albertinelli. 6 x 8 inches. I would be willing to have prints made of this one if someone asks, because it’s one of my favs. The original is in a private collection.

Sometimes I like to take an old Master’s composition and translate it into watercolor. For me this is an act of appreciation, kind of like a musician covering a classic song. Someday maybe I’ll post the originals alongside the reinterpretations.

See a previous post on The Visitation. (left)

The Music Lesson-Scott Freeman

“The Music Lesson”
based on an 1877 painting by Frederic Leighton. 6×5.25 inches. I have prints available of this one. It’s also available as a note card on my Zazzle site.

Native American-watercolor-Freeman

“Native American Portrait”
5×7 inches. Based on a 1910 black & white photograph by Carl Moon.
  1 of a set of 3. Framed original available for $700.

Watercolor studies- Scott Freeman

Left: Study after Johannes Vermeer’s (1665) “Girl with a Pearl Earring.”
6×9 inches. I have prints available of this one.
Right: Study after Frederic Leighton’s (1864) “The Painter’s Honeymoon.”
5×5 inches. Private collection.

Plein Air Pieces:
I almost always paint in oils when I do plein air events, but occasionally I’ll do a watercolor painting. Here are a couple that I was able to photograph.

Perchon-Scott Freeman

“Horse of a Different Color”
4×6 inches. Painted at a riding stable in Estes Park, Colorado. A composite of 3 white Perchons who took turns posing for me. Original sold. No prints.

Santo-Sedona AZ-watercolor

“Santo”
Painted from a statue on the grounds of a Catholic church in Sedona, Arizona.
Framed original available for $400.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Artist demos:
When I teach a watercolor workshop, I generally do a demo throughout the day. Below are two that I liked enough to document.

watercolor demo-Scott Freeman

“Light and Fashion”
8×10 inches. Demo for a watercolor class.
Unframed original available for $200.

American buffalo-watercolor

“American Bison” 5×4 inches. Demo started in class and finished at home. Original sold. Available as a note card on our Zazzle site.

Children’s Book Illustration
I’ve been doing a lot of book illustration lately, especially with the recent launch of my online kids’ book company. Below are some of my favorites so far.

Mount Fuji-kids stotybooks-Freeman

“…and she flew away to Mt. Fuji in a breeze.”
Full spread from the upcoming book, The Adventures of Nathaniel and His Father’s Globe, by Beth El Kurchner.
8.5×17 inches. Original spoken for.

 

kids story books-The Cocky Rooster

Select illustrations from my newly released kids’ storybook, The Cocky Rooster.

I just found out I need to get new tires for my car in addition to several unexpected expenses. So I guess that means it’s time for a SALE.

+ I’ll sell any of the prints mentioned above, unmatted and unframed for $25 (includes shipping & handling.)
+ When I have matted prints on hand, I’ll sell them to you for $40 (regularly $60 – $80.)
+ Framed pieces are already discounted, as listed above.

My fine art giclee prints are reproduced using archival watercolor paper and inks.
I’m not set up to sell prints and art online, so please email me if you’re interested: scottnmollie@yahoo.com
I may not have to charge for shipping depending upon what you want and where you live.

For easy online purchases:
+ You can browse our Zazzle Store HERE
+ You can purchase my newly released storybook, The Cocky Rooster, HERE!

I’ll keep this sale going until my next post – (probably in a couple of weeks.) THANK YOU for your support!

The “Elusive” Project

 

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If you’re a music lover, I’d like to let you know about a project I was recently involved with.

One of the things that drew Mollie and I to the city of Loveland 13 years ago was the local musical talent. Loveland is actually better known for its sculpture and fine art, but at at the time we weren’t aware of this. We moved here for relational reasons, and our friends had connected with some world-class local musicians, specifically guitarist Dave Beegle, Keith Rosenhagen, and Taylor Mesple (pronounced MESS-play.)Musician and composer Aakash Mittal is also from Loveland for those of you who like Modern Jazz. I should hasten to add that I’m not saying that Loveland is a great place to make a living if you are an artist or musician, only that there seems to be a disproportionate number of artists, musicians, dancers, and authors for a town of this size.

Musician, singer, songwriter, and producer Taylor Mesple has just released his newest album, Elusive, for which I was privileged to create the graphic design package. Taylor is the creator of one of my all time favorite albums in the universe: Victory Land. It’s one of the most beautiful, unified, and lyrically evocative albums I’ve heard. (You should just buy it right now.) He released Victory Land shortly after we moved to Loveland in 2001, but due to some timing mishaps the album was never really marketed well. The Mesples moved to Maine for several years where Taylor did musical production and ran a music venue called The Maple Room. Fortunately for us, the Mesples eventually moved back to Loveland.

Elusive represents Taylor’s newest and best musical statement to date, after years of producing music for others. Taylor is a bit of a non-conformist in a lot of ways that I consider to be good. Inside his possibly intimidating, biker-like exterior is a sensitive dreamer that aspires to bring healing, light, and inspiration to hearts through music that is decidedly softer (at times) than a first impression might lead you to expect. There is a sense of yearning for the transcendent that pervades his music – an invitation to a journey to someplace better than where we are.

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A bit about Taylor the musician: Taylor was a child prodigy, raised in a musical family. In 1989, at age 13, he began playing keyboards with his Dad’s highly successful band, Wind Machine. The band, originally formed by Steve Mesple and Acoustic Eidelon’s Joe Scott toured until 1998. As an adult, Taylor is now an accomplished producer, session player, songwriter, and musical innovator.

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I also want to mention that Taylor’s wife, Rebecca, is an accomplished singer-songwriter. A few years ago Rebecca released an album entitled “A Simple Offering.” The album consists of simple, yet moving and unforgettable songs, and is one of my favorite albums by a female singer-songwriter. It’s definitely worth checking out. If you want my recommendation for tracks to sample, my favorites on this disc are “My Light”, “Step Into the Sun”, and her cover of Jonatha Brooke’s “Always.” Rebecca’s disc is available HERE.

For those of you within range, Taylor will be performing an “Elusive” CD release concert at the Lincoln Center in Ft. Collins, Colorado, May 6th, 2014 at 7:00pm. I spoke with Taylor recently about what he’d like to accomplish in a live concert. Rather than simply doing the typically less-excellent-concert-version of what is on the recorded disc, Taylor is interested in creating a transcendent experience for the audience. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with. You can find more information at Taylor’s new website HERE. 

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Taylor and I thought the image of a hula dancer in the snow was a great metaphor for God-renewed life in our cold, fallen world. If you’ve ever felt like we were made for a different place then perhaps you can relate.

Artwork and photography copyright 2014 by Scott Freeman

 

New Watercolor Painting: “Muse”

This week I’m hoping you will do me the favor of casting a vote between two versions of the final painting I just finished for an upcoming exhibit. After finishing the first version, I wasn’t completely happy with it, so when the Loveland Museum moved our turn-in deadline back a few days, I started a second version of the same composition. This painting will be my smallest piece in the show, and also my only watercolor.

I use a crazy watercolor technique which is very fun, but darn near impossible to control, so there’s really no way to get the same result twice. I typically work on two watercolor paintings at the same time anyway, partly because working on a second one keeps me from messing with the first while successive stages are drying. Usually I’ll abandon one partway through and stay with the one I feel has the most promise. I this case, I completed them both, but am unsure as to which one I like best. I can’t exhibit them both because I only have one frame prepared.

When I started the second version of “Muse,” I was happy enough with the result that I decided to photograph some successive stages of the painting, for those interested in the process. I would summarize the process by saying that the painting is composed of successive layers of very wet glazes, so that the paint literally rolls around on the watercolor board. I’m grateful to Craig Lueck and John Richardson at Hallmark Cards, for introducing me to this technique, which made watercolor enjoyable for me.

(You can see a younger me using this technique in my 4 ½ minute watercolor video on Youtube. Simply type scott freeman watercolor in the Youtube search bar. My apologies for not yet being set up to link videos on this site.)

Here’s the first version of the painting. Mollie says I should put this one in the show:

Muse 1

Following are some stages showing the development of the second version.

Muse-stages

Below is the final result. Please let me know which painting you think should go in the show, (though I’m definitely leaning toward one of them.) Vote the first or second version. I’d be interested in your reasons if you’d care to share them:

Muse 2

The subject matter of this painting comes from one of my favorite evenings during our trip to Germany last year. After Mollie and I spent the day in the Jewish Museum in Berlin, our wonderful German hosts took us to dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant. Then we went for a walk and a glass of wine at the Gendarmenmarkt, Berlin’s most beautiful square, featuring domed German and French Cathedrals facing each other across the expansive plaza with the restored Konzerthaus Berlin (Berlin Concert Hall) rising up between them.

When we entered the square, the sky was beginning to turn Maxfield-Parrish-blue. The weather was still and lovely, and a street musician was playing saxophone on the square under an ornate street lamp that was just coming on. His music echoed through the square, making the moment all the more transcendent for me. To be carried away to Europe by the generosity and grace of our new international friends, and to now be in their company on such a beautiful night in one of the world’s historic cities was extraordinary. This overwhelming memory will always be with me.

Berlin-Soldier Market Platz

Street musician on Soldier Market Platz – photo by the author

On our walk to Lutter & Wegner’s Winehouse, we passed the Concert Hall with its grand stairway. Great statues framed the stairs. On one side was a lion, on the other a lioness, each mounted by a cherub playing a musical instrument. Our hosts waited patiently as I took more photos, one of which became the source for this painting. Back at our hotel, my night ended when I couldn’t sleep from excitement, and Mollie excused me to take a midnight walk in the city (recounted here.)

Scott Freeman and Mollie Walker Freeman will be presenting a two-person art exhibit themed around their Germany trip, entitled, “Zeitgeist: Paintings inspired by Germany.” The show opens with a reception at the Loveland Museum-Gallery on November 8, 2013 at 5pm, and will be on display through February 23, 2014.

Worship as Romance

This post is written to the church, but I think that non-church-goers will find it interesting and provocative as well. If you’re a person who has wondered what is the point of worship, or why some worshipers behave the way they do in worship, this may help your understanding. Personally, it has been helpful for me to understand worship in terms of romance.

What is Romance?
Of course we must start the conversation here. I make no claims to be an expert on romance, but when I got married, I thought a lot about romance because I wanted to keep my marriage from ever growing stale. As a guy, I found the whole subject to be pretty confusing. Yet I noticed that all women everywhere automatically seemed be experts on the subject. If any woman declared something to be romantic, it was so. Furthermore, women seemed to expect romance from their partners even though none of the guys I asked had a clue about how to deliver what was expected. We guessed it must have something to do with flowers. We hoped it might have something to do with sex.

Was there some secret body of knowledge on romance out there…somewhere?

I thought of a list of things that are considered to be stereotypically romantic:

Flowers…chocolate…dressing up…music…slow dancing…a candlelight dinner with a white tablecloth…poetry. But there seemed to be no consistent rules. Early in our marriage Mollie once told me that she thought a picnic we’d had was romantic. But it wasn’t even a very nice picnic. I was actually kind of embarrassed the whole time. First of all, we were poor art students. Then, it started raining, so we had to have our picnic under an overpass in midtown Kansas City. There was a big graffiti scrawl on the concrete wall behind us that said, ”CAROL IS A LESBIAN,” and I was concerned that we might get mugged at any moment. I guess I was pretty stoked that I had a wife who thought this was romantic, but what was the common thread? From the picnic I learned that it didn’t necessarily have to do with money, or sunshine and bunnies, or an exotic location. (But romance could involve an exotic location.) What’s a clueless guy to do?

Well…I have the answer! Go ahead – test my definition! Tell me any romantic act you have ever heard of, and it will fit my definition; everything from hiring a skywriter to write a lover’s name in the sky, to a simple candlelit meal at home without the kids. There is a common thread. Here it is:

Romance is an expression of loving, thoughtful, focused attention on one’s lover. Within those parameters, almost anything can be romantic.

(My female readers are now saying, “Duh.”)

Do you see how every example listed above fits? If you go out of your way to unexpectedly pick up flowers for your lover, (assuming your lover likes flowers,) do you see how this says, “I thought about you, and I cared enough to do something about it”? Our lame picnic, poor and simple though it was, began with thoughtful preparation and culminated in an afternoon of focused attention, (with a little spontaneity thrown in.) Romance has less to do with the specific material gift or activity than with the thought and intentionality of expressing one’s love.

Allow me to elaborate on the definition:

“Romance is an expression…
If it is not expressed, it’s not romantic. It might be a great idea, it might be loving feelings, but it mustn’t stop there. If you write your lover a note expressing your love, but you never give her the note, that’s not romantic. This means that romance involves making oneself vulnerable; but that’s part of the adventure of love.

…of loving, thoughtful, focused attention…
Romance is about transcendence, meaning, going beyond the everyday, ordinary, busyness of life. Yes, nice restaurants do in fact have electricity; the white tablecloths and candles are there to help to create a transcendent atmosphere. Romantic restaurants do not have a big freaking TV screen with a football game playing. It’s the same with dressing up; it says, “You are worth taking the time to get cleaned up for.” Dressing beyond the ordinary makes the statement that your lover is special to you. The point is focused attention. Therefore, talking to a third party or playing games on your phone during a date is not romantic.

Mollie inadvertently brought the idea of focused attention into focus for me early in our marriage. One Saturday, we’d been running errands together for a couple of hours, doing our necessary stuff. On the way home she said something like, “We should spend some time together. I feel like I haven’t seen you in a while.” I cocked my head, puzzled, seeing as we’d just spent 3 hours together. But we had been focused together on our errands. She was talking about set-apart, focused attention on each other. Running errands together is better than nothing, but a romantic relationship must at times transcend the daily stuff of life.

…on one’s lover.
At the risk of stating the obvious, romantic expression demonstrates an intimate knowledge of one’s lover, and that’s part of what makes it romantic. It stems from thoughts of the specific person, not generic techniques from a book, or a demonstration of how cool you are. If your lover is allergic to flowers, it’s not romantic to give her flowers. If she’s trying to lose weight, she might not consider a big box of chocolates to be a thoughtful gift. If the skywriter (who is really a proxy for you,) misspells her name in the sky, that’s not ideal. Love, romantic or otherwise, by definition is selflessness. Narcissism is at odds with romance. The power of love is selflessness.

What does any of this have to do with worship?
Possibly nothing, especially if you have a conception of Christianity that stems from religious tradition. However, if you place the authority of the Bible above human religious tradition, you will see parallels between romance and worship. To begin with, the Bible describes a relational Creator who desires relationship with us, and who has demonstrated His love for us by restoring communion through Jesus. In fact both Israel and the church are described as a bride (Isa 61:10; 62:4,5; Eph 5:31,32.) Jesus referred to Himself as a Bridegroom (Mat 9:15; Mk 2:19; Lk 5:34.)

Consider again the idea of transcendence – meaning, that which goes beyond our everyday, ordinary experience. I’ve previously written about how the arts speak the language of transcendence. I would now add that worship is an area of transcendence in exactly the same ways that romance is, and we see this transcendence created through the arts in exactly the same ways.

Consider our same list of stereotypical romantic trappings: flowers…chocolate…dressing up… dancing…music…a candlelight dinner with a white tablecloth…poetry. Excluding chocolate, can we not all say we’ve seen all of these things in a church? Can we not think of the communion table as the candlelit dinner with a white tablecloth – especially if we recall Jesus the Bridegroom’s words, “Do this in remembrance of me”? As a younger man, in my search for pure authenticity in my pursuit of God, I tended to reject these things as “religious trappings.” I saw the candles, the darkened sanctuary, incense, robes, dressing up, stained glass, and music as an attempt to “conjure up” God; perhaps even a substitute for the Real Thing. I still suppose this may be true for some people.

But now I see that these things can also be romantic expressions of love toward God.

In the same way that a lover makes himself presentable, and sets the table and lights the candles in anticipation of a set-apart, transcendent evening with the object of his affection, so the church can approach God in worship in this way. As with a romantic human relationship, such expression toward God begins with a singularly devoted heart. In fact, any romantic expression, be it directed toward God or people, is empty without a loving heart behind it. God has never valued religion over relationship:

“For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God, rather than burnt offerings” ( – the prophet Hosea 6:6.)

“You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said:
‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men’” ( – Jesus, Matt 15:8,9.)

In the same way that one’s loving, romantic expression must aim to satisfy the desires of a specific lover, so our worship must aim to satisfy the desires of our Creator, who is the lover of our souls. Whether we worship underground, in a humble house of worship, or in a lavish cathedral; whether our worship is private, corporate, spontaneous, or liturgical and ritualistic, Jesus has told us what the Father desires in worship:

“That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I say to you, ‘You must be born again’…The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (Jn 3:6,7; 4:23, 24.)

I suspect that God created the unity in diversity of monogamous marriage, not only to reflect His nature, but also to give us a concrete help in understanding our “marriage relationship” with Him. This relationship, after all, must be the primary one, since it is eternal, while our human marriages will come to an end (Eph 5:31,32; Matt 22:29-32.)

New Painting: Street Band – Berlin

I don’t want to give too much away in advance of our show that opens in November, because I want you to come to it. But by way of a preliminary announcement, I’d like to share a couple of new pieces I just finished, and describe how the exhibit is developing.

Mollie and I are calling the show, Zeitgeist: Paintings Inspired by Germany. (Zeitgeist is a German word meaning spirit of the times.) The show will open at the Loveland Museum-Gallery on November 9 in the downstairs Foote Gallery, and will remain open until February 23, 2014. On the evening of January 10, Mollie and I will be doing a joint demonstration in separate media. She will demo re-purposed house paint, her primary medium. I will demo watercolor, my secondary medium, (because it is so fun to watch!) We’ll take turns talking and painting while the other’s work is drying. We really don’t know if this will be fun, or chaotic and dizzying for people, but we’d like for you to come and find out.

The Zeitgeist exhibit will present work representing both the external landscape of northern Germany and visions from our internal mindscapes. Some views were painted en plein air on location, other pieces were inspired by people, places, or art we experienced. My crazy wife is busily working on 3 large paintings that will not fit in our van (sigh.)

Following are two pieces I recently completed, both inspired by our visit to Berlin. I posted earlier about a midnight stroll I took in Berlin one night when I was too excited to sleep. These pieces came from that night as well.

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Street Band – Berlin
Scott Freeman, oil, 14×16 in.

I enjoy painting urban nocturnes because of the isolated, lively colors that one simply doesn’t get in the daylight. This scene of a street band is a small painting that reflects the spirit of Berlin that I saw that night. Just a group of guys playing music on Alexanderplatz, (plaza) the site where the largest anti-government protest in East Germany history occurred, just days before the fall of the Berlin wall in November of 1989.

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One of my favorite graffiti images from Berlin.

The second piece, below, is an appropriation – an assemblage of street art, none of which originated with me. I hope I didn’t commit any crimes in collecting these pieces of urban subculture. Certain areas of Berlin were covered in Graffiti and plastered with posters and announcements. I was kind of keeping my eyes open for a cool poster from off the street, but one that I could remove intact without being an inconsiderate jerk. Down an alley, I was happy to finally discover the pink elephant poster which had mostly peeled off the wall because of the rain. So I helped it off the rest of the way. I love the juxtaposition of the anti-capitalist blog leaflet ( the wolf) over the Club Maxxim image – a wonderfully ironic statement for pluralism and freedom.

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Animals of Berlin
Appropriation, Scott Freeman

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