I press on for the high calling of God to win the prize for which Christ Jesus has called me heavenward…. Phil 3:14
Morning Coffee with Barry Stebbing
Two Sisters by Pierre Auguste Renoir
Pierre Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) was born in Limoges, France, the son of a poor tailor. He was a simple and good man who treated everyone the same. His speech remained that of the lower class his entire life, and even after fame and fortune, many construed him to be a peasant. In his early 20s he found employment in a china company painting cups and saucers with pretty ladies and flowers, making ten cents for each. (Wouldn’t it be nice to find one of these in a thrift shop?)
His painting are of pleasant subject matters (with the exception of a few nudes), with compositions of flowers and gardens along with a wealth of Parisians enjoying the gay 90s, all bursting forth with his colorful palette. During the last 15 years of his life he suffered from the agonizing pain of arthritis. Once a handsome young man his hair and beard were now gray and his body emaciated. No longer able to walk, Renoir had to be lifted into a wheelchair and transported to his studio or garden to paint, his hands so raw and tender that a cloth had to be placed in his hand and then strap down with a brush. One day, while painting in his garden he said, I learned something new today. Later in the day he passed away.
I find this to be just as inspiring as his beautiful paintings. For Pierre Auguste Renoir not only remained productive throughout his waning years, but also commented that he had learned something new on the day of his death. And is this not what we, as Christians, should do as we aspire for more understanding of the kingdom of God; always learning, always growing, always desiring to be tempered into perfection through Christ?
Saundra’s father lived with us on the farm the last eight years of his life. He was a Marine who fought with the 4th Division in Iwo Jima and three other islands. There was too much pain, too many horrific sights, for him to believe in God. However, Saundra would soften him throughout the years. Finally, before his death he held her hand and received Christ. The next morning, all but comatose, he stared at the ceiling and said, Look, up there. I see the holy people. That afternoon he passed away. Deep down, we knew that he had whispered to himself before his last breath, I learned something new today.
Come, my friends, tis not too late to seek a newer world; For my purpose holds to sail beyond the sunset; And though we are not near that strength which moved earth and Heaven… One equal temper of heroic hearts; Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will; To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield. Alfred Lord Tennyson
Art History Tid-bit: By the time of the Impressionists, France had passed its golden era of being a Christian nation. There were still beautiful churches with bells in the belfries ringing throughout the land, but the French had wandered from their love for Christ to embrace the Age of Enlightenment. Though French Impressionism created one of the most beautiful styles of painting in the history of art, there are few, if any, religious paintings. Vincent Van Gogh was an exception. However, Van Gogh was not considered an Impressionist but an Expressionist.
Coffee Memo: Who says that one can not drink coffee in Church? I often have a cup during services, ensconced in nature with a crackling campfire and a choir of songbirds at the break of dawn. ‘Tis the grandest Cathedral of all! And I soon finding myself (after the coffee) rejoicing like David before the arc. It is heaven on earth.