It’s funny how pieces of life point to the greater whole, the core of the story. When life is swirling around you, through you, you don’t always see the central plot. You miss the forest for the trees. But somedays, you look at the trees and suddenly see a mighty forest.

Cello and piano. These two instruments have been the recent metaphor of my life, pointing to the greater story. Five years ago I took up cello, poured hours and energy and money into something I so desperately wanted to do, wanted to be. The cello voice captured in air a sound that mirrored my heart. Aching, haunting, longing, beauty. But when my fingers met the strings, the haunting wasn’t lovely- it was ugly. And frustrating. And painful. And disappointing. And too much like life.

For the next five years, I wrestled the desired result with reality and decided it just wasn’t worth it. While a gutting decision to make, the day I chose to sell my cello was the day I felt I could breathe again- and be me. Not an image of me I had concocted.

And then there is the piano.

Touching piano ivory feels like home to me. Even sharp notes and sour keys make me smile. I can’t explain it, but it just feels right. Six years of childhood lessons, two cross-country moves, decades later- it all comes back in seconds. There is no pressure to perfect- just joy and play. And an old friend rediscovered.

And so it is with God and me. He has always been the piano, but for years I made Him the cello. Something perfect, demanding, other worldly. So beautiful and ethereal- but which I could never reach. And in truth, God is all these things. But He never expected me to be them. He knows I am thoroughly flawed. That’s why He came to save me. It just took me twenty-five years to understand.

God is not my baggage. He is my piano: my joy, my delight, my childhood love restored. When I fumble and trip over keys, He just laughs and smiles and says, “No worries. We get to start over and play that part at the beginning again, the part we like so well.” What a rediscovery- this Love, this Friend. And the best bit is knowing that He will be my life’s companion to the very end.

The Sanctity of Art

I have four great loves in life: my Savior, my husband, my family, and art.

My Savior is the source of life, my All in All, the very reason why I live. My husband is the greatest gift I’ve been given- apart from Jesus. My best friend and constant supporter, I love him more than words can say. And my family are my people– the ones who truly get me and love me just the same.

But as for the fourth love on my list, for years I denied its presence- or at least felt guilty about it. Older Christians I respected encouraged me to lay every passion on the altar of Christian service, to deny my own desires and take up the vow of a missionary- living in some far off jungle. They told me that if there were lost people somewhere, I was called to go; it didn’t matter what my heart felt. My heart was not to be considered.

While I now understand their good intent, the damage they caused was swift and deep. I am not putting blame on these well-meaning leaders. I know their hearts were in the right place- and I am ultimately responsible for knowing God’s will myself. But as a young Christian, earnestly desiring to do the will of God, damage was done.

I spent the next ten years of my life trapped between confusion and pain. I knew what I loved- art- but was told this love was incompatible with my call to be a Christian. I knew what I wanted to do- write and champion the arts- but was never encouraged that this longing and gifting could be God’s very purpose for me.

Churches will spend hours and hours extolling the virtue of missions. But will they even give 10 minutes discussing the holiness of art? To every Christian artist, this lack of discussion, this lack of appreciation seems to be shouting “Isn’t art a pagan thing, filling big city museums and corrupting minds? Filled with the sensual, stirring up passions, opening up our souls, how can any good thing come from art?”

Not all art is good. I acknowledge this sincerely. But art can be holy. I affirm this ardently.

Art can reach through hardened hearts and darkened minds- like a single shaft of light escaping into a darkened room. Words, music, paintings, sculptures, dance, art, touch a place where sermons and religious catechism never reach. Art touches the human soul. This soul place is the very bridge between our earthy bodies and supernatural spirits. How can we neglect this heavenly portal? How can we forget this passageway?

Obviously, the soul can quickly become murky and trapped in humanism. But let us redeem this sacred place! Let us not toss away the babe with the bath water. Let us fight for this sacred battleground.

Art can be a weapon in the eternal war. A mighty, irrepressible, powerful weapon. Pushing back the lies of darkness and declaring the holiness of God. But for these spiritual weapons to be wielded, they must first be acknowledged and extolled.

Let us not forget the first human to be filled with the Spirit of God: Bezalel. Bezalel was an artist and craftsman, working with gold, silver, bronze, jewels, and wood (Exodus 31). God called him and inspired him to do this artistic work for the building of the tabernacle. A holy purpose indeed.

God has called many of us to be holy artists, too. Be reassured today that if you are committed to Christ and yet still find art filling your heart, God probably put it there for a reason. The world needs your art. This spiritual battle needs your thrust. Feel your call is not “sacred” enough? Tosh!

Never forget the sanctity of art.


What is the thing that makes your soul come alive?

For too long we live in the grey. Going through the motions and embracing the humdrum as our destiny. But what about passion? What about fire? What about a red hot life- and not the tepid grey?

How long will you wait? Until your loans are paid off? Until you meet Mr. Right? Until your kids leave home? Until all the pieces fit right? To wait is to lie. Lie to yourself. You aren’t really going to do it. You just tell yourself you’re waiting because you are afraid. Afraid of failing. Afraid of hard work. Afraid of looking stupid. Afraid of what they think. Afraid of losing “security”. Afraid of making a mistake.

But the worst mistake? To never try at all.

You might fail. No- you will fail. A lot. But you will also be succeeding every day as you put away your pen, lay down your bow, clean your brushes, and hang up your apron. You will succeed with the knowledge that you won today’s fight. You won by showing up.

So show up today. There’s a war you were meant to wage.

Capturing You

Halls of Van Gogh.
Scores of scrolls.
Loads of odes.

All in response.
Response to the grandeur.
Echoes of the infinite.
Straining to capture and reflect the Uncapturable One.
Every attempt falling short.

But still we try.

We, the artists and poets and music-makers.
Striving with every stroke, every line, ever midnight-oil-burning.
Striving to get it just right.
Striving to capture.

Capture You.

Play the Sunset

Why do you do what you do?

Obligation? Fear? Trying to make up for the deficiencies in your soul?

To be praised by people and loved by man? To show them that you matter?

A squeaking cello and an old movie helped me answer this question.

For fourteen days, I had been slaving over Bach’s Minuet No. 2. Pounding the metronome and playing the notes until my head, back, and soul ached. And yet all the progress I made seemed to disappear- on the very morning of my bi-weekly lesson.

The idea of practicing anymore was sickening- but the chasm between how I played and how I wanted to play drove me on like a tyrant.

In the middle of all this, I called my mom to cancel our morning workout, deciding more cello practice was what I really needed. Before hanging up, my mom and dad reminded me to play from my heart.

As I put down the phone, I pondered the idea. Since when had I played from my heart? The last weeks of cello had been like an organized exercise in torture. Squeaky notes, calloused fingers, and that darn metronome (I think my head started to nervous-twitch in time!).

At that very moment, I hated the cello.
I had lost my love.

Flying across my memory, a picture popped into my head. I ran off to the computer and furiously typed into the search bar “Mr. Holland’s Opus Clarinet Scene”.

And there it was. Filling my heart and soul.

This simple scene of Mr. Holland, giving a student the courage to play from her heart, reminded me of why I play.

I don’t play to be perfect (like that would ever happen!).
I don’t play to please other people.
I don’t play to be loved or to be told I’m good enough.

I play because I love.

I love music, I love joy, I love beauty.

I love the sunset.

Why do you play?