Life as concerto. The concerto, as a musical device, is specifically constructed to give singular voice to one or more particular instruments in the larger collective we call the orchestra. The task of the conductor is to allow the instrument in question the fullest opportunity for it to shine against the broader backdrop of musical community. piano playerThe conductor has an omniscient, bird’s-eye view of the venture, the present moment speaking to the end product, which is always in sight. She also seeks to offer guidance and support as the musician finds his unique voice among many. The result of this interactive exercise of risk-taking, conciliatory art and precision is the music of sublimity.

Life as tapestry. Taken as a whole, from God’s perspective, the tapestry that is our life is a portrayal of one’s deepest essence.  Threads of differing colors and weights for different purposes are woven at ninety-degree angles to one another, providing multiple crossroads at each meeting place.  They lack meaning in themselves and without the creator’s perspective, these threads can quickly lose hope, finding themselves at crossed purposes; conflictually related.  At micro level each thread travels a continuous forward road sometimes above its perpendicular counterparts, perhaps even with an accompanying sense of pride, accomplishment and clear vision.  At other times, life is submerged, under the surface, as the creator allows other colors to predominate. The full array of our experiences, relationships, ideas, choices bad and good merely portray “details of the tapestry…those main threads that bind the tapestry together and create a pattern…the basic threads of the faith…the common threads…that unite all Christians” (Thomas Merton, Seeds of Contemplation).

Life as canvas.  Brush strokes, broad and bold upon newly prepared canvas provide the ethos and essential feel of the finished work.  The predetermined size of the work allows the canvas to be stretched and prepped for that which is to emerge. It is a rigorous process that, left undone or done shoddily, will not provide the necessary backdrop upon which the painter unveils her magic. Too close to the canvas and all one gets is a nose full of wet paint and blotches of disconnected color. Step back and we are privy to what the artist sees, hundreds of mini-brushstrokes combined in an explosion of glorious, interpretive reality. Beauty has emerged, albeit over much time and with much arduous work.

Location, location, location – as in real estate, so in art. The placement of the canvas ensures adequate light to the artist for the ensuing endeavor.  The artist works quickly at first seeking to get on canvas the basic structure of the vision, which prompted the painting in the first place.  As the vision unfolds, smaller, more painfully intricate strokes occur leaving vast portions of canvas untouched for long periods.  No brush stroke is less important than the other, each one a promise fulfilled toward the unfolding masterpiece.

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” – a statement attributed to Plato, is never truer than in the mind of God toward us. The fierceness and jealousy with which our lover-God goes about the task of conducting our concerto, weaving our life tapestry, of painting our colored existence, attests to God’s attention to intention, detail, design, color, nuance…. Until we are fit to hang as trophies of grace on the halls of God’s living room, we will still hang on the loom, being painstakingly woven and unwoven. We will stay hidden away in an upstairs room, stretched out and, at times, thin and cold, waiting…waiting…for the painter’s eventual return and, completion. But then, in the course of time, our voice secure and robust, our music will play; we shall adorn the great banquet hall in which sits the Lord’s table where the least of these, now exalted beyond all measure, dine with the one called Lord of lords.


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Robert Alan Rife

Robert Rife, M.A., minister of worship and music for Yakima Covenant Church (formerly Westminster Presbyterian) in Yakima, Washington, is a self-proclaimed book-nerd-word-herder, multi-instrumentalist (including Highland Bagpipes!), singer-songwriter, studio musician, choral director, poet, and liturgist. He maintains two personal blogs: Innerwoven and Robslitbits. He also blogs at Conversations Journal. Robert describes his vocation as exploring those places where life, liturgy, theology, and the arts intersect with and promote spiritual formation.

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