Tuesday, November 30, 2010

DIY Transparent Clutch

ANOTHER gorgeous tutorial from the ladies at Honestly...Wtf. Cutest transparent clutch ever  inspired by the runway trend (although am a bit worried about where you put your tampons when carrying these sorts of transparent bags). The girls just keep on whipping up amazing creations. Crossing my fingers that I get an invite to their next DIY tepee session.... hahaha.

DIY Weekly - Cut Out Back Shirt

As I mentioned last week, I got a bit crafty recently and made my own version of the cut out back top, a la Christine Centenera's top from her 'My Favourite Things' shoot with Tommy Ton. It was amazingly easy to do and looks pretty sexy on.
 Inspiration:
I had a khaki silk collared shirt that I rarely wear so I used this as the basis for my top. Sorry there aren't any pics of the process, my camera was on the blink when I did this.
What I did was:
1. I put the top on and in the mirror I worked out where I wanted the cut out to sit. I tried to mirror roughly the location of the cut out on Christine's top.
2. I then cut open the shirt dreicttly across borisontally in a slightly rounded way - a bit like a very shallow eye shape. Once the cut was made the fabric drooped down really nicely so I didn't have to cut too much out.
3. I then tried on the top again to check the cut out and adjusted the cut out accordingly.
4. I then sewed the edges of the cut out with a very fine stitch, making sure to turn the edge over a couple of times so that any fraying was underneath. I made a pleat in the top running vertically down because the top flap was sticking out a bit.
5. Finally I ironed the edges of the cut out so that the stitching was less noticeable. Voila!
Might wear it with a little triangle bra next time, was alittle bit chilly with nothing underneath.

Before:
After:

The Sermon, Grace & Justification

A month or so ago, in the comments to a post, I stated that, in my opinion, adherence to the Sermon on the Mount was critical to salvation. This belief of mine smacked so much of "works-based" righteousness that a reader, prayerfully, decided that he would no longer read this blog.

I've been thinking about that exchange ever since. I haven't changed my mind. Far from it. But I've been thinking about how my feelings about the Sermon on the Mount relate to a theology of "justification by faith."

Some biographical background here might be helpful. To start, I'm from an Arminian faith tradition (the Churches of Christ). So I don't really feel any pull from Reformed, Calvinistic, or evangelical positions. I couldn't give a hoot about Augustine, Luther, or Calvin. In short, I've never believed in "justification by faith" or sola fide. So if you're coming from a Reformed or Calvinistic position don't come knocking on this Arminian's door. I won't give you the time of day.

More, the tradition I grew up in really did believe in a "works based" righteousness. In the Churches of Christ of my youth you really had to "get things right" to go to heaven. We didn't believe in irresistible grace (pejoratively called "once saved, always saved" in my Sunday School classes). We didn't believe in predestination. But we did believe salvation involved a human's volitional act. And we loved the book of James: "A person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone."

Where, you might ask, was grace in all this? Well, not anywhere I could see. At least during my childhood. As best I can tell, the Churches of Christ started discovering grace (and some still haven't) during the 1980s. Just in time for my college years.

I'm exaggerating a bit. But not by much.

The point in going into all of this backstory is that my theological imagination has been shaped by a "works based" tradition. I'm not Reformed or Calvinist. I grew up working hard for salvation. Working out my salvation in fear and trembling (Phil. 2.12).

But during college a change did take place in my life and theology. The "works" of the Churches of Christ tended to focus on ecclesiology, how we organized church and conducted worship services. These ecclesial forms were what we had to get right. Because if we got them wrong (e.g., worshiped improperly) then we'd stand under God's judgment. Fall from grace.

So that's how I was raised. I saw the situation like this:
Me + Getting Church Right = Salvation
But as I said, in the 1980s (according to my own observation) a bunch of Church of Christ people started thinking about grace. Where was grace to be found in our tradition? Eventually, because of these explorations, quite a few Church of Christ people did adopt Reformed/Calvinistic positions. There are now quite a few Reformed/Calvinistic Church of Christ people running around in our churches. I tend to blink at them with either blank indifference or horror, depending upon my mood.

The changes I underwent in the 1980s were a bit different. I didn't run toward grace or John Calvin. I read books like Dietrich Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship and decided that "getting church right" was kind of pointless. Jesus, after all, never seemed too keen on church or worship services. No, what really mattered, I decided, was the Sermon on the Mount.

And this switch, theologically and psychologically, was very easy for me. I simply went from this:
Me + Getting Church Right = Salvation
To this:
Me + Getting the Sermon on the Mount Right = Salvation
It wasn't that drastic of a switch, theologically speaking.

But practically speaking? Ethically speaking? Interpersonally speaking? Well, the change couldn't have been more profound and earth-shattering. I'm still picking up the pieces.

But the point I'm trying to make is that language of the Sermon on the Mount fit my theological imagination. The language of the book of James--You are justified by works--the language that shaped how I understood salvation, fit the language of Matthew 5-7 like a glove:
You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything.

I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.

If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Enter through the narrow gate.

Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.
Here's the deal. If you believe in "justification by faith" I have no idea how you deal with the Sermon on the Mount. I guess you'd have to privilege Paul over Jesus. But for me, due to my religious upbringing, I was, and remain, perfectly comfortable with the works-based theology of the Sermon on the Mount. I actually subscribe to crazy ideas like the notion that my ultimate forgiveness is contingent upon my forgiving other people. And I believe crazy stuff like this because, well, Jesus said it.

In sum, I firmly believe that my ultimate salvation (and justification) is dependent and contingent upon my relationship to the Sermon on the Mount. And I believe this simply because I'm a disciple of Jesus. I take him at his word.

Now, you might be wondering, where does grace and "justification by faith" fit into this picture? Again, you have to realize, due to my upbringing, that these just aren't urgent questions for me. I have very little invested in these theories or the doctrines of the Reformation. I simply don't care. You can care, feel free. But I don't. If you're Reformed I bet you don't care a lot about what happens at the Vatican. Well, that's how I feel about your tradition. I'm vaguely aware that your tradition exists, but your issues are not my issues.

Still, no one's perfect. Who can live up to the Sermon on the Mount? And if I can't live up to it won't I be hounded by guilt and bound for hell?

This is where my (very anemic) view of grace kicks in. It's not a theory or system like the Reformed notion of sola fide. It's more a feeling I have than a doctrine.

My feeling of grace has two complementary parts. First, I'm convinced that God is fundamentally for us. Second, I'm convinced that God simply wants our best, day in and day out. Basically, I think of God as a parent. God wants our all, our full effort, nothing held back. And if we've given our best God will be satisfied, even if we fall short. And we will fall short. So grace is rather like an ecosystem of loving support and strenuous moral effort. The effort isn't done to "win" or "earn" the support. No, the effort is only conceivable against a pre-existing background of support.

These feelings might seem woefully inadequate. They leave a lot of loose ends and unanswered questions. To answer those questions you'd need a system and an explanatory theory, like "justification by faith." But I don't care about theories. And that's how I view that doctrine. It's a system. An algorithm. A math problem. It's not the gospel. There's a reason Luther didn't like the book of James. It's because "justification by faith" as a theory isn't biblical.

See, what Luther got wrong is that he felt God was, fundamentally, against us. So his theory was cooked up to deal with that sort of God. I'm beginning in a very different place, a God who is for us. And if you start there, well, you don't need Luther or Calvin.

Because a doctrine of forgiveness is already found within the Sermon on the Mount. It's right there, in the middle of the Lord's Prayer. You simply pray "forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us." That's all I need by way of theory. The simple assurance that God will forgive the sins of those who appeal to him as Father and who, like their Father, strive to forgive others.

Could it be that simple? And that hard?

I believe that it is.

Monday, November 29, 2010

DIY Fringed Back Shorts

These amazing shorts by Bitching and Junkfood, worn by Eliza Doolittle (how fit is she btw?) in her recent Skinny Genes filmclip are so killer. I think they were made especially for Eliza, and in that case you will HAVE to DIY them by sewing some long fringing onto the back of a pair of cut off denim shorts.

Fin!


Mink writes the final chapter of his autobiography.

I have FINISHED the revised draft. It feels great. And with one day to spare! This is the fourth draft of the book, and it is the first draft with which I have felt happy. Obviously it will need a read-through, edits and perhaps a couple of pick-up things, but I think that the essential shape and substance of it has taken on its proper and final form. Hooray! The word count is sitting at about 105,000, but will drop down a bit in editing. I'm looking forward to seeing that fat wad of printed-out pages, and smelling the fresh ink. It's one of the most satisfying moments.

This is unrelated, but LOML and I put up these Ikea clocks to keep track of the time in all our important time zones. Never again will I miss a call from New Zealand because I forgot about daylight savings, or have to look up the time in London six times before an interview (although I probably will, because I am neurotic). LOML made the magnetic orange letters underneath each clock - clever thing!

(The wall is actually a very pale mushroom-y colour, but looks weird here).

Now I think it is time for a celebratory nap under a celebratory blanket.

Those of you who are working on projects for Nanowrimo - how are you doing? Do you expect to reach your goal by tomorrow? If not, do you still feel good about what you have achieved?

Everything I Learned about Christmas I Learned from Watching TV

I re-post this every Advent because it's the best sermon (three points and all!) I ever preached.

Many years ago I was asked to preach on Christmas. The sermon I gave (and captured in these posts) was entitled Everything I Learned about Christmas I Learned from Watching TV. In the sermon (and the posts) I move through three classic Christmas specials: How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, and A Charlie Brown Christmas. In the sermon I used the TV shows to raise theological questions about the meaning of Christmas. The sermon concludes with the most overt gospel proclamation in prime time TV history when Linus steps out under the spotlight in A Charlie Brown Christmas. This special first aired on December 9, 1965 at 7:30 p.m.. David Michaelis writes about that premiere in his biography of Charles Schulz:
Almost half the people watching television in the United States tuned in--some fifteen and a half million households--and found themselves breaking out in gooseflesh as Linus walked in silence to center stage, dragging his blanket, called out 'Lights, please?,' and filled an empty auditorium with his clear recitation of the Gospel tidings of great joy to all people. For years, viewers would be surprised to find themselves once again moved to tears by Linus's unadorned rendition of the Nativity [and] the simple, lisping authority of his exit line, 'That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.'
It's hard for me to communicate with my students about how important these Christmas shows were for my generation. There were no videos, DVDs, Netflix, DVRs, or TiVos. There was no Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, or Cartoon Network. All we had was Looney Tunes and Scooby Doo on Saturday morning and the Brady Bunch when we got home from school. And the Christmas specials. And those came only once a year! So if you missed them, you had to wait a whole year. And, invariably, these specials would come on Wednesday night, smack in the middle of my church's midweek bible study. And my family never missed bible study. So it could be a couple a years in between viewings for me.

So I care deeply about these shows. When I bought them on DVD my boys thought I was buying the shows for them. I wasn't. To actually own these shows is a religious experience for me.

When I first posted this series I had a debate with one of my Graduate Assistants, Missy, about the theology of Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer. She claimed that she hated the show because everyone only likes Rudolph after they find out he is useful (that his nose can get Santa through the storm). Which, if this were true, would be problematic, theologically speaking. But I objected. I pointed out that everyone reconciles with Rudolph, Hermey, and the Abominable Snowman before they figure out that Rudolph's nose would be of use. The ordering here, theologically, is very important.

I told Missy she should rent the video to see who had the sequence right, she or I. But I informed her it would be a waste of time...

You don't mess with my generation went it comes to Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Pair & A Spare on Spanish Elle

Stumbled upon this mention of A Pair & A Spare on Spanish Elle magazine online along with a number of DIY gurus including Shini, Carly and MJ. Completely chuffed! Go here for a gander, use your google translate if you don't happen to be fluent in written spanish. Edit: How cute is the translated spanish title? 'Fever do it yourself'. si si si si si.

DIY Embellished Collars

The lovey bloggette from Wilma and Winston DIYed this gorgeous pearl embelished lavender shirt - cute and so easy! Just glue or sew the pearls onto the collar of a shirt and away you go. Wilma and Winston have a few great DIYs as well as a well stocked vintage store. Check it out if you have time.

Wardrobe Rehab Results

Bigger is not necessarily better. So happy to have made my wardrobe a bit smaller and more organised with the wardrobe rehab project. These are some of the things I have kept to wear during the day.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Happy weekend!


Apologies for my absence - I have been doing this all weekend! Well, this and eating. And sleeping. I know I should really be working to finish up the revisions by the 30th, but I decided to take Thanksgiving weekend off and just work all that harder on Monday and Tuesday. And it is lovely to do nothing!

LOML and I had a great first Thanksgiving - some lovely friends invited us to a dinner on Monday night, and another couple of lovely friends invited us to Thanksgiving dinner on the day itself. We tried our first marshmallows and yams, our first pumpkin pie and our first green bean casserole. And I made my first chocolate cream pies. Which fell apart in spectacular fashion - the filling didn't set, and the Graham-cracker base cracked and collapsed. Luckily LOML went on a rescue mission to the bakery, and so all was not lost.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go right back to painting and drinking wine and eating leftovers. I hope you are all having a lovely weekend - and happy belated Thanksgiving to those of you here in the US!

Reader DIYs - Deconstructed Sweater

The best thing about having a blog like this one is that I can let me imagination run wild with DIY ideas, knowing that if I'm lucky one of my readers will carry the torch for me and execute the idea. As usual, Carly from Chic Steals comes up with the DIY goods and made this hybrid sweater I posted about a while ago. She has done such a good job of choosing two sweaters with such perfect textures to make into one. Perfect! To be honest, Carly is not so much a 'reader' as she is a constant inspiration to me, and I'm pretty chuffed to have inspired her.

Images: Jak and Jil / Chic Steals

DIY Ethnic Print Bag

Ammmmazing DIY ethnic print bag made by adding ethnic print fabric to a leather shoulder bag. Molly from Rackk and Ruin made this bag here using some leftover fabric, gluing it onto a bag and then using leather dye to darken the leather of the bag. So Amazing and very very easy to do.


DIY Tread Heels

Have an old pair of black heels that I was going to throw out, trying to work out how to DIY my own Camilla Skovgaard style tread to add to them. I think I am going to need some boyfriend-style tools, some thick black rubber and some glue?
Image:Searching for Style

Count Your Blessings

I hope you are having a restful Thanksgiving weekend.

During this holiday it's hard not to reflect on what you are thankful for. And it puts me in mind about that bit of wisdom I heard when I was a child, to take the time to "count your blessings." In my church growing up we even sang a song about this:
When upon life's billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Count your blessings name them one by one.
Count your blessings see what God hath done.
Count your blessings name them one by one.
Count your many blessings see what God hath done.
This admonition can seem trite and simplistic. Life's pretty hard. Do we really think counting our blessings is going to help?

Interestingly, psychological science suggests that it will help. In a 2003 article--Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life--in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology psychologists Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough tested the count your blessings recommendation.

For example, in the first of three studies Emmons and McCullough randomly assigned participants into one of three groups: Gratitude, Hassles, and Events. Each group was to reflect, each week for ten weeks, upon certain aspects of their lives. In the Gratitude group the reflection prompt was:
There are many things in our lives, both large and small, that we might be grateful about. Think back over the past week and write down on the lines below up to five things in your life that you are grateful or thankful for.
In the study...
...[e]xamples of gratitude-inducing experiences listed by participants were as follows: “waking up this morning,” “the generosity of friends,” “to God for giving me determination,” “for wonderful parents,” “to the Lord for just another day,” and “to the Rolling Stones.”
The Hassles group was given this prompt:
Hassles are irritants—things that annoy or bother you. They occur in various domains of life, including relationships, work, school, housing, finances, health, and so forth. Think back over today and, on the lines below, list up to five hassles that occurred in your life.
Examples of hassles included:
“hard to find parking,” “messy kitchen no one will clean,” “finances depleting quickly,” “having a horrible test in health psychology,” “stupid people driving,” and “doing a favor for friend who didn't appreciate it.”
The final group, the Events condition, served as a control:
What were some of the events or circumstances that affected you in the past week? Think back over the past week and write down on the lines below the five events that had an impact on you.
Examples of events included:
“talked to a doctor about medical school,” “learned CPR,” “cleaned out my shoe closet,” “flew back to Sacramento,” and “attended Whole Earth Festival.”
Following the groups over the ten weeks Emmons and McCullough found that those in the gratitude condition, those counting their blessings, were significantly happier and healthier than their counterparts.

More, in a second study following up this first experiment Emmons and McCullough went on to assess prosocial behaviors. They found that not only were the participants in the gratitude condition happier and healthier they were more likely to offer emotional support to others and more likely to have helped someone with a problem.

So it seems that simply counting your blessings can have a profound effect on your life, making you happier, healthier, and more compassionate. Not a bad trade for such a simple intervention.

These findings are just a small part of a growing literature on gratitude. And it's a part of a scientific consensus that is emerging from the happiness research. Specifically, if you had to name one trait, one psychological feature, that predicts joy and happiness what would you choose? If the psychological science is any guide the answer seems clear: Gratitude. The happiest people in the world are marked by gratitude. They find life to be a blessing, they receive it as a gift.

Why is gratitude so powerful in creating joy? Well, one of the biggest obstacles to joy is what psychologists call the hedonic treadmill. The hedonic treadmill is driven by habituation. Specifically, we tend to get used to our surroundings. Something that was once novel, shiny, or new eventually elicits a ho-hum response. We habituate to our cars, clothing, jobs, homes, friends, and family. Gifts that once gave us joy move into being stuff and stuff eventually turns into junk. So we consume more. We seek out the next new shiny thing. We get on the hedonic treadmill and start the race toward happiness. And, for a moment, we get a bit of joy. We get a step ahead. But habituation kicks in and pushes us back. Gift becomes stuff. Ho-hum sets in again. So we run and run but never get any happier.

But gratitude seems to crack this cycle. Why? Gratitude is the exact opposite of habituation. Where habituation causes us to look over or past the blessings we have in life, gratitude re-presents these things and relationships as gifts, keeping them ever new in our hearts and affections. You don't habituate to things you are grateful for. Things don't get old when you count you blessings. So while habituation turns gifts into junk gratitude reverses the process. It turns junk back into gift. Gratitude allows you to jump off the hedonic treadmill and actually make some real progress into joy.

And speaking of gratitude, joy, gift, worship and getting off the hedonic treadmill...Advent starts tomorrow...

Friday, November 26, 2010

DIy Breton Tops

Definite. wardrobe. staple. If I had ten of these I still wouldn't have enough. Why not DIY your own using these steps? Flipping easy!
 
Images: Vanilla Scented / Garance Dore / Dead Fleurette

DIY Feather Lined Boots

As you may know, I can't go past a pair of shearling lined boots, particularly when they are DIYed. But stumbled upon this image and feel in love with the feather lined boots. so effing cool! Buy some feather trim like this, and either tie it around your ankles underneath your boots with the feathers pointing up, or glue it to the inside of your boots.

I get the feeling that the master DIYers out there who rarely get a mention are the stylists who put together amazing shoots like the one above, and are able to turn a simple outfit into something amazing.

Image: Rackk and Ruin

Reader DIYs! Floral Headband

Adore this headband that Laraquela of My Boyfriend Hates this Dress made using the tutorial I blogged about here by Kasturi! It is so cute in the gorgeous floral pattern. Great work here, but I hear she burnt herself with the glue gun - the hazards of DIY.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

DIY Pyrite Rings

Addicted to these pyrite rings - the top one is from Luv Aj and I really want it. But saw today that the lovely Carly of Chis Steals has made her own using some pyrite and wire here. Gosh she's talented! Pretty please carly can you put up a tutorial for this?
Images: Luv Aj / Chic Steals

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

DIY Dreamcatching Earring / Hair piece

Saw this on a lovely girl at LFW recently, and now again in the Style Stalker lookbook. Yummy! Head down to a local market and pick up a dreamcatcher, and for the earrings, attach to an earring hook (available online or in most craft stores) and go for it - go for one ear rather than both. Or you can attach to a pony tail also for extra cuteness.
Image: Studded Hearts

The Thomas Kinkade Effect

I have an article coming out this winter in the Journal of Psychology and Christianity. The paper is entitled Death, Art and the Fall: A Terror Management View of Christian Aesthetic Judgments. My co-authors were Dan McGregor, Brooke Woodrow, Andrea Haugen and Kyna Killion. Dan and I are colleagues at ACU, he in Art and I in Psychology. Brooke, Andrea and Kyna were my Graduate Assistants while we were working on this project. What follows is a bit of that paper edited for this blog:

Visual art has a long and rich tradition within the Christian faith. From the first Christian art in the Roman catacombs to DaVinci’s The Last Supper to Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel frescoes to the work of contemporary practicing Christian artists, art has profoundly affected Christian worship, personal devotion and the larger Christian culture. And yet, with the rise of Christian retail, many Christian artists are lamenting the quality of the “Christian art” bought and sold in Christian bookstores and retail outlets, artwork that is often used for devotional purposes or to adorn worship spaces. Specifically, many Christian artists see a general decline in Christian aesthetic judgments, as poor or superficial artwork appears to be dominating the Christian visual culture. Take, as an example, the assessment of the poet Steve Turner in his book Imagine: A Vision for Christians in the Arts:
[Aspiring Christian artists] are usually frustrated that there is so little distinctive Christian content in the contemporary arts, but on the other hand, they are embarrassed at the low standards of much of what is promoted as “Christian art.”
This evaluation of Christian artists’ frustration jives with Turner’s own judgment:
This perspective confirmed what I had instinctively felt for sometime—that a lot of art created by Christians was bad and a lot of art created by non-Christians was good…Because the work that bore the name Christian was often poor in quality and na├»ve in understanding, Christianity by implication seemed insipid and uninspiring.
And Turner is not alone in this assessment. Take, as another example, the analysis of Philip Graham Ryken in his book Art for God’s Sake:
The question becomes, therefore, whether as Christians we will aspire to high aesthetic standards. All too often we settle for something that is functional, but not beautiful. We gravitate toward what is familiar, popular, or commercial, with little regard for the enduring values of artistic excellence. Sometimes what we produce can be described only as kitsch—tacky artwork of poor quality that appeals to low tastes. The average Christian bookstore is full of the stuff, as real artists will tell us, if we will only listen.
In light of these criticisms, it is important to note that kitsch isn’t unique to Christianity. Much of what passes for art in the retail world is of questionable quality and can be subjected to the same criticisms that Turner and Ryken level as Christian commercial art. Still, it seems worth asking if Turner and Ryken are making a legitimate point. Might there be theological and psychological forces within Christianity that are affecting Christian aesthetics?

If we accept the judgments above, even on hypothetical grounds, we might ask the following: What might be artistically compromising Christian aesthetic judgments? Many think a root cause is theological. Specifically, when Christian artists depict the world they must wrestle with how they portray the brokenness they find there. In light of God’s grace should the artwork depict the way the world should be or will be at the eschaton? Or should the artist depict the brokenness, woundedness and suffering of our current existence? Take, for instance, the work of one of the most recognizable Christian artists, Thomas Kinkade. Kinkade has said that his idyllic paintings are portrayals of the world “without the Fall." But many Christian artists wonder if this impulse is truthful to human experience and the activity of God’s grace in a broken world. The graphic artist Ned Bustard writes in It Was Good: Making Art for the Glory of God:
Inevitably it seems that most attempts to picture good tend to offer the viewer disingenuous, sugary sweet propaganda. Ignoring the implications of the Fall, these artists paint the worlds as a shiny, happy place. The quintessential example of this in our day is found in Thomas Kinkade’s general philosophy. Kinkade professes to be a Christian but has said, “I like to portray a world without the Fall.”
The argument is made that good art, to be truthful, must present grace in the midst of the Fall. Supporting this view, Bustard cites the opinion of Edward Knippers, one of the most influential Christian artists working today:
Speaking to the issue of the portrayal of goodness in art, Knippers [insists] “Goodness needs to be attached to the real world because if you separate it from reality what you are left with is Disney World.” The believer’s art should be rooted in the rich soil of believing that humanity is far worse off than we think and God’s grace extends far beyond what we can imagine. It is in this understanding and not the two-dimensional, sweet, niceness of Snow White that we can produce good fruit that is rich in the fullness of our humanity.
According to this view, true beauty isn’t achieved by willfully removing the signs of death, suffering or brokenness. True beauty aims to find God’s grace in unlikely and painful places. Take, as an example, the work of Tim Lowly. A recurring subject in Lowly’s art is Temma, his severely mentally and handicapped daughter. Temma is an emotional and biographical vision of the brokenness we find within the human condition. And yet, in painting Temma Lowly finds powerful ways to communicate grace in the midst of brokenness. For example, in his piece Carry Me Lowly draws Temma being lifted upward by six young women. We look down on the scene. Temma’s eyes are closed. She appears peaceful and restful. The eyes of the six women look upward, toward us or God. Carry Me is not, to quote Bustard again, a work of “sugary sweet propaganda” which ignores the implications of the Fall by painting the world as “a shiny, happy place.” Carry Me confronts the Fall through the broken body of Temma, but the beauty of the work is in how, through the six women lifting Temma up, it also depicts love, compassion, trust, and hopeful expectation in the midst of brokenness. Adrienne Chaplin writes of Carry Me: “By allowing the broken body of Temma to stand for the brokenness of us all, we are encouraged to reflect on our shared humanity."

Of course, as said above it is important to note that kitsch is not unique to Christians. Nor am I saying that I don't enjoy Kinkade's work. In fact, there is a small Kinkade hanging in my living room. So these concerns about declining aesthetics within the Christian population might very well be overblown. However, it is worth wondering if Christians (or anyone for that matter) might be attracted to artwork that portrays a world “without the Fall,” a sweet, shiny, untroubled and Disneyesque existence. No doubt, there are good theological reasons to paint the world not as it is but as it should be. We might characterize this kind of artwork, such as Thomas Kinkade’s, as eschatological, as painting the world that is yet-to-be. And yet, this eschatological impulse could tend toward triumphalism and an all-too-quick dismissal of the brokenness of human existence. In short, are preferences for eschatological art a form of denial or hope?

This is the question that has been occupying me as a researcher for the last few years. From worship choices to Christian publishing to Christian music to how Christians explain the pain of human existence, are Christians trying to deny or avoid the brokenness in the world? And are they doing this for existential and emotional comfort and solace? Is there within Christian populations what my friend and co-author Dan and I call The Thomas Kinkade Effect, the desire to portray the world "without the Fall"?

DIY Wardrobe Rehab Step 5 - Colours

Check out the whole series of Wardrobe Rehab posts here

If you've been following along, you'll know that the purpose of the wardrobe rehab project has been to shrink and clarify my wardrobe, in the face of moving overseas, so I can throw together amazing outfits effortlessly and so that I have no 'tat' in my wardrobe that I don't wear. Through this process I culled my wardrobe (halving its size!), had a go at defining my style, made a list of  my wardrobe essentials and I tried to organise my wardrobe (although spent last night packing for HK so obv all the organising went out the window).

A major reason that historically my wardrobe has been a shambles, apart from the sheer size of it, has been my penchant for buying all different random coloured items with no reference to what exists in my wardrobe and what I will wear it with. How do you solve this problem? Firstly, as I mentioned in one of the previous posts, when buying basics and essentials you should probably stick to a neutral palette of black, navy, beige or white (or any other colours you wear alot and think of as your 'base' outfit colour). This is a point I picked up off this post by Dead Fleurette about the secret to french elegance, and I totally agree. If you think about all the amazingly dressed french women you see being photographed by The Satorialist and Tommy Ton, they usually build on neutral basics with lots of navy and beige and black.

But no one wants to wander around all day in only neutral colours, and thats where buying colour wardrobe 'updaters' comes in to play. Once you have a smaller wardrobe with lots of well fitting neutral coloured essentials, you can purchase a few coloured items (from the high street or charity shops) each season to mix with your basics and make them more on trend. An example? I posted recently about loving burnt caramel colour, and this colour has featured alot as the standout piece in my outfits - paired with dark jeans, black pants, skirts, tweed jackets and blazers. I picked up a top and a pair of shorts from a charity shop for nothing and they have been great for mixing with basics. Buying coloured shorts, silk shirts and other smaller items will allow you to mix them in with your neutral basics. Tash from Excessive Consumption has block colour dressing to perfection.

Another style of dressing that I really like is wearing tonal colours, choosing a single colour and wearing items that are different shades of that colour in the one outfit (see a few examples below). I really love this look, but very rarely ever do it - the Anywho girls and Maria from Vanilla Scented get tonal dressing so right! Can go horribly wrong if the shading is off though.

My main piece of advice is to wear what looks good on you. Choosing colours that suit your look and skin tone is much more important than strictly adhering to trend colours or tonal dressing- yes Zara might be pushing washed out blue but if it doesn't suit you don't go for it. Back in the day our grandmas used to go and get their 'colours' done, where someone would sit them down and work out  what colours suit them. This may seem a bit archaic but sometimes having an unbiased critique of what colours suit you is the best thing!

Block Colours

tonal dressing
frenchy (just for fun!)
Images: (from top left) Style Scout / Just Jared / Hanelli Mustapata
The Style Crusader / Anywho
excessive consumption / image of me by Street Style London / excessive consumption
Vanilla Scented / Anywho / Anywho
Excessive consumption / excessive consumption/ excessive consumption

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Checking in

Is this week a little on the crazy side for everyone? With the holidays coming up, it seems like time has truncated itself somewhat and it is becoming more and more difficult to fit everything in. Rather like when we go shopping in our Mini. I am still on track with my work, and the book is now sitting at about 103,000 words - definitely need to cut it down during edits in December! How are you doing? Are things on hold this week while you spend time with family?

In other news, LOML and I will be celebrating Our First Thanksgiving this week! I feel like an illustrated children's book is in the works - Kiwis at Thanksgiving. Or something.

"Religion in America is characteristically atheistic or agnostic..."

As I find it, religion in America is characteristically atheistic or agnostic. Religion has virtually nothing to do with God and has little to do with the practical lives of men in society. Religion seems, mainly, to have to do with religion. The churches--particularly of Protestantism--in the United States are, to a great extent, preoccupied with religion rather than with the Gospel.
--William Stringfellow, A Private and Public Faith

DIY Proenza Schouler Rope Necklace - Honestly... wtf

Delicious DIY from the gorgeous girls over at Honestly...wtf? Talk about inspired. Check it out here - inspired by a Proenza Schouler Necklace.
 
 
 
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