Hi this is Joni Eareckson Tada, and you know how I love art, right?
And you are welcome to visit my art studio any time you’re in the Los Angeles area and have the occasion to stop by our Joni and Friends International Disability Center. But as much as I love art, have you ever wondered how it is that people can spend thousands of dollars on a painting? Or how is it that someone can go to a museum and stand for twenty or thirty minutes in front of a Rembrandt? Sure, you like art, but come on, what is it with these people? Well, obviously they see something in art that you don’t -- something different, something more.
Or take music. Does it ever puzzle you that there are actually people who enjoy reading piano sheet music? Or maybe they’ve got season tickets to the symphony and they never miss a performance, never? O sure you’ll admit art and music are nice things to occasionally dabble in, but aren’t these people going overboard, although they really seem to enjoy what they’re doing.
Long ago I used to shrug my shoulders when it came to cultivating a deeper appreciation for art and music. I guess that’s just what I was lacking… I was lacking 'appreciation.' But I do remember when that 'ho‑hum' lack of interest started to change. It began when Jim Sewell, my art teacher sat down with me and started flipping slowly through the pages and pages of art books. He would say, “Now Joni I want you to look with me, just look.” At first I thought this guy was wasting time, I mean I wanted to get the old pencil and start drawing. At almost every page, he would stop and linger over a Monet, or he'd talk to me about a Cezanne. He would spend hours discussing the composition and the color in a painting by Mary Cassatt or John Singer Sargent or Winslow Homer or NC Wyeth.
At first I felt bored. But the more I looked at that art book and the more I listened to him, the more I began to appreciate good painting. I actually liked studying all these artists and their works. Spending time with the masters elevated my thinking, and I began to see stuff I had never seen before: Nuances of color and curious things about composition. The more I looked, the more was revealed, and the more that was revealed, the more I understood, which, in turn, increased my enjoyment immensely. So now when I see someone standing for long moments in front of a Rembrandt, I get it, I understand it. Because if you don't appreciate good art, then go to a museum or get an art book and start looking at great art. If you don't appreciate fine music, go to a concert series and listen to fine music.
In the same way there are some people who will look at the prayer lives of others and they will scratch their heads. They will be the first to admit that they simply don’t understand these people who spend so many long hours in prayer, and seem to really enjoy it. Well frankly, the only way you and I can develop a real appreciation for prayer is to... you guessed it, is to pray. It's just like art, it's just like music, prayer itself is an art which only the Holy Spirit can teach us. Like art, like music, like so many other disciplines, prayer is something that can only be appreciated when you actually spend time doing it. Spending time with your Master will elevate your thinking. The more you pray, the more will be revealed, and the more you will understand. And you will have joy. So, like art, like music, spend some time in prayer. It’s something you learn to appreciate the more you do it.
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