1926. Paris. William Shirer, who would later author "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich," is having a conversation with his good friend Grant Wood. Both had grown up in small towns in Iowa and known each other in school.
Shirer records the conversation in his autobiography, 20th Century Journey.
Wood, a painter, is upset. "Everything that I've done up to now was wrong, and I'm halfway through my life."
"You're only 35," replies Shirer.
Wood continues. "All those landscapes of mine of the French countryside and the familiar places in Paris. There's not a one that the French Impressionists didn't do a hundred times better! ... All these years wasted because I thought you couldn't get started as a painter unless you went to Paris and studied and painted like a Frenchman. I used to go back to Iowa and think how ugly it all was. Nothing to paint."
But then Wood shares a new conclusion and conviction.
"Listen, Bill. I think ... at last ... I've learned something. At least, about myself. I think you have to paint ... what you know. Bill, I'm going home for good. And I'm going to paint those cows and barns and barnyards and cornfields and little red schoolhouses and all those pinched faces and the women in their aprons and the men in their overalls and the storefronts and the look of a field or a street in the heat of summer or when it's 10 below and the snow is piled six feet high. I'm going to do it."
Did he succeed? If you know his name, you know he did. And even if you don't know his name, I guarantee you know one of his paintings: "American Gothic."
The wonderful painting of the farmer holding a pitchfork and his spinster daughter by his side, cottage in the background. It is perhaps the single most recognizable painting done by an American artist. And it only became possible when one man decided to be himself and see the beauty of home.
It is difficult. Home is commonplace, even boring, and the world out there, somewhere, is beautiful and exotic.
But scripture tells us that the beauty of God's creation, and hence God's beauty, is seen everywhere: Psa. 19:1,4 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. 4 Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.
Your home has its own beauty, and you are surrounded by the signposts of God's grace. Pull away from the TV. Walk outside. Take a deep breath and look with fresh eyes. Glance again at your neighbors. Buy a bike or go for a walk.
Let your heart fill with gratitude to a good God. And if you're a painter ...
Rick Cupp is the minister at Kenai Fellowship, Mile 8.5 of the Kenai Spur Highway. For more information, call 283-7682. Sunday Bible classes are at 10 a.m. Worship, Wednesday worship at 11:15 a.m. and Bible classes at 7 p.m.
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