Welcome to Artists' Work B.e.n.c.h.

Welcome to the e-magazine/blog for Artists' Work B.e.n.c.h., the Inland Empire's Christian fine arts organization! We hope you will find this to be a useful, enjoyable and worthwhile resource. Here are the newest items in the blog. Just click on the titles to go to the articles:

Christian Songwriters' Showcase

the Book Club

Psalms Project--get creating!

January Master Class: Singability

Fine Arts Bible Study, Part 3

Poetry Corner: The Transfiguration

The Cafe (where we share interesting Fine Arts related links we have found)

Profile: Nick Metcalf, Pastor, Performer, Artisan

Stained Glass: The Art of Light

Amazing Grace, The True Story....Really!!

Happenings: Artistic Events in the Inland Empire

Suggested New Year's Resolutions for Christian Artists

Also, don't forget to vote in our poll on the right hand side of the screen and tell us where you are the most creative! So, brew a cup of coffee, herbal tea, or whatever you like, and stay a while. This page will be updated monthly with new articles and interviews. Enjoy!
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So, what is Artists' Work B.e.n.c.h? This is a place for Christian artists in the Inland Empire of Southern California to mix, network, relax, share, and learn. What types of Christian artists?
1. Visual arts (sculpture, painting, glass blowing, etc.)
2. Dance (performing, choreography, etc. )
3. Music (playing, writing, learning, singing, etc.)
4. Creative writing (poetry, stories, etc.)
5. Drama/theater (acting, playwriting, directing, etc.)
6. ??????

Artists Work B.e.n.c.h. is for Christian artists: simply, people who are Christians and who are also artists. Some Christian artists make art exclusively for Christians, but many use their talents in secular ways as well (writing screenplays for television, jingles, playing in a philharmonic orchestra, acting in a community theater, displaying their paintings in a gallery, etc.) All are welcome here.

Christians follow the Creator of the Universe, and therefore should be the most creative people in the world. The church has historically been the patron of great artists. Hildegard, the writer of the very first opera, was a nun. Michelangelo, Donatello, Edward Hicks, and many others made art for church and used church subjects.

But, today, Christian art is not considered "forward" or "interesting" in many circles. This reputation is well-deserved in most cases. Christian art has become a punchline. In our own little way we hope to change some of that perception.

What does Artist's Work B.e.n.c.h. stand for?
B=BUILD new Christian artists, ministries, avenues.
E=ENCOURAGE Christian artists to use their talents.
N=NETWORK with Christian artists, churches.
C=COORDINATE opportunities for Christian artists to use/exhibit their talents.
H=HELP Christian artists and help churches utilize artists.

This group is for people who fit one or more of these categories:
1.) Just starting out
2.)Being used mightily for God
4.)Seasoned professional
6.) Talented amateur
7.)Wanting to learn/improve
8.)Not sure if God can use your talent
9.)Good enough to teach others
10.)Wondering if your talent (flower arranging, calligraphy, photography, etc.) even qualifies as art.

Christian artists--unite! Let's be creative, interesting, and forward thinking enough to lead the artistic world, while still making quality pieces that reflect our worldview.

Nick Metcalf: Pastor, Performer, Artisan

Nick Metcalf of San Juan, Texas, is a man of many talents, balancing full plates as a pastor, musician, instrument maker and visual artist. The Lord has blessed Metcalf with myriad gifts, and he uses them all for God’s glory. His music bears a decidedly Celtic bent, born of a combination of heritage and simple love of the form. He took a few moments from his busy schedule to talk with Artists’ Work B.e.n.c.h. about his art, faith, inspirations and aspirations.

Above: Nick Metcalf playing the Irish low whistle

Metcalf says he comes by his musical talents naturally. “I have pretty much been inundated with music my entire life. When I was born my father had a singing group that he had founded. He was (and is) a guitar teacher and a very talented songwriter. I sang on an album from his group called 'The Little Advent Band' when I was 3 years old. The album was released on cassette and vinyl through Chapel Records in about 1981. I began playing guitar at about 12 years of age after having formal piano lessons starting at age 7. My piano lessons only lasted formally for about a year or so, but my dad always had a few keyboards at home so I played on them often while growing up.

“When I was about 17 I started listening to a ton of Irish music. I had heard some of it growing up and kinda felt like I was going back to my roots a bit. I started learning the flute and the tin whistle at that time. I took a couple lessons from Irish flute virtuoso Justin Murphy, from the bands Legacy and the Poor Clares. I only had the chance for a couple of lessons, but he gave me the foundations for learning Irish music, ornamentation, etc.”

His musical influences range from major Christian and secular artists – Michael W. Smith, TobyMac, U2, Timbaland – to a wide range of Celtic performers: Afro Celt Sound System, Nightnoise, Davy Spillane, Solas, Capercaille, Donal Lunny, John McSherry, and Carlos Hevia, just to name a few. “My heritage definitely played a huge part in leading me into the Celtic style of music. There’s something that just awakens inside me when I hear some good bagpipes, or whistles or fiddles playing Irish and Scottish music. I especially love the haunting sound of the Irish low whistle. It just evokes certain emotions like no other instrument can.”

Metcalf’s interests expanded after he was out of high school. “When I was 20 I moved to Oregon where I had the privilege of playing in a weekly Irish music session, and playing with an Irish band at festivals and pubs. It was a lot of fun! Soon after that I went to college, where I got my degree in Theology and brushed up on my music theory. I had a band while in college, which was a lot of fun, and honed my songwriting skills and took some voice lessons. I have had recording studio equipment since I was 18, and of course it grows and changes as new technology comes out. I now use mainly computer-based software recording.”

In 2007 Metcalf released his album “Change Your World” on the Sonlight label. It’s a compelling, fresh, very creative blend of Celtic, acoustic rock and hip-hop textures. (You can hear samples of the project here: http://cdbaby.com/cd/nickmetcalf) He is already moving forward with his next project. “The ‘Change Your World’ CD was a lot of fun to make and I put a year’s worth of time and effort into perfecting it. Right now I am working on an instrumental CD of Hymns, mostly played with Irish whistles and a few bagpipes here and there.”

One of Metcalf’s many sidelines is manufacturing Irish flutes and whistles, a craft which he stepped into almost by accident. “As far as instrument making, I never had any training in this area. It all started when I really got serious on the Irish whistle and realized that the cheap versions weren’t really cutting it. I was poor, though, so I couldn’t afford the ones I wanted. My grandfather had a wonderful workshop with every tool imaginable, and we decided that it would be easy enough to make a few whistles rather than to buy them. It was a lot harder than I anticipated, but I came up with a design and sold a few back in 1998. I wasn’t completely satisfied with the sound or design, and when I moved away to go to school I no longer had access to the workshop, so I took a few years off from making them. After I graduated I joined the military (Army National Guard). When I got my signing bonus I invested the money in tools and supplies for making instruments. It took 4 months to iron out the new design and work out the kinks. But I am very happy with the design and sound of the new whistles.” He now has his own company, Ethnic Wind, through which he produces the instruments by special order. They are truly beautiful artworks, as attractive as they are functional, with painstakingly crafted Celtic designs and polished metal bodies.

Above: A case full of Nick Metcalf's handcrafted Irish whistles

As much as Metcalf enjoys making music and its tools, he doesn’t hold any grandiose aspirations of scaling the marketplace. “For the longest time I had the goal of making it in the Christian music industry. I sent demos out to all the record companies, and performed all over with my band, but over time I have come to realize that it’s too commercial for me. It’s a very competitive market, and it seems like most of the movers and shakers are more in it for the business side than for the ministry aspect of it. I still am making music, and selling a few CDs here and there, and I love it and will continue to do so. But I am now the head pastor of two churches and I am taking pleasure in local ministry and using my talents to help my churches and communities.

“The market for whistles is bigger than I anticipated. I am currently flooded with orders (although I can’t complain about that). I think there’s also a big market for the kind of music I do; however, getting it to that market has proven difficult. I, like many musicians, have a closet full of CDs that I am having trouble selling. The problem isn’t that it’s not good music. Almost everyone who has heard it is full of praise for the music and the message; but distribution and marketing are hard, and since I make flutes and serve as a pastor I don’t have enough time to tour all over and market them myself at the moment.”

Above: Nick Metcalf, upper right, with his worship team at Catalina Hills Fellowship

Still, he hopes to make enough income through his artistic ventures to stay afloat and keep expanding. “I have spent more money than I can count on instruments, recording equipment, and a ton of money on producing the ‘Change Your World’ project (which I am still in debt over). As far as the instruments I make, I invested about $10,000 in tools and supplies to make them, as well as countless hours and many injuries (I’m a bit accident-prone, I guess, but haven’t lost a finger yet!). And artists are always underappreciated and underpaid, usually until they die. So at least maybe I’ll leave a legacy for my family.”

Metcalf is even more passionate about the ministerial aspects of his work than the artistic aspects. “My art is very much a result of my faith. I believe as Christians we have real messages to put into art, especially music. The radio waves are clogged with songs that say nothing, but they reflect an emotion that the masses feel so they become popular. My goal as an artist and a musician is to do what I can to make music with a message that will get people to think as well as feel. I strive to make music that leads people that don’t believe in God to take a second look at Him. I believe the only reason the whole world doesn’t believe in, and have a relationship with God is because they haven’t seen a proper view of what He is like. Jesus said if He was lifted up He would draw all men to Himself. So I am attempting to do my best to clear God’s reputation, and to lift him up for all the world to see.

“I believe the arts are the universal languages that all can understand. Whether it’s music or visual art, they both affect the emotions the same way no matter what language you speak and what culture you are a part of. I am saddened, though, that the majority of Christian art seems to be simply to entertain Christians. There’s not really anything wrong with that, but we have an urgent message that a dying world needs to hear, and we need to use every voice and method of communication that we have to tell the world that there is hope for the hurting, and salvation is waiting for them if they will only accept it. Christians have gotten lazy and like to throw money at causes but don’t really want to do anything themselves. We have the truth and it’s present truth that the lost need to hear now. Their lives depend on our message, and yet we feel like we don’t want to impose on them, or that they might not like us if we talk about our faith. We need to realize that the Gospel is like air to the drowning man! Or water to the man who has been in the desert for days without it. You don’t have to tiptoe around them to give them exactly what they need to live, and that’s the kind of attitude we should have about the Gospel.

Metcalf has expanded his vision into the visual arts as well. “I paint a lot, mostly modern abstract type of art. I also love to cook, and I really enjoy taking normal-looking clothes and giving them a nice worn look with some interesting artwork, usually some Celtic knot work and other designs.” Here are some samples of his paintings:

As the pastor of two churches, Metcalf is in a fairly good position to integrate his talents into church services and activities, but there’s still some progress to be made. “My churches are slowly finding ways to fit in my artistic skills. We had a lovely Christmas program in which I helped a lot with the music and the visual setting. They are also appreciative that I put in a brand new sound system. As far as fine arts go, not really. They are small churches and haven’t really fond a way to minister in that area yet, but I’m working on it.”

He appreciates not being edged into a typical 9-to-5 existence, which would probably cramp his creative spirit and ability to keep all his irons in the fire. “Thankfully, every day is different! I really don’t like regular schedules and doing the same things every day. I thrive on spontaneity. Of course, recently I have had to spend a large chunk of time in the workshop making instruments, trying to catch up on the orders. Then, of course, my weekends are dedicated to church. One of my churches does the all-day thing, which is kind of cool. There are a lot of young people, and they really enjoy doing a lot of things in and around their church life, so that’s a good thing. I have been struggling a bit lately to find the time to finish my hymn project, but I think after the holiday rush is over maybe I’ll have a little more time.”

To close, we’d like to share this remarkable video, which is what brought our attention to Nick Metcalf in the first place. A sped-up document of creating profound art on a whiteboard, we feel it encapsulates his full vision as a performing artist, minister and creative spirit.

Nick Metcalf on Myspace: www.myspace.com/nickthepiedpiper

Ethnic Wind Instruments: http://www.ethnicwind.com

Other artists and art ministries we have recently profiled below:

Studio On Location

Lynn Yoder

John French

Master Class: Singability

“Your songs are just too difficult. No one would be able to sing them.”

It was a critique that the two songwriters heard time and again in the early 1960s. The ambitious composer and lyricist had already spent several years trying to make the big time. They had done a campy horror movie theme and sold a few good songs to bigger stars of the day: Steve Lawrence, the Ames Brothers, Marty Robbins, Patti Page, Perry Como. Still, bigger market success was elusive for the two writers. Every time they had a critique session with a record label or publisher, one consistent complaint kept popping up: their songs were simply too hard to sing. The lyrics were fresh, sophisticated and expressive, but the composer liked to use uncommon chords, gigantic leaps between notes, unusual phrasing, and other flourishes. This gave their music real distinctiveness but made it difficult for anyone to actually sing their songs.

Finally, the two men happened across a bright young woman who was just beginning her singing career with the Gospelaires. While her voice was a little husky and plain, not a classically beautiful sound, she was seriously interested in what they had to offer. More importantly, the young artist was able to sing their songs very well, despite all the big intervals, strange progressions and other quirks that had led the industry to blow them off. The combination of her unique voice and their unique material proved to be a winning one, and they went on to attain a large number of major hits.

The singer was none other than Dionne Warwick, who became one of the biggest stars of the era. And the songwriters? Burt Bacharach and Hal David, now ranked among the most groundbreaking and influential writers of all time. Bacharach, in particular, helped to shift the whole paradigm of songwriting so that composers no longer felt confined to an octave or so of musical range. Likewise, Warwick inspired countless singers to reach beyond their comfort zones, expand their ranges, and pursue more difficult material.

Bacharach and David were extremely fortunate to have found, in Warwick, a person who could successfully interpret the music that they heard in their heads. To this day, there are any number of singers who avoid songs like “I Say A Little Prayer” and “Walk On By” because of all the leaps, turns and unusual note choices in their melodies.

The above scenario is a case study in singability, one of the primary considerations of the songwriter who wants to have other artists perform his/her work. Since most of us will never find a Dionne Warwick to be the prime interpreter of our songs, it’s essential that they be functional enough to appeal to many people.

Singability means that a vocalist should be able to clearly, comfortably sing the words at a suitable tempo and in line with the melody. Even in a novelty song that might rely on different textures and stylistic elements for effect, the end product must be understood by the audience and deliverable by the singer. This master class will address some of the most common singability issues.

1) Hard Sounds

One frequent singability error is the misplacement of hard sounds: “ch”, “k”, “g”, “th”. A hard sound at the end of a line doesn’t give the singer anything to hold onto; the line just drops until the next word comes up. You might be able to extend the vowel sound that comes before the hard sound – “You are my kiiiiiiiing” (“Amazing Love” by Billy James Foote) – but the cutoff will still be a rough one.

It is also essential that the sound immediately following a hard sound not be hard itself, unless there is sufficient space between the two sounds. The pairing “King Jesus” has been used in several songs, but it is difficult to articulate properly because of the sonic clash between “-ng” and “J-“. Most singers soften it to something like “Keen Jesus” to avoid singing “Keen-guh Jesus”.

The phrase” chasing me away” has a nice flow, and good assonance in those long “a” sounds. But if you’re writing about an “ache that’s chasing me away,” the singer is likely to stumble over some of that quick series of hard sounds. A better choice might be “This pain is chasing me away”, which adds another long “a” to the chain of assonance while dumping the rapid succession of “ch”, “th” and “t’s”. Recently I encouraged a songwriter to consider changing the phrase “could have just sent” in a tune. It presented a series of hard stumbling blocks for the singer unless it was mushed up into “coulda jus’ sent”, which could work in some styles but wasn’t the best choice for that particular song.

2) Breathing Room

Another key consideration is to give the singers plenty of spaces to breathe. If your tune will have harmonies or even a choir, allow room for staggered breathing so that the entire mass of singers don’t all have to suck in their breath at the same spot. Nothing sounds worse than a huge collective gasp for air. And don’t string your phrases so close together that a singer can’t breathe without dropping a syllable.

We can take a lesson from Jules Shear, the writer of Alison Moyet’s “Whispering Your Name”, The Bangles’ “If She Knew What She Wants”, ‘Til Tuesday’s “(Believed You Were) Lucky”, and Cyndi Lauper’s “All Through the Night”. Back in the 1970s Jules wrote a song called “Got No Breeding” for his band, the Polar Bears. The phrases were so close together that when it was recorded, he couldn’t take his first breath until twelve measures into the song. Chances are that “Got No Breeding” hasn’t seen very many performances since then. It’s better to allow some space between words than risk dropping a word or syllable in order to survive.

3) Note Intervals and Range

Next to consider are the intervals, or distances between notes. Make sure that both the lowest and highest notes in your melody can be comfortably sung by the vocalist, because it sounds terrible when a singer strains to hit a note. This is the one notorious flaw with “The Star-Spangled Banner”, our national anthem. Plenty of singers can do very well until they arrive at “the land of the freeeeeeee”, which separates the hacks from the pros. Never mind that the same note was already sung at “the rockets’ red glare”; at least that one wasn’t held for more than a passing second. One can think of many other songs that have big leaps. The chorus of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” another career-killer, jumps a full octave between its first and second syllables. Everyone knows that song, but how many different people have you actually heard sing it well?

Keep in mind that, especially with a volunteer worship team at church, you probably won’t be working with singers who are trained enough to handle these major jumps on a regular basis. This is one reason that most pop songs have a fairly narrow range: the folks who write them don’t expect themselves or other singers to be able to make such leaps. This runs an opposite risk: making the melody too boring and predictable in order to make it more singable. It takes some additional writing skills to keep a tight-ranged song from sounding monotonous. Do you remember “Only Wanna Be With You”, the 1994 hit from Hootie and the Blowfish? If you listen to the song structure, it barely has a full octave between its highest and lowest notes. That’s because singer/songwriter Darius Rucker knew his limitations as a vocalist, but also knew how to compensate for those deficiences with a very catchy song. A more glaring example is a current radio staple, “Sequestered in Memphis” by The Hold Steady. With probably a single exception, the entire melody – verses, chorus and bridge – is built entirely upon four notes. Again, the song is redeemed by a unique, compelling story in the lyric and an absolute killer arrangement.

4) Pacing

I recently sat through a Christmas choir performance where one of the leaders apparently wasn’t too familiar with “The First Noel”. He did fine on the first verse, but on the second he raced through the line “They looked up and saw a star” so quickly that it threw him off for several more lines. Again, everyone should probably know that song, but it is full of strange syllable stretches that spread words out over two, three or four notes. How many other times in your life would you put two syllables in “looked”, anyway? Then, of course, there are the eighteen notes crammed into the “Gloria” of “Angels We Have Heard On High”. That kind of florid writing, along with the Yoda-speak lyric structure of traditional hymns, has become more scarce but still rears its head in some contemporary music. The name of Jesus gets stretched across many measures in newer and older songs, and not always comfortably.

You never want to give the impression that the singer is close to yodeling in order to cram in every note of the song, and you must make sure the words are still discernible to the listener. The more vocal acrobatics the singer has to perform, the less likely he or she will be to deliver the song successfully. And, by extension, the less likely the listener will be to process and appreciate the message you are sending.

Following these few principles will help ensure that your songs will be singable by most people who might want to tackle them. You don’t have to dumb something down to three chords and quarter notes in order to hook people on your music; just use a little judgment and analyze your songs before you consider them finished products. It also helps to have other singers try the songs out before you commit to using them in a performance. It’s always wise to seek the input of other experienced people to help polish your works to their best luster. Especially in the Christian music genre, where the lyrics should be more important than the music itself, particular care should be taken to ensure that the lyrics are singable and clear. In other words, don’t muddle your message with messy music!

For December's Master Class about getting beyond cliched art, click here.

Work B.e.n.c.h. Book Club Update - January

In the first quarter of 2009 (January-March), Artists Workbench is encouraging its fans, members, associates, and anyone who ventures onto our website to read Imagine: A Vision for Christians in the Arts by Steve Turner.

**Disclaimer—Artists Workbench is not affiliated with Mr. Turner in any way and does not profit from the sale of his books or products. We are simply reading his book as part of our book club.

In January and February, your assignment will be to obtain a copy of the book and read it. In March, your assignment will be to discuss the book, either online or with a group of friends or Artists Workbench associates. Discussion questions will be posted later.

For more detailed information about the book or book club, refer to our December announcement here.

Steve Turner, the author of the book we are reading this quarter, is a Christian, a poet, and a music journalist living in Merry Olde England. Below is one of his published poems for your enjoyment.

How to Hide Jesus

There are people after Jesus.
They have seen the signs.
Quick, let's hide Him.
Let's think; carpenter,
fishermen's friend,
disturber of religious comfort.
Let's award Him a degree in theology,
a purple cassock
and a position of respect.
They'll never think of looking here.
Let's think;
His dialect may betray Him,
His tongue is of the masses.
Let's teach Him Latin
and seventeenth century English,
they'll never think of listening in.
Let's think;
Man of Sorrows,
nowhere to lay His head.
We'll build a house for Him,
somewhere away from the poor.
We'll fill it with brass and silence.
It's sure to throw them off.

There are people after Jesus.
Quick, let's hide Him.

Steve Turner

Attention, Attention, Attention! We are hoping to have some in-person book discussion groups in March. If you are interested, consider the following thoughts:

1. You can have a group of friends come to your home privately if you already know everybody who is invited…say, perhaps several people from your home church are reading this book and you want to have a private discussion.

2. You can host a non-private discussion and invite people from Artists Workbench in your area. If you choose to do this, we highly suggest you choose a public place to hold your discussion, such as a coffee shop or your church (not your home). If you do this, please contact Todd at Epistrophy@aol.com so your gathering can be publicized to the group.

3. If you do not wish to host a group, check back in February and March for listings of discussion group meetings in your area.

4. If you are unable to attend a discussion group in person due to locality, time constraints, or whatever, feel free to post and discuss your thoughts on the March edition of the Artists WorkBench site.

Amazing Grace: The True Story... Really!!

Have you heard the story of the hymn “Amazing Grace”? Of course you have! It goes something like this: John Newton was an atheistic or agnostic captain of a slave ship in the 1700's. During a particularly difficult voyage with a cargo full of slaves, he cried out to God to save him. God did, and, upon reaching land, he kissed the sand on the beach and wrote the hymn he titled “Amazing Grace” (possibly in the sand itself). Newton became a Christian, renounced his involvement in the slave trade, and became a pastor, leading many to Christ.

It's a dramatic story that has a smattering of truth, but it's not exactly accurate. The truth is that John Newton was quite literate and wrote about his life and voyages, so it is not difficult to separate reality from dramatic fiction. Here is the true story, fact by fact.

1. Dramatic, but not necessarily true story detail:
John Newton was an atheist or agnostic in the 1700's.

True story:
Born in London, he lived from 1725 to 1807. He had some religious training from his mother, but she died of tuberculosis in 1732 when John was seven years old. His father remarried and sent John away to school. Later, John chose to follow in his father's footsteps as a sailor. After putting to sea, Newton describes himself as falling into a life of "degrading debauchery", and ignores the religious training of his early years.

2. Dramatic, but not necessarily true story detail:
He was the captain of a slave ship.

True story:
John Newton began his profession the way everyone begins: at the bottom. He took odd jobs on ships, and often got in trouble for overstaying his shore leave. At one point he abandoned his ship, only to return in disgrace a few days later. His youth and his wandering spirit made it difficult for him to hold a job, even on a ship that is at sea most of the time. He eventually signed on with a slave ship captain by the name of Clow, but he was not treated well. John wrote an appeal to his father, who had some influence in the sailing industry of the day, and he was then given permission to work under a different captain, Mr. Williams, who treated him better. The new ship was called the Greyhound and it did not trade in slaves, but in gold, ivory, beeswax, and dyer’s wood. (Later in his life Newton did become a ship’s captain, but this is after the conversion story, so I am getting ahead of myself.)

3. Dramatic, but not necessarily true story detail:
During a particularly difficult voyage with a cargo full of slaves, he cried out to God to save him.

True story:
As we said, his ship, The Greyhound, did not have slaves, but traded in other goods. It was while on board the Greyhound that a storm of amazing proportions happened and Newton was afraid for his life. The Greyhound was at sea for nearly a year, landing port to port to trade. Newton spent his time on board making himself disliked by the crew. He derided anyone who had a Christian faith, even shocking experienced sailors with his blaspheming oaths.

Eventually, the Greyhound tried to make its way home to Liverpool. This trip was across the Atlantic from the tip of Brazil to Newfoundland Banks (on the coast of Canada today), and then re-crossing the Atlantic, a journey of seven thousand miles without landfall. One of the few books on board was 'The Christian's Pattern' by Stanhope, which was based on Thomas a Kempis's 'The Imitation of Christ.' Newton began reading this book. Three months into the journey, a severe westerly wind was in progress. In the night, Newton was awakened by water flooding into his cabin, and he heard cries above that the ship was sinking. People were washed overboard, and the ship was damaged. Here are Newton's own words about the storm:

The sea had torn away the upper timbers on one side, and made the ship a mere wreck in a few minutes... Taking all the circumstances, it was astonishing, and almost miraculous that any of us survived to relate the story. We had recourse to the pumps; but the water increased against our efforts... We had but eleven or twelve people to sustain this service; and, notwithstanding all we could do, she was full, or very near it: and then, with a common cargo, she must have sunk of course; but we had a great quantity of bees wax and wood on board, which were specifically lighter than the water...

It was during this storm that Newton found faith in God deep inside. He said:

'The extraordinary turns in my life; the calls, warnings, and deliverances I had met with... about six in the evening (I heard) that the ship was freed from water, there rose a gleam of hope. I thought I saw the hand of God displayed in our favour; I began to pray.”

But the end of the storm and the saving of the ship is not the end of the story. Most of the food had washed away, and the crew began to starve on the severe rations that were left. To make matters worse, the ship was now in a dead spot with little wind. Trying to make the rations last became ever more difficult because the dead air made the trip extend beyond the ordinary. For almost a month the ship sat in the ocean, inching along. When the crew put the very last of the rations in the pot, a prayer of desperation went up by everyone, including Newton. A rushing wind came up and blew the crippled Greyhound to port within just a few days.

A stained glass window depicting the Greyhound, in Olney, Buckinghamshire, U.K.

4. Dramatic, but not necessarily true story detail:God did (rescue him), and, upon reaching land, he kissed the sand on the beach and wrote the hymn he titled “Amazing Grace” (possibly in the sand itself). Newton became a Christian, renounced his involvement in the slave trade, and became a pastor, leading many to Christ.

True story:
It is worth mentioning that in Ireland, Newton had another miraculous escape from death. He had been involved in a shooting party with the mayor of Londonderry. As he climbed a bank, the gun he was carrying discharged close to his face, destroying a corner of his hat, but missing Newton's person altogether.

At this point, it was 1748, and John Newton was only 23. His father died in a swimming accident one day before John made it home to London. When he got back to London, he made such a good impression with his father's cohorts that he was offered the position of captain of another ship. Newton declined, citing a lack of experience, so he became first mate of the slave ship 'Brownlow' under a Captain Hardy. There was a mutiny among some of the slaves, and a crew member was killed. The rest of the crew fired, killing about four unarmed Africans. The mutineers were also punished severely. The Brownlow had lost 62 out of its 218 slaves when it finally arrived in Charleston, South Carolina. Newton might have found God, but as of yet, he had few doubts about his occupation.

Upon returning to London, Newton was able to drum up the courage to ask a young lady he had been courting off and on to marry him. She refused once, but then accepted the second time. In 1750, John Newton and Mary Catlett (who he called Polly) married. Married life did not keep him home, however. He finally believed he had enough experience to be a captain, so in August of 1750, the newlywed sailed as captain of the 'Duke of Argyll.' He was in charge of 30 sailors and was determined to set a good example. As a Christian and a newly married man, he drank nothing stronger than water, kept the slave women safe from sailors (on many voyages in other ships, sailors were encouraged to rape the female slaves because pregnant slaves were more valuable), and even abstained from eating meat. The below decks, where the slaves were kept, were ordered to be cleaned regularly. A mutiny occurred on this voyage, and Newton punished the mutineers with thumbscrews, but not death. During the voyage, he had to bury only six slaves at sea.

A log listing of John Newton’s voyage as captain of the slave ship "The African" in 1752.

After that voyage, he captained a new ship called 'The African' to St. Kitts in the Caribbean. Trading was slow, and Newton managed to capture only 87 slaves for the voyage across the Atlantic. But while in St. Kitts, Newton met Alexander Clunie, a Christian sailor who was not involved in the Triangle Trade. Clunie managed to disciple Newton in his faith, and also introduce Newton to some important people back in London and Liverpool who could help him venture further down the road of Christian faith. Newton befriended George Whitefield and gave up seafaring forever. He also met and admired John Wesley, founder of Methodism. While on one of his last journeys, Newton learned Hebrew, Greek and Latin from books that he had brought along.

Map of the triangle trade, which Newton knew quite well.

John Newton wanted to become a minister and applied for ordination but was refused. Never one to be put off, he persisted and was eventually ordained by the Bishop of Lincoln. He preached in Olney, and under his leadership, the church grew so much it had to expand its building. In 1767 the poet William Cowper settled in Olney, and he and Newton became close friends. They began to hold weekly prayer meetings and made it a goal to write a new hymn for each prayer meeting. Newton eventually ended up writing 280 hymns that we know of, and Cowper wrote 68. These hymns were published in 1779 in a book called Olney Hymns. “Amazing Grace” was one of the hymns in this volume, as were other hymns that are still sung today such as "How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds," and "Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken."

“Amazing Grace” was composed sometime between 1760 and 1770 and did not originally have a title at all. It was probably one of the first hymns attempted for the weekly prayer meetings. Through the years other writers have composed additional verses to “Amazing Grace”, and some people speculate that verses from other Newton hymns have also been added. However, there are six stanzas that appeared in the first edition of the hymn book in 1779, and those same six stanzas appeared again with minor spelling variations in the 1808 edition, one year after Newton died. The hymnal referenced 1 Chronicles 17:16-17 and carried the heading "Faith's Review and Expectation."
Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)
That sav’d a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears reliev’d;
How precious did that grace appear,
The hour I first believ’d!

Thro’ many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promis’d good to me,
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease;
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who call’d me here below,
Will be forever mine.

The melody John Newton used with these stanzas is unknown. The melody we use today is an early American folk melody, and some people speculate, ironically, that the tune we use in modern days may have originated as the tune of a slave work song.

A copy of "Amazing Grace" out of a modern hymnal. Note the different sixth verse from that which was printed in the "Olney Hymns" published within Newton’s lifetime.

As an afterthought, the true story, I think, is much more dramatic than the sugarcoated, glossy one told to many congregations right before an invitation is given to receive Christ. Here is a man who had a true conversion experience, but was not perfect afterward. He did not immediately renounce his former life of sin, but worked out his own salvation the way we all get to do: through a series of events that led him to the right people, discipleship, study, and eventually, he found his calling in pastorship. As despicable as the slave trade was, it was a living and an adventure for John Newton, and he wasn't so quick to give it up as he should have been. But I cannot blame him, because I often have lesser excuses than a paycheck when I sin. It is also interesting that “Amazing Grace” was just one of many, many hymns John Newton wrote. So many times I want to make a masterpiece, and if it doesn't turn out on the first, second, or third try, then I am likely to give up. But John Newton's masterpiece is just 1/280th of his published songwriting output, and Lord knows how many of his songs were never finished or published.

John Newton’s true story serves as an example of persisting in faith and growing as a disciple. John Newton not only continued to sail after his conversion, he also continued in the slave trade because he wasn’t born again, fully mature in Christ from the moment of conversion aboard the Greyhound. The glossy, sugarcoated version of his story is often cited as an example that there is no one too far away from God to be saved. But the true story is an example of God’s ability to “meet us where we are,” even if we are not in the “right” place we should be.

A stained glass window in Olney Parish Church. For our article about stained glass, click here.

Suggested New Year’s Resolutions for Christian artists

1. I will keep a sketchpad and/or notebook everywhere so that I can quickly jot down song ideas or sketch thumbnails of ideas whenever inspiration hits me (before I forget).

2. I will make sure I pursue God every day.

3. If one of my friends asks me to write a song, photograph the family, or make a sculpture, I will gently suggest my friend compensate me not only for the materials, but also for my time and creativity.

4. I will pray before I seriously begin a piece of art, even if the particular art is not necessarily for a Christian audience (maybe that kind of art needs even more prayer).

5. I will set aside a regular time for my art (1/2 hour a day, for instance, or 2 hours every Saturday).

6. I will create a portfolio.

7. I will use my art at least once for my church this year, whether it is choreographing a dance for a Sunday morning worship service, painting a mural for the nursery, writing a song for a sermon topic, or writing a poem to be included in a bulletin.

8. I will study my art to become more excellent (such as learning to read music, taking a college class, taking lessons, reading through a set number of the related books in the public library, etc.)

9. I will save up to buy a luxury item or make something that I have always wanted, such as a backdrop, costume, a new sable brush, or a computer program that will help me in my art.

10. I will try something new in my art, such as learning to use watercolor pencils, using an unfamiliar sized canvas, trying to write a song in a different style, or learn a dance from a different culture I am not familiar with.

January Happenings: Artistic Events in the Inland Empire

To view August 2009 happenings, click here.

Got an event we should showcase? Let us know!

Festival of Lights
The Riverside Festival of Lights is still going on through the beginning of January. Evening performances are as follows:

Thursday, January 1, Vic Moraga will be performing at 6:00 with his acoustic guitar.

Friday, January 2, country duo Charlie Ray and Linda Washington will perform at 6:00.

Saturday, January 3, Vic Moraga, acoustic guitar player, will perform at 2:00, Reid Park Dance Team/Little Mamas will dance beginning at 6:30, and country duo Charlie Ray and Linda Washington will perform at 7:00.

Sunday, January 4, Pan-Jammin!, a steel drum group, will perform at 2:00, Chazz the Magician will perform at 6:00, and Russell Currington will perform his pop classical show at 8:00.

To get to downtown Riverside’s Festival of Lights, take the 215 and exit University Avenue or Mission Inn (depending which direction you are traveling). If you exited on University, make a left. If you exited on Mission Inn, make a right. Park near the Mission Inn. For information, call (951) 826-5770. For parking, refer to the map below.

Mural Contest
Dream Dinners is sponsoring a “Love Your Heart” mural contest for elementary school classrooms. Entries must include the work of at least six students who have created a mural illustrating the benefits of a heart-healthy lifestyle. Dream Dinners provides the pre-sized murals measuring 6 feet X 30 inches to classrooms that are interested in participating. Contact Robin Mugiishi, the contest coordinator at 909-798-4626, or e-mail tricitycenterca@dreamdinners.com for more information. Entries must be finished and submitted before 1 pm on Saturday, January 31.

New Christy Minstrels
January 12- New Christy Minstrels will be performing at the MacCallum Theater in Palm Desert. With 5 original members and a Grammy, the New Christy Minstrels show no sign of slowing down. It has been more than 44 years since the group made their national television debut on “The Andy Williams Show.” Tickets for the January 12th performance run $20-$55. The show begins at 8:00 P.M. The theater is located at 73000 Fred Waring Dr., Palm Desert. For tickets, go to the website at http://www.mccallumtheatre.com/calendar.php and click on the show you want.

2009 Lifehouse Theater Auditions:

January 13th 2009- auditions for Ecclesiastes: The Wisdom of King Solomon*
(non-musical production)

February 5th, 2009-auditions for The Hiding Place* (non-musical

March 5th, 2009- auditions for Peter Pan

April 16th, 2009- auditions for Zorro

June 4th, 2009-auditions for Little House on the Prairie

For more information on Lifehouse auditions or Lifehouse Theater, go to http://www.lifehousetheater.com/.

Hillside Arts Academy - Music Lessons
Up to January 15th- Hillside Arts Academy is enrolling for the Winter 2009 semester. The academy offers private music lessons for children and teens in all instrumental areas and voice (and hopes to open a drama department in the spring of 2009). Lessons have various fees depending on the instrument and instructor, but fees range from $18-$30 per half-hour lesson. There is a $25 application deposit that can be applied to the tuition. For questions, contact Harmony Bathauer at (909) 980-2191 ext. 15, or at harmonybathauer@gmail.com. This is a ministry extension of Hillside Community Church, located at 5354 Haven Ave. in Alta Loma. The website for Hillside Arts Academy is http://www.hillsideartsacademy.org/Site/Welcome.html.

Immanuel School of Worship Arts
Immanuel School of Worship Arts at Immanuel Baptist Church in Highland is also enrolling for their spring semester. They provide lessons on drums, guitar, bass, piano, flute, violin, drama, and dance. If you are interested, you can look at their website: http://ibchighland.org/finearts.

George Winston Concert and juried art show
Saturday, January 10 at 7:00 P.M., multi-platinum, Grammy-winning artist George Winston will be performing an evening of folk piano, R&B, New Orleans style, and stride piano at Crossroads Community Church in Corona. Tickets are $16 and the concert is festival seating. Crossroads is at 2331 Kellogg Ave. in Corona. Tickets can be purchased online at http://public.serviceu.com/ticketing/default.asp?orgID=1065. At the same event, Artistic License will host a juried art show. Guests are encouraged to bring a can of food for a local food bank. For more information on this concert and art show, call (951) 737-4664.

On January 18 at the MacCallum Theater in Palm Desert, Magnificat performs Alessandro Stradella’s farce opera Il Tresolo Tutore. This opera is a light-hearted comedy and a precursor to the opera buffa genre. Tickets are $40-$75. The theater is located at 73000 Fred Waring Dr., Palm Desert. To purchase tickets, go to http://www.mccallumtheatre.com/calendar.php and click on the show you want.

Christian Songwriters Showcase
After our holiday hiatus, the monthly Christian Songwriters Showcase is back in action on Saturday, January 24th at 4:30 PM. The Showcase is held at GFE Coffee in the Albertsons Plaza, corner of Baseline and Boulder in Highland. Our performers in January will be Jillian Breaker, Justin Reid, Mark Anthony and The Scott Gordin Band. For directions and other information, contact Todd Jenkins at (909) 863-1000 or epistrophy@aol.com. We are always in need of artists for upcoming monthly showcases, so please contact Todd if you are interested in performing. We will sign you up to perform a half-hour set of all original music. Due to room and noise constraints, we prefer as small a setup as possible; one musician with an instrument is best, but we can accommodate three or four (no drum kits, only hand percussion).

For more in-depth information, click here.

Christian Rock Concert

First Christian Church of San Bernardino is hosting band Abandon Kansas on January 31. To hear samples of the band’s music, go to their MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/abandonkansas. First Christian Church is located at 1001 N. Arrowhead in San Bernardino, and their phone number is (909) 885-6534.

January 30-31, the Smuin Ballet Company will be performing at 8:00 PM both nights at the Old Town Temecula Community Theater. The late Michael Smuin was a Tony- and Emmy Award-winning choreographer. He was a principal dancer for both the American Ballet Theater, and later the San Francisco Ballet. You can see the company’s website at http://www.smuinballet.org/. His company lives on and is performing in the Inland Empire for two nights. Tickets are $25 for adults, $20 for Seniors, and $15 for students/youth. For more information, call 1-866-OLD-TOWN.

Travel to Guatemala
Want to check out some Central American art, up close and personal? Join the Deluxe Guatemala Discovery Tour on March 28-April 4. The $995 price includes round trip airfare from LAX, 7 nights at the deluxe Marriott Guatemala City Hotel, a daily brunch, and sightseeing tours. For more information, contact Bob Satterfield at (909) 881-5167.

Andes Music Concert
Aconcagua: Music from the Andes is scheduled for Friday, March 13th at 10:00 am and 11:15 at Sturges Center for the Fine Arts in San Bernardino. We are unsure of the price for their public performances (K-6 classes in San Bernardino can arrange to attend free performances), so please call well in advance to find out. For more information, contact Amy Ellison at Palm Avenue Elementary School, 909-880-6753.

Stained Glass: The Art of Light

Stained Glass is an ancient art form that is almost always thought of as church-y, even though there are countless modern examples of stained glass windows and decorations that are secular in nature. It is an artist’s dream because it depends primarily on color and light, the two elements on which a visual artist makes a claim. It can also be a nightmare because glass is fickle and fragile, not to mention the color of glass will look much different at 8:00 in the morning, 3:00 in the afternoon, and 12:00 midnight.

In its earliest forms, stained glass was probably employed in jewelry making. Some forms of jewelry, such as cloisonné, do mimic a stained glass effect (or perhaps stained glass mimics their effects). As far back as the 4th or 5th century, artisans were coloring church windows and walls with colorful pieces of stone. By the 11th century, glassmaking had evolved to the point that colored glass began to replace stone as an ornamentation.

The oldest complete stained glass window still surviving is from the twelfth century and was made for the Augsburg Cathedral in Germany (although the original stained glass is now in a museum and the cathedral itself has copies). As seen in the photo below, the face has the same lack of expression as you would see in paintings and sculptures of the same period. The color palette seems to have no more than seven or eight total colors, with browns being the dominant shade. There is no real landscape or background; the window simply depicts a figure within a frame. The figure is made mostly out of squares and rectangles, with the odd shape thrown in here or there when a square would not have been appropriate. The shape of the window itself is a regular arch top.

The most famous stained glass window is probably the Rose Window in the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France. That window was made by Jean de Chelles in 1240-1250. The center of the window depicts the Virgin and Child, and the radiating spokes, containing figures of the prophets, surround the central image. The second circle has 32 Old Testament kings, and the outer circle depicts high priests and patriarchs of the Cathedral. In contrast to the Augsburg Cathedral’s stained glass window, made a century earlier, the stained glass in Notre Dame employs a variety of geometric shapes, a wider and more awe-inspiring color palette, and a large number of subjects. While the earlier window in Augsburg might educate an illiterate peasant attending church, the Rose Window in the Notre Dame Cathedral gives people an opportunity to experience the power and awe of God Himself when the sun is shining through it just right. Photos like the ones below can’t do the Rose Window proper justice, as it stands more than 42 feet in diameter.

In Milan, the cathedral builders were more forward-thinking than in some other places. The present building, the Duomo, was erected in the same spot as an earlier basilica that had been destroyed by fire in 1075. Perhaps that is why they looked to make their church’s artistry endure through the ages. The building now standing was begun in 1386, and work has continued through to modern times. In fact, there are still stones in some corners today that are placed but not yet sculpted or carved. The stained glass window shown below was completed in the nineteenth century by the Bertini Brothers. The color palate is bright, and the panels, depicting Biblical scenes, include background settings, figures with more modern stances and expressions, and the feeling that these panels are really paintings set into stained glass forms.

Churches aren’t limited to Biblical scenes. Many cathedrals have stained glass panels depicting donors, statesmen, and anyone else the religious leaders of the day wanted to ally with. Others have nothing more than panels of color to brighten the place up. With that sentiment, Cologne Cathedral recently employed a very interesting artistic idea to replace the stained glass window that was destroyed by a bomb in World War II. In 2007, Gerhard Richter, a German artist, created a piece that reflected an earlier painting he had done, which was simply a 64 X 64 grid of squares with 4096 colors. He had determined the colors through a mathematical formula that mixed gray and the three primary colors. When he was commissioned to do the window in the Cologne Cathedral, he set out to do the same thing. The finished window contains only 72 colors because stained glass is a more limiting artform in terms of color palette than painting. Some of the 4096 colors in the original painting from 1974 would have been too pale, would have been too bright compared to the others when the sun shone through, or could not be duplicated from the pieces of original antique glass he used. The end product looks like a pixilated computer screen in the shape of a gothic window. It’s quite an interesting juxtaposition between the old and the high-tech.

Gerhard Richter, 4096 Farben (1974), enamel on canvas

Gerhard Richter, stained glass window for Cologne Cathedral, 2007

Of course, the most famous American stained glass artist was Louis Comfort Tiffany (1854-1933). From lamps to windows, many stained glass artists of today try to copy his style, and an original Tiffany piece could be sold to make a substantial dent in financing your children’s higher education. Much of his work demonstrates the art nouveau and aesthetic movement in art of his day. He worked with stained glass windows, lamps, jewelry, enamel work, glass mosaics, blown glass, ceramics, and even metalwork. In addition, hundreds of houses of worship contracted with the Tiffany Company, and those buildings surviving today proudly display Tiffany stained glass windows (although Louis Comfort Tiffany wasn’t the only stained glass artist working with the Tiffany Company). Tiffany and his company did so many stained glass works that his name has become synonymous with stained glass art. Tiffany’s life and company existed at a time when religion was experiencing a bit of a renaissance in America, so many churches were adding wings or constructing new buildings. Often, a rich patron of a church would memorialize a loved one by contracting with the Tiffany Company to design and make a stained glass window in that loved one’s name.

To verify a piece as being genuinely from the Tiffany Company, look for a signature on the glass, as some, but not all, windows were signed. Some of his most notable and artistic pieces were actually not signed, whereas some of the less dynamic pieces are signed, so lack of a signature does not necessarily disqualify a piece from possibly originating at Tiffany. Also, look for the use of copper foil and the floating of lead with solder, usually on the interior surface. Tiffany’s style was most evident in the depiction of cloth and clothing in glass. He almost always used drapery glass, which has stripes that resemble draped cloth. The faces on Tiffany’s figures often resembled each other, so compare the figures (if there are any) with other verified Tiffany Company pieces (although the windows are old now and the paint on the faces may have faded).

One of the finest collections of Tiffany stained glass church windows is proudly displayed in St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Worcester, MA.

Above: View of Oyster Bay (1908), loaned to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Tiffany Dragonfly lamp, circa 1902

Other notable artists who worked in stained glass include Marc Chagall, Georges Braque, Georges Rouault, Maria Elena Viera de Silva, Norman St. Clair Carter, Charles-Edouard Jeanneret (a.k.a. Le Corbusier), Wassily Kandinsky, Henri Matisse, Charles Milcendeau, and plenty more. A serious study of the works of these artists would yield quite an interesting and lengthy list of stylistic ideas. Simply Googling the name of the artist and the words “stained glass” should net some results.

San Bernardino and Riverside Counties are home to many stained glass pieces. Several churches in the area have stained glass windows. St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Yucaipa sells note cards and bookmarks of its stained glass windows (below).

Corona United Methodist Church, which is over 117 years old, has a triptych of stained glass windows depicting Jesus Christ as the Good Shepherd over the altar (below).

Churches can have stained glass inside as well. Unified Baptist Church in San Bernardino has stained glass pieces flanking the baptistry, which do not use the sun for illumination but employ electric light bulbs (below).

Although stained glass is most often thought of as a church artwork, it doesn’t have to be. The historic Smiley Library in Redlands has a beautiful collection of stained glass windows. Inside the children’s room, many windows depict scenes from popular children’s books such as Winnie the Pooh and Alice in Wonderland. In the main (adult) section of the library, there are two large rose windows on the west and north walls. Other smaller stained glass windows are installed throughout the library. It is always free to enter and use the Smiley Library during normal business hours. Redlands residents who have a verifiable Redlands address may obtain a library card to borrow materials for free, but people who do not live in Redlands must pay $25 for a library card. However, a library card is not necessary to enter and enjoy the artistic windows.

Smiley Library windows depicting Alice in Wonderland (left), Charlotte’s Web, and Winnie the Pooh (right). Other stories immortalized in stained glass in the children’s room of the Smiley Library include The Wizard of Oz, The Secret Garden, and Hey Diddle Diddle.

Above: Other stained glass pieces in the main room of the Smiley Library in Redlands.

Stained glass is an artform that has a definite history, but it can also have a future. While it takes some skill and patience, like all art, it is not as difficult as you might imagine.

Sun catchers are perhaps the easiest way to begin, due to their diminutive size, geometric possibilities, and limited color palette. There are several videos on YouTube that give tutorials on how to design a piece, cut the glass, and put a stained glass piece together. There is also a nice website that contains simplistic diagrams explaining how to put together an easy stained glass piece at http://www.thestorefinder.com/glass/library/howto.html. This website gives you insight as to where to order the supplies necessary to begin and complete your project.

Arowhead Camur Stained Glass is an incredible resource we have right at our fingertips. The owner, Julie Check, is knowledgeable and helpful for both the serious stained glass professional and the beginner. The store is located at 1160 E. Highland Avenue in San Bernardino, near Perris Hill Park. The phone number is 909-881-0888.

The store offers lessons on Wednesdays (12:00 Noon-3:00 PM) and Thursdays (6:00 PM-9:00PM) for beginners on up. Lessons are reasonably priced at $75 for four 3-hour classes, and then $50 for four more classes if you are a returning student. The basic materials needed to make stained glass will cost an initial investment of about $200, but it is worthwhile to go to the lessons first in order to try out the different brands and styles of equipment before purchasing. If you don’t want to take lessons, the store is open Tuesday-Friday 12:00 PM- 6:00 PM and on Saturdays from 10:00 PM-3:00 PM. You can browse the supplies, and also purchase a piece as a gift or for your own home. Gift prices range from $10 for the smaller sun catchers to hundreds of dollars for the more complicated and larger works such as clocks and fireplace screens.

Examples of work for sale at Arrowhead Camur Stained Glass.

In Olney Parish Church in Buckinghamshire, U.K., there is a series of stained glass windows depicting a ship called ‘The Greyhound.’ (below) Find out why a church would have such a window in our article on John Newton here:

Fine Arts Bible Study 3

Amaziah “did what was right in the sight of the Lord, but not with a loyal heart.” (2 Chronicles 25:2)

There are many non-Christians who donate to charity, help out in soup kitchens, and volunteer to do the yardwork of an elderly neighbor. They do it because they have the idea planted somewhere in their brains that those things are the right things to do (and they may even cite “The Good Book” or “The Man Upstairs” as the reason, although they have not shown any true devotion to God or His Word). Christians themselves often get burdened with doing things for church, but not out of loyalty to God. If we get wrapped up in activities we think we should be doing, but close ourselves off from God in the process, we will bear little good fruit and risk missing out on His blessings.

Amaziah, the king of Judah, started off his reign by avenging his father’s murder, and then raising up a mercenary army. He had quite a bit of military success, but eventually started to worship the gods of Edom, one of the cities he conquered (2 Chronicles 25:15). Finally, it says, “But Amaziah refused to listen, for God was determined to destroy him for turning to the gods of Edom” (verse 20, NLT). A person who does good things, but has no real loyalty to God, runs the risk of valuing the things that have no value over those things that are incredibly important. In doing this we are like Amaziah, who eventually got so sucked into the idea of conquering Edom, he adopted their gods and either would not or could not hear and obey what God was telling him to do.

What was it that Amaziah would not heed because it came from God? A poem or a metaphor sent to him from Jehoash, the King of Israel, whom Amaziah had challenged to battle. The poem went like this: “The thistle that was in Lebanon sent to the cedar that was in Lebanon, saying, ‘Give your daughter to my son as wife’; and a wild beast that was in Lebanon passed by and trampled the thistle.” Yet verse 20 says that Amaziah would not heed it because he was not open to the things of God. Later in the story, we see that God let Jehoash attack Jerusalem and ransack the temple because of Amaziah’s stubbornness, and eventually Amaziah paid with his life.

Questions to ponder:

*** 1. If Amaziah had been serving God rather than worshiping the gods of Edom, would he have been more receptive to the poetic metaphor the King of Israel sent to him? How does serving God with a loyal heart make people interpret art differently?

2. Whether the artwork is a dance, a drama, a painting, a song, or, as in this case, a poem, how does it change the delivery when a Christian loyal to God creates it either for: a) other Christians who are also loyal to God, or b) people who may not necessarily be Christian or loyal to God?

3. Do you ever find yourself responding to art, music or poetry differently depending on your mood or life situation? Do you feel more receptive and understanding of things when you are more spiritually attuned to how God is working in your life? Do you feel like your receptivity to the Bible is also affected by moods and situations? ***

What are your thoughts on these questions? Read the Bible, pray about these three questions, and post your considerate response/discussion under this topic.

For our first Fine Arts Bible Study, click here.

For our second Fine Arts Bible Study, click here.

Psalms Project

To view the February, 2009 update of the Psalms Project, including our first submission, click here.

As our first project for Artists Workbench, we have chosen the Psalms Project. Why? The Psalms were songs, worship, poetry. It seems that the Psalms of the Bible are the obvious starting place for a group of Christian artists.

Your assignment:
Create an original piece of art based on a particular psalm (or a portion/verse from a psalm) in the Bible. Your artwork can be music, painting, sculpture, poetry, drama, dance, creative writing, or other possibilities. Once you have made your art, you can either post it here, or post it somewhere else and give us a link to your project. If we get enough, we can possibly have a gallery show.

To help you get creating, perhaps these links will help inspire you. These are all artworks in different mediums using the Psalms as inspiration.

Visual Arts:

Here is an artist who has already made and posted many renditions of art he has created from the Psalms.

Here are different portraits of King David from many different artists.



This link is a video of a church's dance team performing their conception of Psalm 23:6. Sorry, we couldn't imbed this one.

Music and photography:

Here is an interesting web page about the instruments available in biblical times and mentioned in the Bible. Many of them were actually mentioned in the Psalms.

Short film/drama:

We hope this inspires you to get creating. To see the December entry for the Psalms Project, click here.

Poetry Corner

The Transfiguration
by John of Euchaita

Tremble, spectator, at the vision won thee!
Stand afar off, look downward from the height,
Lest Christ too nearly seen should lighten on thee,
And from thy fleshly eyeballs strike the sight,
As Paul fell ruined by that glory white!
Lo, the disciples prostrate, each apart,
Each impotent to bear the lamping light!
And all that Moses and Elias might,
The darkness caught the grace upon her heart
And gave them strength for! Thou, if evermore
A god-voice pierce thy dark,--rejoice, adore!

This poem was written in the 11th century by John of Euchaita, a.k.a. John Mauropous, a Byzantine Christian. In addition to poetry, he wrote several hymns that are still chanted in some Orthodox churches.

Mt. Tabor, the traditional place some scholars think the Transfiguration took place. Other scholars speculate the Transfiguration took place on Mt. Hermon. Top and left: a view of Mt. Tabor. Middle and bottom, center and right: Outside and inside views of the Basillica of the Transfiguration on Mt. Tabor.

Raphael’s depiction of the Transfiguration. This is interesting in that while the disciples and Jesus are doing their things, below, other people are focused on the epileptic boy in Matthew 17:14-20. Note that the boy is the only person in the foreground looking up at Jesus.

Comments on this poem? Have a poem you wrote that you want to share? You can post it in the comments below, or contact Todd and Christie at epistrophy@aol.com to possibly get your poetry featured in a future monthly edition of this website.

To view December's poetry corner, click here.

We have posted another poem in this month's edition of the website. Steve Turner is the author of our current selection for the book club, and he is also a published poet. To view the book club page with one of his poems, click here.