Final Preparations for a Watercolor Class

Finishing Touches for Tomorrow’s Class

Tomorrow (Monday August 24) I’ll be teaching a watercolor class from 2-5:00. We’ll paint a Route 66 motel that was torn down years ago. A few seats are still available if any of you in the area would like to participate. For $55 I’ll supply all materials to paint an 8 x 10″ watercolor on stretched paper. The reference photo we’ll use is a painting I’ve done recently:

Ozark Court Motel, Stanton, Missouri

For anyone interested in attending, you will need to phone Gracie Lane boutique at (817) 468-5263 to reserve your seat. The class will be taught in the boutique building which also houses our Show Me the Monet art gallery, at 4720 S Cooper St, Arlington, TX 76017.

I have rewritten my story from the Turvey’s Corner manuscript that I hope will one day be a book. I’ll post the re-write below:

Sunday morning rays of sunshine lanced through the slits in the closed blinds of Room 18 at the Ozark Court Motel. Randy lay with his eyes closed. It took a few moments before he realized where he was and what day it was. Hitchhiking had not fared well the day before. Driving rains soaked him to the skin and no one was pulling over on Route 66 to offer him a ride. Why would they? No doubt he carried all the charm of a drowned city sewer rat as he trudged along the muddy shoulder, his knapsack beginning to let in water as well. But this morning he was OK. A soothing shower the night before and a Jack Daniels nightcap ushered in a quality night’s sleep. But now it was Sunday. What to do?

His Greek New Testament lay on the bedside table; he had removed it the night before, intending for it to be the first thing his eyes would see the morning after. Now he sat up in bed, stretched his limbs, and reached for the small volume he once thought he was going to discard when he dropped out of seminary. He couldn’t. Though he no longer congregated, he still woke on Sunday mornings feeling the need to reach for a text that had been his companion for two-and-a-half years, only now he no longer felt shackled by deadlines of term papers and Sunday morning sermon manuscripts. He could read what he chose.

But what to read? The Gospels crossed his mind. Always a good choice. But what did he want this morning from the Gospels? Did he want to see or hear? Seeing would include mental images of Jesus walking along a shore or down a dusty Palestinian street. Would he be solitary, seated in the wilderness, or thronged by a clinging crowd? Or did Randy just wish to hear as he translated the texts this morning? What would he hear? The voice of Jesus resonating in a synagogue, or speaking softly inside living quarters? Would he be strolling country lanes with disciples listening, or seated on a boulder discoursing? Or would he be sitting in a boat, his calm voice going out over the water while disciples pulled at the oars?

Why was Randy reaching for the New Testament, anyway? Because it was Sunday? He wasn’t congregating. He wasn’t called upon to address any hearers. So what exactly did he want this morning?

Outside the motel, traffic was heard murmuring along Route 66 below the bluff. Randy was aware that he was seated in bed, alone, in the heartland of America. Today is Sunday, the Fourth of July, 1976. The country had been surging with anticipation for weeks as she edged closer and closer to this day—the nation’s bicentennial. No doubt Randy’s former seminary friends—preacher friends—had been wrenching themselves into a frenzy over what to preach on this Special Sunday. Randy breathed serenely, no longer trapped in that vise of psychological pressure. Still he wondered. What exactly would he have said today, standing before a congregation?

Opening his small volume, he read at leisure, allowing his mind to drift down pleasant corridors of memory as naturally as a canoe in a gentle stream. To this day he was thankful to have learned Koinē Greek. He recalled that first semester of structured recitation, vocabulary, and functional grammar. It was forbidden to purchase and attempt to read a Greek New Testament; the objective for the first semester was functional literacy. As children learn to speak their language before learning to read and understand the technical architecture of grammar, so the Professor endeavored to train his students to recognize Greek early and dissect the grammar later. And so, Randy studied his lessons and performed the daily recitations for a semester.

On the first day of the second semester, the Professor entered the lecture hall without a word, set his books on his desk, turned to the blackboard, picked up the chalk, and scrawled the following:

Sitting at his desk in the third row, Randy leaned forward earnestly and stared at the words. As if scales had fallen from his eyes, he recognized and read the words instantly: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel.” The Professor turned to the class fixing his eyes on their faces, and solemnly declared: “You are now reading the New Testament. In Greek.” Sitting up in bed, Randy felt waves of warmth surging through his being as he recalled that historic morning. He was certain that he was re-living the spirit of the eighteenth-century Age of Enlightenment, Die Aufklärung. Life for him had been marked by so few quality moments. Opening his New Testament to Mark 1:15, he read the words afresh.

The time is fulfilled. On that historic day, years ago, Randy felt he had fulfilled his apprenticeship to elementary Greek vocabulary and grammar. He read a Greek New Testament passage with no assistance from a teacher or book. It was a new day. A new world dawned and beckoned. He had no idea then that a ministerial life, just underway, would collapse and burn in less than two years.

Now it is Sunday, July 4, 1976. The nation celebrates its 200th birthday. Randy wondered what exactly he was celebrating, if anything. What was life offering now? Was he about to pass through another portal? Again, why was he reading the New Testament? Because it was Sunday? Because it was the Fourth of July? Because the country was now two hundred years old? What was in the air for Randy? He wanted to know.

Was he reading from the life of Jesus because he needed a mentor? Someone to guide him? Thinking back over his life, Randy realized he had always sought direction from a strong leader. His father, his pastor, his professors, and a few years ago that conference with Reverend Elton in Dallas. Did Randy need a mentor now? Or was it time to think for himself? Maybe his apprenticeship to life was ended and it was time to stand up, to strike forth and find new ground under his own direction. The time is fulfilled.

Rising from bed, Randy stretched and strolled across the small room to the writing table in the corner where he had placed his journal from the night before. Opening it to the pages he wrote the day he quit the seminary, he found a passage he had copied from James Smart’s The Divided Mind of Modern Theology:

There are remarkable parallels between the European mood of the twenties and the English and American mood of the sixties: God seemed to have gone into hiding; religious and theological language out of the past had become wooden and unconvincing; men felt themselves suspended between a world that had died and a new world that was waiting to be born; a church indifferent to the plight of the masses was recognized as unworthy of the name Christian; the identification of Christianity with Western civilization, and of divinity with the higher elements in man, had become highly suspect; in various forms the hunger for a new world now was felt, and some understood it as hunger for a living God. In that kind of world Barth and Bultmann became theologians whose one endeavor was to find the word that would unlock the future, the word that would bring wholeness of faith and creative power by being the very truth of the living God.

It is Sunday, Randy thought. Today, churches would perhaps fill to capacity to celebrate a 200th birthday. Yet, Randy sensed that the ministers would still crank out those same tired sermons, their singsong voices rasping like rusty squeeze boxes, sounding out the same two-note refrain of the deadly forces that continually threaten the vitality of our church and nation—abortion and communism.

Randy replayed from memory a line he had memorized from his reading of one of Nietzsche’s early essays:

He who has but two strings on his instrument . . . does not understand those who can play on more strings. It is of the essence of the higher, multi-stringed culture that it is always misinterpreted by the lower culture . . .

Randy’s recent sojourn had undoubtedly added more strings to his life’s instrument. No doubt this was the reason he was not attending church this auspicious morning or any morning for that matter. Virtually everything delivered from pulpits he had heard before. Indeed, he was beginning to write out such tired words in his own sermons before he quit.

Randy recalled with a smile a quote he had read from his readings in the religions of India, how the Upanishad movement was sprung partly because the general population had grown weary of listening to the traditional chants of the Vedic priests “who sounded like croaking frogs in the swamps.” America in 1976 was sounding restless. Perhaps a new world was beginning to dawn. The time is fulfilled. Randy wondered if his own odyssey was corresponding with the quest of this American nation in 1976, poised to enter a new Age of Enlightenment. Where was Hank? It had been months since that night they sat at the fire, camping in west Texas. It was time to get together and talk some more. No doubt Hank had just as much weighing on his mind as Randy.

Turvey’s Corner was only thirty-five miles away. Randy had hoped to reach home yesterday, but the nasty rains hindered his ability to hitchhike with any consistency. The sight of the Ozark Court Motel and thought of a hot shower convinced him to stay at least one night here. Feeling refreshed and rejuvenated this morning, he decided he would step into the sunshine on this Independence Day and head back to his hometown. Perhaps Hank was already there.

_________________________________________

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

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