Stained Glass

For years, I’ve been fascinated by stained glass windows. Other than the obvious reasons for their appeal—the way they add an interesting element to a room and how they change colors according to the light shining in from outside and that they have limitless possibilities for artistic expression—I also appreciate how difficult they can be to construct.

 

There’s glass-cutting, welding and soldering, painting and sealing. There’s sharp tools and hot kilns and noxious epoxies and a material that can easily crack and break. No doubt being a stained glass artisan is a methodical and sometimes frustrating job with cut fingers and strained eyesight.

 

None of the outside windows in my home contain stained glass, but I do have seven old, discarded stained glass windows hung across two of my kitchen walls. I collected them over the years from antique stores, some pricey and some dirt cheap. Though they don’t catch the sun’s rays, they still brighten up a boring off-white corner above our kitchen banquette.

 

All of my collection are just for show. They have no practical purpose or function. They don’t keep out the winter cold or the summer heat. My windows are just there to look pretty. But the stained glass windows in ancient churches and cathedrals had a real purpose. Besides insulating the people inside from the weather outdoors, they were designed to tell a story.

 

In medieval times, artists would work with church leaders to create a Poor Man’s Bible. They would explain the narrative of the Bible to a mostly illiterate population through a series of pictures. One whole window might be filled with panes depicting the story of Jesus’ birth. Then the one next to it might have pictures only relating to the book of Genesis.

 

I can just imagine an uneducated laborer walking into one these Gothic structures and sitting down on a hard, wooden pew. He would look up in awe at the massive glass story boards surrounding him as he pieced together these epic sagas from God’s Word.

 

I am a window, in a way. Just like those complicated and exquisite stained glass windows in medieval churches, I have the ability to tell a story, too, but my story will be more effective if it isn’t just hung on an off-white wall—decorating without educating, adorning without informing, embellishing without enlightening. The story I have to tell will be so much more powerful if I allow a bright, sunny light to pass through the colored panes. If I can deliver my testimony from the point of view that God’s light has shown through every moment of my life, it will be a compelling story, for sure.

Chasing sunshine

Today was one of those Tennessee February days when everyone is talking about the weather.

“What a beautiful day!”

“Can you believe this sunshine?”

“Did you hear it’s supposed to get up to 70-degrees this weekend? Crazy!”

We stand under the sun’s rays and drink it in like we’ve lived underground for the last three months. We gulp it down with closed eyes, our retinas unable to withstand the brightness. For those of us prone to melancholy during gray, sun-less days, this is better than any antidepressants—Prozac from the heavens.

My youngest was just as excited about the pleasant weather. His heart still beats loudest for the sunny African days of his first five years of life so it took no arm-twisting to convince him to play outside. I pulled a camping chair from the garage and placed it strategically in a sunny triangle on the edge of the driveway to simultaneously watch him play and to read a magazine. (Moms are pretty awesome at this kind of multi-tasking.)

Our yard is blessed with several trees—mostly shaggy cedars and tall, tall pines—so it was only a matter of time before my sunny spot had been eclipsed by the surrounding shade. I felt the lack of sun before I saw it, shivering slightly in my t-shirt. So I moved my chair five feet to catch the sun again. Ten minutes later, I felt another chill. I scooted away from the house and right into the center of the driveway, a concrete square by the garage doors, the only warm spot not in our sloping, grassy front yard. My son rode his bike in circles around me like we were in a very boring circus act.

We spent the hour before it was time to pick up his older brother from school in this way: him peddling and me scooting. And my relentless quest for sunshine got me thinking about other pointless ventures.

King Solomon, the author of Ecclesiastes, called these kind of meaningless activities “chasing after the wind” or in my case, the sun. (If you’re feeling overly happy, you should give Ecclesiastes a quick read. The narrator in my head for this book is Ben Stein’s monotone voice.)  Solomon calls everything meaningless: folly, wisdom, toil, pleasure. The reader might begin to ask: what’s the point?

In chapter 11, Solomon finally gives us something positive to consider amidst all of those warnings about futile pursuits.

Oh, how sweet the light of day,

And how wonderful to live in the sunshine!

Even if you live a long time, don’t take a single day for granted.

Take delight in each light-filled hour,

Remembering that there will also be many dark days

And that most of what comes your way is smoke. (The Message)

I need that reminder that too much of what I spend my energy on is “smoke.” Today, I will choose to live in the sunshine!