Canopy bed

I always wanted a canopy bed, a canopy bed with a frilly dust ruffle and tons of fabric draping over me as I dreamed perfect, happy dreams. Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s I believed I would have everything if only I had that canopy bed. Well, a canopy bed and Tretorns. Not necessarily Tretorns but at least some kind of name brand footwear—Keds, Sebagos, Nike Pegasus, something like that. Instead, we had what my friend Jenne called “buddies,” knock-off K-Mart sneakers with an empty white rectangle on the back of the shoe that my sisters and I would fill in with a blue marker, which unfortunately was nearly always a dry erase marker so it would be worn away by the end of the day.

 

When we would sing that song in church about the lilies of the field and how “they toil not…and neither do they spin,” I had an idea that the lesson I was supposed to be learning was about how that stuff doesn’t really matter. “And yet I say that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these,” we would echo each other in a swelling finale to the hymn. It was moving and I knew better, but I still wanted a canopy bed.

 

If you go back to the Biblical text of that hymn, you’re transported to a mountainside where Jesus is teaching people a variety of relatable principles—don’t worry, don’t judge others, help the needy, lay up your treasures in heaven. His Sermon on the Mount is compared to Moses delivering the law to the Israelites so many generations before. In the middle of Jesus’ sermon, he offers this object lesson. Birds are flying above his head, and He says “God takes care of them. Don’t you think He’ll care for you?” Then He says, “Look at these flowers. They don’t have to do anything to be beautiful—even more beautiful than the clothes worn by a fancy dresser like King Solomon—and God did that. And He did it for these flowers which will be gone in no time.”

 

The next part of Jesus’ sermon is pretty convicting, especially if you’ve been enviously eyeing someone else’s car or home or other possession. Jesus says if you’re eaten up with worry over what to eat, what to drink and what to wear, then you’re no different than those who don’t know the Secret of the Gospel. He says to calm down, because God knows you need those things, but worrying over them isn’t the answer. “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (NIV)

 

I don’t think He’s saying that we shouldn’t work hard at our jobs or never go grocery shopping. Jesus actually got frustrated with the people who were following him around later on because they seemed to only want Him to feed them again, like the time He divided a little boy’s lunch into enough food to feed thousands. Instead of getting caught up in the details, He advises us to begin by seeking His kingdom. As Eugene Peterson puts it, “What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving… Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.”

 

Now that I’m an adult and not an adolescent pining away for name brand shoes and a canopy bed, I’d like to think I’m beyond the reaches of such immature, materialistic transgressions, but I still have those moments where I’m tempted to futilely toil and spin my heart out. So today I’ll choose to be grateful for what I do have and focus on the God who makes it all possible.

Happy trees

By Bob Ross Incorporated, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1632503

On a cold evening, a few weeks ago, I turned on the television and was pleasantly surprised to find there’s a whole channel devoted to The Joy of Painting, a show which originally ran its 31 seasons from 1983-1994. Most of the episodes showcase the soothing voice and sweeping brushstrokes of Bob Ross, complete with his distinctive, permed afro which was just as wispy as the clouds he would often paint.

 

In the episode I settled in to watch, Bob was painting a pair of purple mountains in the background with a river snaking its way in front. The water reflected the mountains in reverse and there were trees jutting up all along the riverbank. The serene scene, along with Bob’s mellow voice, made me nestle deeper into the sofa under a blanket.

 

I found out later that Bob enjoyed painting landscapes which included mountains because of the decades he had spent staring at snowy peaks. Though he was born in Florida, Bob spent 20 years in the Air Force most of which was served in Alaska. It’s comical to think of soft-spoken Bob Ross as a sergeant, barking orders to men in his division as they scrubbed the latrine and re-made their beds. He said that once he left the military, he never wanted to scream at people again.

 

Besides his afro and painting style, Bob Ross was known for his chatter during the episodes. One of his most famous quotes goes something like, “We don’t make mistakes. We just have happy accidents.” But there are other Bob Ross quotes I find even more profound:

“Go out on a limb—that’s where the fruit is.”

“You need the dark in order to show the light.”

“In nature, dead trees are just as normal as live trees.”

 

Critics might categorize his 30,000+ paintings as nothing more than “hotel art,” but you can’t deny his appeal. When he stepped up to a blank canvas and showed all of the possibilities available to someone with a palette of colors with exotic names like Prussian Blue, Sap Green, Cadmium Yellow, Midnight Black, Dark Sienna, and Van Dyke Brown, and then you watched him make quick crisscross motions which materialized into sky and long, slender lines which became tree branches, it’s hard not to be impressed. By the time the 30-minute episode was over, Bob had created something unique. He had taken a scene from his imagination with bits thrown in from memory, and then those of us watching from home could see on the screen what he had formally only seen inside his mind.

 

Speaking as someone who isn’t particularly gifted in the painting department, I connect to Bob Ross and his statements about creating art in a non-paintbrush-related way. I see the title of his television program as a call to change our outlook on life. I’m never going to be the host of The Joy of Painting, but, with the right attitude, I could be the star of my own show with names like The Joy of Emptying the Dishwasher or The Joy of Rolling the Trashcans Down the Driveway. I can and should find joy in what I do today and tomorrow and the next day. It’s like Bob said, “Isn’t it fantastic that you can change your mind and create all these happy things?”