A Quest for Beauty

“Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful, for beauty is God’s handwriting.” Ralph Waldo Emerson. Beauty is all around us, but we often fail to appreciate it; we relegate it to special occasions, or museum pieces. But if it is indeed God’s handwriting, then beauty is everywhere.

Louis Comfort Tiffany summed up his life as a “quest for beauty”. He was constantly looking for new ways to further that quest through his art – whether a piece of jewelry, a lamp, a photograph, a fountain. His methods were as varied as the world from which he drew his inspiration.

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Window, 1906
, Laurelton Hall, Long Island, New York, 1902–57
, General exhibition window, rose, 
Leaded glass, 
Tiffany Studios, New York City, 1902–32
.

Recently, my family and I had the opportunity to see the most comprehensive collection of Tiffany works in the world – right here in Winter Park, Florida at the  Morse Museum.

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View of The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art from the corner of Canton and Park Avenues, Winter Park. Photo by Raymond Martinot.

As first time visitors to the Morse, we were invited to watch a brief introductory film about the museum and it’s founders Hugh and Jeannette McKean.

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Hugh F. and Jeannette G. McKean, Tiffany exhibition at Rollins College, 1955.

I was immediately struck by how often the McKean’s stressed the importance of beauty. Like Tiffany, they believed that beauty was abundant. But it was not just the existence of beauty that was captivating; it was the necessity of beauty. We need beauty in our lives. If beauty is God’s handwriting, and God is our Creator, then beauty is an essential component to who we are as human beings. We need beauty in our lives. Where do you find it?

Tiffany was so captured by the beautiful world around him, that when he built his final home, Laurelton Hall, he incorporated his art into every bit of the home. The Morse Museum has reconstructed several rooms of Laurelton Hall with actual artifacts from Tiffany.

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Laurelton Hall, Reception Hall, Morse Museum

Art was not just confined to pictures hanging on the walls

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Laurelton Hall, Dining Room, Morse Museum

but was incorporated into the very architecture of the rooms, inside and out.

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Laurelton Hall, Daffodil Terrace, Morse Museum

I could have wandered for hours through just this one gallery with items from Tiffany’s home. The beauty of it – both in the objects and in the arrangements was astounding. I may not have any Tiffany works in my home, but my home can also be a place of beauty. In fact, it should be a place of beauty. We need beauty in our lives.

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Laurelton Hall, Living Room, Morse Museum

The McKeans had a vision to make beauty accessible to everyone, and that was what inspired them to start the Morse Museum. The museum keeps its admission prices low, and offers several free opportunities throughout the year. In fact, if you’re local to the Orlando area, Friday nights between November and April the museum stays open late so visitors can enjoy a free Friday evening complete with music – beauty for the eye and ear to behold.

Do you think beauty is essential to life? Where have you read God’s handwriting in your life? Sometimes, our lives may not seem to contain much beauty. Maybe you find yourself in a season of darkness, grief, loss, confusion. Your eyes are darkened with tears, pain, and sorrow and you find it hard to see any beauty at all. The Scripture (also God’s handwriting) reminds us that “He has made everything beautiful in its time”. (Ecc 3:11) Do not despair, the beauty is there, and you will see it.

note: all the photos were graciously provided by the Morse Museum. I am so grateful for their support. All views expressed in this post are my own and I was in no way obligated or compensated by the museum. The Morse Museum is a true treasure and well worth your time to come and explore!

 

Man’s Best Friend – a Flying Dog!

Animals are so much fun to paint, especially a dog. Dogs have so much personality! They remind us of ourselves. Their antics are a relief and a laugh in our stressed out, high pressure world. Dogs come in so many shapes, sizes and colors and make us laugh and cry. They engage us with affection, protection and calmness. I’ve painted a few dogs and even a wolf in the last couple of years

But what makes dogs so special to me is the absolute love, loyalty, and joy they have for their owners.  The excitement a dog has for you when you come home just can’t be matched. Our kids, co-workers and spouses may take us for granted sometimes, but not our dogs! They have boundless love and enthusiasm.

So last year when we ran our free pet portrait contest, I got lucky. You read that correctly, yes the winner was picked by a machine and they soon will be the fortunate owners of a beautiful pastel of their dog, but truly I got lucky! Why?

When you are an artist, some commission photos are better than others and some are downright difficult. But when I saw the “machine picked” winner, I thanked the Lord!

Here’s a picture of Doc and as you can see, the photographer marvelously captured Doc with all four feet off the ground!

To give you an idea of this stunning feat, look at the size of Doc with his owners.

He is a BIG dog. Average weight for the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is 132-154 pounds. You can read more about them here.

The prize was to be an 8 x 10 pastel, but I just couldn’t do it. To do Doc justice, I just had to use 14 x 11 painting grounds. Here is my start:

I reformatted the view of Doc to make him front and center, to show that amazing joy and love running right toward the viewer. Here he is with a start of some color

Now I’m gaining a bit more locomotion on his coloring and personality, but the tongue and details are yet to come

Here is Doc below finally finished in all his delightful glory. Such a magnificent creature designed by our Lord to give us joy and fellowship.

Dogs are often called “Man’s Best Friend”, and for many of us, that statement certainly rings true. But at the end of the day, a dog is still just a dog. What if there was a friend even better?

I believe the best friend we could ever have is Jesus. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. John 15:15

How magnificent that the Creator of the universe truly wants to be “Man’s Best Friend.”  Surely Job (Job 37:5) was right when he said, “God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways; he does great things beyond our understanding.”

Write and tell me about your pets or your relationship with God. Feel free to drop in a picture of your own furry friend! And if you don’t consider yourself to have Jesus as your friend, I’d love the chance to talk to you about that too!

 

Inside Out Peace

Most people know that one visual symbol for peace is the dove, but why?  According to Wikipedia, “The use of a dove as a symbol of peace originated with early Christians, who portrayed baptism accompanied by a dove, often on their sepulchres. The New Testament compared the dove to the Spirit of God that descended on Jesus during his baptism.” (see Matthew 3:16)

Other people equate peace to a river. You may have heard the old gospel song: “I’ve got peace like a river.”

You can’t find peace by watching television, talking on your cell phone, or playing video games.

But many people have a feeling of peace when they see nature in all its beauty. Gazing at God’s magnificent creation, whether it’s a peaceful stream, a river, a beautiful bird, or taking a walk at the ocean can sooth the cares and troubles of this world.

Walking on the beach is one of my favorite pastimes and gives me a clear channel to hear from God, which is why I created Seaside:

peace blog
© Laura Gabel, “Seaside”. Oil, 16×20. Private Collection

But I learned a long time ago, that no dove, no mountain view, no crashing waves, no painting or photograph can really give me peace. All the outside symbols are lovely and give me a sense of God’s greatness and creativity, but…

Peace is an inside job.

People search for it in other people, places or things, but the disciple John recounts Jesus saying, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.” (John 14:27).

The inner peace that Christ gives is because He gives Himself to us.

True peace cannot be found outside His presence. It comes from Him and is never found where He is not.

I obtain this peace by opening my heart to His presence, calling upon Him, reading His word.

If peaceful times have not been yours lately, trying calling upon Jesus to soothe your soul with His presence.

 

What will you create this year?

You may have heard the phrase “New Year, New Décor.” My question would be why take someone else’s idea of décor?  Don’t settle for copying another’s style. Create your own!

Yes, you can create!

You’re probably saying to yourself, “What in the world is Laura talking about? I don’t have a creative bone in my body.” Well let’s dream a little bit, PERHAPS:

  • You’ve wanted a room in your house that speaks peace to all that enter.
  • You’re looking to get energized in 2018.
  • You’ve really wanted to do something with that old photo of your parents before it disintegrates.
  • You want to reaffirm the love you have for your children, grandchildren, pets in a special way.
  • You’ve got a drab room you need to clear up or clear out. You just need a fresh vision.
  • You want to create your own special space or a space for someone you love, small or large.

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Creating doesn’t necessarily mean do-it-yourself. You can co-create. All you need is a starting point, an idea, a dream, a vision, a color.

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Art has the opportunity to translate those thoughts, that vision, and transport you to a special place. The world would be a lot duller and colorless without art. A painting can spruce up a dark room or calm you down in your frenzied world. Thomas Merton said, “Art enables us to find ourselves, and lose ourselves at the same time.”

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If there is something in your heart or head, your past or future that you’d like Laura to create in oil, pastel, or acrylic? I’d love to discuss it with you.

I get such joy when I am able to take the dreams of someone and create something that puts all those thoughts on canvas. Here’s a little clip of the unveiling of one of my most recent creations: SarasotaWaterfall

create 4

Keep in mind that the outer you is always a reflection of the inner you. So strengthen your outer self by thinking on “…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things”. Philippians 4:8 

What if your Christmas isn’t Merry and Bright?

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! Feliz Navidad! Joyeaux Noel! Frohe Weinachten! It’s a festive time of year with holiday greetings everywhere you turn. Local radio stations are proclaiming that “it’s the most wonderful time of the year” and Hallmark Christmas movies are trending high in the news.

But what if you find yourself a little distant from all the holiday cheer? Maybe this is your first Christmas with an empty chair at the table. Perhaps you find yourself away from family and friends, and not feeling much like celebrating this year. Maybe your home has been fractured by loss, illness, divorce. For any number of reasons, many folks find themselves on the outside looking in this Christmas season.

The Census at Bethlehem (The Numbering at Bethlehem), 1566
Pieter Bruegel the Elder
Oil paint on wood panel
115.5 x 164.5 cm
Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium
Brussels, Belgium

I know it can be hard to “get in the Christmas spirit” when your heart is broken. Can I suggest a helpful resource? I enjoy doing special devotions during the advent season and have happened upon a fabulous resource from Biola University . The Advent Project is a series of meditations on Scripture, accentuated with music, art, and poetry. I found have the daily emails to be a tremendous help in refocusing my attitude – both turning me towards gratitude for Christ’s first coming, and in creating a real longing for His second advent when He will put all that is wrong right. You can access all the devotions for the month here.

© Laura Gabel, “You Are His Masterpiece”. Acrylic on canvas, 8 x 10. Private collection.
© Laura Gabel, “You Are His Masterpiece”. Acrylic on canvas, 8 x 10. Private collection.

Two of my favorite websites also have helpful articles for those facing a deep sadness this Christmas. Celebrating Christmas with a Broken Heart suggests three strategies for walking through this season. What Grieving People Wish You Knew at Christmas provides some useful insight and tips for those of us walking with you in this time.  Both those articles are well worth your time to read.

Nativity (2 views), 2006
Brian T. Kershisnik
Oil on canvas
17 x 7‘
Utah Museum of Fine Art

Laura and I will be taking some time off over the holidays, and we hope you will too. In the midst of all the busyness of the time, take time to stop, breathe, rest, and remember. He has come, and He will come again!

 

How to find your Christmas in the park

“Have you been to Christmas in the Park?” That may be the question I heard the most when people found out it was our first Christmas here in the Orlando area. In fact, as far back as September, I was already hearing that question and in fact had locked in plans to attend Christmas in the Park – before I even knew what (or when) it was!

While I may live in Orlando, my children attend school in Winter Park, where my husband teaches. And Winter Park is well known in the greater Orlando area for it’s fabulous downtown and active cultural scene.

For almost 40 years, the park in the center of Winter Park has hosted Christmas in the Park – a joint effort put on by the city, the Morse Museum and the Bach Festival Society.

One of the benefits to being in Florida is that we can happily enjoy outdoor activities at Christmas. Folks come early and stake out a place – chairs, tables, picnic baskets. I saw elaborate place settings, complete with tablecloths, napkins, candles and centerpieces. I also saw more modest preparations of picnic blankets and pizza boxes. While the event doesn’t officially kick off until 6:15 pm, most folks were there well in advance. We met our friends, set up our chairs and our food and settled in for an evening of unexpected delight.

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Ringing the park are nearly a dozen enormous Tiffany stained glass windows. Each window is accompanied by at least one docent/security guard (complete with communication earpiece).

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The windows are not on display at any other time. Just before 6:15, an introduction is made by the head of the Bach Society, and the music begins. Then just as darkness is settling in, the switch is flipped and the windows are aglow for all too see their radiant beauty.

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We spent the next two hours listening to Christmas music, singing along, enjoying time with friends, and getting in the Christmas spirit. Our children began to grow tired, so we went for a walk through the park to see the windows up close.

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The detail and intricacies of the designs were astonishing. The colors were so vibrant, it strains the bounds of credulity to think that no paint was used, it is all in how colors of glass are blended together.

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Taking pictures of briliiantly lit stained glass windows in a park at night is no easy task. So as incredible as these images are, in order to truly appreciate them, you’ll just have to make the trip to Winter Park next year and see them for yourself!

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Christmas in the Park was the perfect way to kick off the holiday season for me. After being introduced to the Morse Museum and the Back Society, I look forward to exploring the offerings of both those organizations in the future. And I’ll be ready on the first Thursday in December next year for another Christmas in the Park!

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What unique holiday event does your town (or neighboring town) host during the Christmas season? Get out there and explore – then share it with us here!

 

Who doesn’t love a happy ending?

I love a happy ending, don’t you? Right now you may be thinking of a movie or a book that gives you a warm feeling that all is right and perfect in the universe. I call it the “TaDa” moment.

I’m fortunate, I get a “TaDa” moment when I finish a painting. But it’s not really a happy ending yet.

My ending is just the beginning of enjoyment for others! My true happy ending is watching a collector’s eyes sparkle with delight and wonder when they get their painting.

happy ending 1

Even though I may be commissioned to do a work, I am giving my whole heart to apply all my God given creative abilities in translating a flat photo into art that is alive with emotion so it jumps right off the canvas.

The Bible says that it is so much more blessed to give than to receive. Perhaps in this time of holiday frenzy the phrase is overused and misunderstood. Nevertheless, it is true that delight comes from a gift that is meaningful, original and thoughtful.

Over the years that I’ve been painting, I’ve had the privilege of doing many commissioned works. I love seeing the photographs that loved ones provide and hearing their stories of why they want that particular image painted. But even more, I love seeing the fantastic joy and delight when the painting is finally in the hands of the recipient.

happy ending 2

You can read the stories from these collectors and more on our website.

Perhaps you’d like to experience the joy of giving someone an original piece of art. It’s not too late for a Christmas gift certificate. I’d love to consult with you over what you might have in mind! Contact me to co-create with me a one of a kind gift that really is a happy ending for all involved.

 

O Come O Come Emmanuel!

Emmanuel  – God with us! What an incredible thought! It’s that time of year again when our schedules seem more crowded than ever, our bank accounts lower than ever, bills mounting, “to do” lists staggering, stress rising. I know many of you will hear “Jesus is the reason for the season” so often that you will tune it out. Please don’t. This post isn’t meant to be guilt inducing or full of trite platitudes to get you to spend less and worship more.

Instead, I just want to share my favorite Christmas song with you, give you some beautiful art to enjoy, and ask for God to come and be with us in the midst of everything else clamoring for our attention.

You probably guessed from the title of this post that my favorite Christmas song is O Come O Come Emmanuel. The hymn was originally written in Latin, with the first published edition in the year 1710. However, there are paraphrases of the lyrics in existence as early as the year 800.  The music we currently associate with the hymn originated in France during the 1600s. There are so many versions of this hymn and of all the verses, some with three verses, others with as many as eight.

When I was in college, our advent chapel services were each crafted around a verse of this hymn, and I found that practice so helpful for shaping my outlook on advent. While I enjoy writing, I am not even in the same universe as the ancients who crafted this hymn, so indulge me as we just take a look at the lyrics and allow them to sink into our hearts and minds.

O come, O come, Emmanuel

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“Mystic Nativity”, Sando Botticelli. 108.6 x 74.9 cm, oil on canvas, 1500. The National Gallery, London.

 

O come, O come Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

 

 

 

Rembrandt Moses Emmanuel 2
“Moses Smashing the Tablets of the Law”, Rembrandt, 168.5 x 136.5 cm, oil on canvas, 1659. Gemäldegalerie, Berlin

 

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai’s height
In ancient times didst give the law
In cloud, and majesty, and awe.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

 

 

 

chagall jesse tree emmanuel 3
“Tree of Jesse”, Marc Chagall. 81 x 130 cm, oil on canvas, 1975. Private collection.

 

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny
From depths of hell They people save
And give them victory o’er the grave.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

 

 

 

“Adoration of the Shepherds”, El Greco. 319 x 180 cm, oil on canvas, 1614. Museo del Prado, Madrid.

 

O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

 

 

 

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© Laura Gabel, “Glorious Foretaste”. Pastel Private collection.

O come, Thou Key of David, come
And open wide our heavenly home
Make safe the way that leads on high
And close the path to misery.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

 

wisdom of solomon emmanuel 5
“Dream of Solomon”, Luca Giordano. 245 x 361 cm, oil on canvas, 1693. Museo del Prado, Madrid.

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high
And order all things, far and nigh
To us the path of knowledge show
And cause us in her ways to go.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

 

crucifixion messina emmanuel 6
“Crucifixion,” Antonello da Messina. 42.5 x 59.7 cm, oil on panel, 1475. National Gallery, London.

 

O come, desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease
And be Thyself our King of peace.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

 

 

 

 

Be our King of peace, cause us to go in the ways of wisdom and knowledge. Bring cheer in the midst of misery and gloom by the remembrance of your first coming and the anticipation of your second coming. Show us your power and might as we stand in awe of your works. Bring salvation and freedom. O Come O Come, Emmanuel.

Thankful for the Lasting Legacy

Webster defines a legacy as “something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past.” What kind of legacy do you want to leave?

Several years ago a young couple, who had recently gotten married, began attending our church. Jeremy was starting a new life. And his new wife loved the Lord, and supported and strengthened him. So when she got pregnant and we had a baby shower for her, I decided to give them a gift certificate for a portrait of their new baby boy, Eli.

Eli arrived, healthy and full of energy. I mean full of laughter, love, smiles, and ACTION! That baby loved being held by everyone at church and brought us all so much joy! But getting a photo of the growing Eli, was practically impossible–this little fellow moved fast!! Finally, after many attempts, I was able to capture his zest for life. But alas, it was a lousy cell phone shot.

Eli Legacy blog 1

I moved ahead anyway, trying to capture him in my preliminary sketch.

But in the back of my mind I had a deep admiration for his mom, Freisia and dad, Jeremy. They were raising two sons, Joshua, Freisia’s first son, and now Eli. They made a commitment to raise a godly family, to leave a godly legacy. In Proverbs 22:6 it states: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

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Just taking pictures of Eli, I realized how challenging it is to make a firm decision in a crooked and difficult world. Parents have a hard task to raise spiritually healthy children who know and love the Lord.

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What does all this have to do with Thanksgiving? Well, to raise kids in a world hostile to Christian values is a struggle. It takes time, energy, and the ability to dedicate yourself and your children into His care and hands.

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There will be lots of families gathered today for Thanksgiving, but I am especially thankful for those parents and grandparents who are raising kids who will learn to love Jesus. I am thankful for the thousands of youth workers, like my friend Joy, who have dedicated their time, attention, and love on the young people who will one day lead our nation. Today, I am especially thankful for all the Michelles, Justins, Jeremys, Freisias, Yvonnes, and countless others who are raising a new group of godly children that will turn into God worshiping adults. We give God all the glory for helping them.

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Thank you Lord for parents, grandparents, church leaders, and teachers that strengthen the true fabric and meaning of love embodied in our Lord Jesus Christ. Empower them as they diligently endeavor to leave a lasting legacy of godly principles and embedding them into our children.

Perhaps you share my admiration for godly shepherds, do tell me about it! If you’d like to leave a lasting legacy in a portrait, it’s not too late to order a gift certificate for that special loved one as a Christmas gift. Email me and we can talk about it.

 

We Gather Together for what?

How would you answer that question? We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing….so goes the old hymn. Was that your first response? If you know the hymn, it’s probably stuck in your head now, so perhaps that was your answer!

Many of us will gather with loved ones, friends, family, maybe even strangers, and celebrate Thanksgiving next week. But why do we gather? I’m not talking about historical or political underpinnings of the official “Thanksgiving” holiday. My hunch is that most of us have never thought much about why we gather. At the same time, most of us would not want to celebrate the holidays alone. There’s something about our need to celebrate that is most fully expressed as we gather.

I’ve written on Thanksgiving before, and this year, Laura is tasked with the official Thanksgiving Day blog post. So I was trying to come up with something unique and creative to commemorate the holiday. And for inspiration, I went to my trusty companion…google. Gatherings have been a frequent inspiration for many artists. In fact, I’ve already used one of the most famous works:

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Luncheon of the Boating Party, Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Oil on canvas, 51 x 68, 1881. The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC.

Living in Florida, I found it interesting that many of the famous paintings of various gatherings depicted people enjoying a meal together outside.

gather blog 2
HIp, Hip, Hurrah! by Peder Severin Kroyer, oil on canvas, 53 x 65 in, 1888. Gothenburg Museum of Art.

For most of my life, I have lived in climates where Thanksgiving weather necessitates eating indoors. What about you? Will you gather inside or enjoy the great outdoors while you dine?

I love this painting, which was new to me.

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Lunch on the field, Francisco Bayeu y Subias, oil on canvas, 37 x 56 cm, 1775, Museo del Prado, Madrid.

It is clearly a festive occasion – there are wine bottles nearby and a guitar off to the side. The participants are enjoying themselves, perhaps they sang prior to the meal, or maybe they will sing afterwards. It looks like the kind of gathering I would enjoy! Will you have music involved as you gather? Will you sing together?

I was entertained to see that two artists painted such similar paintings that they actually chose the same title.

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Luncheon on the Grass, Paul Cezanne. Oil on canvas, 81 x 60cm, 1869. Private Collection.
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Luncheon on the Grass, Claude Monet, oil on canvas, 248 x 217 cm, 1866. Musee d’Orsay, Paris.

In both of these works, the participants in the luncheon seem at ease with one another. Some of the gentlemen have removed their hats, the ladies are reclining on picnic blankets. There is a level of comfort and familiarity to the scene. I certainly hope you gather with folks whom you enjoy. And that you are comfortable with those gathered around your table (or picnic blanket).

It is possible though that this holiday season finds you alone, the stranger. Who might you ask to welcome you? And for those of us who may be the host of a holiday gathering, who is the stranger who needs a welcoming table?

In our home, we will indeed gather to ask the Lord’s blessing. He has been very gracious to us this year. Enjoy this little clip from A Prairie Home Companion – may you smile, wonder at God’s blessings, and perhaps extend a bit more grace as you extend your table and gather together.

Happy Thanksgiving!