The Song of the Lark & The Power of Art

“The Song of the Lark” by Jules Breton 1884

The power of art is no small thing. I’ve been moved all my life by music, film, paintings and literature as well as the Biblical Stories by the greatest Artist. Strands from all of these disciplines make up the person I am . When I encounter a familiar piece of art in an unexpected place, I feel like it is a divine smile…wink, if you will. I believe God uses art to communicate to us personally as well as through the Bible.

I wrote in “La Dolce Vita” of the time I went to Rome with my mom, and the one thing I had to see there was Michelangelo’s “Moses”. For some unknown reason, our hotel accommodations were lost, and the travel agent rebooked us in a hotel on the Via Cavour….across the street from my Moses. My mother got to see the Pope, and I got to visit Moses many times.

The same thing happened when I viewed “Of Gods & Men”, the beautiful French film by Xavier Beauvois. I learned that the seven monks were kidnapped on my birthday…the one I spent in Rome.

There are numerous songs that I enjoy. But there are a few that minister deep down, releasing unknown emotions. “Broken Vow” by Lara Fabian is one of them. If anyone has been left, or betrayed, this song will release those cisterns of pain and make them seep out of your eyes. This song assuaged a great deal of pain.

Karl Paulnack, in an address to a freshmen class at Boston Conservatory, spoke about the power of art, music in particular: “I have come to understand that music is not part of “arts and entertainment” as the newspaper section would have us believe. It’s not a luxury, a lavish thing that we fund from leftovers of our budgets, not a plaything or an amusement or a pass time. Music is a basic need of human survival. Music is one of the ways we make sense of our lives, one of the ways in which we express feelings when we have no words, a way for us to understand things with our hearts when we can’t with our minds.

That is the power of art. The other day, I was just laying on my bed. I bought the above painting, I think, from some garage sale. I didn’t know who painted it, but I liked because it reminded me of Millet’s works. So as I was laying on the bed, I looked up at the painting, I wondered if the sun was setting or coming up. I couldn’t tell if the young lady was going to work or going home.

Now….not a half hour later, when I was looking at reels on Instagram – my latest shortcoming – there was one of Bill Murray talking about an experience he had with a piece of art. I listened. I like those stories. He tells how in a desperate moment he ended up in front of the Art Institute of Chicago. He decided to go in. And there was a piece of art that affected him so dramatically, he says it saved his life. That piece was “The Song of the Lark”, the same piece I was just looking at and thinking about. Wow!! I love when those things happen.

“The Song of the Lark” was painted by Jules Breton in 1884. Willa Cather wrote a novel by the same name. The consensus is the young girl pauses on her way to work at daybreak to listen to the song of the lark. Maybe she is the lark…but regardless, this is the painting Bill Murray said that gave him hope, a second chance.

For me, as one who is looking to a new kind of future – a new day – with my kids all grown, I sense hope and a second chance to maybe do some of the things I wanted to do before I had kids or confidence or competence. I encourage everyone to not only let a little Bible in your life, but let some art in too. You’ll be in for some nice surprises.

A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul. – Goethe

A Thing of Beauty…


December 24, 2019 – Our gift from God is not only redeeming, reconciling and resurrecting; but our new relationship with Him through Jesus Christ is also a Thing of Beauty. Merry Christmas, and “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!”

August 2015

“A thing of beauty is a joy forever,” so said Mary Poppins. Well, she borrowed that line from John Keats who wrote a poem about “A thing of beauty…” Many nights I get the privilege to drive by the ocean. Each time I am overwhelmed by its beauty and majesty. Tonight’s sunset was especially beautiful.

One of the wonderful things about beauty is its ubiquitousness, its omnipresence. It’s everywhere. You just have to look for it. The flowers blooming along the path, the smell of newly cut lawns (not much of that now though), someone’s kindness, a favorite song, sound of water rippling over rocks, I could go on and on, so could you. Even Goethe said: “A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.”

When I drove by the beach this evening, I stole some glances at the lovely sky, I wanted to fly into it, embrace it. That impulse reminded me of something C.S. Lewis wrote: “We do not want merely to see beauty…we want something else which can hardly be put into words – to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.”  And from beauty, we get joy.

Through beauty, joy is always available to us. If we take the time for beauty, we will have joy, even in difficult seasons of life. But for believers we have much more. We have Him. George Mueller exclaimed about his relationship with Christ: “Oh be not satisfied until in your own inmost soul you can say, God is an infinitely lovely Being!” We may experience beauty in our relationship with Jesus Christ. I agree with George that Jesus is an infinitely lovely Being. Even in the midst of a “dark night of the soul”, we have beauty at our fingertips in the presence of our Lord.

Don Miller in Blue Like Jazz relays a story:

A guy I know named Alan went around the country asking ministry leaders questions. He went to successful churches and asked the pastors what they were doing, and why what they were doing was working. It sounded very boring, except for one visit he made to a man named Bill Bright, the president of a big ministry. Alan said he was as big as life, and listened to his questions without shifting his eyes. Alan asked a few questions-I don’t know what they were, but as a final question, he asked Dr. Bright what Jesus meant to him. Alan said Dr. Bright could not answer the question. He said Dr. Bright just started to cry. He sat there in his big chair, behind his big desk, and wept.

When I read that, I could relate to Dr. Bright; often when I think of Him, I will be overcome with a deep emotion. The beauty of His character, the beauty of His kindness, patience and love is simply overwhelming. I think Dr. Bright cried because of the beauty of the Lord. And the subsequent joy is deep and abiding.

One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple. Ps. 27:4