Why Leadings?

Not to lead, but to be led            -- by the Holy Spirit.

See Leader, Servant, or Slave? in the section below, "Walking the Walk".

Jack in Denali National Park, 2012.

God's Wrath

Why was Sodom destroyed? Ezekiel tells us in chapter 16, verse 49: "This was the sin of your sister, Sodom: Pride, full-ness of bread, and abundance of idleness. Neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy."

That's also why Jerusalem was destroyed.

And now, with greed as our national virtue, what hope is there for the United States of America? We are afflicted by imperialistic pride, obesity, and entertainment addiction, and we are all called to do our part to "strengthen the hand of the poor and needy".

"Strengthen the hand" is the King James wording. Modern translations say "help the poor and needy." And there's a world of difference between the two. Helping the poor = as little as throwing some cash in the Salvation Army bucket at Christmas time. That's charity. It's doing for, not doing with.

My Grandmother was right about charity. On a below-zero day, she went out on the back porch with a skillet to throw hot grease on the back-yard snow. She shivered as she re-entered the kitchen and said, "Wooooh, colder than charity."

Strengthening the hand is much different. We get personally involved with another person who needs help, and we work with her or him to get the needed help. That's risky. You're vulnerable. It takes prayer, time and patience. You need knowledge and wisdom from the LORD. There are great rewards, however. You get a brother or sister.

Strengthening the hand is great work for our churches -- which we ignore far more often than we perform. Why? Because we're afflicted with the Ameri-can curse of individualism. Christians are to be a tribe -- a tribe that takes care of each other. In Galatians 6:16, Paul calls us "the Israel of God" -- the new 13th tribe.

Jesus said, "The poor you shall always have with you." He didn't mean that as a curse -- the notion that the poor are an inevi-table nuisance and expense, to be hidden in the slums. Rather, He was saying, "You shall always be among the poor."

When you strengthen hands, you fulfill Deuteronomy 15:4-5: "However, there need be no poor people among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the LORD your God . . ." It's a glorious responsibility and promise.

And how do prosperous Americans fulfill that promise? Generally, by making sure they have no contact with people who are poor -- and we have been that way from our beginnings in the 17th century. Early villages in Massachusetts solved the problem by out-lawing poor people. Today, we deal with the same problem by confining the poor in urban reservations, our slums.

As the Supreme Court Bailiff says at the beginning of each session, "God save the United States of America..." 

Thursday
Jun072012

OUR ARTIST ANCESTOR, JOE TOW

To my Grandchildren:

Giotto -- Florentine painter and Renaissance pioneer -- was apparently one of our ancestors.  It seems he was only partly Italian, and his father's line was English.  That's why he was called Giotto. (djyO-to)  It was the closest the Italians could come to pronouncing his name.

And actually our name isn't Towe; it's Tow.  My German Grandmother, Eva Upright (Aufrecht) Tow, was affected.  She added the e on our name.  As I grew up my Dad speculated that we were descended from linen weavers because tow is the fiber inside the flax plant.  The linen fibers are on the outside.

However, on a trip to the British Library's genealogical section, Dad discovered that our early ancestor had crossed the Channel with King Canute and settled in Lincolnshire.  In the Danish, "tow" evidently meant "stubborn".  When he told my Mother, she replied, "Well, they got that right."

Back to Giotto.  Even if it isn't true, it's wonderful to claim him as our great, great, great . . . Grandfather. He was one of the world's original creators.  After centuries of two-dimensional, symbolic Byzantine

Examples: Byzantine Artpainting in the Christian world, Giotto recreated representational painting with perspective.  So, he launched realistic art for Europe, where it was the dominant style from the 1300's through the 1900's.

That is, he painted people as he saw them.  Here's one of his most famous paintings -- St. Francis preaching to the birds.

To our eyes, it looks primitive and amateurish.  But to Giotto's contemporaries, it looked like a photograph. Realistic painting was new and spectacular.  As a result, it had to be placed high on the walls, particularly with paintings of saints in churches, to keep the paintings from being ruined.  If Giotto's work was within reach, people rubbed the saint's face -- because they expected to the saint's holiness to rub off on them.

Giotto not only painted living people, his work also had depth, perspective.  Examples:

 

The BetrayalThe Last Supper

The EntombmentThe Flight into Egypt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Giotto was not only a painter, he was also an architect.  In 1334, the Florentine Wool Merchants Guild appointed him chief architect for the construction of the city cathedral. (The Wool Merchants were in charge of the project.) The bell tower bears Giotto's name, even thought it was not completed according to his instructions. And the Florence Duomo is no ordinary church. Its octagonal dome is the world's largest brick dome. It has a separate baptistry, with a font larger than many public swimming pools for children. Ghiberti cast the bronze doors with ten panels illustrating Old Testament scenes. Michelangelo said they were "worthy to be called the gates of paradise."

Il Duomo

Here are some stories about Giotto.  Maybe some of them are even true.

Giotto? No, the 19th century statue for the Uffizi Gallery.As shepherd boy, Giotto took chalk and drew sheep on rocks.  They were so realistic that Cimabue, the Florentine painter, took Giotto as an apprentice.  One day, when the master was out of the shop, Giotto painted a fly on a portrait's nose.  When Cimabue returned, he tried to brush the fly away.

As Giotto's work became known, the Pope sent a messenger to Giotto, asking for a painting to enter in a papal competition.  A large piece of paper was lying on the floor.  Giotto drew a circle in red paint that was so perfect it looked as if it had been drawn with a compass.  Giotto told the messenger, "Here.  Take this to the Pope." The messenger was furious, but the Pope realized Giotto's artistic abilities and awarded him the commission.

Evidently, more was going on than this story tells. The Pope apparently had a small army of messengers going to Italian artists, with requests that each artist submit one of his best paintings.  Thus, the Pope was assembling a great art collection -- all for free.  Giotto saw the scam and submitted a significant entry -- without value.

Boccaccio, a friend of Giotto, said "there was no uglier man in Florence", and claimed that Giotto's children were also plain.  One time Dante visited Giotto. The children were underfoot as he painted, and Dante asked, "You paint such beautiful pictures.  How could you create such ordinary children?"  Giotto replied, "I made them in the dark."

Giotto died in January, 1337.  There are conflicting reports of his burial site, but one possibility was the Church of Santa Reparata which was replaced by the Cathedral.  During an excavation of Santa Reparata in the 1970's, bones were discovered beneath the floor. 

Two findings indicated they were the bones of a painter -- there was arsenic and lead in the bones, which painters' bones absorbed from the paint.  Also, a painter often holds one brush across his mouth while painting with another.  The teeth were worn in a way consistent with frequently holding a brush in the mouth.

If these bones indeed were the bones of Giotto, the archeologists made an unexpected discovery.  The skeleton was a little over four feet tall.  Was Giotto a dwarf?  If so, even his contemporaries recognized that he was a giant.

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Purpose of this blog is to compile a book for my grandchildren to read in 25 years.

Copyright © 2012 by Jack Towe

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