Art and artists are important in life. Unfortunately, art, especially “high art”, can often be sidelined in our lives and given little financial or personal support. When there are economic difficulties in most parts of the world, you will find two things that suffer – the church (religion) and the arts (especially what I call the “high arts” – painting, sculpture, poetry, classical music, writing).
We must consider the value of these “great arts”, but also of others related to art: novels, short stories, essays, theatre, cinema, popular music, dance, posters, even flower arrangements. Our individual lives can be considered works of art.
I have always found Francis Schaeffer’s little book published in 1973 entitled “Art and the Bible” to be one of his most important works. He argues for the value and virtue of the arts, especially for Christians. In this work he writes: “In fact, there is a real sense in which the Christian life itself should be our greatest work of art. Even for the great artist, the most crucial work of art is his life. Thus, art is a vital part of all of our lives and should manifest not only who we are and what we find most important in life, but also how we relate to the God who created us, offers us and inspires us to create and express ourselves. .
All of us, Christians and non-Christians alike, should consider the value and virtue of art, how we can engage with the arts and artists, appreciate fine art in all fields, both “high” arts and “popular”. For many years, one of the significant events associated with our community and region has been the East Texas Christian Writers Conference, sponsored by East Texas Baptist University and Marshall Regional Arts Council. From its founding around 2002 by a group of professors from the School of Humanities until around 2015, it has had an impact on many people who have participated in and benefited from its presentations and workshops. There were novelists, poets, essayists, communicators, reporters, publishers, journalists and writers who came to share this day and a half of meeting.
Not long ago I received a novel by Daisy Ruth Oñate Sohne called AN ADVENTURE WITH ABBA’S FATHER – The Picking Call. Daisy has been a loyal participant of the conference for many years which has drawn people from over 20 states and touched thousands of lives. Daisy was an author who greatly benefited from these lectures. In December 2021, she sent me her novel with this note inscribed – “To Dr. Jerry Hopkins, thank you for all the time and effort you have put into all of these ETBU writing conferences. God continue to bless you, you and yours Daisy’s novel is proof of the value and virtue of such conferences to which the ETBU, in cooperation with other members of our community, has contributed in the past.
Author Sohne carefully understands and describes the subtle and often successful strategies of evil using influential people both in the church and in the community. It shows through the eyes and experiences of a 10-year-old girl the persuasive arguments and actions of intrigue and sinful individuals.
Sohne constructs her stories in such a way that they blend into the larger drama she creates. She skillfully welds them into such a pattern while grabbing your attention to see the work and witness of God expressed through the eyes, ears and mouth of a little girl Tirara Joy (TJ). It describes the church with precision, from members to missions, from the good news of the gospel to the gossip of the world, and from the interactions between young and old, from preaching to prayer, from mice to wickedness; all in TJ’s mind.
In one chapter, the author opens with TJ’s preacher father declaring from the pulpit – “A fine church without electricity is as useless as a tooled leather saddle without a horse.” Many of these phrases reveal the power of this novel to teach and guide readers in pursuit of God’s will and work. The emphasis on how God speaks to us in scripture and in relationships is carefully handled in the mind of a little girl. Daisy deals with prayer and the spiritual dynamics associated with this discipline, all through the mind of a child who knows God and trusts his work and his testimony in the power of the Holy Spirit.
This novel is a good “educational tool” for young and old who will read it. Daisy’s chapter on “friends” is a good example in this regard. In other places it deals with anti-Semitism and the historical fact that God is not done with the Jews. The author deals with the fact that not only white people struggle with racism and ethnic issues, but also black people. She introduces this case by describing TJ’s visit to her friend’s black church, which led one lady to ask, “What is she doing here?” and another asking, “Why isn’t she with her people?”
The author appropriately deals with a child’s fears of family breakdown, divorce, immorality, and consequences for adults and children. How these tragedies affect church and friendship life is powerfully addressed. The impact of betrayal, marital betrayal and friendship, is graphically depicted throughout the developing narrative. Seen Through the Eyes of a Child portrays simply and sadly the impact of wrong words and wrong actions on children, families and churches. Sohne weaves into her narrative a story of camp meetings and “circuit preachers” as she presents her compelling story through the expressions of TJ.
In a chapter dealing with flies and mice, preaching and prayer, Daisy inserts a word about “speaking in tongues”. TJ’s father had hoped to have six pastors for a prayer meeting in the parsonage of the Baptist church. The only one who showed up was Pastor Sebastian. As the prayer meeting developed, Sebastian began to pray in an “unknown language”. TJ’s dad stopped him saying, “Brother, I don’t understand what you’re saying. Sébastien answered that neither because the Bible says that “he who speaks in an unknown tongue speaks to God. You may not understand me, but in the Spirit I speak mysteries.
This controversy made me recall similar conversations and disagreements in my past. Even the use of the word “unknown” in the King James Version (KJV) should be understood. It is italicized because it was not in the original Greek text, but was an effort by the translators to explain what was involved in glossalia, what today in the old KJV is called “to speak in an unknown language”. In my own experience, the thought came about this experience many years ago – if God speaks to us in a language we understand, why must we speak to him in a language we do not understand? »
It is a wonderful, thought-provoking novel to explore the critical and life-threatening issues we all face today.
– You can send your thoughts to [email protected], or by mail to Dr. Jerry Hopkins, PO Box 1363, Marshall, Texas 75671. Dr. Jerry Hopkins is a retired historian and professor.