Reading 26 Books In A Year

Being an Artist, Books, My Friends, Creative Process, Philosophy of Life, Photography, The Artist Life

Hello Fiercelings,

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I want to talk about the importance of reading, specifically reading regularly. How many books do you read a week? A month? A year? I read an article that my mom had laying around about someone who has for the past five years been reading a book a week. One book a week = 52 books a year. Wow! I was very impressed by this idea. I think I’ve had friends who have read a book a month which is still an accomplishment I think, but a book a week?! Very fierce. Realistically, I don’t think it’s very likely that I would be able to read a book a week. Between my daughter, maintaining our house and pursuing being an artistprenuer I don’t know if I could. I would have to only read during free time and then some. Everytime I try to do something my daughter interrupts me. I was actually reading earlier and my daughter grabbed my book.

But, I really would like to read more. 

I’ve always loved reading. I’ve quoted many people on this blog. I love literature. Over the years I’ve gone through periods where I read constantly, I’ve read fiction, non fiction, self help. I’m sure you’ll be unsurprised by the fact that Madeleine L’Engle is my latest new find who I really love.

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies.   The man who never reads only lives once.” ~ George RR Martin

There are many benefits to reading. If you’re reading something on a particular subject, you will gain knowledge (hopefully). But what about reading non fiction? Are there benefits? Absolutely! Check out this article telling you how reading can help prevent Alzheimer’s and stress among other health benefits.

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I’m a little hesitant to attempt to read a book a week so my goal is to read a book every 2 weeks. I think it seems way more doable and 26 books a year would be better than where I’m at right now. I consider myself an avid reader but even a book a week is daunting to me. I implore you to consider reading a book a week or like me every two weeks. This will mean spending less time on social media and watching television but who would say that’s a bad thing? Set some goals for yourself, get those books out that you’ve been intending to read or order that book you’ve heard about but haven’t gotten yet. If finances are tight, make a trip to your local library. One of the great things about working a book list from the library is that you have a built in deadline when the book is due which is usually 2 or 3 weeks! Start reading!

Be fierce!

alexandria

alexandriafierce

Fierce Beliefs. Fierce Ideas. Fierce Art. Fierce Life.

Photographer, Blogger, Artist, Entrepreneur

Email me at alexandriafiercephoto@gmail.com for photoshoot and wedding bookings

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Cohorts With Creation

Art, Being an Artist, Books, My Friends, Creative Process, Fierce Photography, Parenthood, Philosophy of Life, Photography, The Artist Life

Hello Fiercelings,

One of the most important things for the artist is to do the work. There is no way around this fact. You must do the creating. You must, according to L’Engle, serve the work.

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“If the work comes to the artist and says, “Here I am, serve me,” then the job of the artist, great or small, is to serve.”

Our society has a negative view of serving. I’ve always been told that you can tell a lot about a person not based on how they treat you, but by how they treat people in what you would consider lower positions. It matters not how polite and agreeable someone is toward you if they yell at the waiter. It matters not how delightful and friendly someone is to you if they are rude to the bartender or valet. Serving is an area in our life that is revealing. How we treat others when they are in a position that serves us reveals our character. Serving the art, reveals who we are as an artist. But here’s the crazy part about serving the art: It’s not about you.

“Listen to me. All of writing is a huge lake. There are great rivers that feed the lake, like Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. And there are mere trickles, like Jean Rhys. All that matters is feeding the lake. I don’t matter. The lake matters. You must keep feeding the lake.” – Jean Rhys

In some ways this idea is upsetting – how dare we not matter?! – But in another way, I think it is liberating. It relieves you of the burden that you have to create something that becomes a bestseller, that gets featured, or that stands the test of time. Art is not about success. That’s not what is important to art, what is important is that you fed the lake. You must do the work.

There is a negative connotation to work these days. I am reminded of a scene from That 70’s Show where Red tells Eric, and I paraphrase, “That’s why it’s called work, if it wasn’t work they would call it ‘Super happy crazy fun’ time.” But for many “work” is not “super happy crazy fun time”. L’Engle helps us redeem the idea of work by making the distinction between drudgery and work. The two words have becomes synonyms in our world but she points out that “our work should be our play.” There is drudgery work like vacuuming or cleaning out the fridge for examples, but our art work should never be viewed as an equivalent to that. L’Engle shares an example of how a child is at play or work?

“If we watch a child at play for a few minutes, “seriously” at play, we see that all his energies are concentrated on it. He is working very hard at it. And that is how the artist works, although the artist may be conscious of discipline while the child simply experiences it.”

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My daughter, Isabelle “Izze” Esther, a master of work and play

I particularly identified with this analogy because I have witnessed my daughter, now 19 months old, work and master simple things like going up and down stairs, playing at the park, turning the page of book. Is she playing or working? “The work of the child is play.”

We must do the work. You may be asking yourself how can we serve the work? I will answer in the next post.

Fiercely,

alexandria

alexandriafierce

Fierce Beliefs. Fierce Ideas. Fierce Art. Fierce Life.

Photographer, Blogger, Artist, Entrepreneur

Walking On Water Review Part II: The Creative Process & Faith

Art, Being an Artist, Books, My Friends, Creative Process, Photography, The Artist Life

Also known as Walking on Water Part II =D Read part I here .

Hello Fiercelings,

Because there is so much material in Walking On Water by Madeleine L’Engle I will probably be doing a myriad of posts based on the book. Once I have gotten all my thoughts about this book out I will create a page for you to find out about all of them. You can read the first post I wrote about the book here.The bulk of the good stuff in Walking On Water is in the last four or five chapters. The excerpt from the book that I will be focusing on today is from the chapter titled “The Journey Homeward”.

L’Engle talks about, in order for us to create, as artists, we have to let go of ourselves. She compares this to faith a lot and talks about how we delude ourselves into thinking that if we obtain control over ourselves we’ll gain more faith or as in the artist’s case we’ll be capable of “writing the great American novel” or whatever it is we desire to create. But, in Christianity, the solution to us gaining more faith is never us summoning more self control but letting go of ourselves, dying to self, surrendering to God. Self-control is actually an oxymoron when you think about it because we don’t have control over ourselves because of self. The question then becomes how can I release control of myself to have more faith or as an artist, create art? L’Engle explains by intertwining what happens when we pray and how the same thing happens when we create.

“In prayer, in the creative process, these two parts of ourselves, the mind and the heart, the intellect and the intuition, the conscious and the subconscious mind, stop fighting each other and collaborate. Theophan the Recluse advised those who came to him for counsel to “pray with the mind in the heart,” and surely this is how the artist works. When mind and heart work together, they know each other as two people who love each other know; and as the love of two people is a gift, a totally unmerited, incomprehensible gift, so is the union of mind and heart. David cried out to God, “Unite my heart to fear thy Name.” It is my prayer, too.”

When we pray, our heart and mind are in agreement and the same thing happens when we create. Prayer is a way for us to communicate with the divine. On the next page L’Engle quotes in length Berdyaev, the Russian religious and political philosopher, but I am only going to pull a sentence from him. He says;

“The creative act is an escape from the power of time and ascent to the divine…”

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This quote really revealed more to me of what praying is about versus what creating is about. I already view creating as a worshipful act because it is who God made me to be and so by creating I am in cohorts with God about who I am which then brings glory to God. Worship is that which brings glory to God. In prayer, “we ascent to the divine” by communicating with God. L’Engle responds to Berdyaev by saying;

“Most artists are aware that during the deepest moments of that creation they are out on the other side of themselves, and so are free from time, with the same joyousness that comes in the greatest moments of prayer.”

I believe this reveals some of the high that you can get from creating, because you go to “the other side” of yourself. You tap into your subconscious which can be liberating. Maybe that’s what creativity is all about, tapping into our subconscious, liberating ourselves, being free. I shall close with thoughts about this paragraph by Berdyaev,

“Creativeness is the struggle against the consequences of sin, the expression of man’s true vocation, but creativeness is distorted and debased by sin. Hence the ethics of creativeness deal with the agonizing struggle of the human spirit. Creativeness needs purification, needs the purifying fire.”

What this really says to me is that creativity is a form of sanctification. Creativity can bring us closer to the divine because we go to the Creator and say I am a little creator but I wish to create with you, big Creator. God invites the artist back into time, before sin, when were designed to create with God. I believe this is what Berdyaev meant by “creativeness is the struggle against the consequences of sin,…” not only is creativeness a struggle against the sin nature, it is also a solution. It is a form of sanctification, purifying our spirits and bringing us into communion with our Maker.

18-perfect

Fiercely,

alexandria

P.S. Share your thoughts about the ideas L’Engle expresses in the comments below. I would love to know if you agree or disagree.

alexandriafierce

Fierce Beliefs. Fierce Ideas. Fierce Art. Fierce Life.

Photographer, Blogger, Artist, Entrepreneur

Walking On Water Review

Art, Being an Artist, Books, My Friends, Creative Process, Fierce Photography, God, Photography, The Artist Life

Hello Fiercelings,

I finally finished reading Walking On Water by Madeleine L’Engle. There is a lot of material in this little book. The tag line of the book is “Reflections on Faith and Art” it’s a fabulous little book about well, faith and art. To kind of give you a general idea about what the book’s thesis I am going to share the excerpt that is on the back of the book:

” And as I listen to the silence, I learn that my feelings about art and my feelings about the Creator of the Universe are inseparable. To try to talk about art and about Christianity is for me one and the same thing, and it means attempting to share the meaning of my life, what gives it, for me, its tragedy and its glory. It is what makes me respond to the death of an apple tree, the birth of a puppy, northern lights shaking the sky, by writing stories.”

L’Engle was the writer of over some 60 books most notably, A Wrinkle In Time. I have not read that but I intend to. I only became interested in reading Walking On Water because it was referenced and quoted a myriad of times in The Creative Call by Janice Elsheimer.

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Let’s dive in.

The first chapter. L’Engle said something beautiful,

 “Why is it that I, who have spent my life writing, struggling to be a better artist, and struggling also to be a better Christian, should feel rebellious when I am called a Christian artist? Why should I feel reluctant to think or write about Christian creativity?”

I thought these rhetorical questions showed strongly how to a large extent we Christians have taken the push from society to leave our faith and religion at home. God has been pushed out of our schools and higher institutions. A Christian scientist for example seems to be an impossibility. The arts used to be largely a religious affair. I think of Michelangelo and Da Vinci. They were THE artists of their time and their works are primarily religious in nature. However, as I say that L’Engle claims something in the next chapter that I found interesting. She says that,

 “…to serve music, or painting, or words is a religious activity, whether or not the conscious mind is willing to accept that fact. Basically there can be no categories such as “religious” art and “secular” art, because all true art is incarnational, and therefore “religious.”

My first thought when she claimed that was that I take issue with it because there is a lot of “Christian” art out there that I do not like. But L’Engle explains this two pages over by saying,

“This confusion comes about because much so-called religious art is in fact bad art, and therefore bad religion.”

That made complete sense to me. Much of the so called “Christian” art that I dislike, I dislike it because I consider it to be very shallow and empty of real religious value. The art has no depth. It is bad religion. L’Engle is saying it is bad art because it is bad religion. Of course, in order to even engage is this type of categorization you have to go along with L’Engle by agreeing that all art is religious. Whether knowingly or unknowingly to the artist all art is a reflection of the Creator. This turns the whole idea of “beauty  is in the eye of the beholder” upside down because now, “good” art brings glory to God and has nothing to do with personal preferences or opinions.

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I don’t think L’Engle was trying to answer the question “What is art?” but she did. Art is religious. Good art is good religion and vice versa. Agree or disagree? I’m leaning toward agreeing.

Overall: Fantastic book that really gets you thinking and pondering. Worth reading. Must read if you consider yourself to be an artist regardless of religious views.

This is one of four posts about Walking On Water. Click on the link for part 2, 3, and 4.

Fiercely,

alexandria

alexandriafierce

Fierce Beliefs. Fierce Ideas. Fierce Art. Fierce Life.

Photographer, Blogger, Artist, Entrepreneur

Email me at alexandriafiercephoto@gmail.com for photoshoot and wedding bookings

 

Meant To Be

God
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 Don’t you just love it when you feel like something found you versus you seeking something out? Or you trying to do something. Something wonderful happens but it is not dependent upon what you do. It is as if you were destined to stumble upon something. I was in the art and photography section of Barnes and Noble and I stumbled across this tiny book by Drew Barrymore. Allow me to catch you up to the significance of that, My husband had been watching 50 First Dates on Netflix and I absent-mindedly thought about how I really like her as an actress. Every time I see her interviewed or read an article about her I just really think I like her and think out of child stars she is really awesome and has got her shiz together. I am pretty young so she could have outgrown a wild phase unbeknownst to me. I will find that referenced. Either way, one day I am thinking how much I like her, then the following day I am browsing photography books and find one authored by her. It is a really cute book. I read the whole thing while sitting on the floor in Barnes & Noble with my baby girl crawling around my feet. The thesis of the book is that Barrymore is obsessed with heart symbols and she finds them in everything. Hence the title, “Find It In Everything.” It is really cute and sweet and it was just one of those type of things that make you think there is no such thing as coincidences. Everything happens for a reason and when something finds you like that book did I think that is God’s way of reminding you. It’s the universe telling you you’re on that right path. It turns out that you can find reminders of that in everything.
Find It In Everything 2nd Edit
Gollee, this post was touchy-feely sentimental!
Fiercely,
alexandria

Love In A Bookstore

Art, Fierce Photography

Books Edit

It’s no secret that I love books. I usually tell people that I devour books (well, at least good ones). I heard a quote recently that said “when we buy a book, we are buying in hope the time to read them” or something like that. Since I am gaining as much knowledge about photography as possible I found myself wandering around Barnes and Noble and I discovered a book/memoir type story by a war photojournalist. Needless to say, I have now been plunged into the world of photojournalism and I am finding it fascinating. This is why I think the best place to fall in love is in a bookstore. I love learning how a professional photographer got into the craft and the mistakes they made along the way toward perfecting their art. Everybody starts somewhere, even people that get published in the New York Times. I definitely could see myself going into the media and news side of photography someday. But with that said I also could see myself going into the fashion and art world of photography. Every time that I have been reading a magazine I always pay close attention to who  photographs the cover and other stories. I want to know everyone in the photography world by their work. Whenever I visit an art museum I can identify a Monet, Degas, Renoir, Pissarro or Picasso from a few feet away. I want to look at a cover of a magazine and recognize who shot it.  I believe that is significantly harder than looking at one of the works by the painting masters but nonetheless I shall learn.  

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I took this photo in the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth. This piece is attributed to Raphael or maybe Donatello.

Fiercely,

alexandria

Read a Book

Current Events

love books

bookToday is Read Across America Day! I am not sure who actually comes up with these “holidays” but I will take any and every excuse to read a book. I’ve been reading a book on generosity recently. It’s very short so hopefully I will carve out enough time to finish it today. It’s called “The Genius of Generosity” and so far I have really enjoyed it.

My tax guy filed for me last week so I will be purchasing my camera shortly! I am planning on getting the Canon 60D but we shall see what I finally decide once I have the money!

Books

I am off to brew some coffee and read!

Fiercely celebrating Read Across America Day,

alexandria

Dont you just love boos

Book Review of Generous Justice

Books, My Friends

One of my favorite preacher/writer/thinker is Timothy Keller, who is the founder/pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. I am still upset that I did not visit him when I was in New York City in June of 2011. I have read King’s Cross (now published as Jesus the King), Prodigal God, and The Meaning of Marriage by him, as well as having practically read The Reason for God. I’ve listened to almost all of the sermon podcasts available on Redeemer’s app. Point is, I love this guy! I finished reading Generous Justice last night and I thought I would share my thoughts on the ideas in it.

Generous Justice has the tagline “How God’s Grace Makes Us Just” which made me think the book would mainly be about how grace leads us to act just or righteous and then perhaps a general Biblical view of justice. The book is about that but it is better, the book’s thesis is how “grace leads us to act just” as I thought it would be but it is more directly tied to how we, as Christians, seek justice toward the poor, the widow and the immigrant. More importantly the book goes into God’s view toward the poor, the widow and the immigrant. It is a blueprint for how to solve poverty if I ever read one. Now, I tend to have a very callous perspective when people talk about those in poverty or struggling with hunger. I very much believe that “If anyone is not willing to work, neither should he eat.” as 2 Thessalonians 3:10 says. I have long suspected that I have been brain washed by my conservative political philosophy on this issue and this book confirmed that. I struggle with how to balance compassion toward the poor while also stressing how important I think personal responsibility is – thankfully, this book makes the case for both. Early in the book Keller shows how God is intimately interested in justice toward the poor and marginalized members of society. Psalm 146:7-9 shows this, “He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets prisoners free, the Lord gives sight to the blind,the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down, the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.” and Deuteronomy 10:17-18 “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribe. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing.” Keller mentions these verses throughout the book. The second chapter of the book is titled “Justice and the Old Testament” which goes into great detail how the Mosaic Law was set up to prevent injustice toward the poor. Despite having grown up in a Bible teaching church I can’t ever say I heard a sermon based on the Mosaic Law and it’s relationship toward the poor and marginalized members of society. So this was news to me and I love learning something new. I won’t go into detail with the Mosaic Law but I will mention that there was a law on farmers about “gleaning.” I quote page 27 in Generous Justice, “Landowners could not gather all the grain their land could produce. They had to leave some of it for the poor to gather themselves(Leviticus 19:9-10;23:22). In other words, they were to voluntarily limit their profit taking. Gleaning was not, however, what would ordinarily be called an act of charity. It enabled the poor to provide for themselves without relying on benevolence.” I just love this, God provided a way for the poor to be able to provide for themselves.

Keller talks about the underlying problems that cause poverty and what the Bible has to say about them. He lists various verses supporting each reason listed below,
– unfair judicial system
– loans with excessive interest
– unjustly low wages
– rich
– natural disasters (famine, floods, fires)
– personal moral failings
– self-discipline
As you can see, the Bible neither places all the blame on the rich and powerful or on the individual himself for why people are in poverty.

One thing that Keller talks about in GJ that I greatly appreciated was our obligation to help the poor before they are destitute. Keller shares how one of his parishioners objected to a sermon he taught about helping the poor by saying, “All the poor people in my part of town have nice TV sets. They aren’t starving.” I completely relate. Annually the church I grew up in hosts a Thanksgiving feast for the families involved in their inner city ministry. 70% of those families are obese, perhaps more. I’m kind of sitting there thinking we’re enabling unhealthy diets in the name of Jesus. This is what I’m talking about when I say I lack compassion toward the poor. Perhaps what I really mean is that I don’t see any poor people. When you’re overweight and have a cellphone you instantly have graduated from the “poverty” category. Keller answers this objection splendidly by sharing the thoughts of Jonathan Edwards, “Edwards says that this hardheartedness is not in accord with the Biblical command to love your neighbor as yourself. We don’t wait until we are in “extremity” before doing something about our condition, he argued, so why would we wait until our neighbor is literally starving before we help?” Edwards also talks about Christ’s love for us, as well as talking about the command to “carry one another’s burden” as reasons why we shouldn’t wait until people are starving or destitute to help them. This thinking made me think of where I would be in life if God decided to only give me success or blessings when I’m literally down to nothing. God blesses me on top of other blessings. What if God decided to only give you success at something when you failed at 5 previous things? Keller mentions that Christ saved us “while we were still sinners” we don’t become sinless and then accept grace. We accept grace and are seen as Christ, without sin. This whole concept of helping the poor before they are destitute really fascinated me and convicted me of just how much compassion I lack.

One of the last chapters Keller devotes to talking about justice in the public square(or lack thereof). He is simply brilliant. There is also a case study of various communities where justice was sought after and those are fascinating. All in all I love Timothy Keller and I loved this book. It has been fierce approved.