Thursday, May 21, 2009

My Odyssey from “Renaissance” to “Reformation”

Dear friends,

Yesterday I blogged about my early childhood memories in the Midwest. Today I would like to share a few paragraphs about the next several years of my life after that.



My Odyssey from “Renaissance” to “Reformation”

by Virginia Knowles in August 2005


When I was about seven years old, living in a suburb of San Francisco, my parents made a really wise decision: they pulled the plug on our TV! We were addicted to sit-coms and needed to use our time more productively. For the next several years, we had the opportunity to develop creatively and intellectually without as much distraction. Mom and Dad took us to concerts, plays, Renaissance Fairs, art and history museums, ethnic restaurants, and many other cultural places. We often went camping in the Sequoia National Park and Yosemite. (The picture is our family at Crater Lake in Oregon in the mid 1970's. I'm on the right. Yes, we looked like hippies and my brother's hair was much longer than mine.) We grew blackberries, corn and tangerines in the backyard, and pansies, golden poppies and plums in the front yard. We could go to a bookstore and buy anything we wanted. We took art, music and drama classes in the community. I can’t count how many musical instruments we had in the house. My brother John played the trumpet, trombone, piano, synthesizer, organ, and other instruments, while Barb specialized in the cello. They were active in band and orchestra, so there was always a great high school musical to attend! They were much more self-disciplined than I was, but I did take piano lessons for several years, and later added the mountain dulcimer and guitar to my repertoire. We also attended music theory, history and performance classes at a local conservatory for quite some time. Yes, we were quite a “Renaissance” family when it came to the arts and book knowledge. However, for all the blessing this was, I remained deep in the spiritual “Dark Ages” for these preteen years in the mid 1970s. God was missing from all of our pursuits!

You see, historically speaking, the Renaissance in southern Europe was largely a rebirth of classical, humanistic knowledge. The Reformation in northern Europe, on the other hand, was saturated in Scripture and a total reliance on the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. I already had the Renaissance in my life. It wasn’t enough. I needed a personal Reformation, a total rebirth and reshaping from the inside out. Then came July 1976. I had just finished 7th grade and mocked the crazy Christians who tried to witness to me. Yet in his mercy, the Lord reached down and saved me when I certainly wasn’t looking for him. Thus started a spiritual odyssey that not only gave me citizenship into God’s kingdom, but transformed my approach to creativity, the arts, and learning in general.

In Spring 1977, we moved from San Francisco to Baltimore. In my new chorus class at school, I sat next to a sweet girl named Anne Rittler, who invited me to Timonium Presbyterian Church. Her parents were so faithful to drive me there for Sunday services and youth meetings. It was here that I began a season of intense Bible study, fell in love with Christian literature, learned countless hymns and Christian folk songs, sang in the youth choir, went to a James Ward concert, and was sent on my first overseas summer mission trip. After a mere year and half, our family moved to northern Virginia. In this new chapter of life, I blossomed even more creatively in the faith. Inspired by the Saturday Night Alive praise and worship services sponsored by two local churches, as well as Keith Green and 2nd Chapter of Acts concerts, I started writing my own Christian songs and setting psalms to music. My oil painting took on inspirational themes such as Christ’s sacrifice, prayer, and entering into God’s presence. I devoured Christian books and magazines, and decided to go to business school so that someday I could own a Christian bookstore. When I picked up my pen or sat at the computer to write, it was to encourage my fellow believers and to witness to those who didn’t yet know the Savior.

As God graciously brought this Reformation to each facet of my life, learning and the arts became a means to not only worship my Creator (who made each of us in his creative image) but to reach out with a redemptive mission and a message. This is what I also try to do as I home school my children. I don’t want to just expose them to the best in art, music, literature, and so forth – though these are very good things. I want to aim for spiritual transformation – to encourage them to seek God wholeheartedly and to use their gifts for the Kingdom rather than for themselves. We have a long way to go in this area; I must continually set myself to fresh resolve. This is also my prayer as I write each Hope Chest issue or book -- that whatever I say will bring honor and glory to him who gave me each gift.

Talk About It: How has God worked to draw forth creativity in your life? How can you use his gifts for his glory?


This article originally appeared in my e-magazine, The Hope Chest, in August 2005. You can read that entire issue here: Making Melody in Our Hearts.

It also corresponds with a recent blog post: This Is My Song and I Sing.

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