Mollie failed art at school. The teacher said "Let's face it you have no talent." So she never drew or painted a single thing for fifty years. If you had told me my wife was an artist, I would have rolled my eyes and laughed.
Then for the first time in her life when we were in Abu Dhabi she had nothing much to do. She was encouraged to try some pastels with a group of women whose husbands were working there from Japan, Iraq, North America, France, and other places. By the time we got back to Canada she could take a family photo, blow it up in oils on a 20 x 24 canvas in sparkling colors, and you can recognize each person. Wow.
When the painting goes to be framed she says "I can't think I could ever do another." Each time I tell her to look to the Holy Spirit for inspiration like Michelangelo when he couldn't imagine what to do with a block of marble. And when I put my nose in her studio there is a stunning scene with the right perspective and composition and the undercoat already looking great. Our younger daughter has just moved to a big new house north of Toronto with her husband and three children, and guess what is on her walls?
As Milton mentions at the beginning of Paradise Lost, the Greeks thought of the Holy Spirit as the nine Muses who gave inspiration for epic and love poetry, tragedy and comedy, dancing, astronomy, etc. Mollie knew how to look for inspiration to play charismatic songs, start prayer groups and Bible study groups in different countries, raise four children, and bake the best bread in Ontario. But she was surprised as I was when the Spirit persuaded her she could paint.
Which connects with another kind of inspiration. I have always loved preaching from Matthew's Gospel. I must have devoured it a hundred times. I read many other books, but never more than once. I found Matthew's Gospel for the first time in the King James Version I bought the day after I was converted from atheism. Then I read it in the original Greek, in Phillips and other versions, and in India I preached from it in Hindi and Urdu. For my birthday Mollie gave me a leather covered NRSV to replace my ninth worn out Bible.
For thirty years I had wanted to write a commentary on Matthew for preachers. Then suddenly this spring I found myself writing. It seemed ridiculous to attempt such a thing, but yesterday I put chapter 26 up on my web site. Only two more to go. But as I have soaked myself in this book, I have been stunned by the artistry of the composition. Events, and characters, and parables are set in sparkling colors. Everything points to Jesus as the Messiah. I wonder if Matthew the Gospel writer failed writing at school? He certainly learned to do it in the School of the Holy Spirit.
(with grateful thanks to Sue Hoover for three corrections, September 1997)