“The paintings in my exhibition ‘Faces of a Changing World’ are Chinese characters with integrated portraits of people I have met during my travels. The characters are about peace, hope, love, joy, pain and other emotions people world- wide will experience during a life time.  During my life experience I can identify with all of the emotions expressed in each of my paintings.” – Bob Harper

When I first saw Bob’s engaging and powerful art on exhibit at church, I sensed a special message was there knocking. As I observed each piece, and then the grouping, I continued to search for that message. Then, it finally came to me several days later after talking with Bob again. The message was right before our eyes – on canvas.

It became clear after realizing again – all art speaks to us in at least two languages, academic and spiritual. Initially when we view art, our mind usually remains in control and quickly begins to rationalize the art piece. Our mind attempts to “listen” to the art through an academic route and often prefers to discern such through words, styles or periods of history. If we don’t get satisfactory answers, we may shrug our shoulders and simply walk away. Sometimes, if we linger a while longer and ponder the art afterwards, we may discover a spiritual pathway nudging us towards unspoken feelings embedded in the piece. Discernment here may appear in a mood, or wave of some other conveyed sensation. And that is exactly what Bob’s art does. It is unique in that it speaks both languages successfully, first boldly engaging our mind through the strong abstract forms of ancient Chinese characters. That’s the academic pathway. Then, while one’s attention is held in suspension, trying to figure out the meaning of a particular Chinese form, searching intellectually to satisfy the mind, a spiritual glimpse peeks out from behind and grabs our heart. Stunning.

The contrast of form and feelings is experiential. Maybe peace wins. Or maybe love. Or, maybe pain. Initially the forms are bold and engaging, but the peeking friends have the lasting word. That peeking process reminded me of the other Glimpses of Faith stories by members here at RRCB. How can a painting remind me of stories? I think because the stories are about those moments which peek out from otherwise ordinary situations – and grab our hearts spiritually. Bob’s art provides compelling icons of that glimpsing process. His paintings to me have in fact captured Glimpses of Faith. That was the special message waiting for me.

An echo of that is in the service purpose of Glimpses of Faith and perhaps all of us as Christians. That is to serve as floating mirrors among members, staff, ministries of our church and our community – positioning our mirrors to catch the spiritual energies in processes among us. Then, like a mirror, we can reflect those energies of nourishment towards others.

Bob’s art serves as a collection of mirrors too, reflecting the spirit of peace, hope, love, joy and pain of some of those he has met in his travels across the world. Thanks to Bob, and the Arts Committee for providing this example of another of RRCB’s moments when we all can discover and bounce those rays and energies of nourishment around us. I have seen so many of you do your mirror reflecting here through poetry, some others through music, others through care-giving, writing, teaching and many other ministries and talents here at RRCB. Thank you.

by Page Highfill