Friday, January 31, 2014

The Masterpiece in our Midst

Recently, I read a story about an Indiana man who went to a rummage sale and spent a few dollars on a couple of pieces of used furniture and an old painting of some flowers. When the man got home with his new purchases, he decided to hang the painting strategically over a hole in his living room wall.

A few years later, he was playing a board game called Masterpiece in which players try to outbid one another for famous artwork. Much to his surprise, one of the cards in the game featured a painting of flowers that looked strikingly similar to the one he had hanging on the wall:

Intrigued, he began researching on the Internet and discovered that his painting resembled the work of Martin Johnson Heade, a 19th-century American painter best known for landscapes and flower still-lifes. Wondering if he were onto something, he emailed Kennedy Galleries in Manhattan (which handles many of Heade’s works) and asked if they would be willing to take a look at his painting. They agreed, and, after examining the painting, were able to authenticate it as a previously unknown work by Heade subsequently named, Magnolias on Gold Velvet Cloth.  “This is an important discovery, and the painting is a magnificent example of Heade’s work at its best,”[i] said Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr., author of the definitive book on Heade’s paintings. 

As a result, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston purchased the painting from the man for an incredible $1.2 million. Not a bad return for a few dollars investment! The man (who has chosen to remain anonymous) is no doubt now living somewhere in Indiana in a house without holes in the walls.

I can’t imagine how exciting it was for this man to realize that he unknowingly had a masterpiece hanging on his wall. He thought he was living with something ordinary, but all this time he had a treasure hiding in plain sight.

Like that painting, the presence of God is with us all the time, even when we don’t recognize it. It is just as David wrote so beautifully in Psalms:

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
Your right hand will hold me fast. (139:7-10)

There is nowhere we can go that God is not present. He is with us at work, while running errands, on the golf course, when the kids are screaming. He is present with me as I write this, and right there with you as you read it. He is a treasure hidden in plain sight, just waiting for us to discover Him.

I tend to think of God as being present where I “left” Him – in the chair in my bedroom where I read my Bible, or in the church sanctuary where I was last Sunday. But, when I remember that He is with me wherever I go, I can reach out to Him to receive just what I need in that moment, whether it’s strength, wisdom, or just the joy of knowing that He’s there.

A. W. Tozer said, “At the heart of the Christian message is God Himself waiting for His redeemed children to push in to conscious awareness of His presence.”

Are you aware of His presence today?

[i] Judith Dobrzynski, “Painting Packs a Million Dollar Surprise,” June 4, 1999,

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