(butterfly, photo by Lynda McKinney Lambert)
“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than
the risk it took to blossom.” ~ Anaïs Nin
Eventually, it happens.
We begin to think about universal questions asked by every human being from
recorded history to the present moment.
Who am I?
Why am I here at this precise time?
What is my purpose?
Where am I going?
For a large part of my life, I accepted that my art and writing life were separate
from my spiritual journey. During years of rigorous academic studies, there never
was a dialogue that addressed fundamental questions concerning my creativity
being connected to my personal faith and theology. I never questioned or explored
my worldview. Well, in fact, I didn't know I even had a worldview. I was unaware
that everyone has a worldview and personal theology. This concept never came
up in any classroom discussions, so I kept my personal faith walk private.
I arrived at the Geneva College in Pennsylvania to begin my career as a tenured
professor. My title was "Professor of Fine Arts and Humanities." It was thrilling for
me to see my name and title inscribed on a golden plate on the door of my spacious
new office in an elegant, three-story Victorian mansion. My new life was everything
I could have envisioned during my years of preparations. I loved the professional experience I stepped into on a private, century-old campus. I had achieved the
desire of my heart. Dreams do come true.
My classroom duties began at the beginning of the fall semester. Initially, I faced
a challenge because this college's core philosophy is the integration of faith and
learning. That meant I was expected to teach every course in such a way that my
Judeo-Christian faith would be central to my teaching. How would I incorporate
my faith into my classroom courses? How could I find a synthesis between academic pursuits and the "integration of faith and learning?”
Previous training and research in higher education left me in a quandary about how
I would accomplish the college's mission, for the universities I attended are entirely
secular. Even though I thrived in my studies, there was a part of my human self that
formal education never addressed. Worse yet, I was unaware of the gap. Part of me
was missing, and I never realized it. Thus, my quest for discovering how to present
a personal Christian presence in my professional, academic, and creative life began.
Before starting my new job, I thought of my life as being divided into two boxes: sacred
and secular. I did not realize this is Dualism and is quite the opposite of God's historical Genesis account, he who created humanity as a reflection of the Divine. We were
created to be image-bearers of God.
With the dynamic new teaching adventure, my entire life was turned upside down. It seemed I was in a tailspin. I wanted to bring faith to my discipline. But years of training
and practice left me confused about the possibility of this.
One morning I made a request to God. "Would you please guide me? I am asking you
to be in my classrooms, to be with me as I deliver my lectures." I indeed had no idea
how this could possibly happen. As I tried to plan out my daily course activities for
each class, the integration of faith and learning was on my mind continuously. But I
had to figure this out even though it felt like the strangest request I ever made for
divine help. This concept was a crisis for me, and I sure needed help to partner with
my colleagues and students.
At first, I turned to the opening chapters of Genesis and saw them with a fresh understanding. As described by Genesis, the world has a logical created structure,
and it is filled with living forms. As I thought more about those forms made from the
earth, I envisioned God in a garden with his hands covered in clay and his clothing
soiled from gathering materials to begin the work. This scene reminded me of an
artist at work in the studio. I imagined God down on his knees in the fertile soil
creating the first human.
I developed projects based on information in Genesis. Students in the studio art
classroom began making art from the text, using ideas and questions while
considering the Biblical text. Students began to understand that all art and craft
began in that first garden with God.
An exciting aspect of the Creation story is that, after the things were made, they
were given to Adam to name. They were already real things before they were given
a name. We also saw how there is a God-given specific order. All items have meaning
in this structured order. This creation story became our road map for the courses.
I planned projects with different intended outcomes that required other processes
to achieve the end result. Each project grew out of a concept we discovered as we
read the Bible.
There are many references in the Bible to artistic and creative beauty in objects,
clothing, and buildings that are not utilitarian or realistic. We found extraordinary,
even vivid descriptions of clothing, buildings, interiors, fine crafts, and various
artworks, worship services, and sacred rituals. We discovered that beauty had a
primary position in the making of everything.
Gradually, I realized that various aspects of my life are not isolated. Each is part
of my own tree of life. With the discovery that my ancient Judeo-Christian roots
run deep and I am planted in good soil, the tree of my own life flourished. I was
a whole, complete person bringing the truth of the ages into my professional life
in my classrooms.
I always embraced the idea of being a lifelong learner. With my students, I conducted literary discussions that dug into our collective history as we listened to music and
looked at art from all periods. We surveyed the philosophy of inspired men and
women through the ages. Together, professor and students discovered layers of connections between our individual creative work, our academic aspirations, personal
and cultural history, and our Judeo-Christian faith. I learned there is no line separating
the secular from the sacred in this world. I learned to be a servant leader. And, I learned
With every passing year, I continue to see how big the world is and how it is ever-
expanding and changing. The entire universe stands as a witness to the creative
powers of an intelligent mind. We can find the presence of a Creator God in every
aspect of the creation.
Though I am now retired from my formal work in various classrooms and lecture halls,
I am still a lifelong learner. Presently, my passions of making art and writing are always
at the center of my days. My art exhibitions continue as I gather awards, and my
artworks still appear in galleries and museums across the U.S. Most days, I am either
in my fiber art studio working on a new piece or in my office writing about the
significance of our life journey. My art and my writing convey the timeless message
of who we are in Christ.
My studio and my office are light-filled rooms where I encounter glory. I walk into
those rooms and ask God, "What would you have me do today?" I never suffer from
lack of something because my thoughts contain a rich bounty of stories and poems,
more books, and new visions for my artwork. Our life is like a blossom that dances
at the moment as the Holy Spirit orchestrates the music. I am a tight bud waiting to
unfold every morning.
Lynda McKinney Lambert is a retired professor
of fine arts and humanities, Geneva College,
Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. She retired in 2008
due to sight loss and, since that time, she spends
her time writing, making fiber art, and enjoying
her husband and their rescued dogs and cats.
(Lynda in her prayer garden)