John Krasinski & John the Baptist



Have you ever experienced a celebrity sighting?  Until a week ago today, I hadn’t.  Last week at lunch, my brother Ross & I braved the Nor’easter and went to Momofuku.

Great minds think alike, because John Krasinski & Emily Blunt (and baby Hazel) blew in a few minutes after we arrived.  We were waiting for seats, and I was standing facing the door; a tall guy in a baseball cap with a baby carrier walked in and I thought to myself, “good god, this is a movie!  That’s John Krasinski!”  Then I mentally pinched myself and said (to myself), “This is real life!  Not a movie!  That’s really him!”


Now, he and Emily Blunt are far too square for my brother Ross to care about them much, but Young Victoria continues to be one of my favorite, favorite, favorite movies of all time–I still remember the week of my summer internship in 2010 when I watched that film on repeat.  I downloaded the soundtrack.

The soundtrack is still on my phone, 4 years later. #lovesineadoconnor

Long story short, I didn’t bother them, or say anything, and kept my eyes glued to my shoes–you know, to give them privacy–except for the photo here… just for proof.


(super-bad over the shoulder shot…)

The next day, I had a similar experience at the Met.

While wandering, I saw a religious icon across the room.  In a split second I took in the camel’s hair tunic, the wild look in the man’s eyes, and instead of even computing those attributes, my mind just said to me, “hey, John the Baptist!”  It was as if my mind and heart had skipped the sleuthing necessary for identifying characters in paintings several centuries removed from ourselves; I walked into the room, saw the “snapshot” and said to myself, “oh, my old buddy John; John the Baptist!”  Just like when I’d seen John Krasinski, movie star, and not said to myself, “Hmm, The Office… Jim Halpert… JOHN KRASINSKI!”



Our minds may be molded by our culture (and to recognize and be attuned to movie stars more than Bible characters these days, but it’s not impossible, or even necessarily difficult, to realign your mind to recognizing old friends amongst the communion of the saints instead.

In another room, I saw Francis (top) .  Given–there was the tell-tale brown robe, and he was kneeling with his face upturned–but again, it was like seeing a photo of a relative or the likeness of a movie star.  There was no need for the little card explaining St. Francis’ identity next to the painting; not only are there accepted ways to depict most saints of the church, but they’re so pervasive it’s almost as if museums are a veritable red carpet of church history.

Having spent a good chunk of the summer in various Gothic cathedrals, I suspect my immersion in their sculptures and paintings and stained glass contributed mightily to my comfortable recognition of these A-listers of Christianity.


When we toured these mighty buildings, my husband and I spent hours trolling the carvings and wracking our brains, putting together our masters- & Ph.D.-level specialties in the given subject matter with what our eyes were taking in.  We were kept busy doing the guesswork to identify who what depicted where and why.  I marveled at the level of familiarity with Scripture, tradition, and history that it took for us to piece together these magnificent jigsaw puzzles of the historical Christian community, and wondered how on earth any “normal” person in Medieval times would have been able to make sense of any of it.

Last week, seeing John & Emily, and then John & Francis, I realized: for people living in the Middle Ages, these characters were their sit-coms, their dramas, their stories, their world.  Sure, there was plenty of “trashy tv,” too, but if the cathedral was a Medieval amusement park (argument forthcoming!), then saints truly were the celebrities of the time; immortalized in stone and glass, their stories celebrated in the church calendar, their likeness familiar (and familial).

What if we cultivated familial attachment with our Christian brothers and sisters throughout time, as our forebears have done?  What would our prayers, lifestyles, homes, and relationships look like if we allowed the examples of the saints to truly influence us as much as we allow celebrities (or even just the popular kids at school–or in our cities or societies) to dictate our tastes, style, goals, and desires?

Who would you like to learn more about?  Mary Magdelene?  John the Baptist?  Deborah the Judge?  Moses?

Quotation of the Day

“Of course, we tend to forget the big picture and focus on the minor details.  We take the world and our existence, even Jesus, for granted, and we concentrate on the parts that seem to go wrong.  We discover our family isn’t as happy or straightforward as other families, and we look for someone to blame, one of our parents perhaps.  We find ourselves isolated from the way other people are woven into God’s story, and so we take to imagining that we have a level of pain or hurt that is so much greater than anyone else’s, and until that pain is heard and listened to and understood and affirmed, we refuse to trust or engage or enjoy the bigger story at all.  To a life that is mired in resentment, gratitude is a stranger.  But the only medicine for a life turned in on itself is rediscovering the art of saying thank you.”

from Learning to Dream Again, Sam Wells (p 167)

how to view art



Just last week, a favorite blogger of mine, Cup of Jo, highlighted this article which suggests a different approach to visiting an art museum: choosing one or two or three art works that speak to you in some way and spending a good chunk of time in front of each one.

When I visited the Met on Friday, I tried it.

There’s a room with three or four El Grecoes; we’ve got one of his Adoration of the Shepherds (above) prints in our dining room, but this time, I was struck by El Greco’s Healing of the Man Born Blind (below).

Jesus Healing the Blind El Greco


I sat and stared at this painting for probably about seven or eight minutes; studying its intricacies, noticing the way light was reflected off draped clothing, gazing intently at the faces and their displayed emotions.  I’d had a really strange and wonderful experience earlier in the visit (to the Metropolitan Museum of Art) with John the Baptist and St. Francis, and the tree of Jesse (more in a post coming soon!), and in this particular image I was struck by how familiar the bald man in the right-center of the picture seemed to me.

And was here was a ton of energy because of what Jesus was doing in the middle of the painting, or in spite of` what was happening with Jesus and the man born blind?

It didn’t even really register with me till I found the photo of this painting online that the characters near the center-bottom of the image, who in the little info card next to the painting in the museum referred to as possibly the blind man’s parents, seem to be at least somewhat inter-racial–of course, I’d observed their skin tone, but it hadn’t struck me as strange till I electronically grabbed the image and remembered it’s about 500 years old.

El Greco is so much about texture, it’s hard to appreciate the image without his super gloppy painting style.  It was well-worth a few extra minutes’ time.


In hot pursuit of Spanish-influenced artists, I sought the Met’s collection of Caravaggios.  That day, The Denial of Peter caught me.  I sat and watched.  Caravaggio’s use of light has captured my imagination since I saw something of his in a museum in Dublin.  Peter’s face is fully lit–his aging bald head similar to the one I observed in El Greco’s piece–and all hand in the painting (even his own!) point toward him.  We see the glint of the soldier’s armor, and the suspicious eyes of the woman near the fire, all judging whether Peter is part of the rabble-rousing troupe who had populated the courtyard that night.

How many times had I been in that courtyard, full light glaring in my face, trying desperately, defiantly, not to shield my eyes from the truth while at the same time denying its power over me?

Meditating on a few pieces, looking deeply into the true, hard work which the artists had put into their paintings, helped me to understand more deeply God’s movements in our lives.

What do you see in these paintings?  Do you have a painting or piece of art that changed or expanded your understanding of God, or the divine, or the world?

an icon for Anglicanism



Discovered this at the Met today, a painting by Jusepe de Ribera.  There’s Peter, holding the keys to the Kingdom, and there’s Paul, with the hilt of a sword (alluding to this martyr’s death) leaned against the wall behind him.

You can see the conviction, passion, and respect each one has for the other.  Their faces are only inches from one another, but you can tell, “>especially from Paul’s eyes, that they’re not about to spit in each other’s faces–there is deep, abiding trust and respect and zeal between them.  They are brothers through Jesus Christ.

Here, they’re passionately debating the Matter at Antioch, according to de Ribera; which at least in part concerned the place of the Hebrews–Jews–and the Old Covenant since the chronological arrival of Jesus Christ.

I was struck at how this depicts in practically iconic form the strife of our own day and Church (Anglicanism).  Because we are a body that stakes its claim on community and incarnation, we’re meant to fight it out and to disagree with vigor (but with compassion and patience!) rather than looking to one supreme ruler to hand down decisions, or breaking up into camps the moment we can’t see eye-to-eye.  We in the Episcopal Church haven’t done a very good job of living into the example our brethren present to us above (or in Acts, or Galatians).

The thing I observe to be missing most is respect.  More than “tolerance,” respect demands a patient and humble compassion.  It is not that we are to cover up or ignore or avoid disagreements at all costs, but that when tension results amidst our convictions, we pursue them patiently, humbly, compassionately together.

May de Ribera’s piece serve as an icon for us, as we seek to be patient, humble, and compassionate with each other and with ourselves.

A Day in Manhattan


1. started at St. Thomas Fifth Avenue; I woke up with Beyonce/JayZ in my head, and a familiar-but-unwelcome creeping desire for more lucrative life-decisions in my heart, and if that reredos doesn’t cure such things, nothing will.


2. The Strand and some new-to-me volumes.  Last time I was here, I formed a buzzfeed quiz in my mind: “At which NYC landmark are you most likely to run into an ex?”  This was mine.


3. Rainy day hat.  Living the dream of every girl born in the 80’s; Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?


4. Nothing like a New York tea room.  Last time, Jordan and I discovered Bosie Tea Parlor after being rather unceremoniously kicked out of Tea & Sympathy.  Today (above), it was Podunk.  Perfect!

It was there that I sat and tried to read, and then tried to write, and then, finally decided/realized that the bit of puff pastry I’d eaten under the guise of hospitality at dinner last night, and the bite of pork bun I’d had at lunch today (Momofuku–along with John Krasinski & Emily Blunt, NBD–below) were not a joke.  That is to say, gluten is not a joke.  The energy, clarity of mind, and as my dear sweet brother will attest, evenness-of-temper which a gluten-free diet has afforded me were derailed by even just a few bites of wheaty goodness.  I think the experiment isn’t going to end soon…

(see there, in the corner?  that’s Emily, turned toward us; and John is clearly telling her something very dramatic and important turned the other way.)



Wondering While I’m Wandering


Headed to NYC this afternoon to spend a few days with my sweet brother enjoying autumn in the city.


Listening to Empire State of Mind & hoping that Alicia Keys is right–that the big lights will inspire me. Looking forward to sharing some of that inspiration here upon my return.

I’ve been noodling around with organization, content, and concept here on Hope of Things Not Seen. As the weather changes I’m itchy to get things a little more accessible, warm, and streamlined in this little corner of the internets.

What’re YOU looking for here? What do you want to read more about? What do you like?