Welcome to the seventh guest post in a new-and-improved version of the the Practice Resurrection series!
I’ve invited several friends and acquaintances to share a snapshot of their lives during the weeks of Eastertide (between now and Pentecost Sunday, June 9th). As in other series of guest posts, I pray about who to invite and for this series I was contemplating the ways these women and men consistently invite us through their social media presence to regularly consider restoration, beauty, and goodness even, and maybe especially, in the face of difficulty. I’ve asked each guest to share snapshots of their present daily life inspired by Wendell Berry’s poem, “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front”.
Today’s guest is an artist I’ve admired and studied for about a decade. One of the most delightful moments our first year moving to Austin was the opportunity I had to attend an event featuring Jim Janknegt, a long-time friend of our congregation at Christ Church. Today feels like another full-circle moment as I’ve often shared Jim’s art, and now get to introduce him more personally to you. Before I’d ever met Jim, I’d heard about his exemplary work ethic as a prolific artist who simultaneously worked a “day job” (see his bio below for an impressive and varied list!) to support his family. While Mr. Janknegt is now retired, this snapshot into a day in his life provides a beautiful picture of what that work/art balance looks like now that his day job involves cultivating gardens and construction projects on his property in rural Elgin, just east of Austin.
Perhaps most striking is the unifying focus of work and prayer (ora et labora) that gathers together all that the Janknegts endeavor as they seek to daily practice resurrection. May we be encouraged to this kind of gladness of heart in whatever season of life we find ourselves, friends. (For ongoing encouragement, I highly recommend following Jim on Facebook or Instagram.)
First, take a moment to tour Jim’s property as he reads us the poem.
A day in the life and a meditation on Wendell Berry’s
“Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front”
Ora et Labora- Prayer and Work make up my life. I am fortunate to be retired. I can structure my life as I see fit. We strive for a kind of monastic rhythm. I have not given up work but only do the work that I think is right to do. It largely amounts to overseeing our little piece of land in the country just east of Elgin, TX (which is east of Austin) and painting. In my quest to live an authentic Christian life it seems right, as Mr. Berry suggests in his poem, to NOT want more of everything ready made. To be authentic means being at the source, the author, so to speak: the writer of the document, the painter of the painting, the grower and cook of the food, the singer of the song, the builder of the house. Right now I have undertaken a pretty big project: building a cottage. I am doing almost all the work myself. It is currently taking up all of my work time and energy. So I am not doing much painting right now. The hope, of my wife and I, is that some day my daughter, her husband, and future children will come and live in our big house and we will move into the cottage. But you know the old saying: if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans. But plan we do and pray, and work to bring them about.
Our work is an outgrowth of prayer as our day’s work is punctuated by prayer. A fellow once said in a sermon to say a prayer before you get out of bed in the morning. I took his advice and have done that ever since. As soon as I am awake, I say a Hail Mary, then I jump out of bed, start the coffee my wife prepared the night before, and make tea for my wife.
Some mornings we go to daily mass at our parish, Sacred Heart Catholic Church. As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said, “The Eucharistic Celebration is the greatest and highest act of prayer, and constitutes the centre and the source from which even the other forms receive "nourishment": the Liturgy of the Hours, Eucharistic adoration, Lectio divina, the Holy Rosary, meditation.” (Homily, May 3, 2009.)
After mass we break fast with our friends and eat tacos at a local Mexican food restaurant. Chips and salsa for breakfast: why not?
On days we don’t go to Mass, I start the day off with coffee, mental prayer, and spiritual reading. Our cat, Philos, often accompanies me. Currently I am reading a biography of Blessed Solanus Casey, a simplex priest and Capuchin porter for most of his life. He had an amazing gift of being able to listen to people who came for counseling and then listen to God so as to pray for what they needed. He kept a journal of each prayer request and the answers. Many, many miracles are documented as a result of his efficacious prayers. He was a humble, obedient servant of God.
Before we start work, my wife and I pray a morning offering. Last year I made a card with one of my paintings on the front and the morning offering on the back. Here is one version of the morning offering by St. Therese, the Little Flower:
Then I get to work. I really enjoy making things. I think back on my childhood and all the times we spent using our imaginations and playing: digging holes, scrounging wood and nails to build clubhouses, and climbing trees. Here I am a grown man, digging holes for foundations, sawing and hammering wood, climbing scaffolding and ladders; I feel like a kid getting to do the things I’ve always loved doing. Right before I start work, I make the sign of the cross and ask for help from our Lord and the intercession of a saint. For this building project, I ask for the help of St. Joseph. When I am painting, I ask for the intercession of Blessed Fra Angelico, my patron saint. When I am about to do something difficult or different, I say a quick prayer.
If I weren’t occupied with this building, I would be gardening. My wife is taking over some of the vegetable gardening while other things are just on hold. I still get to enjoy the many plants and trees we have planted since we moved here over 20 years ago. I learned how to do aqua-ponics and found it was a great system for propagating perennials. I haven’t kept count, but we have planted over 200 trees of many different species. One of my favorite books (and animated movie) is The Man Who Planted Trees.
Around noon we break for lunch. Today I made tuna salad with lots of veggies, nuts and fruit thrown in. Like the ancient Christians we choose to not eat meat on Wednesdays and Fridays in reparation for our sins and the sins of the world.
After lunch, I take a nap. Naps are civilized. The world doesn’t come to an end if you take time for a nap. After the nap, more work. Over the years, I have learned many skills for which I am grateful. I think of myself as a maker, a creator. The general paradigm I perceive in our culture is to become really good at one thing, say being a doctor or investing. Make as much money as you can, then pay people to do everything else you need done. It is living primarily as a consumer. Money becomes a divide, an insulator, a barrier between need and work, creating or making. It separates us from meaning and authenticity by restricting us to a life of mere consumption.
At three o’clock we stop what we are doing and pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet. I bought this beautiful rosary at Clear Creek Benedictine Monastery in Oklahoma. We usually sit outside to pray, enjoy the beauty of the land, and watch the birds.
Here is the beginning prayer:
Then more work. I am often accompanied in my work by the animals we keep. Here is our peacock.
We also have chickens, guinea hens, two dogs and one cat. And today I found a Cardinal fledge hiding in a nest while I was peeing by a bush (another benefit of country living)!
After a shower and supper, (my wife is an excellent cook by the way!) we pray the Rosary for the many intentions of our family, our friends, our church and the world. When we pray, the Communion of Saints surrounds us. Does the head go anywhere without the body? When we pray, Jesus, the head, is present, and his body is present as well, his body made up of the saints in heaven. We have a place to pray that reminds us that it is not just “me and Jesus” but Jesus, us, and our many friends we have made that are not bound by time or space. Some of these icons we made, some we bought, and many are gifts from friends.
Sometimes in the evening, we watch TV (I like building shows, cooking shows and crime dramas) or listen to audio books or listen to music or read. I stopped watching the news a long time ago. I have considered the facts, (things don’t end well), and I am still joyful. Then it is time for bed. Sometimes I wake up around 3:00 am and can’t get back to sleep. I usually pray another divine mercy chaplet until I get sleepy.
Ora et labora, work and prayer are not so different as Reverend Reginald points out:
As the penultimate prayer, I have long loved the sacrament of the Most Holy Eucharist and believe in the true presence of Jesus: body and blood, soul and divinity. It was only recently that I learned the body of Christ we consume in the Eucharist is the RISEN body of our Lord. What better way to practice resurrection?
James B. Janknegt was born in Austin, Texas in 1953. He attended public schools. He graduated with a BFA from the University of Texas in Austin in 1978 and an MA and MFA from the University of Iowa in 1982. After his return to Austin he exhibited his work in various galleries and museums in Texas and the U.S.
The Janknegts converted to Catholicism in 2005 and were received into full communion in 2007.
In 1998 the Janknegts moved from Austin to Elgin, Texas where the have an ArtFarm. They grow artists, fruits, vegetables, chickens, goat, guinea hens, peacocks, and ducks. They also have two dogs.
Jim always worked full time to pay the bills and painted in his off hours. He painted billboards, dressed store windows, drove a taxi, sold plumbing and hardware supplies, worked as a graphic artist assistant, ran an offset printing press, been a procurement officer and a building manager and taught private art lessons. He worked as the building manager for the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin until he retired in 2015.
When he is not painting he enjoys reading, building things, gardening, tending to animals and camping. He also enjoys watching movies and listening to music.
(You can see all the Practice Resurrection 2019 guest posts here.)