We love a God of beauty.
We worship a God of art, of music, of literature.
We serve a God of perfection.
We adore a God Who gives us only His best.
Why, oh why, then do we consistently offer Him art that is, to put it bluntly, junk?
Why do we think that music that is dull and overly simple is what is best for inspiring our hearts to worship? Why do we think that literature that is bland and is bad storytelling will turn our minds toward thoughts of God? Why do we think that art that is commercialized and overly sentimental will cause our imaginations to soar to the heavens?
Perhaps this is harsh. I will fully admit that there are artists (in the full sense of the word) out there who inspire awe in the hearts of all those who come across it. But this is not the norm. Not anymore, that is.
It used to be that Christians artists were at the top of their craft. They were respected and admired throughout the world. Think Bach. Think Correggio. Think Milton and Tolstoy.
It is not this way anymore. The secular world no longer looks up to Christian art to lead the way. Instead it sneers at Christian art and views it as subpar, something to be shunned rather than something to inspire.
To paraphrase James: my brothers, this should not be! The lack of excellence in our art indicates to the world that we serve a God who is less than excellent.
Much so-called religious art is in fact bad art, and therefore bad religion. ~ Madeleine L’Engle
Oh, we could do so much better. We could open ourselves up to the power of the Holy Spirit rather than to the power of the market.
Fellow artists, let God inspire you. Open yourself to that which you cannot control. Ignore the sale; ignore what you think people want. Listen instead to the Spirit. Listen to what God is showing you through your work: “my proper place is as a servant struggling to be faithful to the work, the work which slowly and gently tries to teach me some of what it knows.” (L’Engle)
Let your art sing. Let it soar.
Those who are not artists, be discerning. If it is good art, if it inspires you and sets your imagination soaring toward God, then support it. If it is bad art, don’t support and sustain it simply because it involved the name or image of Christ.
I know that my words do not reach many, but I dream of a day when those who claim to follow a God of beauty and excellence are once again those who produce that art which leads the entire world in soaring to the heights, are once again those who produce the art which therefore points the way to God.
Formulas are nice when you want to control your results.
Living creatively is risky.
Yet the first thing that we are told about this God in whose image we are created is that He Himself is creative. He is a creator.
You can never tell what will come of living creatively. Even many who are courageous enough to practice an art form and share it with the world would prefer to live more formulaically.
Many of our choices in this life can be directly guided by what God says through His Scriptures. Am I angry with someone? I should not kill them. Do I see something I like in a store window? I should not steal it.
Yet there are so many other areas in our lives where we are asked to live as courageously as artists, to be riskily creative with our choices. We ask God where we should live, where we should go to school, whom we should marry, what sort of career we should pursue, how exactly we should parent our children, and we are dissatisfied with the answer that God can use us wherever we are and on whatever path we choose.
There are other, more specific situations, in which we long with all of our being to do the right thing, to obey God, to be like Jesus, yet that right thing is far from clear. This is where we yearn for a formula. We desperately want to be able to turn to a page, a verse, and get a specific answer for a specific issue.
We tell ourselves it is because we want to obey, yet perhaps it is often closer to the truth that we simply do not trust God’s Spirit in us. We do not trust that the Holy Spirit can guide us in the way that honors God. We are too fearful to take the risk of living like an artist.
I have been in the middle of just such a situation this week and have found myself searching anxiously for a formula to tell me what to do. I was attacked by a dog, a dog that is owned by a neighbor with a history of keeping dogs who have to be put down for attacking people.
Whether or not my neighbor knows God, I am not aware. What an amazing opportunity to make God known to her! And I live in a neighborhood filled with children. God asks us to protect the weak, to care for those who cannot care for themselves.
How can I do both of these things? How can I glorify God to my neighbor and protect the children of our neighborhood at the same time? Certainly an eternal soul is more important than any physical harm, yet God also calls us to work toward justice and the defense of the weak.
Part of the trouble that I (and most of you, I would wager!) like to know my path several steps in advance. Preferably enough steps in advance to allow me to see the end. I do not like walking forward when I can only see the space where my foot will land next.
I knew my next step. I knew that God was asking me to meet with the owner of the dog and just speak with her, but that wasn’t enough. I wanted to know what would happen after that. I wanted to see all the way to the end, to know how I would both protect the children and make God known to my neighbor.
God did not ask me to plan out all of my steps to the end. He did not tell me the formula I should use to accomplish both of these goals. He did not give me the task of making certain that everything was ordered perfectly in order to reach His aims.
He only asked me to do the first thing and to trust Him with the rest, to live creatively and allow the Spirit to guide me one step at a time.
So I did. I met with the dog’s owner without knowing what would come next. I took the risk of starting down this path, trusting that God will shine His light ahead when the time is right. I don’t yet know the ending to this story. I don’t know how God will work things out.
So I live like an artist, taking the risk to wait for His light without planning all of my steps to completion, knowing that God is far more able to control the ending than any number of formulas that I might follow.
Even though I still like formulas.
Art credits: God Creating the Sun, the Moon and the Stars by Jan Breughel; Paint-by-numbers photo by Isabelle Bart; Christ with the Children by Carl Bloch; Christ and the Samaritan Woman by Henryk Siemiradzki
In the beginning was a Story.
At first, the Story existed only in the form of an Idea. Then the Author began to tell the Story little by little, within the confines of time.
As the Story unfolded, there emerged within smaller shadow-Stories, told over shorter spans of time.
These smaller shadow-Stories reflected the same greater Story, yet were given the gift of being allowed to help their Author to write their Story. The shadow-Stories were allowed to choose their own responses to whatever occurred to them while they existed within the greater Story.
Some of the shadow-Stories chose to reflect the greater Story more perfectly than others, to become a more complete shadow, yet all contained the great Story within themselves to some degree.
Many of the smaller shadow-Stories authored even smaller echoes of the greater Story. These echo-Stories were smaller in size, and not all of their authors were aware of their own Author, yet many of the echo-Stories became even more filled with power than were their authors.
The echo-Stories were told to many of the shadow-Stories and, because they were filled with power, were able to stir within the shadow-Stories the Idea that had existed in the beginning.
In the middle of the greater Story, the Author placed Himself.
He authored Himself to be one of the shadow-Stories, yet He was the most perfect reflection of the great Story. Within this smaller Author-Story was the complete Idea, perfectly written out for all to read.
The smaller Author-Story was the Idea in Word, the most perfect of all the Stories. The other shadow-Stories could look to Him and discover the sort of Story they were written to be.
Within the smaller Author-Story, the other shadow-Stories are able to catch a glimpse of the end of the greater Story. In catching a glimpse of the end, the shadow-Stories are enabled to help write their own Story more perfectly.
For while they do not yet know what each piece of the great Story will bring, the shadow-Stories can know what the end of the Story will bring.
And the wisest of the shadow-Stories will help to write their own Story with the end of the greater Story in mind.
These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.
For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.
“I see,” she said. “This is still Narnia, and more real and more beautiful than the Narnia down below, just as it was more real and more beautiful than the Narnia outside the stable door! I see…world within world, Narnia within Narnia…” “Yes,” said Mr. Tumnus, “like an onion: except that as you continue to go in and in, each circle is larger than the last.” ~ The Last Battle
I am a writer.
I think I can say that now.
I have always been an artist and I have always been a reader, but writing? Writing I have only toyed with. Until now.
Two years of steady writing.
Two years of writing several times a week, sharing a new essay or poem every single week.
I have worked hard and have come a long way in the practice of my craft. I still have a long way to go.
I began this blog as a result of a stirring of the Holy Spirit. I felt that God was asking me to write and to share what I wrote. I don’t yet feel released from that request, so I will continue to share what I write.
Besides, it’s kind of fun.
I love words and I love visual art, and I love crafting the two together to form my own kind of art. I also love studying and learning.
So I will continue to write for myself.
I love when what I write connects with someone else. I love when I hear that I have touched someone or helped someone with the words that I have put down. We are made in the image of a relational God.
So I will continue to write for others.
I love that this studying and writing process has helped me grow closer to my God. I love how much I have learned about Him and how my learning makes me fall more in love with Him.
So I will continue to write for God.
I still have much fear in my heart. I am afraid that my writing is not very beautiful. I am afraid that people will not like it or, perhaps still worse, will not even read it. I am afraid that I will get something wrong and God will be disappointed. I am afraid that I will reveal my heart and people will turn away.
This kind of fear is not from God.
I still have big dreams. I have dreams of publishing articles. I have a book written that I don’t know what to do with. Yet my time is mostly taken with these little ones that have been entrusted to me and there is little time left after my writing to pursue publishing. So perhaps this is a season of practice, of preparation.
Chances are that God has something in mind for me. Chances are that it is not what I expect.
This is where I am after two years. Still writing. Still hoping that my writing will help others. Still pursuing God through my writing.
I will end this second year as I began:
Whatever the reason for my writing, here I am in this space. I will continue to obey, even though it is hard and often causes my heart to feel fear. I will write. God will listen. I pray He will continue to be pleased.
I am an artist.
There is a piece inside of me that is most fulfilled when I am creating.
I love watching my girls create. They are so happy when they are creating something with their own hands.
All people are creative. Do you believe that? The older I get and the more people I meet, the more I believe it. All people are creative…read the rest here!
Join me over at Embracing Grace (EmbracingGrace.net) today!