Living at the convergence of faith and art.

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Art From the Inside Out

Esther-01

“Esther” – Mixed-Media / 8.5 x 11 / Acrilycs, Color Pencil on Cardstock / (c)2013 Lewis M. Curtiss jr~

In my on-going creative life as a faith-driven artist, I’ve come to know that any art I make is the direct outgrowth of my relationship in Father God. Father and I co-labor in the creative process and, together, we birth creative expression. Without my deep, abiding, loving relationship in Him, my art would be a mere object, an artifact, to be sold in the marketplace of the world. It would lack any attributes of either Father, or myself.

I’ve come to understand that, in my work as a faith-driven artist, I need to work creatively from the inside out. The art I make is fully reliant upon my relationship with Father God, not on my skills, not on my ideas. Just as relational-faith works from the gate of First Love, from the inside going outward, so must I as a faith-driven artist. This spiritual direction is in stark contrast to the teachings of the spirit of religion, which says that we’re to work on the outside first and then move inward.

The spirit of religion is concerned most with behavior, just as the world is. Theologists taught me that I need to work on my spiritual actions and attitudes before I am acceptable to God and the church. Conduct, behavior, and beliefs become of first importance, perhaps even idolized. But in relational-faith, Father teaches me that the attitude of my heart is of first importance, and that conduct, behavior, and beliefs will follow as a result of my healing, growth, and wholeness. If I begin from within, in His Presence, all else, in living as Jesus does, follows.

Author and teacher, Ian Clayton teaches this reality in his work on our spiritual gates (see recommended reading below). We begin with our first gate, the gate of our First Love – Father / Son / Holy Spirit. We begin with our relationship with Father, in Father, dwelling in His Presence. If my art is going to be driven by my faith, and not a mere product of my life in this world; if it’s going to be formed and birthed by my relationship in Him, then this is where I must begin.

It’s something of a marriage, Father and me. In as much as husband and wife, in their love, birth a life together, so Father and I birth art together. The life which is born of marriage, a child, carries genetic attributes of its mother and father. In the same way, our art, Father’s and mine, is imbued and endowed with attributes of both of us with what you might call our spiritual DNA.

Madeleine L’Engle put it this way in her masterwork, Walking On Water: Reflections on Faith and Art when she said, The artist is a servant who is willing to be a birthgiver. In a very real sense the artist (male or female) should be like Mary who, when the angel told her that she was to bear the Messiah, was obedient to the command.” pg18. She says much more, but that’s the heart of the idea. My faith-driven art is the direct result of the depth, richness, and qualities of my intimate spiritual relationship in Father God, and that relationship begins at the deepest level, at the Gate of First Love.

Recommended reading;

1 – “Gateways of the Threefold Nature of Man”, by Ian Clayton.

2 – “Walking On Water: Reflections on Faith and Art”, by Madeleine L’Engle.

From The Table of Making: A New Series

Peter by Rembrandt

Peter Denies Christ – Rembrandt

I’m going to begin a new series of posts relating to my creative journey, From the Table of Making. These last few years have seen huge breakthroughs in my art practice as I’ve been growing ever closer to Father God. That closeness has come as a direct result of my relationship with Father, of getting to know Him, and of falling ever more deeply in love with Him.

Some time back, maybe two years ago now, I was in my silent time with Him, I was meditating in His Presence, and suddenly I found myself standing in a huge room way out in the Cosmos. The floor and walls were clear and I beheld the stars and galaxies of His Creation. There in the middle of “the room” was a very large, clear, boardroom table. Jesus sat at the other end.

Welcome … this is the place from which you and I will commune in the process of your making art. This is The Table of Making.”

I was jaw dropped, and I remember having a few questions, not many, because my spirit trusted in whatever was going to develop in our creative relationship from this place.

These days I go there often, and after just a few visits, when I showed up, there sat Michelangelo, VanGogh, Rembrandt, DaVinci, and many others. I then understood that I was among some very creative company, not because they’re famous in this world, but because, in some way, at some point, their own art-making was faith-driven. What they made, what they “saw” in the midst of their creativity, was driven by the relational faith they had with Father God, and now here I was, enjoying close, intimate, creative pursuits in the Presence of my Creator.

This creative relationship with Father and the journey we share is the stuff of this series of posts.

Freedom: Journal Post 04.27.16

Rejection-Identity-COVER - sml

I had quite a powerful experience last night, not a big deal, but some kind of breakthrough nonetheless.

I woke up in the middle of the night, as is my custom. I went to the restroom and returned to bed in a kind of funk. I’ve been working over the course of a number of months to be free of negative, hideous, thoughts. From my decades of both a rough upbringing and my war studies (40+ years), I know that they’re a spiritual thing

So I crawl back into bed and the filthy scenarios going through my head were just driving me nuts. I thought I’d already gotten rid of this stuff. Why has this filth returned?

Then I remembered something written by Faith Rockrimmon about rejection, and I paraphrase; Rejection is not how we rid ourselves of what ails our spirit. Rejection doesn’t remove it. We need to refocus our attention deeply into the reality of our relationship with Father God. We need to go and get ourselves buried in Him and His love.

My head was full of filth, I wanted desperately to be free of it and so I began not to run from this enemy, but to affirm my identity in Father God. I don’t know how long I laid there, but I offered a constant stream of short declarations of Truth, all in Jesus’ name; I am priceless, in Jesus’ name. I am built and birthed by Father God, in Jesus’ name. I have a divine, heavenly destiny, in Jesus’ name. He loves me, and sent His one and only Son to save me, in Jesus’ name.; simple, short declarations, one after another.

Eventually, I felt something in my body, a lightness, a total numbness, I don’t know what, but in the midst of it I couldn’t feel my body. I couldn’t feel the bed. Something lifted from me, or from out of me … I really don’t know. Amidst my on-going declarations, this lifting sensation happened strongly three times, and lightly, twice. Something happened, and in the midst of these experiences, I declared; Father I am unafraid. Father I will go wherever You are taking me.

Now, this morning, I believe what I felt was the spirits of those filthy things leaving. They were utterly unable to stand in the Presence of the declarations I was making in Jesus’ name.  That’s the important thing; In Jesus’ name.

Faith Rockrimmon’s book Rejection and Identity is a landmark work in my life because of the premise. She says that rejection and shame are spirits. They’re not mental conditions, or the result of abuse, etc. They’re spirits, and ignoring them, rejecting them, rebuking them is not how we can be free of them. The key is found within our relational identity with Father God, and none other. In short, if we simply disengage from our battle with them, and immerse ourselves in the Truth(s) of our relationship with Father God, we cut off the root source of their power to remain. They cannot stand in the Presence and fact(s) of our relationship with and in Father – period.

This is not an external, psychological battle with our thoughts, or behavior modification. This isn’t a battle at all. This liberty is something we already possess if we will simply engage in it and dwell there. There is a complete and total absence of conflict because this transformation is about engaging in the Truth(s) of our relationship in Father, and not about any form or sort of conflict whatsoever.

I’m free … I feel different … the voice(s) of gloom and doom are gone. I am declaring my belief that they never return … in fact that in itself is non-existent. I declare that I am, in Jesus’ name – period.

Amen ~

05.09.16

Since that morning’s episode I have been revisited by what I call spirits of filth, but only lightly and briefly.  Each time I once again state the emphatic Truth(s) of my relationship with and in Father God.  The spirits flee immediately.  I praise God and thank Faith Rockrimmon for this tool I can apply from a seat of rest, with complete and total confidence that I Am free!

The Community I’ve Found

paper cranes

Paper Cranes Sarah Klockers-Clauser

I want to tell you about a Community of Faith that I’ve found. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that they found me. It’s interesting how Father God lovingly invites us down special paths of life designed specifically to meet our needs.

I think some really brief backstory is important or the significance of this Community will not be fully appreciated.

All my life I’ve gone to church, the institutional church. I’ve sat and listened to the sermons. I’ve stood and sung hymns. I’ve always believed that this was the Church, the Body of Christ, where I’d encounter Father God. But it wasn’t, and I didn’t. Something, … something that I couldn’t put my finger on, was somehow missing. Now, you need to know that in no way am I criticizing that centuries old institution of church. This is my story of my journey, and that is all it is; nothing more.

At some point, after marriage, and raising our children, I didn’t attend church much. I just slipped away and was open to whatever else Father might have for me and my life. To cut a long story short, it was through one friend after another that Father lead me to a vibrant Spirit-filled Community of the Body of Christ. This is Church without the building, without all of the trappings of mere religion, without the hierarchy, without the idolatry of mere theology. I found God outside of the covers of the Bible; intimately, personally, face to face. And I wasn’t alone … there was a Community.

This Community I’ve found has three powerful aspects to it that I wouldn’t trade for anything. They are a movement (not an institution); they are organic in nature, and they are entirely relational.

In it’s organic nature, this community is Community. The famous story of Stone Soup comes to mind. People round about had little or nothing to eat. Then a clever man brings a stone with which to make a soup. He begins to boils it in water. After a while he invites the people each to bring what they have to add to the soup; vegetables, salt, meat, broth, whatever they had. Each put into the soup what they had. After a while the soup was done and everyone had soup. Everyone ate their fill of what had begun so simply as a stone boiling in water. Now they were a Community, sharing what they had and who they were with one another. That’s the Community I’ve found.

This Community is part of God’s global movement, His Body. There are no preachers, although there are ordained clergy among us. There is no hierarchy, no pecking order, no formal documents to tell us who’s who and how we’re all supposed to behave. We’re a movement created, governed and, fully lead by Father God. It reminds me of Israel’s days of The Judges. God was their King … not a man. It was God who lead and “ruled” the people. So it is with our Community.

This Community is fully relational. Everything about it is relationship based, meaning we begin, each of us, with a deep, personal, intimate relationship with Father God. He is the unifying force and power of this Community. He is what makes us a Community. He is our spine and our glue.

Having begun in our relationship with Father, we extend that relationship to one another. As a movement, and not an institution, the organic nature of the Body of Christ is fully manifest. When someone needs healing, like white blood cells, a number of us gravitate toward that need and pray it away in healing. When someone celebrates, we all celebrate. We bear one another’s burdens and share one another’s joys. All of this, absolutely all of this is joy and not obligation. It’s fully Love and not duty.

In this Community I have never experienced so much joy and excitement with Father God and with one another in all my life. This is a priceless Community wherein I find the God of the heart, the God of relationship, the God of love. This is what / Who I’ve been looking for, and I’ve found Him.

Is There Life or Death?


Fayum-79 sml

Fayum Mask 1st Century AD

But you have received the Holy Spirit, and He lives within you, so you don’t need anyone to teach you what is true. For the Spirit teaches you everything you need to know, and what He teaches is true – it is not a lie. So just as He has taught you, remain in fellowship with Christ.”

1John 2:27 NLT (emphasis mine)

I read this passage from a blog post by Chip Brogden. He was writing about discernment and knowing what is truth or a lie. He wrote that discernment is not about deciding what is right or wrong, but about seeing what has Life or death in it.

The big revelation that Father gave me about this passage is the implication of our relationship with Him. In order to hear what the Spirit of God has to say about something, to help us discern the presence or absence of Life, I must have a vibrant, thriving relationship with Father God, His Son, and His Spirit.

Here in 1John 2 is scriptural teaching of the vital need to have a relationship with Father God, not a Theologists head knowledge about God. If I were to rely upon my head to discern, I might as well cut a divining rod, or toss a coin for all the good it’ll do. I’d be looking for the wrong thing, in the wrong place, with the wrong tool(s). But, if my life is filled with the organic, living Presence of God, wherein I actually talk with Him and spend time with Him, I’ll come to know what is Truth or not.  I’ll know it and recognize it.

I’ve never, ever been taught this; that we need to seek, cultivate, and nourish a living relationship with Father God. Every single preacher, teacher, book author, etc. has taught me to know all that I can possibly glean from the Bible about God. To approach Father God is supposedly impossible because I’m merely a forgiven sinner, and while sanctified by the blood of Christ, I am not worthy to approach Him directly. That’ll all happen once my tired old body gives up its ghost in physical death.

My life’s desire is to know God directly, personally, intimately, and to approach Him in the same way. It’s not that I just have a million questions for Him. No, it’s about wanting to know my true Father, personally, directly, and intimately. And scripture says that if I’ll make the effort, I can do just that. Further, scripture says that because of that deeply personal, intimate relationship wherein I approach my Father with any question I have, I will know immediately whether what I am pondering has Life in it or not. I will know this just as surely and deeply as I know Him.

Spending time with Life Himself does that. That time with Father is what teaches, nourishes, and trains my spirit to know the genuine article from the counterfeit fakes of the Liar, Satan.

Bank tellers were once trained, by touch, to instantly know counterfeit money from the genuine article. The same principle is at work here. The more time I spend with Him whom I love, the more readily I know the Truth from a lie, Life from death.

Because of this Cosmic relationship with Father, I don’t even need to use my head, going down a check list of identifying factors. I also don’t ask the wrong question(s); is this right or wrong? Is this good or bad? Discernment isn’t about right or wrong, good or bad … as Chip Brogden puts it, it’s always about Life or death – period. And discernment begins with and is grounded in a relationship with God.

Relationship is everything. Relationship, deep, personal, intimate, messy, and sometimes scary is the essence of all I am, all I do, and all I become. It is my identity. Why?; because, as my son Levi reminds me so often, Nothing makes sense without God. 

The Quitter’s Manual – Mangerchine

Quitter's ManualFor years, decades really I’ve struggled with rest, not mere inactivity, vacation, or sleep, but true, deep rest. I was once a firecracker burning at both ends, always working, and always busy. I suffered severe burnout three times. You’d think I would have learned my lesson the first time. In these vain pursuits of success, productivity, or achievement I found my identity and value, just as my culture instilled in me; work hard, live fast, and you’ll be a success.

Author, consultant, speaker Jeremy Mangerchine had a similar experience and writes about how Father God was finally able to get him to pay attention to his health, his identity, and his relationship with Him. The book is The Quitter’s Manual: Finding Rest in a World Gone Berserk, and Jeremy’s idea of quitting isn’t what most of us might think. It’s a nice brief 108-pages of essential life changing wisdom.

In a wonderful autobiographical series of anecdotes Mangerchine brings us along on his own journey into Father’s realm of true rest, of a powerful life in the Presence of God without strife, without struggle, or futile busyness.

What I enjoy so very much is how Jeremy shares his own journey, and doesn’t wag a finger at any of his readers. For us it’s a take it or leave it proposition, but personally, I found this book liberating, and affirming. I’ve come a long way on my won rest-seeking life journey and for me, it was good to read how I can better that journey as well as find encouragement in what I’m already doing well.

Great book. Short and powerful read. Life changing, if we want it.

Truth Through a Lens

  lifethroughalens This evening, I watched a film (80 mins) on photographer Annie Liebovitz, Life Through a Lens. It’s aptly titled because following her early career to today, it’s an historic walk through the 1970’s, 80’s, 90’s, and now. We revisited San Francisco and the sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll era. We wandered through several decades of Rolling Stone magazine, read by anyone wanting social and cultural change. We moved on to her current work with magazines, Vogue, and Vanity Fair. It was 40-years of American, New York cultural history and influence.

What struck me most was how so many up and comers find their creative expression in such destructive lifestyles. She talked about her incredibly close friendship with the late Susan Sontag, singer & visual artist Patti Smith, and her engaging work in the lives of a vast array of celebrities. This film is a whirl wind tour of the back half of the twentieth century all seen in the tumultuous context that is artistic New York.

This morning Manuel Luz, singer/songwriter and author wrote a wonderful post. In Science, Hendrix, Banned Books & Brokeness he spoke of how truth is so often found even in the midst of lives of death and destruction.

Angst is real. It’s a part of what is true. So if you’re wanting music or any art form that is true, you go for truth, regardless of where it comes from. I think Jimi Hendrix was doing something that was actually really true. Now he was coming from a sense of brokenness, and I feel bad for that because he never was able to reconcile that. My faith is what has helped me to reconcile…”

So many Christians in this season – and it’s becoming less so, praise God – keep ugliness and unpleasantness at arms length simply because it is unpleasant and ugly. They’re not really looking for God’s Truth, but merely a quiet, pleasant life. When it comes to their kids being seduced by pop culture, or secular humanism, their tendency is to wall themselves off with their families lest they be contaminated. In this way, these Christians are operating from a posture of fear and are allowing themselves to be neutralized by their enemy, the Liar. To them God isn’t very powerful, and evil must be battled even here in the physical / material realm. Folly this.

This is perhaps the main reason the institutional church fights to manage artists who are Christian; much Truth is found amid ugliness and unpleasantness. If the artists are forced to seek Truth in stringently clean, fully Christianized contexts, well then, it will be not only beautiful, but pleasant. However it will contain absolutely no Truth.

Because artists are open, brave, and receptive to the world around them, their lives are often lived as loose cannon, rolling around the deck of life and doing “damage”. Christians who wall-off and shelter themselves from unpleasantness and ugliness seek peace and order, something that life has very little of, and in so doing endeavor to present a Theology of Aesthetics. In effect these wall builders seek to dictate and control expressions of beauty and the arts. Therein lies much of the basis of the centuries old friction between the institutional church and artists.

This is why I am creative outside of the church, and in The Church (Body of Christ). I do not allow any institution to dictate to me what I will or will not produce as art. If the creative person is censured, there is little or no Truth in the work, just Christian propaganda; yet another reason why 1-million Christians are leaving the institutional church every year and seeking God in person – directly and relationally.

And all of this was triggered and unpacked just by a documentary film on the greatest cultural photographer of our times.    Amen ~

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