Living at the convergence of faith and art.

Faith

Walking On Water

Walking on Water - Stocksnap - VERT

Walking On Water – Stocksnap

Walking on water (Matt 14:25-31) is God’s invitation for me to move forward in life, through thick and thin. And it works very well as long as I am staring into the face of Christ. At that moment, I am not thinking about what’s going on around me or whether this is possible or not. I am only gazing intently into the face of the One whom I love so deeply, Christ Jesus.

This realization came about because I was having difficulty managing my own reaction to bad news. I am deeply affected by how we humans treat Father God; how we humans treat one another; how we humans treat the gift of our home, the Earth.

Oh, and I need to tell you that when I use the phrase, Father God, I am referring to all three persons of the Holy Trinity, not just God, the Father, Almighty.

What so often happens is that I allow myself to become focused on the problem and seem to forget the solution which is my Beloved Father God. I allow myself to become focused on what’s amiss and is paining me instead of moving into an intimate embrace of Father God.

Meditations of Quiet

I can step into His embrace simply by stopping my fretting and doing a quieting meditation on a particular passage of scripture. I often use Psalm 46:10 or John 14:6. I focus specifically on the words of action. For example from Psalm 46; Be STILL and KNOW that I AM GOD. Or from John 14; I AM the WAY the TRUTH, and the LIFE. These meditations help to bring me back to a focus on Father.

Meditating upon Father reminds me of several important things. First, that this world and her people aren’t my personal problem. The world is Father God’s project. The best that I can personally do is to speak to people one at a time through the artwork we make. Talking to people’s hearts is what the art that Father and I make is all about. Each book that we write, each painting that we make, each has an audience. It is Father’s Holy Spirit who prepares the hearts of individuals to receive His invitation of love. These preparations are Father’s role, not mine.

Second, and especially useful to me, is the power of just being still and quiet. That’s the terrific gift in Psalm 46:10 – “Be still and know that I am God.” This particular Psalm has several invitations into Father’s embrace. Whenever I am out of sorts, to be still is perhaps the most crucial inner state of being. To know – not in my head, but in my heart – is a confidence builder for me. It’s a commitment to trust Him; that Father has everything under control. I can relax and get on with my walking on water.

Writing & Journaling

I can also move into His embrace by writing in my two-way journal in which I have meaningful conversations with Father. What I enjoy about these times is the free exchange I have with Father. It’s as if we’re both in me – well, we actually are – and we’ve met at a heavenly coffee shop, and we’re chatting about what’s on our hearts.

Again, this communion with Father brings my eyes off the water upon which I am walking, and the many fish below who are living their lives, and it draws me into the loving eyes of Father God. When I am writing, just as I am right now, it’s as if I am transported to another place and time. It’s only Beloved and me with no one to disturb our peace.

Writing is, for me, the equivalent to ascending and seeing in the Spirit. That’s what I mean about being transported. It is in these states of being that exchange happens. It’s an intimate exchange, spirit to Spirit, a mystic union if you will. In these states of seeing and ascending, I can bring whatever is of concern to me and seek Father’s counsel.

The bottom line for me is that anything, whether writing or meditation, which draws my gaze and attention to Him is all that I need to continue walking atop the troubled waters of life. Gazing into His love and beauty reminds me that these matters aren’t my personal problem to solve. Falling into His embrace reminds me of the God-given gift that I am to the world and that the one thing I can do to make a difference is praying through the art that Father God and I make every day.

For more perspective on dealing with life challenges and difficulties, see my two-part post on the Crown of Thorns; Enduring Hardship; Love and Dignity.

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Part 2 – Crown of Thorns: Love and Dignity

 

crown of thorns - flickr: commons

Crown of Thorns – flickr commons

Re-post from NW Ekklesia.com

 

In a previous post, I shared my vision of seeing and receiving my Crown of Thorns. At that time Father God had given me a spiritual tool to help me endure life’s challenges without feeling a desire to give up. My Crown of Thorns enables me to keep moving into creation, life, and light. It reminds me that I am loved and am not alone.

Since then Father has also revealed a good deal more about the significance of the crown and how, at His crucifixion, instead of mocking the Christ, it was actually one of His highest honors. So too can it be for each of us as well.

First, Christ went to the cross out of love for us. He went to restore us to full relationship with Father God.

Second, any mockery from the Liar toward Christ that came through His executioners was foiled by God’s love for us and by the truth that indeed Christ is King.

Christ’s Love for Us

Christ – to my way of looking at it – went to the cross entirely out of love for the children of God. It was out of love for all persons that empowered the Christ to say, “Father forgive them for they know not what they’re doing.” Christ loved even His persecutors, so much so that He forgave them.

The purpose of Christ’s sacrifice was not – first and foremost – to save us from our sins. For me to think so, I would actually be living in a spirit of fear – fear of hell and damnation. If there is anything to fear it would be separation from God. If you know anything about my life story, separation from God was not what I wanted.

Christ’s sacrificial gift is a gift of life. It is a gift of restoration allowing to move us back into deep, personal relationship with God the Father. The sin issue is minor when compared to our full and complete restoration into relationship.

Christ’s example is a love that we know almost nothing of here in this world. We live in an eye for an eye culture that demands vengeance and retribution instead of forgiveness. In our human condition, we prize justice instead of righteousness. I am convinced that most of us don’t even know what justice and righteous actually are. Most of us in this world seem to believe in a resolution of violence, however mild or severe, as if they will solve our problem and make the world a better place. Personally, I’m not convinced that any of us even know what that so-called better place would look like. We’re so profoundly governed by our own self-interests which affect our grasp of these concepts.

Christ as King

In a way, it’s funny how often the Liar tries to mock Christ, God, or the Holy Spirit because he reminds me so much of Wiley Coyote from the Warner Brothers cartoons. Everything that the coyote tries in order to catch the Roadrunner, literally backfires on him. That, of course, is what’s so funny in the cartoon and the unmatched futility of both the coyote and the Liar are what amuses me. Mocking God however is not a laughing matter even for the Liar.

At Jesus’ crucifixion, I’m guessing that the Liar thought that he had won. After all, he was killing the Christ, the very Son of God, whom he knew full well had come to save the world. But as it is stated in C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, the White Witch had forgotten the deep magic.

So it was that the Liar lead the Roman executioners to mock the Christ with a crown of thorns instead of giving Him the usual gold crown of laurel or oak leaves. Both were traditional in those days.

I firmly believe that Christ wore His crown of thorns joyfully, maybe even with modest pride. That crown spoke truthfully of His Kingship. I’d like to believe that angels by the thousands were singing songs of praise and honor to Him, and perhaps He heard them.

I’ve come to see more in my own Crown of Thorns. For me, my Crown of Thorns is far more than just a wondrous tool that helps me to endure hardship. It is indeed a celebration of my own son-ship as a prince of the heavenly realms – one among billions. My Crown of Thorns reminds me of and reinforces my own identity in Christ, my Lord, and my Brother.

Lew Curtiss is a facilitator and artist with NW Ekklesia. To read more of his story click on the link here; http://nwekklesia.com/artists/lew-curtiss/

 


Part 1 – Crown of Thorns: Enduring Hardship

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Andrey Grinkevich – Unsplash

Re-post from NW Ekklesia.com;

Let me tell you a story about a gift from Father God that released me from my attitude of bondage and set me creatively free. For a long time, I was very ambiguous about life. In fact, at times I didn’t care if I woke up in the morning. I felt that bad.

A series of life experiences had become burdens of futility. What I mean is that it didn’t seem to matter what I would do to buoy myself up; eventually, I would slip back down into a heavy ambiguity. The life experiences that burdened me were a childhood and youth of disruptions in my family-life so much so that I finally lost all sense of peace and safety. Then there were years of burdens from adult life that just simply wore me down. In the end, I was a borderline diabetic and carried an extra 110-pounds of body weight. The overall effect of these experiences was that my desire to grow out of this stuff was wearing down to nothing.

The vision of a solution came in quiet time with the Lord. In meditation in the Spirit, I saw huge thorns. I was surrounded by brambles as if I were in a thicket of them. At first, I interpreted them to be a presentation of my life of prickly challenges and pain. But by zooming back for a broader view, it became apparent that I was staring at a Crown of Thorns. This is the same device that the Roman soldiers used on the Christ to mock Him (Matt 27; Mark 15; John 19) as the “king of the Jews.”

I asked Father, “What’s this got to do with me?” Then I saw a tree with a vertical crotch of two great big limbs. I believe that it was an oak tree because of the bark and leaves I could see. On the left, the limb was gray and dead. On the right, the limb was alive and healthy.

Father said to me, “On the left, you can see your ambiguity toward life and death. On the right, you can see life itself. Choose.” This tree was actually a fork in the road of my life. I had a choice to make.

I looked and asked, “Why do I need to choose? Why can’t I just let things happen as they will? I’ll keep doing my work for however long I can, and if I don’t wake up one morning, then I’ll be free of life’s miseries.”

He showed me that, “The gray limb on the left is death. The green limb on the right is life. You cannot live in an imaginary gray area between the two. You either want death – and that is very likely why you don’t care if you live or die – or you want life. It’s one or the other and is not a mere coin toss. It’s one or the other. Secondly, to live with the presence of death lingering in your life will only bring death. It will kill any and all creative work and relationship that you attempt.”

For me to leave things in this vague state would completely block any work that I wanted to try and do. Death lingering over my shoulder dampened my attitude toward life and would effectively cut off anything that I thought I could do with my life. I hadn’t seen this before. This made sense, and it was as if this indecision diluted everything about living a worthwhile life.

I then realized that I needed to decide deliberately and not leave life and death to a mere celestial coin toss. Something welled up inside of me, maybe it was Father’s love, but I chose life. At that moment I sawed off the dead limb, choosing the whole-life trunk as my path.

At that moment, I suddenly understood the Crown of Thorns that Father had shown me earlier. This was my Crown of Thorns. This was Father’s gift to me to help remind me that life is always going to be peppered with troubles, large and small. The crown also told me that I am a prince of heaven. Lastly, I was reminded that my difficulties are not endured alone. Christ is present and offers to be my strength in the midst of them. For me it’s the knowledge that there is a way out, there is light at the end of the tunnel. I am not alone. I am loved, and that is what sustains me.

I now wear my Crown of Thorns whenever I face a challenge, difficulties, or any kind of senseless misery. It’s often difficult, but with Father and my crown, I can make it through the challenges of my life if I will but choose to.

Lew Curtiss is a facilitator and artist with NW Ekklesia. To read more of his story click on the link here; http://nwekklesia.com/artists/lew-curtiss/

 


A New Creative Perspective

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In this Holy Day season of Christmas, I am reminded by a Brother, Christ (like wrist) Otto, author of Mary: When God Shares His Glory, of the many parallels that we artists share with Mary, the mother of Jesus. The late Madeleine L’Engle, author of the master work, Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art, also drew on these parallels by reminding artists of the need to be available to the work Father asks of us. In submission and surrender Mary said, Let it be unto me according to Your will.” In this way the Word became Flesh and dwelt among us, Immanuel.

If we artists will adopt Mary’s submission to the work, we too can participate in this act of incarnation of His Word. Through us, in the cause of Father God, our art is also a form of His Word becoming flesh.

We might want to ask what our inspirational source is for the art we make. Is it our own mind, our own intellect? Or is our source, in relational-faith, none other than the Beloved Father Himself? And when the angel of invitation appears in our hearts, do we choose to accept Father’s invitation to make the work? Will we venture, with Him, into the invisible spiritual realm and render our experience as artwork to share with God’s people? If our relational-faith with Father God is indeed the sole source of our work, then can it not be said that we too participate in the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us?

We artists, as the Charashim of God (His creative artisans), are we not Spirit filled? Do we not posses the closest of intimate relationships with Father God? Do we not participate in our own Mystic Union, that He is in us and we are in Him?

The Holy Spirit came upon Mary and she conceived. In our own spiritual union with Father God we too can experience the conception of works of art that Father desires to share with the world. In this way we participate in the incarnation of His Word. But, are we willing to surrender our own agendas and yield to Him for the benefit of our fellow human kind? What is Father God asking each one of us to “enflesh,” as L’Engle says?

The choice is ours, dear artists. It’s always been ours.

all-saints-2887463_1920-long crop'd


The Cost of Love & Relationship

 

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Daria Shevtsova / Unsplash

A friend is in trouble. She woke up and is paralyzed on her left side and cannot stand. The prayer call came in and some of us are responding.

It weighs upon my heart when someone whom I love is in trouble. It’s part and parcel of the kingdom of relational-faith. In order to have relationship, one must risk their heart. Love, and the heart – not romance – are the essence of relationship. In my view, it’s impossible to have a relationship without love. Love is the stuff of relationship, and yes, I am repeating myself so that I am perfectly clear.

 

To risk one’s heart is to lay it out there where it can absorb both the joys and sorrows of others. In a word, relationship can be painful. It is the nature of relationships to have an aspect of discomfort and pain. It is also the nature of relationships to be filled with happiness and joy. It’s a connection of compassion and empathy all rolled into one. And I wouldn’t trade relationship for anything.

For me, relationship is life itself. As Father’s Word says, If I speak as do the angels, but have not love, I am nothing but a babbling noise maker. – my own paraphrase. Life and love and relationship are all three inextricably intermixed, just as is the Holy Trinity. One cannot separate oxygen from water without destroying the water itself. So it is with life, love, and relationship. They are three and yet One – period.

So, I choose to endure the lives of my friends and family, in love. I choose to hurt when they do, and to celebrate when and as they do also.

I choose this of my own freewill – Amen.


All Ways Growing in Freedom

 

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David Zawila / unsplash

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 4:11

 

I was reading from Galatians this morning and while I do grasp what Paul is on about, Father’s Spirit struck me with a contemporary parallel. In the second half of Galatians, Paul is dealing with those who preach a need for physical circumcision, a return to the burdensome slavery of the law. He’s working to separate the Jewish past of Mosaic Law from the Christian future of the new covenant in Christ. You ought to read it. You might find it interesting on its own merits.

What filled my heart is the powerful movement and need to move away from the spirit of mere religion and out into the liberation that Christ bought for all who believe in Him. Christ bought that liberty with His broken body and His shed blood – blood-bought as Joyce Meyers likes to put it.

I am so in love with Father God and am so deeply grateful for His restoration of relationship with Him through Christ. Words fail to fully express my gratitude and joy at this liberation and new relationship in which I now dwell.

The “yoke of slavery” which Paul speaks of is a yoke of law, of works, of burdensome ritual now rendered obsolete and moot in our lives as believers. I find, in the community I dwell in, that all of us still retain vestiges of the habitual influence of the spirit of religion. Having left that old world behind and been made new in Christ through relationship, not religion, I find that I still fall into very subtle habits of thought and action which reflect my own toxic past.

Some of my transformation that Father has lead me through has been hard won. It didn’t come about easily, nor in a flash. I confess that I had pains of the soul and spirit which had become very comfortable. They hurt, but I was both comfortable and familiar with them. Some of them were very difficult to release into Jesus’ hands.

My Beloved Father, by washing me in His love 24/7, shows me something different. He promises me something far better if I will but choose His gift over that with which I am familiar. It’s what my son, Levi, calls the genuine article versus the Liar’s fake. In this, Beloved Father has proved, time and again, that He is indeed faithful. He has proved His ongoing, undying, forever and ever love for me. When I release to Him something I no longer want, I receive a gift of immeasurable worth. That which He has for me does far more than merely replace what I’ve given up. Father’s gifts are many times greater, in every way, than what little toxic filth I’ve given up. Over time, it has become easier to recognize and release more and more vestiges of my old self, my old dead self.

As Father and I spend time together, situations and circumstances reveal old, tiny, bits and pieces of my old dead self and we deal with them. This process is somewhat like wounded soldiers who return from battle and are filled with shards of shrapnel. Over time their bodies push the fragments to the surface where they are washed away in the shower, or simply fall off. My vestiges are being brought to the surface, not by mental revelation, but by experiential relationship with my Father. And with a little minor surgery of His Divine Love, they’re removed one by one. My shrapnel is replaced with more and more of Him and I love Him for it – Amen.


Show Me …

Woman Face to Face-sml02As I sit reading my new book, Still Writing, by Dani Shapiro, I’m thinking about my own level of craft in Father’s and my artmaking. I’m thinking about the creative journey we set out on 10-years ago. I’m thinking how Father and I go at some aspect of the art we make and how much I need to grow and learn in order to achieve the skills needed to make what we’re after.

One reason I have minimal respect for over educated creative people is because what they’re thrusting in my direction is their intimate knowledge of mere craft. They don’t compose. They’re not artists who compose. They may not even be artists at all. They’re interpreters and collaborators who are largely incapable of an original action of their own. They rely upon their knowledge of mere technique and method and have little or no inkling of personal expression.

Am I comparing myself to these artless technicians? Not at all. I am simply stating that method and technique, without a heart for deeply original creative expression, is no substitute – that’s all.

My wife and I were once gifted with tickets to a concert in which an arrogant little nitwit with thousands of hours of training stepped out to play Gershwin’s American in Paris. I love George Gershwin’s work and was very excited at this rare opportunity to hear this performance. I didn’t give a wit about this self absorbed kid who was going to play for us. I loved the music itself, and in the hands of an artist, the interpretation had all of the emotion of a hustling, bustling metropolis in sound. In the hands of an artist, Gershwin’s city had life and it can be palpable.

What I heard was absolutely nothing of what Gershwin had written on the page. The performance had nothing of what flowed from Gershwin’s artist heart. This kid beat all of the life out of this magnificent work of original music because he was only interested in showing off his technique. He was an insipid robot sitting there at the keyboard obediently hammering out each and every note with perfect technique and nothing more. I was actually somewhat depressed, certainly disappointed, at what I had been offered. In fact, I hoped that this person would either get over himself and play from his heart, or be drummed out of music altogether. I didn’t care which, but please don’t let this kid ever again butcher another great composer’s work of art.

Making art is far too precious a thing to be lorded over by mere craftsmen. It is a deep and abiding connection to the unseen, invisible universe where the artist draws something really special to bring back and share with the rest of humanity. Craft, while vitally important, is but a nest or foundation into which a new creative piece of expression is born.

This is one reason why I’m so proud of Father’s and my being self-taught. Yes, I certainly do need to develop a great deal more method and technique. I expect to be at this growth all of my life and beyond. What I don’t do however is hide behind a wall of method and technique as my credentials, nor do any of the many artists whom I admire so deeply.

I once thought that it would have been wondrous to be born in the Italian Renaissance, but no longer. One reason I’ve lost much of my awe and wonder regarding the Renaissance is simply because it was largely peopled by competitive show offs. These were people possessing celestial gifts, and certainly they created many celestial works, but much of it was created in a world of mere arrogant show and competition between the artists and their patrons. What was seen as “great art” was often a measure of how many perfectly rendered figures could be crammed onto a wall, or how large the work was. Like so much of today’s modern film acting, much of the work is about how popular the actor is through the films they make. Whatever art there is in the work is often buried beneath the veneer of the various self-centric personae of the so called stars. At times it seems that deep creative expression shows up by mere accident.

Whatever is left of my once deep admiration for the Italian Renaissance remains in the works themselves, not the composer artists who created them. I receive the expression which is so often evident and available to me for engagement, but I could care less about the name at the bottom right of the work.

I deeply admire composers in any media who are self-discovering adventurers on a journey into the invisible realms of creative expression. I am in even deeper admiration of self-taught artists such as Vincent Van Gogh and Jack Vettriano. If you need to know of whom I speak, I invite you to look them up. And these are just two of a host of creative composers who buckled down and conquered whatever it took to become excellent at what they did and do.

In short, what I admire in the arts – all of them – is gumption, self-directed gumption. I admire those artists who collect their craft along the way, who don’t brag about whatever schooling they endured, or how much practice they put in. Show me. Show me what it is that you’ve nurtured in yourself. Show me your work, because in the end that’s all that really matters.