Living at the convergence of faith and art.

Posts tagged “adversity

Floating But Safe

tiffany-ceiling-smlI am floating and feeling somewhat disconnected. I am not lost. The floating is perhaps a number of things. I know that part of it is Father’s liberation from the strict laws & rules of theologist / institutional religion. That kind of floating is awesome and wondrous. I love that. I also know that some of the floating is Father’s liberation of my art. That too is free of the legalism & marketing forces of the gallery / museum / so-called art-world system. Father God has liberated both sides of my destiny, those of my faith, and of my art.

I sense that this disconnection I feel, this floating, is also a huge time of opportunity for me. Father has lead me to believe that stuff like loss, dislocation, change, adversity, etc., are in fact opportunities. They are difficult, maybe painful openings in life which allow for something new to be planted.

We plough the Earth, literally rip it open, in order to prepare it for new seed. I’ve come to grasp that my life is sometimes ripped open by situations and circumstance of loss, change, or adversity, and yet, even as I grieve in those times, I know that I’ve been ploughed open so that my loving Father God can plant new seeds of opportunity in me.

So often I’ve found myself tight fisted against these painful events and forces. In my youth tumult was a daily visitor and I wanted no more of it. But in my new life of relational faith, I’ve found at first a comfort, and now a joyful desire for the new seeds Father wants to bless me with. I’m not afraid anymore. When the plough of change comes roaring through, I now reel far less in the pain of adversity, loss, and change. Yes, it still hurts, I still grieve, but no where’s near as much as it used to. I think that’s because I know a new planting of opportunity is coming, and Father is making preparation(s) for it. I embrace my Father God and His plans for me and my destiny. I want them because in them I become more of who and what He has designed me to become, and in this way I bring Him glory, my life brings Him glory.

For me, feeling a sense of floating and disconnection is far less about the absence of safe ground beneath my feet. It has become more of a life-posture of being available to being drawn by Father into whatever He has written into my destiny. I need to say that a destiny is not a carved in stone mandatory program. We are not biological robots that Father plays around with. That’s Greco-Roman pantheon thinking. No, we are masters of our own lives because while Father has written a destiny for each of us, we are entirely free to go our own way. We have freewill, and that’s another subject for another time (see the teachings of Steve Harmon).

I willingly take up this posture of availability to Father’s will and ways, of desiring with all my heart to step into my identity and destiny. I willingly embrace the plough of adversity, of change, of loss, and of grief because my joy is in my Father God. He has plans for me, plans to prosper me and not to hurt me (Jeremiah 29:11-13). My Father loves me and I can trust Him to surgically alter my life, just as we see in the Chronicles of Narnia, when Aslan cuts Eustice from his dragon self, setting him free.

I love feeling as if I’m floating with the only certainty being my relationship with and in my Father God. I am safe. I am blessed. I am lavishly cherished, as Graham Cooke might say. I am being brought into infinite prosperity. I am led to lay up all of my treasures in Father’s Heaven where they’re available forever (Matthew 6:19-21). My sense of feeling as if my life is floating is grounded in my complete trust in Father, in His infinite, divine, and lavish love for me, and in my relational faith with Him.

The grieving of change and of adversity are all opportunities just waiting to be planted in my ploughed up life where, under the care of my Father God, they will blossom and bear fruit of unknown consequence forever and ever.

Amen ~

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ReOrdered Loss?

Lew's Art TableA few weeks ago (Feb 17) my laptop crashed, and it did so pretty hard.  That’s why I’ve been rather scarce in the social media conversations. For the last month I’ve been popping onto the internet to check FB and Gmail, and that’s about it.  No more searches for articles involving the conversation of Faith & Art.  No more researching reference images for projects I’m developing.  Just FaceBook and Gmail, and that’s all, period.
This experience has been far less difficult a digital downsize than I ever imagined.  I mean, this laptop is a very important tool to my arts practice.  I use it, in addition to Gmail and FB, to manage my blog, manage my ETSY site “Fingerprints”, and need I so I can develop my own website this year.  But it can also become a brain-sucking monster for me, especially when I’m fresh out of ideas and should be taking a refreshing walk, sketching, or taking photographs rather than trolling the internet.

However, this experience has been a great example for me of less truly becoming more.  In the last few weeks I’ve come to an enlarged understanding of the mixed-media/collage art I’ve been making.  I’ve turned a few creative corners and am incredibly excited about what’s cooking.

This choice has opened an entire universe of creative possibilities to me; new materials, new methods, and how I can use them.  Why I didn’t make this decision to explore assemblage before now, I’ll never know.  I even put out a call for unwanted/free cigar boxes.  Sure enough, an artist friend was looking for a new home for her abundant collection and graciously supplied me with a wonderful variety.  Thrift Store searches have changed because I’m looking at the materials available to me in a whole new light.  Collage/mixed-media is usually 2-dimensional.  Assemblage incorporates a broad variety of found objects and 3-dimensional elements.

I am sincerely hoping that new habits, productive habits, continue to develop and stick even as I repair the damage to my laptop.  Oh, by the way, it appears that I wasn’t the victim of a virus getting past my Norton 360.  It’s seems to be a matter of a failed hard-drive instead.

Right now I’m running my laptop on a CD loaded with Ubuntu, a “flavor” of Linux.  All’s well except that I cannot upload Ubuntu (nowhere to put it without a C:/ drive) nor can I regain any of the other software I use; LibreOffice, Gimp, NitroPDF, etc.  But that’ll all return when I get a new hard-drive installed and formatted.  Right now I’m grateful for my Google Drive and being able to post and store everything on the web.

In the meantime I am actually enjoying these “limitations” by getting a boatload of new journals made, and developing new works in collage/mixed-media.  I’ll keep you posted as best I can, but right now, I’m really very (happily) busy!


Digital Withdrawal

Open LaptopHave you ever had a major virus attack on your PC or laptop?  Last week, even though I have Norton 360, I got attacked and it took out my entire C-drive.  Up came a screen – which looked a bit different from the usual – asking for my activation code.  I figured it was nothing more than an update.  Wrong!

Over the next two-hours the virus erased my entire hard-drive literally bit by bit.  Nothing’s wrong with the machine except that it’s had a lobotomy.  It’s quite literally brain-dead. Eventually I’ll be looking for help at reloading all that’s needed to restore it to full working order.

At first, like any normal human being, I was furious.  I couldn’t figure out what was happening.  I couldn’t “fix” it.  There was absolutely nothing that could be done.  After about an hour of fiddling with it I pieced the events together and realized what had happened.  Then I was at peace about it all.  I wasn’t losing anything that couldn’t be replaced.  Any really important stuff is saved in other media, so no harm done.  Here’s the gift in it though, since I lost nothing except the convenience of a portable “use it anywhere” laptop, I was having all the symptoms of digital-addiction withdrawal.  Addiction is something I know about.

Many years ago I tried to quit smoking “cold turkey” and it took three attempts over several years to actually breakthrough to where I didn’t want another cigarette.  I was absolutely free of any pangs of desire screaming at me to be satiated.  It was bliss.

Right now I do have use of a couple of other computers.  That’s why I can continue writing, but – and this is significant for me – this entire fiasco has brought about a serious evaluation of why I use my laptop, how I use it, and what I use it for.

Confession: I’ve been pretty lax about getting to my art-making lately.  It’s a Resistance thing (read Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art).  I was putting off working because I was, well, “working”.  No, I wasn’t wasting time playing videos, or watching movies.  I was doing idea/inspiration searches.  With me – because I’m a philomathic global learner – it’s not very focused searching.  I wander from one thing to another in an aimless meandering of utter, total, immersive fascination.  Once I’ve got the “big-picture” the connections all fall into place.  It’s awesome, and addictive; way better than video games!

I love learning so much that I actually hoard bookmarks.  If it interests me it gets filed in my – three-levels-deep – bookmarks in Firefox.  I may actually have more bookmarks than the Lord has angels, although I wouldn’t bet on it.  Anyway, that’s what I was having withdrawals over – wandering searches all across the web, anytime, anywhere.  I was so entranced that my latest batch of handmade coptic journals on my ETSY site had expired.  Much to my embarrassment, it took an email from an interested friend to tell me about it.

So here I am using computers from other family members, but in a highly limited way.  Maybe this is a Lenten thing the Lord’s leading me through, I don’t really know.  What I do know is that my Lord and Master is lovingly correcting me.  After all, I work for Him and I’ve been off “playing” and neglecting my work.  It took a PC virus to bring it all to a halt and refocus me, and for that I’m incredibly grateful.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:22-23 NIV

This year I am in prayer that God will call me to deeper waters, in life, in faith, and in my art.  I have asked Him for this kind of revelation and here He is delivering what I need.  Aside from the fact that I didn’t lose anything important from the crash, and the laptop is repairable, the single most significant gift in the midst of that wretched frustration is that Father God restored me to my original commission.  He set my feet back on course so that I can grow, dwell in these slightly deeper spiritual waters, and create works of art from a far richer relationship with Him.


Connecting Some Dots

Stone CairnEvery couple of weeks I attend an artist’s gathering. We discuss faith, art, faith & art. We have no other agenda except to cross-pollinate one another as brothers & sisters in Christ, and in creativity. We work in all different media; dance & movement, film & video, photography & painting, collage/mixed-media, literature & poetry, theatre & music. Because our gatherings aren’t about how, but about what & why, a lot of good stuff rubs off on one another.

Recently we were talking about a 3-minute video by Parker Palmer; The Tragic Gap. He talks about the extremes of what he calls corrosive cynicism and irrelevant idealism and what it takes to walk in balance between them. I’ve bumped into various forms of the same idea from other sources. As a global thinker, what I am seeing is an emerging larger picture. Here I’m simply trying to connect some dots.

Palmer says this, “So we have to stand in this place between what is and what could and should be. But we have to stand there without flipping out on one side or the other. To flip out on the side of too much reality is to be drawn into corrosive cynicism… To flip out on the other side toward what could and should be is to fall into… irrelevant idealism. …they [both] take us to the same place – which is out of action. They disengage us from this place in the gap where we need to stand in order to move things forward.”

Most of the time when I hear a call for balance, I am usually reminded of the life of Christ. It’s a walk that doesn’t get sucked into either the agendas of the world, or the Church, for example. It’s a life willing to suffer the slings and arrows of those who one minute call the artist friend and the next minute, foe. It’s not a life for the fainthearted. This is the creative life, the life of the artist of faith, full of risks, patronizing compliments, and biting criticism, but it is the life to which many of us are called.

Parker Palmer

Parker Palmer

Palmer goes on to remind us that by living in our own heads we can easily slip into one or the other; corrosive cynicism or irrelevant idealism. He offers this advice, “It is only in communities that we’re going to have a balance to check and correct our own self-perceptions.” This is one of the many reasons we faith-driven artists get together every couple of weeks, not to sit around and agree on everything, but to be respectfully honest with one another.

Author and lecturer Calvin Seerveld adds; “…truly God-praising artistry can flourish only when the artist is deeply embedded both in an artistic community and in the wider, societal communion of sinner saints.” Rainbows for the Fallen World pg 26-28.

To my mind, the Lord is calling us to walk as living sacrifices in tension or balance between many extremes, any one of which does not, by itself, guide culture toward any common good. He is calling us to walk, as Christ did, seeking first His face, and then simply giving Him whatever creative meaning we make without worrying about who it will affect, or how it will affect them. That’s the business of the Holy Spirit.

It seems to me that, our “job” is simply to live intimately with Him and give our work as an offering which He will do with as he wishes.

I am not saying that artists should forgo compensation; that’s not what I mean. We have financial needs just like everybody else. But I am saying, as do many others, that the “fame & fortune” however great or small is simply not the point.

The point resides in our own faith-filled walk with Him and in the art we make as a result of that walk.


Sparking Together Toward Illumination

Peter by Rembrandt

Peter Denies Christ – Rembrandt

A dear creative friend of mine, Sue Beckman, is often parading powerful spiritual insights past me. On FaceBook she shared a post from a blog called Apostles & Prophets. In a post written by Dr. Stephen Crosby, we are reminded that The Body of Christ of the 21st Century has a lot of work to do in order to work as a single, unified body. Before going further you might want to click on the title above and give it a read. Things will make a lot more sense.

The passionate question God has endowed me with in the conversation of Faith & Art is; How do we make art that will have a powerful and positive effect on our culture? I voraciously read in pursuit of answers, and I work to incorporate as much as possible into my own art practice. Some top favorites applied to this question are The Culturally Savvy Christian by Dick Staub, and Walking on Water by the late Madeleine L’Engle.

It was near the bottom of Dr. Crosby’s article that I read something which further confirms the need for God’s faith-driven creatives to take very seriously our call. We are called, in one form or another, to make meaning which brings God glory, and which is an invitation to the foot of the cross of Christ. I know these two phrases are messy and loaded, I apologize.

When I say “brings God glory”, I mean what scripture says (Col. 3:23), that we make and offer God only excellence. It does not mean that the art must be drawn from the Bible. When I say “is an invitation to the foot of the cross”, I mean that in some way, subtly or overtly, the work points us to the only ultimate answer to what ails us in this life, the loving sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Again, interpretations and applications ought to run rampant and be as varied as the artists producing work.

Alright, back to Dr. Crosby; he writes, “Daniel went into captivity with Israel. Jeremiah was not spared the rigors of Israel’s “divine chastisement” at the hands of a Babylonian invader. Incarnational living in Christ does not exempt any of us from the travails of the culture we may worship or live in.  Rather, we will be the representative agents of God as we go into captivity together.”

With these words, “…we will be the representative agents of God as we go into captivity together.”, the Spirit revealed to me another layer in the significance of our work as faith-driven creatives. We are to walk into “captivity” (I love that word in this context) with both believers and un-believers and, in Christ (Phil. 4:13), meet adversities head on. We are to make meaning in this milieu of messy, gritty, uncomfortable life and, as God’s Second Voice [ref other posts], point to Christ’s redemptive love.

In fact it is my opinion that without these adversities, we artists would have absolutely nothing to say. It is in the midst of our crises that we come to know who and what we are. We come to know our short-comings, and realize how desperate is our need for a deep and abiding relationship with God through Christ.

For the faith-driven artist we can heed this admonition, “Let each of us, in our assigned spheres of life and ministry, be sober and more resolute than we have ever been. Let’s burn. Let’s be hot. Let’s be light. Let’s remember that the ultimate act of spiritual warfare is not prophetic intercession or a spiritual warfare conference. It is a converted/transformed, soul who lives a transformed vibrant life in right relationship with God, one another, and humanity.” Dr. Stephen Crosby


Post-Familialism: Is the Family Dead?

I don’t usually write about things like this, but I believe it has a great deal to do with the story we’re living in, and is worth some thought.

QUESTION: Is the family really dead?

I don’t think so, not by a long shot. Any Anthropologist worth their degrees will tell us that the human race would not, could not have survived these millenia had we chosen to forge off on our own as individuals without family, tribe, community, or nationhood. Loners die alone and lonely.

According to some however, post-familialsm is the current global trend among the human race. Apparently our self-absorption has gone so far that we humans are on a rampage, choosing to live life our way, or no way. Apparently we’re not interested in meaningful relationships of life-long commitment which might postpone or even alter our personal plans for what we want in our lives.

Please read;

The Age of Possibility / David Brooks

The Rise of Post-Famialism / Joel Kotkin

In reality though I think what we’ve actually lost sight of is love. We seem to have bought into the Western Pop-Cultural notion that love is good sex, good stuff, and boatloads of money. We seem to believe that love is a self-serving emotion in which we’re supposed to feel good, and we seem to be increasingly willing to discard any distractions, diversions, or impediments to get it good and to keep it good.

The best definition I’ve ever found for love however isn’t 1 Corinthians 13 (although excellent), no, it’s from a lone guy who set out to help middle and high school kids get a grip on reality. He’s the guy behind the Don’t Take Love Lying Down program – Mr. Brad Henning. Here’s what he teaches about love, in a nutshell, and I paraphrase;

Love is always, 1) an act of self-sacrifice, and 2) wanting the best for the other person.”

Now imagine human relationships built upon the premise that the other people in our lives are more precious to us than even our own wants/desires. Imagine relationships based upon the classic love story The Gift of the Magi by O.Henry  (PDF Version).

Imagine a world of selfless generosity, of giving instead of getting, and of giving without expectation of receiving. How do we get to that world?  Perhaps by becoming living examples ourselves. We certainly won’t get there through legislation, or tortuous religious rules and rituals. We’ll get there by minding the needs, (forget wants and desires) of others, and by giving until it hurts, just as Christ did for each of us.

This so-called Post-Familial Age is unsustainable. It simply won’t work. It’s an unraveling of the very fiber of human society. It’ll eventually run out of steam, just as so-called Post-Modernism has, and it’ll be just as vacuous, if not more so, but at what cost? How much damage will be done to the next two generations as humanity figures out that it has chosen yet again to walk down another cultural dead end?


Seeing Things Differently

My Old Friends

My Old Friends

These last 8 or 10 months I’ve been looking. I’ve been searching for a clearer, more focused creative voice in my art-making. I’ve taken both bold and baby steps in an experimental, somewhat blind search. I’m sure all creatives do so. Our lives and the work we make develop over time, and it takes an investment of wonderful, hard work to make anything of it.

Story-Telling

In my own art-making I am drawn to story. Even the hint of it attracts me. Human struggle is the stuff of good stories; not contrived fabrications of careless craft, but rich back-stories of motive and motivation, the “why” and the “how” of human-life.

The quintessential element I look for in a work is some sense of the presence of humanity. Even if a piece has no people in it, if there’s even the slightest evidence of people having been present, I am drawn to the work. I want to know them, to know their story, their journey, and where they’re going.

I want to know what they value, what they’re willing to defend/protect, and why. I want to know what is sacred to them, what they believe in.

For example, I can look at piles of shoes and know that they’ve protected feet. The shoes might be nestled in colorful nooks in a classroom. Each contains a single pair of shoes, one for each young student. Just looking at them, I might hear young voices at creative play in the classroom just beyond.

The pile might also be in a museum of remembrance, the shoes having been gathered from victims of the Jewish Holocaust of World War II. In such a pile, devoid of life and color, I don’t need to see the victim’s bodies to feel the senseless discard of each person represented in the jumble. Just the bent and flattened leather can become a metaphor for how the people, who once cherished these shoes, must have been treated; their life-stories snuffed out in an instant.

When I engage a piece of visual art, I hope for the presence of some artifact of humanity, and I listen to the work for its story.

Key Media

In the media which make up my visual lens(es), I am drawn to stained glass, mosaics, and quilts. All three can be rendered, in some way, in collage/mixed-media. All three are about story. All three have very long, even ancient, heritages.

What used to merely influence me in my personal search for a voice of expression, has now become integral to a way of seeing. These are lenses through which I am learning to peer into the human condition to discover stories to share. These lenses can even suggest to me a way I might go about composing a piece.

Turning Corners

I sense another wonder-filled corner being turned. I sense that, beyond being merely prompted (inspired), I am growing to actually see daily life through these lenses. I am growing toward the visual fusion, which is collage/mixed-media, of seeing disparate story elements flow into the visual harmony of complete works.

I hope I’m making some sense. For me, the ability to see the world in terms of possible artworks is a step I’ve searched for these last 5-years. It opens a whole new chapter for me in the creative process I am working to discover and develop. I relish the journey, and I am looking forward to seeing what becomes of it all.