Confessions of a Christian Creative: Moving from Frustration to Purpose

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything. For the last few months, I’ve been on a journey of discovery, asking the Lord to show me more clearly what He wants me to do with my life. I was feeling overwhelmed with work, freelance work, and ministry, and, honestly, I felt about ready to ditch everything. Not because I wanted to, but because of intense frustration.

But you know how it goes. When we ask God for answers, He answers, and sometimes what we learn isn’t all “flowers and rainbows.” There’s something awful about, on one hand, seeing the potential that God put inside us, and, on the other, when He shows us how dreadfully unprepared and uncommitted we truly are. It’s like the facade that pride puts up that makes us think we’re ready to take on the world for Christ just crumbles away, and we’re left staring at the ugly, mangled truth: the selfishness and immaturity underlying and influencing everything we do. It’s ugly. It’s shameful. But it is real. And until we see it and deal with it, it will strangle the results of everything we do in God’s name.

I sincerely hope that I can properly express what I am feeling and that my experience will encourage and inspire you. There is no judgement here. What I described above was exactly what I saw in my own heart. I share it with you so you can see that, if you are in a similar place, you are not alone, and that everyone struggles. And I hope that you find freedom in that. Tonight, my prayer is that the Holy Spirit will speak directly to your hearts and cover any flubs or clumsy writing on my part.

“What is my purpose? What is the heart and soul of the Lost Pen Magazine?” are some of the questions I have been asking God for the last few weeks. Well, I’ll be honest. There were times I was begging. I just got fed up with the whole thing. Depending on what spiritual mentor or teaching I read or listened to, I would try this or that, or wait, or try whatever I could to get things going. I could sense God working, but I couldn’t see the whole picture, and it was driving me nuts. At the end of two years, I had worked really hard and had accomplished a lot, but I was also burned out. I’m not sorry for the good that came out of it all, though. I just felt that there must be a better way. But you know how it is. Of course, God has a plan. But He’s under NO obligation to reveal any of it to us when we ask, nor is He obligated to reveal anything at all! How amazing but also TREMENDOUSLY FRUSTRATING!!!!

So, tonight, I decided to have it out with Him. Of course, He won. And He wasn’t entirely as “warm and delicate” about it as I had hoped. His answer was more of a “Listen, I know you’re fed up. But that’s fine. Have your tantrum and then get up and get over it. There’s stuff to do.” Now I know what it feels like when I use my “tough love” approach on my kids and clients at work! Yikes!

For those who are curious, the actual verse He spoke to me through was Acts 1:6-8 New International Version:

6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

I didn’t react well at first to His answer, either. I was annoyed, and my pride was hurt. But then I began to look at it differently. I started to look at it as God saying, “Listen, don’t worry about things that don’t concern you. I know my plans for you, and I know when and how they’re going to work out. Just do what you know I have called you to do: serve Me, and outreach to those around you and to those I bring to you. That’s it.

While this was going on, my phone buzzed with an email from someone who had contacted me a few weeks ago through the website. He was struggling to understand his creative purpose and how to do what he felt God was calling Him to do. He had a lot of questions. I really wanted to give him answers that were rooted in wisdom and what I felt God wanted him to know. So, I prayed and answered as best as I could. Tonight, his email was full of hope and restored purpose, and he shared that he is focused on moving forward on his creative journey. I closed the email, bawled, and thanked God from the bottom of my heart that He had used my clumsy attempts to help someone find their way. What else could I do?

Even now, I shake my head. God is . . . incomprehensible, at times. I mean, how many times has He completely done the opposite to what I expected? Like, for two years, I have been building the Christian Creative Nexus, the Lost Pen Magazine, and working myself to the bone doing the social media stuff, newsletters, blah, blah, blah all to moderate results . . . and a few simple prayers and some thoughtful responses to a stranger in need is all it took for God to transform that person’s life—while utterly confounding me in the process. God is God. He saves us by throwing down our pride to reveal His sovereignty every time. And, thank God He does.

All this to say that this is how God showed me the truth I’ve been looking for. After bawling, thanking Him, and bawling some more, I picked up my Bible and asked God to speak to me some more. I flipped through various chapters and landed on 2 Corinthians 5:11-20 (bold is added for emphasis).

11 Because we understand our fearful responsibility to the Lord, we work hard to persuade others. God knows we are sincere, and I hope you know this, too. 12 Are we commending ourselves to you again? No, we are giving you a reason to be proud of us,[b] so you can answer those who brag about having a spectacular ministry rather than having a sincere heart. 13 If it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God. And if we are in our right minds, it is for your benefit. 14 Either way, Christ’s love controls us.[c] Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life.[d] 15 He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them. 16 So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! 17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 18 And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. 19 For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” 21 For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin,[e] so that we could be made right with God through Christ.

Tonight, I realized that nothing I could do creatively or in ministry could matter more than helping even one person realize their purpose in Christ, to envision themselves serving Him in it, and then walking it out. Obviously, salvation is the most important ministry of reconciliation, but I believe that the mission of the Lost Pen Magazine is to work to reconcile believers to their creative calling and ministry—to help everyday Christian Creatives realize that the Creator God has entrusted them with a unique gift that is theirs and their alone, and that it is up to them to use it for His glory and the furtherance of His kingdom.

There is a place for professionals. But there is so much more room for everyday people to be active doing what their soul and spirits are dying to do. Many of us are bound by fear, insecurity, doubt, anxiety, etc. But though we might struggle with them, they are not reasons for us to put our candles under a bushel (Luke 11:33)—not when the God of the universe is with us and in us to do all kinds of good works (2 Timothy 3:17). I don’t care if it’s hosting the exhausted parents of a busy family for a delicious meal at your house, making posters in church for the Sunday school, or knowing how to entertain bored teenagers two hours a week at youth group, do it and do it with all your might. If you sing, sing. If you can write, write. If you love photography, by all means capture God’s gorgeous creation on film or digital medium. But find your purpose, give it to God, and then serve Him with everything you’ve got.

The Lost Pen Magazine is first and foremost a safe place for believers to submit. Experienced creatives and newbies alike have published with us. We strive to be supportive and helpful, while also being professional and maintaining a high standard. So far, we’ve been focused on fiction, poetry, testimonies, and art. But, as you can see above, there is so much more to creativity than the standard genres. Whether people submit or not, our hope is that readers and contributors both will find encouragement and inspiration in the pages that will support them on their creative journeys, and, ultimately, help deepen their faith and relationship with our awesome, wonderful, and loving Father in heaven.

Blessings!

Fiction Feature: Cassandra and the Cowboy

The following is an excerpt from Cassandra and the Cowboy, the first book in the inspirational series Texas Treasures, written by Janine Mick Wills and published by Journey Fiction. Janine is a born-again Christian, who is using her writing abilities to honor and glorify God, Who gave them to her.

 

Excerpt: Cassandra and the Cowboy, Chapter 9

Cassandra fretted the entire ride back to the ranch. Would God answer her prayer and keep Matt from asking her mother about the loan? Afraid she couldn’t trust the Lord or Matt, she prepared her only defense. Confession.

She asked Carlos to take care of Smokey and then sped inside the house to find her mother arranging a vase of roses in the dining room. Cassandra ignored the scent that usually calmed her.

“Oh, Mama. I told Matt what happened to Papa and about the loan. I assumed Carlos had already told him. I tried to cover it up, but now Matt wants to help. I’m sorry…” Her voice trailed off in misery.

To her astonishment, her mother said, “That is wonderful news.”

“It is?”

“Matt’s willingness to help might be the answer to our prayers.”

Before Cassandra could voice a contradiction, Matt entered the room. She bit her knuckle and stared at her feet.

“Mrs. Pickett,” Matt said, “while Cassandra Jane was showing me around, I came up with a couple of ideas that might help the ranch.”

He pulled out a chair for Helen, but before he could do the same for Cassandra, she whipped out a chair from under the table and sat on its edge. Matt shrugged and straddled the chair across from her.

“First,” he said, “you need to cull the lesser cattle from your herd for some immediate cash. The men and I can build a fence on the far side of the creek to hold Old Bull. Then you can breed him to your better cows to build a stronger herd. You can also spread the word he’d make a good cross with the thinner Texas longhorn. Though the Beef Bonanza has died down, some ranches are still gettin’ fifteen dollars a head for good stock, which he could produce.”

“But the loan is due next month,” Helen replied. “Even if we sold the inferior cattle, there would not be enough money to repay the bank.”

“I have another idea. I met two men in Fort Worth who work for the S & R Railroad. They’re plannin’ on layin’ line from Sweetwater almost into Mexico just north of Goose Neck Ridge.”

“How does that affect us?”

Matt laced his fingers behind his head “I noticed all the trees growin’ by Cedar Ridge. Straight as arrows, reachin’ for the sky. Since the railroad’s gonna need timber for ties, you could offer yours. With a contract under your belt, the bank is sure to extend your loan. Tomorrow I’d like to help Rafael and Carlos cull the herd and start buildin’ the fence for Old Bull, but the day after that I can wire Big George and see if he’s interested in your timber.”

“Mr. Thompson?” Helen questioned.

“Cattle’s his main business, but after the Union and Central Pacific met east and west at Promontory, he figured the future held rails runnin’ north and south. He invested in the S and R Railroad. Didn’t take long for him to make a profit. He branched out, bought a couple hotels, a bank, a stop on the stagecoach line, a paper mill, and the Fort Worth Daily Gazette until he sold it a few years agoNow, he’s one of the richest men in Fort Worth.”

Cassandra tapped her fingers on the table. Life was unfair. Here, she and Mama were struggling to keep their home, and men like George Thompson and Phillip Brigham had more than enough money to spare. “Too bad Papa didn’t invest in the railroad. Huh, Mama?”

“I am sure Mr. Thompson is resourceful, but God is the one who gives certain men wealth.” Helen’s voice quickened in excitement. “But Matt’s ideas are good ones.”

Something akin to guilt swept Matt’s chiseled features. “Don’t get your hopes up yet. These plans may not work.”

“God is in control. We must trust him.” Helen’s eyes shone a crystal gray. “I cannot wait for the others to hear about this.”

###END###

If you like what you have read of Cassandra and the Cowboy, sign up for Janine’s newsletter and you’ll be entered in a summer contest to receive a free copy! Details are available on her website and FB author page.

Also, keep an eye out for the Launch Team for Juanita and the Outlaw, the second book in the series.

 

ABOUT JANINE MICK WILLS

unnamedAs far back as she can remember, Janine Mick Wills has loved the Lord and the written word. A former pastor’s wife, she now resides in South Carolina, where she heads the ladies’ ministry at her church and fills every spare minute writing for the glory of God. Janine considers a Child of the King to be her most important title, but she also enjoys being called a wife, a mom, and a mamaw to seven grandchildren.

 

Janine would love to connect with her readers. You can find her at any of these locations:

Website: www.janinemickwills.com

Facebook: Janine Mick Wills-Author-Writing for the Glory of God

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/janinemickwills/boards/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MickJanine

A Lesson in Turning Frustration into a Blessing, and Finding God’s Heart

There are times that even our most frustrating experiences turn into blessings—if we choose to look at them that way.

I’m a social worker, and I spend a lot of time in my office. When I’m not seeing families, I do reports, phone calls, notes, planning, etc. For months, I was one of the only people in my section, and I had grown used to the quiet. No voices, no noise, and only the few seconds interruption when people passed through from one section to another. Gradually, people began to populate the offices around mine and, as expected, the noise level increased. Worse, none of our offices are properly sound insulated, so…let’s just say that I can hear—through the wall—when the kettle in my neighbour’s office has finished boiling water!

Anyway, there are two child educators who have recently taken up residence next to my office. They see children—young children—who don’t always want to be ‘educated’ in how to develop their language and social skills. And they make it known.

Today was just such a day.

I like kids. They’re cute. I keep my office bright and cheerful with blow-up toys of SpongeBob and Sandy, and posters of Thor and Optimus Prime line the walls (okay, they are really for me, not the kids, but that’s our secret). Usually when kids act up it’s not done to intentionally make those around them miserable. Often, they’re tired, hungry, or just don’t understand where they are or what’s expected of them. But, I admit, when I’m working in my office and need peace and quiet to think, the noise gets to me. Today, it got to me a lot.

I got up and complained to the secretary. I made a written complaint so that the topic could be properly addressed with my boss, in the hopes of finding a long-term solution to resolve the issue.

But, while this was going on, I kept thinking: Why don’t I just put on some music?

I rejected the idea at first because doing so would only be a short-term solution, and I didn’t want to be driven to pop earbuds in my ears every time a child visited the floor. But, after a colleague made the suggestion, I finally did. I ended up playing an old, old CD by Darrell Evans called Let the River Flow.

 

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I used to love this CD. As it played through my earbuds, I remembered times 20 years back when I’d dance to it through my parents’ living room, worshipping, smiling, and just enjoying the presence of my Heavenly Father. That album is all about freedom in Jesus and embracing God as our Father. I remembered the joy I felt while listening to it, and how amazing I felt afterwards.

I sat at my desk, smiling. Remembering. Thinking. Saddened by the fact that, over the years, I don’t dance like that anymore. By the fact that taking time to simply sit and really listen to the lyrics of worship music like I used to isn’t something I do much anymore. Life has become busy, tiring. Rest often means chilling out at home in front of Netflix, rather than holing up in a quiet place with God, communing.

Ha. As I write this, Darrell sings, ‘Light me again with passion for You.’

I pray that, too. For me, and for you.

–Delia

Music Monday: Gracefully Broken, by Tasha Cobbs Leonard

A sister in Christ sent me this song, and I instantly fell in love with it. If you are broken, had a rough 2018 and are looking for encouragement and purpose for 2019, or if you just want musical support to help you approach our wonderful Heavenly Father, listen and receive His blessing.

Let’s start 2019 strong in the Lord!

 

 

“I’m holding nothing back

I surrender!”

From “Gracefully Broken”

 

Be blessed! Looking forward to a great 2019 with you!

–Delia

Guest Post: The Ministry of Teaching Art 

The Ministry of Teaching Art 

By Bob Kirchman

 

Bezalel and Oholiab, along with everyone whom God has given the skill and know-how for making everything involved in the worship of the Sanctuary as commanded by God, are to start to work.” – Exodus 36:1 

 
This marks the second season I have taught art with Amanda Riley at the ACE Coop in Augusta County. When I got pneumonia as a result of a reaction to a mural clear-coat I was applying, I was forced to prioritize life anew. Even in recovery my energy has been somewhat limited so I find that in addition to the obvious drive to spend time with my granddaughters, the things on top of my priorities are getting back to full speed teaching our high school and middle school studio courses. You see, I find a lot of purpose in teaching art these days. The reasons surprise me as well. These days I am not so impressed with what I can teach in the way of technique and background – though that is important. Knowledge is not the end, but rather a means toward the true end. That is allowing each student to discover that part of IMAGO DEI that drives THEM to create. 

I find myself being taught by my students more than they are being taught by me. I spend less time lecturing and more time observing— ‘catching’ our students in the act of expressing that part of the Divine nature. And the class has never been so much fun! What’s more, I take great joy in the fact that my apprentices Kristina and Savhana both are actively teaching young people now! This is a far greater joy than comes from simply being copied. The world is richer because another generation has entered the game! 

 

bear
Bear by Rachel Perkins, 8th Grade

The True Reason to Teach Art 

This is not so much a criticism, but an observation. I do not think many of us who teach art understand the true importance of it. I think art instruction can miss the mark aiming high or low. The first type of program I will discuss certainly aims high. That is one whose goal is to produce professionals. This particular program, of necessity, is concerned with technique mastery and measurable goals. That is not a bad thing in itself, especially for those who are so motivated. In such a program it may be sometimes observed that art loses its ‘joy’ as a student becomes more proficient in technique. Furthermore, if the program stresses non-representational art, the professional opportunities may not be as widespread as the course description suggests. You might have best in show in your student exhibition only to find that you cannot sell your work in the greater community. For me, architectural rendering was a way to do art and get paid for it. Some do not consider it ‘real’ art. That is beside the point. 

The other tendency is to aim low. Art is seen as part of a ‘well rounded’ curriculum, but is not pursued for its own sake at all. At university, our art faculty was constantly dogged with the expectation that they ‘contribute to a well-rounded education,’ but were always subservient to ‘academics.’ Some of us DID need to pursue professional opportunities, and so Ray Prohaska, my mentor, exhorted me to “Get out there, work and learn stuff! That was probably the best advice anyone ever gave me. He had been a successful New York illustrator before his ‘retirement’ where he taught in a succession of Southern colleges. Indeed he knew that you had to take your portfolio and go knocking. Ray knew the mixture included inspiration AND perspiration, His strength as a teacher came precisely because he had been in the New York art scene, not academia, for the bulk of his career. 

Ray saw something in me—not unlike the something I would see in my own mentees. That is now most instructive as I have struggled to become a teacher in my own right. Our job is not to make students in our own image. They are already made in the image of One better according to Genesis 1. Our job is to help each one of them discover the genius within them. We do that best when we watch and encourage. Yes, technique is important, but it is a tool to be given to the aspiring artist. They are like young plants that need to be nurtured – and care must be taken not to trample them. Since I have been encouraged in this direction, teaching is a lot more fun! The discoveries have been amazing! I am thankful for the opportunity to teach this way. 

Most people, I have found, can do a pretty good drawing of items that they are passionate about. This is due to their self-motivated observation in these areas. That should be a springboard for introducing technique. We just looked at the life of Leonardo da Vinci and it is clear that his art fueled his inventiveness in a range of fields. The skills of observation evident in his notebooks shows us that art can be so much more than a nice ‘rounding out’ of our education—it can help us develop fundamental skills in observation and interpretation in just about any walk of life. Thus art instruction should embrace the unique individual and seek to train the hand and eye – as preparation for Divine inspiration and service. That is consistent with the belief that our service on this earth in any field can be elevated to worship. 

 

Profession, Hobby, or Foundation for Critical Thinking 

One of our graduates last year planned an important mural project during the Summer. She was somewhat apologetic about her plans to study nursing in the fall, like “if you are strong in the arts, you should pursue them as a profession.” I am actually thrilled that she sees opportunity in what should be called the HEALING ARTS. You see, if Da Vinci’s drawing skills helped him gain new insights into anatomy, why shouldn’t the modern day personification of the Renaissance person find similar insight in her own studies. So often I have seen doctors struggle to “see it” when it comes to a diagnosis. The trained eye and hand of observation could just be the edge necessary in a critical point of diagnosis! And guess what? Later in life there may be opportunity to see where the path of art leads. England’s great wartime leader Sir Winston Churchill became a very productive painter later in his life. 

When Alan Bean went to the moon, he was also an artist. The mission of an astronaut is all-consuming but Bean would add a critical element to our observation of the moon through his art after the Apollo Program ended. Georg Wilhelm Steller, the German botanist, zoologist, physician and explorer, who worked in Russia and is considered a pioneer of Alaskan natural history, sailed with Vitus Bering on his voyages of discovery. His drawings added much to the understanding of natural history in the newly explored region. 

My point is that art can (and should) become very much a part of a person’s methodology in observation. Our training should lead us to become better observers and better imaginers to the end that we might all be better at analyzing and solving the challenges we face in our lives. Although it may indeed find fulfillment in profession or avocation, art should be seen rightfully as another tool of critical thinking. 

 

And Moses said unto the children of Israel, See, the Lord hath called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; And he hath filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship; And to devise curious works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, And in the cutting of stones, to set them, and in carving of wood, to make any manner of cunning work. And he hath put in his heart that he may teach, both he, and Aholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan.” – Exodus 35:30-35 

About Bob Kirchman

BobK

In 1982, illustrator and designer Bob Kirchman set out to provide accurate artistic architectural renderings for the architectural design community of Charlottesville, Virginia. Working for a few great clients he gradually built a reputation for quality hand-drawn work. Over time, Mr. Kirchman became involved in residential design and moved into fine art and photography. Currently, he teaches art to young people in the Fine Art Program of the Augusta County Educators Home-School Coop and a summer program for young artists. For professional designers, Mr. Kirchman offers a workshop in hand drawing as a tool for imagination-based design.

Mr. Kirchman recently published his first novel: PONTIFUS, The Bridge Builder’s Tale in Three Parts. He lives in Staunton, Virginia with his wife Pam. They enjoy exploring the mountains of the region together.

Find Mr. Kirchman at : 

www.bobkirchman.com 

www.bobkirchman.com/PONTIFUS.html

 

 

 

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