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Finding God through the lens of an artist

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Worship Language: Naturalist

Hello everyone,

I hope this post finds you in a place of deep connection with God. As we move into the Lenten season, I want to talk about how we connect with and worship our Creator.

Our church’s Design Team has been using Gary Thomas’ Sacred Pathways to inform how we craft our services to best serve our congregations. For those unfamiliar with Thomas’ book, he outlines nine pathways by which we connect with and worship God. Each person will have one (or more) paths that they are drawn to and will likely have paths that do not come easily at all. For clarity’s sake, we have decided to use the term Worship Language to emphasize the idea that these are ways we speak to, hear from, and worship our God.

For those keeping track, here are the nine languages/pathways:

Naturalist
Sensate
Traditionalist
Ascetic
Activist
Caregiver
Enthusiast
Contemplative
Intellectual

Today, we’re going to start our exploration with the Naturalist.

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Naturalists connect with God outside. They deeply feel God’s presence when surrounded by the majesty of the mountains, or sweeping plains, or a delicate flower. God left His fingerprints all over His creation, and the more unspoiled this creation is, the more Naturalists can see the Creator.

If you find yourself stunned by the beauty of the outdoors, you may be a Naturalist. If you hear God’s voice more clearly when you get out of the city and go on a hike, you may be a Naturalist. If you find cities to be scars of human sinfulness on God’s otherwise perfect Creation, you may be a Naturalist.

Churches can find it hard to create experiences that allow Naturalists to worship God with their native language. Large windows with natural light, plant life, gardens, or pictures/paintings of nature can help. Sermons on the first two chapters of Genesis may do it. Farming metaphors or outdoorsy stories may speak better.

For any Naturalists reading this, it may be in your best interest to take time regularly to go out into nature just to be with God. Go to a retreat centre away from the city. Go for a hike alone or with fellow Naturalists and spend time soaking in the glory of God. Speak to Him and listen when you are away from the distractions of home and hearth.

You may also benefit from filling your home and work with landscape or wildlife photography. If you can, find an office with a view of the mountains. Or, build yourself a nice little cottage by the lake.

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View from my office…wonderful on a clear day!

For your art, find a way to incorporate Creation into your creation. This may already be happening, if Naturalist is your primary worship language, but perhaps its something you should start looking into.

The danger for Naturalists is the temptation to worship God’s Creation instead of God Himself. Nature is beautiful, but remember that all of Creation was marred by humanity’s fall. As long as nature points to its Creator, you are good.

Bottom line for Naturalists: find more ways to be outside, talking and listening to God. From this place, join Him in creating!

If you are a Naturalist, how do you best connect with God?

Blessings,

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Kingdom Artist Network

Hello everyone!

Happy New Year. It’s been quite the month over here. After resting up from Christmas, I’ve been diving head first into making sure the Arts Chaplaincy continues to move forward. Lots of emails, coffee meetings, planning sessions, and networking opportunities.

One of the big thrusts of the chaplaincy is the creation of a network of Christian artists; a home where we can connect, collaborate, and encourage one another on our journey to faithfully serve God and grow in our artistry. There are many artists working hard out there for the Kingdom, but we all seem to be doing it on our own or in small pods.

Today, I’m happy to announce the Kingdom Artist Network! This website is a place for us to connect, plan, and grow. We have space for artists to advertise their work, a gallery for showing off what we’ve been working on, and a forum for chatting with other faithful artists. 

So, please check out the website. Head on over to the Members section and sign up. Start a riveting conversation in the forums. If you have an arts Event you would like to promote, just let us know. Or, send us your production photos or art pieces for the Gallery.

I pray God is blessing all of you this year, and that each and every one of you would grow in faith and artistry in 2018.

Blessings

Robots For the Win!

For those following the story, back in March I let you all know about a literary prize for those who write about faith in Canada. Then, in September, I was overjoyed to tell you that my story had made the shortlist for the Ross and Davis Mitchell Prize.

Guess what?!

The story won!

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My short story, “Saint 148,” was chosen as the first winner of the Ross and Davis Mitchell Prize at a gala in Toronto on October 30th!

I’m not going to lie to you, I was more than a little shocked.

You see, “Saint 148,” while ultimately an exploration of my own faith-fuelled wrestlings, sits firmly in the realm of science fiction. Science fiction is considered by those in the biz to be “genre fiction” (along with action, mystery, romance, fantasy, etc), and not literary fiction (those things that don’t fit nicely into those other categories). So, a story about a robot taking first place in a literary competition was highly unlikely. I was more excited to be shortlisted at all. I was hoping for a fun trip to Toronto, a nice evening, and maybe a solid second place at best.

Then they called by name.

I’ve only had a few moments in my life that have been completely stunning. The birth of my first-born was one. Seeing my wife come down the aisle at our wedding was another. Getting this announcement was up there.

It’s still surreal.

I’ve had interviews with the media, been approached by complete strangers offering congratulations, and had more people ask when the book will be published than I can shake a stick at.

But it still doesn’t seem real. I’m still the same. My writing is the same (although I do get some guff from my actors about being too protective of my words now…). My mission is the same. I’m still making art for God’s glory and the betterment of humanity.

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Photo taken on the night of the gala!

The award on my wall is nice, but I have to say, it doesn’t feel like I deserve any of it.

You see, God has been mind-blowingly generous to my family this year. To the point of Bri and I just throwing up our hands and saying “Thank You!” because we can’t make any sense of it. Other than our belief that we have a loving, generous God who has chosen this season to remind of of the fact.

But really, everything we’ve done, or “earned,” or won has been God’s doing. From the impetus to write, or the words he gives, to ensuring my story was rejected ten or twelve times in the past two years, to guiding the judges to their decision, God has done the heavy lifting. All I have done is follow His lead.

And I believe that is the artist’s job: to follow God’s lead in creation. We are co-creators, to be sure, but God is the Master, and we are the disciples.

So, thank you for celebrating this wonderful blessing with me. Here’s to another year of awesome creation and the knowledge of God’s unfailing faithfulness to us.

Blessings,

Blessing Artists

Hello there,

For those who haven’t been keeping up with our recent developments, I am now licensed as a chaplain (and as Director of Art and Story) with the Christian and Missionary Alliance in Canada.  My first official event happened last night, and boy did God show up in cool ways.

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Look what just showed up in my inbox!

Val Lieske, with Fire Exit Theatre, has had a dream for Calgary’s arts community for quite some time: A night of blessing for our artists, where we share a vision of God’s love and pray for the upcoming theatre and artistic season. I caught this dream and had the honour and pleasure of joining Fire Exit at last night’s The Blessing of the Artists.

We had no idea what was going to happen. Val planned a short program of music, poetry, and drama. I was going to share about my new position as chaplain. We were going to offer blessings, and then eat some pie. It sounded great on paper, but as with any new venture, we had no idea if anyone would even show up. To make matters worse, God had the sense of humour to blanket Calgary in a snowstorm yesterday morning and afternoon, diminishing the incentive for artists to leave their nice, warm homes to ask God for His blessing.

But, people showed up! We had somewhere between 40 and 50 artists make their way to the Lantern Community Church in Inglewood. More than half of these people came to the front for an anointing at the end of the program! 20 artists (plus 6 who were involved in the event) came forward for an individual blessing!

This was an incredibly moving experience for me. I got to look into people’s eyes and tell them that God not only loved them, but made them for a purpose. A purpose that can be hard and draining and lovely and thrilling. Best of all, He gave them personalized gifts of creativity and now walks alongside them as they try to figure out the best way to use those gifts.

Tears abounded. Hugs were handed out. Seven pies were eaten.

To be a part of this interaction between our artists and our God humbled and excited me. I was full of God’s love for a people who can often feel their brokenness so much easier and deeper than others do. And now, I have an even stronger desire to serve my fellow artists in whatever way I can.

So, to Val and Fire Exit Theatre, thank you for letting me be part of this awe-inspiring event. To Tim, a brother and mentor of mine, it was an honour to serve alongside you. To Calgary’s artists, God loves you beyond anything we’ve ever known.

Let’s journey together.

Blessings,

Shortlisted for a Literary Prize!

Even MORE exciting news!

Some of you might remember, a few months ago I wrote about a great opportunity for writers of faith. Cardus, a Canadian think-tank, organized the Ross and Davis Mitchell Prize for Faith and Writing, a contest for Canadian writers who write about the subject of faith. With $25000 and publication on the line, it seemed like a chance too big to let pass. So, in addition to encouraging our readers to apply, I sent in a short story myself.

And now, I’m happy to announce that I’ve been shortlisted for the prize! I am one of five short story authors who will be published (along with five poets) in an anthology next year. We will also be meeting in Toronto for a gala on October 30th where we will find out who walks away with the $10000 first prize or $2500 second prize (per category). We will also get to hear from Canada’s Parliamentary Poet Laureate, George Elliott Clarke, and the former president of PEN Canada and President and Vice-Principal of St. Michael’s College, Randy Boyagoda. It should be quite the night!

This is an incredible honour and I’m overwhelmed that my story about a plucky little robot was chosen by the judges. God has brought such a deluge of new and exciting blessings that I am constantly in awe of the breadth of his imagination. Though we were still incredibly blessed before we got Rome and the new job and this prize shortlist, this season has just been exceptional.

If anyone is interested in more information on the award, the other shortlist nominees, please check out this site. You can also read all of our stories/poems there, which I’m currently in the middle of doing.

Thanks for all the support I’ve received from my friends, family, coworkers, and loved ones. I will update you all with the results as soon as I get back from Toronto on October 31st. Wish me luck!

Blessings

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