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Epic Theology

Finding God through the lens of an artist

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Living a Paradox

I like order. I like neat boxes that allow me to understand what things are and what they aren’t. Although I am comfortable in the messy, grey-tones of real life (especially life in the arts), I prefer the black-and-white, right-and-wrong, this-or-that of a properly ordered world.

Lately, however, I’ve had to come to terms with the paradoxes of my life.

I am a licensed worker for the Christian and Missionary Alliance, and evangelical, Protestant denomination. However, I am also deeply Catholic. I work and worship at my church, but I also attend mass every couple of weeks, and have a deep devotion to my Catholic heritage. I am both Catholic and Protestant.

My moral system is quite conservative. I believe that God laid out the black-and-white of ethics in the Bible and that all people should follow what He says. How that plays out in my life, however, is rather liberal. I lean to the left politically, despite the fact that “the Left’s” moral ideals differ wildly from mine. I am both conservative and liberal.

I am deeply idealistic. I chase after dreams that are huge. I philosophize how life should be, and want nothing less for humanity than union with God and peace on earth. Yet, I live practically, even pragmatically at times. I want people to know they are loved where they are. If ideals must be relaxed to show love, then sometimes, so be it. I am both idealistic and pragmatic.

I am a romantic. I love to spoil my wife, take her on dates, and let her know how cherished she is as often as I can. Yet, I see how our obsession with (a rather shallow notion of) romance in the West has deeply damaged the institution of marriage. I hate how families are torn apart because parents “fall out of love,” or, worse, “fall in love with someone else,” allowing their temporary feelings to dictate their actions. I both love and loath romance.

I am a highly emotional artist and a heady intellectual. A sinner and a saint. An fun-seeking adventurer and a stable homebody. A humanist who believes humans to be deeply fallen.

Some of these paradoxes are comfortable in tension. Others are not. But each is a part of who I am, and each feeds into my work and art.

I think this is also important to realize about the characters we create or portray. People might not all carry such deep paradoxes, but they certainly hold conflicting beliefs about themselves and the world. It’s part of living in this messy world. We believe it’s not okay to lie, and we believe it’s not okay to betray our friends. What do we do when telling the truth betrays our friends? This is interesting.

Now, digging into the paradoxes of our beliefs might not be the most seasonally exciting activity, but I challenge you to think about some of your beliefs, identifiers, and thoughts that are in tension. Chat about them here. I would love to hear what inconsistencies make you human.

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

Whom Do You Serve?

Hello readers,

A couple weeks ago, I had the pleasure of joining with 50-60 Calgary artists to discuss issues facing the arts community in our city. One such question, “Who or what do we serve?” has sparked a lot of thought for me and I want to hear some of your thoughts.

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I believe the question of service is really a question of purpose: Why do we create? What is the end goal? In the end, I came to the conclusion that we serve four different people/things with every creative act: ourselves, the art, our community, and God.

It may sound selfish, but creating art is something that is initially done for oneself. I believe that artists create because they must. There is something within that must be expressed. Like breathing or blinking, creation is an inherent process for the artist. I know that when I can’t create something physical or write, I will create worlds and stories in my head. If we ever discover a way to read minds, I don’t envy the person who gets the first peek into my head. It’s a mess. Creating is a way to move those worlds out of my head and into the real world. In this way, I believe we serve ourselves when we create.

In addition, for professional artists, we have a career to maintain. We create to make money, to build a brand/voice/style, to further our careers. We grow as we create, serving our need for progress and direction. We create because it’s how we navigate the realities of the world. In a world where our social identity is so caught up in what we do for a living, artists must create to stay alive and part of their community.

Next, when we create, we serve our art. When we work to become masters of our media, we ensure that those very media continue to exist. When we push the boundaries of what’s been done, we ensure that the art form grows. If people stopped practicing painting, then the art (and the world, in my opinion) would suffer. So, please, continue to take classes, to sketch and stretch, to try new things. The art will be better for your contribution.

Many believe they create to serve humanity, but we have to ask: to what extent are we serving our community when we create? When you sit down to write, or get into the studio to dance, or take up a brush to paint, do you have others in mind? If we really want to serve others, we have to ask who we’re creating for and how we can best serve them. When I write plays for my church, I have a very specific group of people in mind that I’m serving. I don’t push them very far outside their comfort zone on Christmas Eve, and I don’t inundate them with theology on Easter. Knowing who I’m trying to serve allows me to cut out things that don’t serve the mission of the piece and ensures that every step, from conception to rehearsal to performance, makes it easy for my audience to join me in the story.

Finally, as human beings, whatever we do should be in service of God. This isn’t particular to artists, but to humanity as a whole. Whether you are a doctor or a teacher or a web developer or a steampunk maker, everything should be for the one who created you. God has placed the desire and need to create into artists, and our first job in serving God is to do just that: create. Yet, whenever we are faced with choices, we should be asking which option best serves God. The answer may not be obvious, and all options may equally glorify God, but we have to ask.

So, today, I ask you: Who or What are you serving? 

Blessings

Fasting for the Artist

I have had a mixed relationship with fasting throughout my life. I grew up “giving up” things like bubble gum, candy, and pop for Lent every year. As I grew older, I started fasting from sunup to midnight on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. My 12-year stint with vegetarianism began with giving up meat for Lent.

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Fasting was always part of the rhythm of my life, but never really for the right reasons.

If I’m honest, I would often treat myself like a martyr. I was so much holier than others because I was depriving myself of food for a day, and I would subtly let them know it. It was part of my identity as a Catholic, and I don’t regret it, but my heart was not in the right place.

For starters, a big part of Christian fasting revolves around forgoing certain things in one’s life so that we have more to give to the poor around us. I certainly did not do that. Fasting during the day also gives us more time to sit with God (when we would be otherwise eating), but I wouldn’t do that either.

And then, for years, I stopped.

After coming back to God seven years ago, I wanted to start fasting again. Yet, here, I found a new problem: fasting led to pretty intense anxiety, which was already a problem for me. I tried several times, but always felt worse, especially if I had to abandon the fast for my mental health.

So, again, I stopped. But I never stopped believing in the importance of fasting.

Now, here’s the exciting bit. I started fasting one day a week about two months ago, and it’s been such a fruitful part of my journey. I start my fast after dinner on Thursday night, and have refrained from eating food until dinner on Friday. The fast lasts about 23-26 hours (depending on when we eat both nights), and I’m asleep for a good chunk of it.

The mornings are rough. I know that the enemy of our souls does not want us to connect with God, and he attacks when we are weak. Physically, my body is not used to not eating food. Even today, between when I started writing this article and now, I had to break my fast as I started to be sick. It’s disappointing, but had to be done.

But, whenever I persevere, the benefits are amazing:

A deep sense of peace and clear-headedness. I don’t know about you, but this is the kind of state of being that I would love to have every time I sat down to write.

A feeling of being closer to God. I’m not one for chasing feelings around, but this one is nice when it happens.

A greater understanding of my need for God. The more I understand my relationship to God and my utter dependence on Him, the more I’m inspired to make my entire life about Him. A great thing for artists who can be obsessive about their art.

A more balanced view of food in my life. Though not overweight, I am a glutton when I stop to look around the world. I have FAR more than enough food and rarely go through a whole day where I only eat when hungry. Understanding what REAL hunger is (and not just boredom or the love of salt or sugar) helps balance out my worldview.

So, if you are thinking of a new spiritual discipline, or have been feeling far from God, I suggest you try a fast. It will probably suck for a while, but if you can push through the temptations, the lies of the enemy, and the social pressures to eat, and if you can focus on the One who actually sustains and satisfies, then perhaps He will meet you in your fast.

One last word of wisdom: Don’t make a huge Indian meal to break your fast with. Trust me on that one.

Blessings

 

Call for Artists!

A few weeks ago, my job at the church got a temporary boost in hours. I’ve been asked to spearhead an art show and sale, to revive an event that the church used to put on years ago. The offer meant double my weekly hours for three months, and, despite never having put on an art show in the past, I jumped at the opportunity.

It was a steep learning curve, but God has been incredibly gracious. I was given the authority to remake the show however we saw fit. We were encouraged to use whatever was helpful from prior incarnations of the show and leave behind whatever we did not fit our vision for the show. A co-worker of mine, Melinda, offered her wealth of knowledge and experience to help us make this show the best it can be. Between her help and a stack of forms, letters, and feedback from prior shows, we were able to set everything in motion.

 

We wanted to create a show that helped us reach out to artists and serve them with no “churchy” strings attached. We wanted to allow local artists to sell their work with minimal overhead and commission. In short, we wanted to love on them, and let them be artists.

Thus was born the illuminArt Show.

I have been working furiously over the past few weeks getting our show to the place where we can start inviting artists to apply to join us. Yesterday, that day finally came. Our website is up, the Facebook page is set, and the Event page is locked and loaded. We have all the forms we need, and now we just need artists.

Are you an artist? Are you located in or around Calgary (or willing to come stay with us for a day or so)? If so, I want to hear from you. Head over to www.illuminartshow.com and click on the Apply link. There, you will find a brief rundown of the show info and an application form. Download the form, fill it out, and send it back to info@illuminartshow.com.

From there, our illustrious jury will comb through the applications and put together a show that is bound to be all sorts of awesome.

For those of you who have heard all about this already, thank you for your patience. This is an exciting adventure for me, and I just can’t wait to fill the show with awesome talent.

In a few weeks, I will write down the process we went through. Maybe our journey can help you do something similar in your town or neighbourhood. I want to see more art, and I want to see artists able to feed themselves. Projects like these help both.

Blessings

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