Thursday, February 12, 2015

A Desire Which No Experience.. Can Satisfy

For as long as I can remember I have been drawn to the Arts . . .

My early life consisted of drawing characters I had seen in Walt Disney films, comic books and movies.  I didn't create my own characters very often but reproduced well known characters, usually much larger than their source.  I derived a great sense of life, pleasure and joy in doing this.  It took an incredible amount of focus and discipline to be still long enough to churn out these drawings- two things that are still a challenge for me to enact as often as I'd like.  Still, the payoff outweighed the challenge and although these drawings came into existence for no other reason than to provide creative expression at the time I drew them, it was enough.  I've only recently unearthed these drawings for my children to see . . (the top three were drawn when I was 13, the other around 14/15).

Around the same time I found music . . or music found me.  It was a form of art that gave an even stronger voice to my own feelings and thoughts as a pre-teen / teen.  My earliest memory of watching a music video was as a young boy around the age of 9 or 10.  I vividly remember Dire Straits' boxy animated video for their song 'Money for Nothing' being shown on MTV and I was transfixed.

My first real interest in music began in the rap and hip hop arena with artists like RUN DMC (my fav at the time), DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince (aka Will Smith) and The Fat Boys.  I'd love to give a special mention to the song 'Walk This Way' which was a collaborative effort between Aerosmith and RUN DMC.  I trace some of my strongest musical tastes to its early fusion of rap and rock.  A classic, albeit lyrically deficient.  ;-)

All of these (and other) artistic expressions captured my heart in my formative years, compelling me to express more, and explore further, this human experience of journeying down life's path.  More than that, these works of art (mine or others) act as mile markers on that journey, helping me recall other related memories, feelings and sometimes even smells, that constituted my world as a young boy.  Many of those experiences were painful and many were pleasant, but the memories which these works of art carry bring back those distant experiences like a familiar landscape emerging from thick fog.

Art, and specifically the beauty it conveys, reaches us at a depth of our souls that is incomprehensible.  That beauty (whether visual, physical, intellectual, etc.) often bypasses our mental  blockades ('watchful dragons' as C.S. Lewis said) and goes straight for the heart.  Once our heart is warmed, we are won.  Since my earlier years there have been countless other works of art of various media which have captured my heart, my mind, and my imagination.  I have been challenged by them, inspired by them, moved by them and even, in some cases, changed by them.

Now more than ever, as I approach 40, my desire to create and curate beauty, truth and goodness through art grows by the day.  I'm making steps (actions) that both facilitate creativity and the creation of works which, I hope, will one day cause another searching soul to be found by the Author of Life itself.

“The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing — to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from — my country, the place where I ought to have been born.  Do you think it all meant nothing, all the longing?  The longing for home?  For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going back.” 



What works of Art have inspired you - caused you to see life differently than before you became aware of it?
If you're called to be a 'Creative', what does your first step toward your next creative work look like?


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Thursday, February 05, 2015

Not by (my own) Might

Not by (my own) Might

The beginning of 2015 has come with a lot of #clarity.  When God speaks, He know show to get our attention.  When God wanted to speak with Moses, He did so through a burning bush that did not burn up [Ardens Sed Virens] - most shepherds would see a bush on fire at some point, just not one that burned indefinitely.  With me, when I 'hear' a similar message from multiple sources (Bible, friend, book, movie, song, etc.) it's usually my Father trying to communicate something He doesn't want me to miss.

The beginning of this year has been a case in point.  Right before the New Year arrived God began to remind me to 'Be Still'.  This invitation often references verse ten from chapter forty six in the book of Psalms:


This invitation from God is something I've been familiar with for longer than I can remember, but the practice of being still is like trying to slow a train by blowing on it in the opposite direction it's traveling.  Not going to happen.  Just because something is extremely hard does not mean it isn't worth doing . . in fact, I believe the the hardest things in life are usually the most worth doing.  Slowing down and even stopping is so critical and key to fulfilling our divine purpose on this planet.  Here's why . . 

We were made with limitations.  While most of humanity might act like it's unwanted and isn't true, it's actually a blessing.  We're often ruled by the 'tyranny of the urgent', which can send our personal Messianic complex into overdrive.  But when we're faced with our own limitations (God-imposed boundaries), we're forced to remember that He is God, and we are not.  It's called 'The Wall' and we all hit it at one point or another.  The past five years have felt like I've been living at the base of that wall.

When we first arrived back in America after an eleven year adventure in Europe, the first word I believed the Father spoke to me was 'Rest.'  I took it in my stride, thinking 'Yes, of course' I'll rest.'  But having returned to America with no job, no home and a wife and three kids to feed, I wrongly put a lot of confidence in my ability to 'make life work'.  I figured I'd get in front of somebody and get a job.  Then, I'd move my family into the right home for us, and eventually I'd get the non-profit we left Ireland to build off the ground and solvent.  - News Flash - it's been five years and I'm still hoping to see many of those desires come to fruition.  However, many unplanned, amazing blessings have emerged which we're grateful for.

God replied to my "I'll make life work." with "No you won't . . but I'll make it work for you."  You see, rest is not relegated to a state of complete inactivity, although there are appropriate times to be inactive.  It's possible to be sitting completely still and NOT be at rest.  Rest is more about a posture of the heart - it's the way we think about and live life because of the Father's words and actions.  We can't rest if we think our life - and it's worth - sits on our shoulders, carrying the weight of having to make something of ourselves.  That's not rest.  Rest (as a Christian) is all about remembering that we have a magnificent Heavenly Father who is always working with our best interests at heart.  He is Love incarnate, and Love works for the good of another.  Since He loves us without limit, we don't have to toil and drive ourselves to madness and soul numbness.  All we need is to sit, be still and listen.  That's the genesis of dreams that'll change the world- even as we're being changed!  He'll give us all we need in those quite moments.

So, back to the beginning of the year . . on a road trip our lead pastor, Brad Mathias, mentioned that the LORD spoke to him about Zechariah 4:6, revealing that a lot of the visions and dreams He seeded the hearts of people in our faith community would begin to come to fruition in 2015 as we allow Him to do it in/for/with us.  Zechariah 4:6 states,

- God's Word version

It became clear that the LORD was planning on doing something significant in 2015, and [at least] in our heads and hearts He wants us to stay out of the way so He can do it.  No trying to figure it all out ourselves, no manipulating circumstances event toward ends we believe are good, no self-important parades.  Then the invitation to 'Be Still' has been surfacing again and again as others at Four Winds Anglican Mission have shared - just recently affirmed through our Bishop Sandy Greene although he has been largely unaware of the Father's movements in our body.  The Message version of the Bible paints a vivid picture with these words:

- Psalm 46:10, MSG

If we practice this invitation to stillness, our focus will shift from our own efforts to make life work, and onto His loving kindness and His effortless care of us - the kids that He passionately loves.  We'll be reminded with vivid clarity that the universe does not revolve around us, nor do we 'make things happen' in our own ability.  Our lives and times are in His hands.  We observe the Sabbath to rest, remember and play in His presence and care.  We unplug from all of our devices and work, so we can piece back together (remember) that core truth that Our Father loves us, has proved it in the person of Jesus Christ, and takes care of all of our needs.

So, I'm listening . . and practicing #silence and #stillness more often.  As I do I grow in amazement, wonder and awe as I watch my Father and all that He's about in this great wild, wonderful world of His.  All confusion about how to hear His voice and receive clarity on life's purpose, will be neutralized as we're "lost in His wonderful embrace".  Then when we see Him move, we respond by moving too.  

What He's building, He's building to last.  
You have a part to play that begins with doing nothing but being still and silent with Him.



What are you seeking clarity from God about?
     - Are you slowing down enough to hear His voice?

Can you begin to give up being the master of your own ship in favor of our good Father proving to you that He can make your life better than you've imagined??
     - Begin by being still and silent, asking Him to speak.  Then quickly move onto being
       'intentionally unproductive' as you 'waste' time with God-of the-Angel-Armies on a Sabbath


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