How Do You Use Your Talents for the Lord?

February 3, 2012

I think there are two ways to use our talents for the Lord.

1.  When we are “called” to do so for God, we respond obediently to God’s will for us, to which He prepares us according to His time, His message, His plan.

2.  When we “offer” to do so for God, it is because we have decided to do so out of our own ability, which will still be well received as long as we do it with pure intentions (meaning in an effort to glorify God).

I believe either can be equally effective.  Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

From which perspective do you use your talents? Are you called to use art as an expression of faith? Or are you offering to use art as an expression of faith? What has been your experience?

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Use Online Videos to Showcase Your Artistic Talent and Testify to the Gospel of God’s Grace!

January 4, 2012

Did you know YouTube ranks #2 for search engines, after Google? This simple fact proves that videos are a great way of sharing online content.  Why not use videos to also feature your artistic talent as an expression of faith in your effort to testify to the gospel of God’s grace (Acts 20:24)? 

The role of the Internet in our ministerial efforts continues to grow, and we can no longer afford to ignore online informational opportunities.  Have you ever considered creating a video to convey your inspirational message or promote your newest book or collection of short stories?  Why not create a video of your faith-based oil paintings or water colors to showcase your artistic style and inform connoisseurs on how they can purchase your work? 

It’s easy to upload a video to YouTube, and a YouTube video can help get your message across even if your website isn’t yet ready for prime time. Thankfully, making the video itself has also never been easier.  I recommend annimoto.com, one of the easiest video creation tools I have yet to find.

“In the works since 2005, Animoto was founded to help people better share their stories and express themselves through online media by innovating technologies in the field of video production. Using the latest in entertainment post-production technologies, Animoto is designed to bridge the gap between the high production value of film and television, and the more “amateur” feeling of most user-created videos and photo albums.”

It’s really a very simple tool.  Choose and upload your images.  Choose your music.  Watch and share your video.  A 30 second video is free to make, and for just a few dollars a month, you can create videos up to 2 minutes long that feature your own logo.  Take a look at the simple video I created to help promote my Christian art.

If you’re interested, sign up for your own animoto account and start creating promotional videos today!  In the meantime, I will pray for God’s blessing on your effort: May He bless you, expand your territory, keep His hand upon you, and keep you from evil (1 Chronicles 4:10).


God’s Plan for Gratitude – in Life and in Ministry

November 23, 2011

God has a plan for gratitude and the role thankfulness plays in our lives. In fact, I found the word “thankful” (and its synonyms) in the Bible 392 times, proof that thankfulness is a highly valued virtue; God wants me to rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) so that I might rise above adversity and prevail with deep peace and satisfaction.

Gratitude is equally important in ministry and sharing the Good News with others.  It is one of the best cures I know for the three E’s (Entitlement, Expectation, and Envy), all of which can drastically impede my ability to demonstrate God’s grace or testify to His love. In other words, by maintaining gratitude I am better able to stay in God’s will, endure spiritual warfare, and effectively cope when situations don’t go my way.

So, I ask: how is your gratitude and are you in need of developing it further? If so, I might be able to help! I have been diligent in my pursuit of gratitude over the past ten years, and I am anxious to share what has worked for me in the process. If you are interested, send me an email and ask to receive my quarterly Gratitude newsletter. If you’re in need of some great tips now, feel free to download the latest version here.

Enjoy!


Use the HALT Method to Maintain a Healthy Mental Position and Protect Your Creativity

October 28, 2011

As an artist, I have learned that my mental state can dramatically impact my ability to express my faith creatively, eloquently, and effectively. Zig Ziglar once said, “Positive thinking will let you do everything better than negative thinking will,” and he was right; there is plenty of research that supports his claim. In fact, medical and psychological research conducted in the last ten years successfully links state of mind to personal effectiveness and success. I myself have found this to be true; when my state of mind is healthy, I am more able to face and overcome difficult creative ruts, numerous rejection letters, and frustrating submission guidelines. Thankfully, I discovered a method that helps me maintain a healthy mental position.

The HALT method suggests pausing long enough to assess if I am Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. Any of these conditions can immediately put my mental state on a downward slope. Originally used in recovery programs, HALT is also helpful to me as an artist. When in Halt, I may find myself becoming anxious, quick-tempered, narrow-minded, or lacking in creative vision, none of which are helpful for arranging music, writing inspirational stories, or creating compelling mixed media collages.

When in HALT, it is critical that I take a moment to assess and tend to my personal needs. If I am hungry, I make time for a meal or quick snack. If I am angry, I take a few extra minutes to detach from my stressful situation; I breathe, relax, stretch my limbs, count to ten, pray, and emotionally regroup. If I am tired, I withdraw for a nap and some quiet time in an effort to recharge my battery. If I am lonely and feeling secluded, I lift my spirits by visiting a neighbor or friend.

My ability to successfully use art as an expression of my faith depends on my ability to maintain a positive mental outlook. The HALT method allows me to assess and address my critical needs. When I do, I am more effective in rising above daily artistic challenges. This allows me to keep my mind free to soar to new levels and do what I love to do most – create!


The Dangers of Social Networking in Ministry

September 30, 2011

How much larger is God than you?

I recently read in the May 2011 issue of Christianity Today Magazine an article entitled, “Christianizing the Social Network”, and I was fascinated by the author’s concern about social networking tools creating unhealthy desires for the Christian community. One example the author gave was how YouTube heightens and preys upon “our desire to see and be seen”, and “making us exhibitionists, telling us that any part of the human experience can be someone’s entertainment.”

After reading this article, I became convicted of the need to be aware of how I use technology and how to be a good steward of the human experiences I share – mine and those belonging to others (like my husband). This conviction begs me to be intentional in how I promote our ministry and how I encourage others to use art as an expression of faith while simultaneously avoiding the exploitation of the human experience for the sake of expanding God’s Kingdom. Yes, this can be problematic. How do I raise the visibility of art as an expression of faith without promoting the artist above God? How do I raise the visibility of MY art as an expression of faith without promoting MYSELF above God?

After thinking on this I have decided to focus on three particular scripture verses in my effort:

  • Acts 20:24: I consider my life worth nothing; my only aim is to finish the race and testify to the good news of God’s grace.
  • Jeremiah 9:24: In doing so, I will boast about this – that I know God and that He is the Lord who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth.
  • John 15:5: I will do this with God’s help because He is the vine and I am the branches; apart from him I can do nothing (correctly).

In essence, I will continue telling the world about God and His Grace and I will do so by illustrating (singing, writing, and painting about) what I know and understand about Him (including His kindness, justice and righteousness), professing Him as Lord and King; and I will do all of this while remaining mindful of the fact that I am nothing without Him.

And so I ask you: how will you resist the temptation to see and be seen, to tell any part of your human experience and promote yourself above God?


Are You Worthy?

September 2, 2011

In the past few months, my husband and I have performed at several churches of various denominations and in several different states. While doing the sound check at one church, the music director asked us a number of questions, one of which stuck out in particular: “Are you worthy of standing on God’s holy ground?” In other words, were we worthy of standing in their pulpit?

I cast a quick glance to my husband and thought to myself, “Is this a joke? Did this guy not do his homework and check us out before agreeing to meet with us? Did he not listen to our CDs or look over our websites? Is it just me, or is this whole discussion a little awkward?”

I immediately found myself fascinated by the idea of one mere human being asking another mere human being about worthiness for the purpose of standing on the pulpit in God’s name, and I left the interview conflicted and surprised by my inability to quickly articulate a reasonable answer to the question. Unfortunately, the enemy was prowling around like a lion and immediately began challenging my value and worth.  Am I worthy?

Three days later (no accident there, I’m sure), I came to the answer. By my own account, no, I am not worthy. No one is. But I am saved, and by God’s grace I am a co-heir to the throne and the daughter of the most high King, and by His account I am deemed worthy.

This was a great lesson for me and reminded me to respect a church’s need to ensure that the musical guests be vetted in terms of faith and salvation. But more importantly, this lesson reminded me to be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks for a reason for the hope I have.

But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened. But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

1 Peter 3:14-16 (NIV)

 


Biblical Accuracy verses Creative License: What is Our Responsibility as Christian Artists?

July 28, 2011

I recently read The Shack and found myself fascinated by the controversy surrounding this amazing novel. As an artistic work, this book has been criticized for promoting a wrong-headed view of universal salvation and for being deeply subversive, scripturally incorrect, and downright dangerous.  At the same time, others have celebrated this work as creative brilliance, spiritually profound, and transformational.

I was stunned by how a single creative work could provoke such opposing responses, an observation which raised for me this question: Is an author required to maintain a sense of biblical accuracy in his or her expression of faith, and to what extent is creative license appropriate? This same question could be asked of Christian songwriters and Christian artists, many of whose works have also provoked opposing responses within the Christian community.

I consider myself a Christian artist, meaning that I use art as an expression of faith in an effort to impact things on a spiritual level. As a result, I consider myself a teacher of God’s Truth and feel a certain responsibility to ensure that my artistic expressions are accurate representations of everything I know about God and His Good News; whether my expression is written, lyrical, or visual, I feel a responsibility to convey His attributes and promises in a way that is biblically accurate and theologically sound, even at the expense of using any creative license.

After reading The Shack, I wonder about my responsibility as a Christian artist. Am I expressing my faith for the purpose of educating others about Biblical truths, or am I expressing my faith for the purpose of entertaining and encouraging others to seek God’s truth on their own? What is the purpose of my expression and does purpose really matter? At what point does creative license trump biblical accuracy?

What do you think?