What do You Love to Do that God Might Want You to do for Him?

June 6, 2012

She has published more than 200 books but not before she stepped out in faith, quit her job, and pursued God’s calling for her to write.  Her teachers had encouraged her as a child to write.  As a young wife and mother raising two children, she dabbled in writing and was encouraged to do more by a conference speaker.  When her boys were teens, she quit her job and took a leap of faith to write more seriously.  She has since written books on tough issues, such as addiction and mental illness, and she writes for women, teens, and children.

 She is Melody Carlson. 

Questions to Ponder: What do you love to do that God might want you to do for Him and His Kingdom?  What’s stopping you?

How Are You Using Your Talent or Skill to Serve God?

May 8, 2012

Although she was blind all her life, she wrote more than 8,000 religious poems that offered spiritual insight, many of which were set to music as hymns.  Over 1 million copies of her songs have been printed, and as many as 200 different pen names were given her works by hymn book publishers.

She owes much of her fame to the Christian musician, Ira D. Sankey, who put many of her hymns to music and sang them in his missions with D.L. Moody.

In “Saved by Grace”, she wrote about the joy of seeing Jesus face to face, reflective of her ability to focus on God rather than her physical handicap.  My personal favorite is “Blessed Assurance”.

She is Fanny J. Crosby (1820 – 1915)

Question for Contemplation: As an artist, how are you using a particular talent or skill to express your faith in service to God?

What Is Keeping You From Fulfilling Your Dream?

April 7, 2012

Growing up in Louisiana, she enjoyed writing.  But she thought her dream of becoming a writer was too ambitious, and so she kept it a secret.  At the age of 23, she tried to write her first novel, but she became discouraged and the effort came to an end.  Her passion for writing, however, continued to grow and found expression in skits she wrote for her church.

People told her she had great talent and encouraged her to write more.  As her confidence grew, she continued writing, striving to show the impact of the gospel message through the lives of her characters.

She has since written three popular series of Christian fiction books: Victorian Serenade, The Gresham Chronicles, and Tales of London.  She is Lawana Blackwell.

Question for Contemplation:  As an artist, using your gift as an expression of your faith, what is keeping you from fulfilling your dream?

Are You Capable of Being God’s Secret Agent?

March 3, 2012

“Of one thing we can be sure: Angels never draw attention to themselves but ascribe glory to God and press His message upon the hearers as a delivering and sustaining Word of the Highest Order.”

Quote from God’s Secret Agents by Billy Graham, P. 27

I read this quote one evening and it made me think of my need to “hide behind the cross” in ministry.  And then I had a myriad of questions:

  • Am I capable of being God’s secret agent?
  • How do I press His message upon others through my creative expression of faith without drawing attention to myself in the process?
  • Is this level of excellence even possible?

I finally came to this answer: Where the Gospel is concerned, I absolutely must strive for this level of excellence in my effort; His Saving Grace is sufficient and that truth alone is worthy of me bowing my humble head in my effort to diminish myself for His greater glory.  His love deserves nothing less.

Question to ponder: How do you act as God’s secret agent when you use art as an expression of faith?

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?

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).

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?

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?

Have You Considered Adding Speaking to Your Artistic Expression of Self?

May 28, 2011

I am an artist, which means I have an inherent need to express myself.  As a songwriter, I express myself through creative lyrics and hooks.  As an author, I express myself with compelling plots and character dialogue.  As a mixed-media collage artist, I express myself with my color palette and design elements.  I use art to express myself, which means that I have something to say – something that burns so deeply in my heart that I can’t sleep peacefully until I share it with someone else.  This is the reason I sing, paint and write!

As an artist, I also have a certain level of expertise in using my artistic talent and medium of choice, not to mention personal experience with my subject matter (source of expression).  This simple truth opened my mind to a new possibility – expanding my artistic ministry to include speaking.  By including speaking as a vehicle for my expression I increase my ability to give meaning and clarity to my message, boost my visibility as an expert in the field, and increase in number my performances and shows.  How can that be bad?  It can’t!

If you too are feeling led to expand your ministry with public speaking to support your creative expression and personal message, I highly recommend two resources:

How to Speak So People Will Listen CD by Florence Littauer
Statistics continue to show that speaking in public is one of people’s greatest fears. Yet for many, putting together the perfect presentation is the key to professional success. Florence will guide you in planning, preparing, and presenting a program that will capture both the hearts and minds of the listeners. 90 minutes.

Talking So People Will Listen CD by Marita Littauer
All of us talk. Even if you are in a position where you can make people be quiet when you speak, you can’t make them listen. However, what you can do is adjust your approach to them so you can make it easier for them to really hear you! In this fast paced and entertaining tape based on her book, “Talking So People Will Listen”, Marita Littauer will help you identify your personal communication style and that of those with whom you live and work.  60 minutes.

Both CDs are instructional and insightful, and provide great suggestions for even a novice like me.  Florence Littauer is known universally for being entertaining, educational and encouraging all at the same time, and she has received special honors as a Legend in the speaking profession.  Marita has trained thousands of men and women in speaking and writing skills, is a member of the National Speakers Association and is a frequent guest on television and radio programs throughout the country.

For more information about this dynamic mother and daughter team, visit: http://www.classervices.com/florencespeaks.htm and http://www.programresources.com/spkr/littauer_marita.htm

And then ask yourself, “What have I got to lose, except maybe another peaceful night’s sleep”?

Eight Ways to Creatively Promote Your Art

December 29, 2010

Original article written by Kristen Clark, edited by ASC | Posted on Saturday, October 25, 2008; http://www.asingularcreation.com/articles/eight-ways-to-creatively-promote-your-art.htm

Creativity applies to more than just art; it also applies to the business side of art – generating sales. The appeal of art alone is not sufficient to generate the kind of “buzz” that increases awareness, consideration and purchase. Art needs promotion – creative promotion.

I am a collage artist, and I am but one among a vast number of artists specializing in this medium; the competition is great and ever growing. As a result, my challenge lies not only in creating unique and appealing collages, but also in setting myself and my work apart from others. In the absence of an agent, I need to promote myself and my work, and I need to do this on a daily basis. The reality is that no matter how good my art may be I still need to create my own “buzz.” Fortunately, there are a variety of activities that can be easily managed in this effort, and those activities can be tailored to each artist’s unique style and preference.

• Maintain a creative and compelling web site

• Generate your own promotional “buzz” and communicate it through a distribution list

• Write and post an artist’s reflection for each piece

• Feature your art in all of your communications

• Donate select pieces to various charitable organizations for auction

• Leverage associations for networking and collaboration on promotional opportunities and ideas

• Volunteer to speak at conferences and events

• Write an article for a supporting magazine or journal

Creating “buzz” means more than entering art competitions and applying for shows. It means exposing your artistic abilities to a broader audience and in a creative way. I’ve outlined a few ideas that have worked well for me. I suggest trying even just a few of the eight listed above and remember, the need for creativity not only applies to artistic design; it also applies to promotional effort.