Faith, for the Creatives

But I don’t have an opinion…

In my new job, I am surrounded by opinionated Christians. Some are homeschoolers. Some are pro-lifers. Some are politically incorrect, some pro gun rights, some against homosexual marriage. Everyone is not every single one of these things, in fact, I’m sure there are progressive Christians here that defy many of the stereotypes I just threw out. We are not one denomination, and our statement of faith is very general to encourage diverse beliefs within the term “Christian.” But the fact remains that I am surrounded by strong opinions.

And while I’m going about my workday and hearing anger over various non-Christian “agendas” or “Hitlery” or hot topic issues, my mind is screaming “You can’t just say that!!!!!” But actually, they can. And it makes me feel like I’m missing out because I don’t have an opinion. Or I do have an opinion, but I sure am not about to voice it in such a way that assumes they all share my beliefs.

And I have to remind myself that’s a good thing. That I can’t write culturally relevant worldview articles very often. That I tread lightly on controversial subjects. That I play devil’s advocate (and am somehow not headed straight for hell.)

I used to want to be blunt, dishing out hard truth every which way, and if people didn’t like to hear it, that’s their problem. I even lived that way for awhile. And we need those people, but I believe we need others too.

I’m a writer. And not a worldview or politics or controversial writer. We need those people, but I’m not them.

I’m a person who tries to understand and dig deep into people and perspectives. I want to be an open door, a listening ear, to the misfits and forgotten and ignored especially.

Sometimes I miss that mark of course. Sometimes I’m too caught up in my own problems. But if you’re a writer or a Christian without a loud opinion about every controversial topic surrounded by people telling you to speak up…. I just wanted to share that you’re not alone. We need both types of people. We need the preachers and the counselors both. Which are you? bring about a better world *that* way.

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Faith, Mental Health

While I was doing other things, life.

“Your life gets lived while you’re busy d0ing other things.” –Rizzoli & Isles

I’m pretty sure formulaic crime dramas aren’t supposed to be inspiration for writing. But I finished Gilmore Girls and need some feel-good TV female relationships. And every so often a certain quote just hits you.

I don’t always make the right entrepeneurial-dreamer choices. I watch TV too much and blame it on needing relaxation time or – the writers’ perfect scapegoat – research 🙂 I don’t always know how to balance my need to push myself and exercise self-discipline with my need to monitor my anxiety levels and say no and rest. But while I’m figuring all this out, my life is being lived anyhow. TV shows and all.

While I’ve been busy figuring it all out, I’ve grown bitter and skeptical, in general but of the church specifically. How bad is that! A professing Christian who loves the church doesn’t know how to just be there anymore. And I’m trying to fix that. To remind myself that God has put me in a safe place.

But while I’ve been busy figuring it all out, I’ve been questioning, good questioning. Who is God really, beyond Christian tradition and deep in the Bible. Who does God say that I am? What is my sin and what is my sickness and what needs deliverance? It’s not easy questions, I certainly haven’t found all the answers. But it’s a reminder that God loves disciples who don’t have it all figured out.

 

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Faith

Christianity is kinda like vampirism

 

In defense of vampires….we’re all kinda them too

The mythology of vampirism is that they’re humans turned immortal surviving off of the blood (life) of others. We can see why this is unScriptural. I would not argue that this creature is holy and pure by any means. But there is a Christian perspective to this mythology that can bring clarity and depth to these stories.

A new way of seeing the Romans 6 struggle: Just as humans daily have a struggle between their sin nature and the glory God has designed us for, vampires have a struggle between their vampirism and their humanity. Like Christians working to restore what was lost in the Fall, vampires strive to restore the humanity they lost. You see, vampires for the most part have NOT chosen this lifestyle; like humans are born with a sinful nature, vampires are forced into a vampiric nature.

Rabbit: Chasing Beth Rider
The best Christian vampire book I’ve found. Read it!

My favorite vampire fix would be Vampire Diaries. On the tv show, some vampires drink animal blood, some drink “fresh” human blood, from the vein. Others drink human blood but only from “blood bags,” taking from blood donation locations and hospitals. Some vampires have embraced this part of their new life, while others are wracked by shame and contempt for the very nature they can’t seem to escape.

Each of these “dietary” choices come with their own dilemmas at different times. The shame and guilt of breaking your own standards. The problem of stealing blood from hospitals. The manipulation of drinking from the vein. And what if the strength of animal blood is not enough to fight off an enemy, and the friend tells you that you should drink from their vein – is it okay then, to save your friends? You see what I’m getting at – no longer black and white issues, but daily areas that appear so grey at times.

It’s easy to say “Thou shall not steal” and the set standards of living for God. The day-to-day living gets harder to see where the black and white is. There’s a part in [the non-vampire fantastical tale] “The Land of Stories” where the brother lies to his teacher to help his sister. The narrator says “it was the wrong thing to do as a student, but the right thing to do as a brother.” I won’t say whether that is justified in God’s sight or not. I’m just saying getting into the gnitty-gritty of life, sin gets a little confusing. And vampirism shows this struggle with a new perspective – a little more distanced, but also a little deeper.

*If you enjoyed this post, I’ve also written a Christian defense of the Fantasy genre, Horror genre, and Romance genre, as well as a defense of fiction in general.

 

Is it weird to say vampires are relatable?

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Faith

How to Break Up with your Church

 
I have been on the giving and receiving end of a “church break-up.” I would even say I’ve probably been a part of the cause of a “church break-up.” I don’t have all the answers, but I do have some good and not-so-good experiences to pull from.
 
This isn’t going to cover if/when you should break up with your church. There are plenty of articles on that you can look up if you’re not sure. Once you’ve decided to break up with your church though, here’s some recommended steps. This of course doesn’t apply to every situation and every community, but hopefully this will give you some steps in the right direction.
 
 

Step 1: Tell Church Leadership Why & When

 
Depending on the size of the church and your involvement, this may or not be the pastor. If this is a mega-church where you’ve never spoken to the pastor in your life, you may not want/need to take that step.
 

  • What leader knows you by name?
  • What leader will notice your absence?
  • This person may be the pastor, pastor’s wife, small-group leader, and/or the head of a department you volunteer with

 
Arrange a time to meet individually and explain your departure – the why and when.
 
 

Step 2: Tell the Pastor Any Grievances Against the Church (if applicable)

 
Really I hope your reason for leaving is because of some exciting new adventure awaiting and no hard feelings, but that is of course not always the case.
 
This part is never easy. I would hope you have already discussed with church leadership any problems you may have with the church. But if you haven’t, you definitely need to. This isn’t time for accusations – it’s time to make them aware of anything driving committed members away.
 
Here’s the most important part: Don’t just tell the leader from step 1. You should tell the pastor, if not in person then at least via letter. A pastor really will want to be aware of any negative experiences the church has played a role in. No one is perfect, no church is perfect, and church leadership wants to be aware of the atmosphere and address major issues.
 
 

Step 3: Tell Your Church Friends at least the Basics

 
I have seen firsthand the pain of hearing through the grapevine that someone left the church. This is a simple step, almost forgettable, which I think is mostly how it happens. Sure you probably won’t tell everyone, but think ahead about who you will tell. 
 

Don’t let your friends be left in the lurch, just finding you gone one Sunday and everyone knows but them. Tell anyone you consider yourself close to. Don’t ghost your friends.

 

 

What do you think?

I’m not church leadership, so I’m sure there’s a different perspective there. And really, I’m sure there’s a different perspective from many church-goers, so what are your steps to breaking up with a church? Comment below to let me know 🙂

 

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Faith, for the Bookworms, Showcasing other Creatives

5 Books for Christian Artists

Being an artist is difficult. Adding Christian to that title puts a whole other spin on things. Here’s 5 Christian books I recommend for artists.

 

To build your artist brand:51fn4UIx9kL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_
“Crafting Your Brand”

Matt Tommey

This book is perfect for anyone looking to make their art a business. Branding is especially big right now, even though it’s been around forever. Matt Tommey’s book introduces readers to the basics of branding, while also tackling some of the lies we believe about creativity clashing with business.

 

 

 

To study artists in Scripture & apply to your life:
“Unlocking the Heart of the Artist” 51GfacF2pPL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_
Matt Tommey

 

Every artist should read this book. Every artist! This book studies the origins of artistry in the Bible and presents the lies (and truths!) that are prominent in that. Find your place in the Kingdom with chapters on community, prophetic voice, spiritual discipline, and co-laboring with God.

 

 

 

 

To find your life calling:512Q3lH0uqL._SX335_BO1,204,203,200_
“Chazown”
Craig Groeschel

For those artists (and non-artists) who are still unsure what their calling is in life, Craig Groeschel’s book has a very practical approach to discovering it through looking at your gifts, values, and experiences. Once you pin down your vision and calling, there’s still a bulk of chapters on next steps and living it out. Don’t miss this book!

 

 

 

To get a second chance at your career:51KE+8bOHwL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_
“Do-Over”
Jon Acuff

Jon Acuff’s Do-Over is perfect for those who feel they’re stuck in a rut, not moving forward with their dream. Maybe you’re an artist on the side with a day-job that drains the life out of you. Maybe you’re living what you thought your dream was and it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Whatever the case, Do Over gives you the chance to do just that – call “Do Over” and start your dream anew. Acuff gives the tools to get you right where you want to be and start living life with your dream at the center.

 

 

To conquer your artistic vices: 51g2xDQtM6L._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_
“The Heart of the Artist”
Rory Noland

Not to be confused with Matt Tommey’s book, Rory Noland also wrote a book about the Heart of the Artist. This one centers on the character struggles that artists tend to face – Perfectionism, Poorly Handling Criticism, Jealousy, Overly Emotional, and the like. There’s also an excellent chapter on how to Lead Artists, because we are a difficult to finagle bunch, ha! Excellent book for any ministry team or any artist individually to work through.

Faith

How to Retain Youth in Church

Questions aren’t the enemy.

The more I hear from those jaded and disillusioned by the church, those who love some idea of God but not the church’s, the more I feel the need to say that questions aren’t the enemy.

Can we just admit that we don’t know what we’re talking about?

We follow some biblical rules and we ignore others because they’re outdated or cultural or whatever reason we give. We skip over passages that don’t have an easy answer or don’t fit with our worldview. We add rules that the Bible never talks about. Can we admit that everything we do doesn’t make sense? And that’s okay. We could be wrong, we’re still figuring it out, and we can disagree on many things and still be brothers and sisters.

We can’t look down on those who question, because they supposedly have less faith or revelation or are further from God or drawn by sin and pleasures of this world.

Questioning the church – that’s not a sin. That’s not even necessarily temptation. That’s the first step to creating a personal faith that can’t be shaken when outside the church building.

I think of the many people who asked Jesus questions, who didn’t understand, and I’m pretty sure they made it to heaven just fine.

The church needs to be a place open to questions, to dialogue, not shying away from anyone who questions the norm. We don’t have to change our minds – though we might on some things – but I think we need to dialogue without judgement of the inquisitive.

 

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Faith

The Courage of Generosity

A friend gave me a devotional by Patricia Raybon for Christmas. I’m not much of a devotional person, I’m more of a jump-to-my-own conclusions person haha. But this devotional has been a nice calm to the beginning of my day.

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The week on Generosity really hit me. Messages on finances really get to me, maybe because I’ve struggled in trusting  in the past, or because I had great faith in the past, or because I love giving especially when it seems like it’s the most foolish decision ever. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not perfect in this area; in fact the moments of faith for this are few and far between. But I think this topic is especially pertinent to creatives, freelancers, and entrepreneurs who have no guarantee of regular income…yikes!

 

Despite my on-again off-again study of this topic, Raybon had a couple amazing points I hadn’t thought about that change my perspective on giving.

 

  1. Generosity is about courage more than about giving. It’s not about giving where it’s easy, it’s about trusting that you can continually give lavishly and have enough. No matter your income. She pointed out that all of nature survives off an endless cycle of giving…how beautiful!
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  3. Referencing John 3:16, Raybon noted that we should give as God gives. Did He only give to people He could trust with His gift? No. He gave His son to the “ungrateful, selfish, sinful, disappointing world.” I want to give like that, not constantly worrying about what a person would do with it, just giving with trust and hope. “When they’re at their worst, we can give our best.” Not taking into account whether the receiver will be responsible with the gift, but taking into account the need and having grace.

 

Here’s to growing in generosity, faith, courage, trust, and grace as God continues to work on my heart.

 

 

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Faith, Mental Health, Musings

Karitos Retreat 2015

 

“Hey! How do you get out of here?”

 

“We don’t. We’re trapped,” I wanted to say.

 
 
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I never intended to write this blogpost. The title, yes; the content, no. Karitos 2015 was supposed to be a lovely artistic post about all the techniques and spiritual life applications from a gathering of creatives. It wasn’t supposed to be this mess.

But Karitos 2015 wasn’t a conference, it was a retreat. The classes were designed to delve into the creative’s mind and heart, not their skills and art. So unplanned by me, I was faced head-on with my anxiety, that thing that I shouldn’t blog about again so soon because I’d just finished telling everyone about it.

 
 

I sat outside the writing room, curled up, begging no one to notice. Hoping that the class had fallen for it when I picked up my phone and ran out, as if I had a call though there was no ringing. And I breathed and cried and hoped to God this wasn’t who I am. Then the girl came up – limping along in an uncertain scurry as if something was chasing her. I’m a mess, but she doesn’t seem too great either. Desperate. I saw it in her eyes. She asked how to exit the building – “How do you get out of here?” – and I told her to turn left and then right. What I wanted to say is “There’s no escape.” That’s what it feels like, and I wonder if she felt it too.

 
 

“You cannot manage a life of lies.” — Matt Tommey, #Karitos2015

 
 

It struck me. I know. I know that all this pent-up anxiety and fear and panic, it’s lies I somehow believed at the core, that somehow own me at the most inopportune times. And I knew that managing, what I’d been doing for years, wasn’t enough. I would fight this.

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But a fight doesn’t look pretty. A fight doesn’t mean as soon as I know the answer it’s all over. And I think that’s what the Christian world pretends, that enlisting in the fight means it’s all perfectly won that instant. Physical illnesses the church can understand if someone believes in healing but isn’t healed. But mental illness and the like, somehow the problem is that the person hasn’t been preached to enough.

 
 
 

In the few short weeks I’ve had a problem large enough to be on medication, to speak out about it, consult others, I’ve been told so many things I never need to hear.

 
 

“It’s just fear and lies. Let go of the lie and embrace the truth.”

I hear:

“You’re wrong, you’re believing so many wrong things, and if you just believed right like me, you’d be okay.”

 
 

“Be glad you can deal with this now before you’re married with kids. That adds so much more difficulty to bring that into marriage.”

I hear:

“You’re not whole enough for marriage yet, you’re not enough for someone else to take your problems.”

 
 
 

“Take your focus off yourself and praise Jesus. The devil can’t stand praise and will leave.”

I hear:

“You’re so self-centered with your anxiety, unlike us who are able to focus on God just fine.”

 
 
 

Those with anxiety don’t need a sermon, an answer. We have that bottled up within us, terrified to face it yet seeing it every. single. day. When my emotions are in a panic, my thoughts are overrun with dread, and my body experiences chest pain or twitching, the anxiety has taken my mind, emotion, and body, and in that state what more to a person is there? The anxiety is me, it’s all me, is what I believe. And all the while as I scream at myself “BE REASONABLE, AMY” nothing changes. Though it seems controllable, I have no control. Though it seems like it’s all my own doing, I can’t do anything but let it pass. I’m a prisoner to it. I’m fighting, but it’s not me. It’s not me. And that’s what I remind myself every. single. day.
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And if anyone feels this way, I just want to take a moment to say what I most need to hear: You’re strong! I see that. That the victory is slow does not mean it’s any less. I hope healing and freedom is instantaneous for you, but if it is not, know this: That you get back up every time to fight, you. are. strong. Keep going. And I’m with you in it.

 
 
 
 

You Are Strong

 
 

I won the battle at Karitos 2015. My unexpected panic attack where things should have been safe, it made me stronger. I’d like to say I won everything, but I’m still getting there. I opened up. I pressed forward. And I will keep on going.

 
 
 

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Faith, for the Creatives

Indy Trip 2015: Karitos

Karitos Indy 2015

Karitos brings together artists of all types – musicians, dancers, writers, painters, actors, and everything in between. We have breakout sessions on our area of interest, but all get together for large sessions to be all artsy together. It’s also a Christian conference, so the best part is we learn about glorifying God in and through our art, as well as life. I love that there’s this comraderie of we’re-all-in-this-together instead of a spirit of competition and narcissism (quite common among creatives, even myself.) Such a refreshing retreat! I am mostly writer, so most of the sessions I went to were about writing.

My favorite parts were the general sessions all together, but I appreciated a lot of other parts. I came up with a blogpost idea from Paul Lloyd’s Blogging session. It will be titled “How to Find the Circus.” Be looking for that in the near future 🙂 He also gave lots of ideas for content to publish – I’m toying with the idea of making some vlogs because of his session, even though I’m even less videogenic than I am photogenic. We’ll see.

Leanzar Stockley’s worship session continued his theme from last year, on loving others and reconciliation. He reminded us that our art is for God and others – we dance or write or paint or sing for others.

In Donna Cherry’s “Taking It to the Streets” she said everywhere she goes, she assumes she’s sent. So refreshing to remember wherever I am, God has me there for a reason. Living with expectation. She also talked about a healing that happened through her, though she wasn’t even praying for healing. Just with an unintentional touch. She said we shouldn’t think that God will only work through us when we’re trying to have Him work through us. So true. It made me think of the woman healed by touching Jesus’ cloak. And He said, “Who touched me? I felt power go out from me.” JESUS unintentionally healed, why not us?

Finally, in Tim Swain’s Spoken Word session, it was fun to play with spoken word and presentation – as well as his exortation to make writing excellent, because Christians tend towards “If it’s for God, it doesn’t have to be quality.” Ughhhhh, that’s one lie that irks me from Christian culture. Don’t think that you can slide by in mediocrity because you have the stamp of Jesus approval on your work. Excellence is so key. Tim Swain said, “They’ll respect your art before they respect your message.”

One of my favorite parts of Karitos is getting to know other artists, other stories, other dreams. Here’s Linda Harris-Iorio’s artwork that was displayed and/or painted right there – her connection with God’s heart is so encouraging.

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I’m so pumped for the big event – Karitos Retreat in Chicago. Cause one Karitos just isn’t enough 🙂 Come join me! After Karitos ended, we headed to finish our scavenger hunt (come back for tomorrow’s post.)

Faith, for the Creatives

The Tortured Artist Mythology: A Christian Artist’s Dilemma

This is part 3 of the Tortured Artist series: you can check out Identity Crisis and Difficult to Love here.

The story of Christian singer/songwriter Rich Mullins, “Ragamuffin,” was recently released on DVD. A great movie that exemplifies the tortured artist stereotype. And I think it brings up two of the most difficult problems with being both Christian and artist.

The first is seen when Rich Mullins shows up to a seminary class right after his song “Awesome God” becomes a radio hit. It comes up in class and the teacher is befuddled as to why such a famous worship leader would be taking his class. It seems like Rich should know enough about God at this point with such anointed music to be leading the class himself, certainly not needing to learn more from others. Right? Right????

One problem that Christian creatives have is that they are assumed to be an authority on all spiritual topics. They can seek counsel and learning only to be greeted with a responsibility they never signed up for. We need to learn. We aren’t necessarily asking for authority when we put pen to paper or lyrics to music or paint to canvas. We’re just asking to express our hearts. Don’t take it too seriously. Every Christian has an audience, whether in artwork or another workplace; we all hold the same responsibility for our actions.

The second problem is equal and opposite. Rich Mullins is seen cussing, smoking, and drinking. (See, tortured artist.) Because a story of someone’s life will emphasize the highs and lows with no middle ground, it’s difficult to say how much of his life this more negative portrayal encapsulates. Yet multiple people get upset at his Christian platform when he struggled so. Some even question if he really knew God.

Sometimes I think the church is more forgiving of Christians from the Bible than of those Christians around today. Men and women who knew God in the Bible were messed up too. Liars, cheaters, drunkards, fornicators, murderers. This often after they knew God. But they weren’t defined by it. They’re considered heroes of the faith, with sin disregarded, ignored, or used as a lesson of God’s great mercy. And contemporary Christians should be given the same chance.

Somehow there is little grace for spiritual or theological error in creatives’ artwork. Because somehow we’ve accidentally taken up a mantle we’ve never intended, an authority we never deserved or asked for. Blasphemy. Leading others astray. An entire work worth being burned, instead of just taking the time to seek the truth yourself. Artistic expression is not the Bible (unless it is, of course.) We’ll get it wrong. Correct us where we’re wrong, but don’t write us off.

Let me tell you a secret: if we’re an artist for any length of time, we are open to criticism, even welcome it. For our work to be any good, it’s critical. We are prone to bouts of disagreement and tears over critique, while at the same time developing a backbone to eventually accept the life-giving truth after some good ol’ analyzing and ego-killing. So if you see something we believe or behave wrongly in, give it a shot. We may consider you our best friend after we take the time to set aside our pride. Just try to be gentle and gracious, because like I said, we our prone to bouts of disagreement and tears 🙂