I open my personal journal to you, my expeditions and explanations with God, this morning.

I was reading an excerpt from C. S. Lewis’, The Screwtape Letters.  In this selection, senior devil Screwtape is instructing junior devil Wormwood how to defeat followers of God.

“The long, dull monotonous years of middle-aged prosperity or middle-aged adversity are excellent campaigning weather.  You see, it is so hard for these creatures to persevere. The routine of adversity, the gradual decay of youthful loves and youthful hopes, the quiet despair (hardly felt as pain) of ever overcoming the chronic temptations with which we have again and again defeated them, the drabness which we create in their lives, and the inarticulate resentment with which we teach them to respond to it – all this provided admirable opportunities of wearing out a soul by attrition.  If, on the other hand, the middle years prove prosperous, our position is even stronger.  Prosperity knits a man to the World.  He feels that he is ‘finding his place in it,’ while really it is finding its place in him.  His increasing reputation, his widening circle of acquaintances, his sense of importance, the growing pressure of absorbing and agreeable work, build up in him a sense of being really at home on Earth, which is just what we want.”

As I read this I was stunned by the accuracy and pervasiveness of these assaults on a man or woman.  I know this to be true by my own experience as well as conversations with others.

“It is so hard for these creatures to persevere.”  This is so true.  Perseverance is more essential to the Christian life and our calling than we’d like to believe.  You and I can do or be just about anything for a moment, but over time who we truly are and our level of fitness will be revealed.  We don’t persevere for an instant or a moment, we persevere a season.  Only time can give birth to perseverance.  Those who possess a “noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it” and who persevere “produce a crop”.  (Luke 8:15)  There is no fruitfull life without perseverance…in the right things.

The routine of adversity

The gradual decay of youthful loves and youthful hopes

The quiet despair of ever overcoming chronic temptations

The drabness which we create in their lives

The inarticulate resentment with which we teach them to respond to it

Being knit to the World through a sense of being really at home on Earth

Check, check, check, check and check…I am familiar with these assaults and know how effective they are.  We must recognize that this is not “the way life is”, accepting it and thereby letting the enemy wear out our soul by attrition.  We must not fall under his evil spell.  I believe that the way we overcome this assault is to fervently guard our heart, stay close to God and live like an artist in the fellowship of artists.  Paul wrote, “I pray that the fellowship of your faith may become effective through the knowledge of every good thing which is in you for Christ’s sake”.  (Philemon 1:6)

Winston Churchill said, “Virtuous motives, trampled by inertia and timidity, are no match for armed and resolute wickedness.”

Fighting inertia and timidity with compelling and courage (I guess that’s what a movement is),

Gary

God continues to speak to me about how we are to live like an artist.  This morning I read this excerpt from The Pursuit of God by A. W. Tozer.  These words ad depth and color to the quote I concluded with in my last eLetter:  “Art is a collaboration between God and the artist…” –  André Gide.

The Pursuit of God, by A. W. Tozer – The Speaking Voice, Chapter 6

When God spoke out of heaven to our Lord, self-centered men who heard it explained it by natural causes: they said, “It thundered.”  This habit of explaining the Voice by appeals to natural law is at the very root of modern science. In the living breathing cosmos there is a mysterious Something, too wonderful, too awful for any mind to understand.  The believing man does not claim to understand. He falls to his knees and whispers, “God.”  The man of earth kneels also, but not to worship. He kneels to examine, to search, to find the cause and the how of things. Just now we happen to be living in a secular age.  Our thought habits are those of the scientist, not those of the worshipper. We are more likely to explain than to adore. “It thundered,” we exclaim, and go our earthly way. But still the Voice sounds and searches. The order and life of the world depend upon that Voice, but men are mostly too busy or too stubborn to give attention.

Every one of us has had experiences which we have not been able to explain: a sudden sense of loneliness, or a feeling of wonder or awe in the face of the universal vastness.  Or we have had a fleeting visitation of light like an illumination from some other sun, giving us in a quick flash an assurance that we are from another world, that our origins are divine.  What we saw there, or felt, or heard, may have been contrary to all that we had been taught in the schools and at wide variance with all our former beliefs and opinions.  We were forced to suspend our acquired doubts while, for a moment, the clouds were rolled back and we saw and heard for ourselves.  Explain such things as we will, I think we have not been fair to the facts until we allow at least the possibility that such experiences may arise from the Presence of God in the world and His persistent effort to communicate with mankind.  Let us not dismiss such a hypothesis too flippantly.

It is my own belief (and here I shall not feel bad if no one follows me) that every good and beautiful thing which man has produced in the world has been the result of his faulty and sin-blocked response to the creative Voice sounding over the earth.  The moral philosophers who dreamed their high dreams of virtue, the religious thinkers who speculated about God and immortality, the poets and artists who created out of common stuff pure and lasting beauty: how can we explain them?  It is not enough to say simply, “It was genius.”  What then is genius?  Could it be that a genius is a man haunted by the speaking Voice, laboring and striving like one possessed to achieve ends which he only vaguely understands?

Listening to His Voice,

Gary

Several years ago, I awoke in the middle of the night worried by the uncertainties in my life… Am I doing what I’m supposed to do? Am I where I’m supposed to be? Am I doing life the right way? Are my motives right?  I decided to go into another room so I could pray out loud and journal my thoughts with God.  After forty minutes of mumbling and stumbling my way into the issues of my heart, God answered me with one sentence – “Live like an artist.”

I pondered and journaled what that meant.  I believe that living like an artist means to create (to bring into form) that which is on your heart for the pure joy and curiosity of its potential beauty and benefit.  I realized that there were moments throughout my life when I lived that way, especially when I was younger – drawing, building, doing gymnastics.  Pablo Picasso wrote, “Every child is an artist.  The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”

I realized that God was telling me to “live” differently, not just “do”differently.  For the most part, even though I was engaged in doing what I loved, my motivation had become contaminated by concerns about interest and income, acceptance and appreciation.  Living the “way of an artist” would mean I would create and offer simply because I am compelled to create and love to offer what God has given me.  “Art is not a thing” Elbert Hubbard wrote, “it is a way.”  I understand more deeply now what the Apostle Paul meant when he said, “To this end I labor, struggling with all His energy, which so powerfully works in me.” (Col 1:29)

To live as an artist is to allow whatever it is that “works so powerfully” in you – to come out.  To refuse to let your glory (your particular splendor, brilliance, abundance) be defined, valued or constrained by others.  To live as an artist means to develop your art through study, training and experience with whatever time and resources you have, because you love it – not because others are asking for it or you are getting paid for it. Terri Guillemets wrote, “Art is when you hear a knocking from your soul – and you answer.”

The term “art” comes from the Greek work “techně” which actually implies the mastery of any sort of craft.  In Latin “art” is “ars” which means, skill or technique with the connotation of beauty.  So art is something that you master to the point of beauty; be it photography, questions, music, organization, engaging, speech, colors, encouragement, structure, writing, conciliation, systems, envisioning or a thousand other things.

We are after all, God’s masterpiece – “For we are His masterpiece, created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared long ago to be our way of life.” Eph. 2:10 (ISV)  We were created to be an artist, to create “good works”.  This is why the Apostle Paul writes, “We pray…that our God will count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power. (2 Thess. 1:11)  “Art is a collaboration between God and the artist…” said André Gide.

Seth Godin, in his recent book; Linchpin, said that serious artists distinguish between their art and the stuff they have to do when they’re not doing their art.  This is a good fantasy buster – no one gets to do what they love all the time, no one gets to only do their art.  There is our art, our “good works that God prepared long ago to be our way of life,” and there are the things which create and sustain the environment of our artistry, our good works.  We can confuse these two things to the point of thinking that we love nothing, life is simply about obligation and duty and artistry is unattainable.  To break through the “unattainable” barrier, Godin suggests we finish this “if only” statement: “I could find the time and energy to do my art if only….”  Try this…really!  It’s very revealing.  The answer(s) to this question will help us to see the real issues at hand so that they can then be addressed.

One of the secrets of our artistry (our calling), is that we possess a surprising forbearance with the mundane tasks of life when we know that they are simply a means by which we enrich our artistry.

Your fellow artist,

Gary