Refueling Your Artist’s Soul

Do you know what fuels you? I am an introvert, which means for me that quiet, time alone, and forms of art are some of the best ways for me to refuel.

I love movies and I enjoy reading books, but looking at fabulous art is one of the best ways for me to juice up the artistic batteries.

The art of Makoto Fujimura, introduced to me by a colleague, inspires me greatly. Take a moment to browse through his website. One of the world’s foremost contemporary artists and a member of the National Council on the Arts from 2003-2009, Fujimura employs an ancient form of painting called Nihonga in unique, contemporary ways.

I was especially inspired by the connection between art and his faith in his 400th year commemorative illumination of the Four Holy Gospels.

Makoto Fujimura - Four Holy Gospels

Makoto Fujimura – Four Holy Gospels

When I lived in Rochester, NY, one of my favorite artist outings was a trip to International Art Acquisitions, Inc., a fine art gallery in the Pittsford suburb.

Joan Miro

Joan Miro

How do you refuel?  Share some examples below.

The Importance of Encouragement

Today I was reminded of the importance of encouraging others.

Orange Glory Restaurant

We live in a negative world.  Every time I drive on the highway I see billboards trying to sell us things by telling us we do not have everything we need or that we are inadequate as we are.

Political arguments swirl around the drain hole of who is or is not getting their “fair share.”

Satan himself is out to “steal, kill and destroy,” and we would be naïve to ignore that spiritual reality.

The point is that you and I are inundated by negativity and the affects of sin every day.

We all need to be encouraged.

One of the greatest blessings of going to counseling over the years throughout and after my divorce was meeting with someone who continually encouraged me in spite of regularly hearing the worst about me.  I would walk into an appointment tense, bound up with guilt and shame, and at the point of tears, and I would walk out refreshed and ready to try again.

During that time I also met with a friend for lunch every week, often at Orange Glory in downtown Rochester, NY, and he would listen, ask good questions, and more often than not pay for my lunch.  He is still one of my very best friends.

We all need two things:

  1. Christ.  As Shauna Nieguist puts it in her fabulous and transparent book Bittersweet, the most important part of dealing with difficulty and pain and loss is the comfort of Christ.  Without him we have no hope; with him we have strength to carry on and a guide through the maze of life.
  2. Encouragement.  Other than Christ the one thing we need is a genuinely encouraging word from someone.  We don’t need to know if everything will work out, although that would be nice.  We need to know we are loved and not alone.

Who has encouraged you?  Have you thanked them recently?  Who do you need to encourage now?

A Model for Worship Preparation, Part 2

In the last post we looked at the amount of time Christ spent preparing for ministry.  Now let’s look at how Christ prepared for his ministry in the 30 years before he “went public.”

Jesus was fully human in addition to being fully God.  While we will never comprehend exactly how God accomplished this seemingly contradictory union, we can know that in the human realm Jesus grew up much as every other human does.

He grew physically and emotionally from a baby to a man.  While he could have skipped the human timetable of maturity and started speaking, walking, and working earlier than most humans simply because he was God, he did not.  Jesus waited patiently as his body matured.  He played, went to school, and learned the skills of a carpenter, which at that time referred to the construction of whole homes, not just wood working.  He honed his craft.  By the time he was thirty and ready to go into ministry he probably could have taken over his father’s business.

As worship musicians and leaders we must spend time honing our craft, whether that is singing or playing an instrument.  We do not arrive at proficiency overnight; we have to work at it.  Whether we are already highly proficient or just beginning we should all be continuously developing our gifts.

Last night I was speaking with Dave, a drummer, and he was talking about how enthused he was to have discovered a new instructional DVD.  Over the past two weeks Dave has been implementing the exercises he has found on this DVD and he is already seeing results.  Dave is a good drummer, but he sees an opportunity to grow and he is seizing it.  Excellence is doing the best you can with what you have been given; if you think you can do better in some area you need to find a way to grow.  We need to bring our best to God, not our “good enough.”

As he grew Jesus learned how to set aside time to pray and speak with his father.  Jesus did not enter ministry at age thirty and suddenly know that he needed to recharge spiritually by spending time alone with God.  His practice of spending time alone with God was, most likely, commonplace for him by the time he entered his ministry.  Even though he was fully God, he was also fully human, and humans must spend time with God in order to have the power to confront and overcome life.

Do you spend time each day speaking with and listening to God through prayer and reading or listening to the Scripture?  If we want to hear God on a Sunday morning when the guitars are cranking and the drums are pounding, we need to be able to speak with and hear from God when we are alone, silent, and still.

When he was thirty, and before John baptized him, Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness fasting and being tempted by Satan.  These 40 days were hard, brutal times.  Hebrews says, “We have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin.”  (Hebrews 4:15b, NIV 1984)  Satan tempted Jesus to turn the rocks into bread, and I would not be surprised if Jesus was tempted later in life to turn rocks into bread when he and his companions had been traveling and were very hungry.  Satan tempted Christ with power over all of the kingdoms of the earth without having to suffer the cross; all Jesus had to do was worship Satan. Later in life Jesus was tempted to turn his back God’s plan for his life and allow the crowds to crown him king.

Jesus’ answers to Satan’s temptations all came from Scripture.  We will face many temptations and challenges in ministry.  The best preparation for temptations and challenges is time spent alone with God.  Then when you are tempted or challenged God will bring his word to your mind so that you can overcome the situation.  We have no substitute for time spent reading the Scripture and speaking with God.

Luke 2:52 (NIV 1984) tells us that “Jesus grew . . . in favor with God and man.”  People began to think highly of him, which means he grew to a point where people respected and would listen to him.  Jesus did not at some point say, “I am God, so now everyone will respect and follow me.”  Sounds like Dilbert.  No, Jesus earned respect and the right to lead as every human must.

As leaders we must earn the respect of our employers, employees, peers, and volunteers.  Respect and the permission to lead are earned over time through interactions with people, not through imperial decree.  Several years ago I became the Interim Music Director at Lakeshore Community Church in Rochester, NY, at a time when they desperately needed someone to step in and help shoulder the load.  As a result one week I was a guest musician and the next week I was in charge of the entire music program.  A volunteer said later that she followed my leadership at that time not because she wanted to follow me but because my boss asked her and the others on the team to follow me.  As the year went on, however, I was slowly able to earn the respect of the music team as well as the permission to lead them.

What jumps out at you about Jesus’ way of honing his craft, learning to lean spiritually on his father, or earning the “favor of God and man?”