Life after Art

Life After Art

In college I took a lot of art classes which were required for my major, and I loved creating all of the projects that went along with those classes. I’ve always loved creating, and I think it started with that first whiff of Play Doh® in kindergarten and rolling out my first “snake.” But somewhere along the way of a too-busy life, creating has been put aside to make way for the tyranny of the urgent. And I’ve missed it. I’ve missed it terribly.

In his book Life after Art: What You Forgot about Life and Faith since You Left the Art Room, Matt Appling not only reminds me of what I’ve missed and forgotten, but he also gives me hope that I can get it back. That I need to get it back. He says, “I suspect humanity’s drive to create is one of the keys to what it means to be ‘made in the image of God.'” That is incredibly validating to me. He reminds me that God placed this need to create within me. He is the Master Creator of all and I am made in His image. Not only is creating not a waste of time, but it is also a way to honor God and display His presence in my life.

One of the most refreshing and intriguing aspects of this book is the author’s insistence on “following directions” when it comes to art. It seems like following directions has become a negative thing – especially when it comes to creativity. In fact following directions is viewed as practically anti-creative. But Matt says, “Trying to rebel against the constraints in your life, trying to color outside the lines that have been laid out for you, is not a recipe for success. . . It is a recipe for frustration, for discontentment, for defeat in life.” There are rules for creating art, and the first one is NO GLITTER. (LOL – you’ll have to read the book to understand that!)

Don’t get me wrong. This book is not a legalistic list of do’s and don’t’s for art or for life. However, there are certain limitations or constraints that have been put in place by God for both art and life. If we try to color outside of those lines, as Matt says, then the result is chaos. And chaos is rarely beautiful or beneficial in life or in art.

Please read this book. Even if you think you are not the creative type and are completely uninterested in art, I promise you will learn so much more than you think you will. Do like I did and read it with a highlighter in your hand. My copy is glowing with neon yellow lines. And I plan to re-read this book as soon as possible. Matt is smart, witty, compassionate and understanding. I believe you will relate to him on many levels. And, who knows? You just might find you have an inner artist lurking deep inside!

You can order a copy of this book here. You can visit Matt Appling’s blog here.

If

If by Amy Carmichael

A few years ago I picked up a small book by Amy Carmichael called If. I had been introduced to the writings of Amy Carmichael through the ministry of Elisabeth Elliot who had been greatly influenced by her. She wrote an excellent biography about Amy and her 55-year ministry in Dohnavur, India, called A Chance to Die. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

But the book I want to tell you about is If. It is only 94 pages long, but it is one of the most powerful and convicting 94 pages you will ever read. Each page begins with the statement “If I. . .” and ends with the statement, “. . . then I know nothing of Calvary love.” She cuts to the motives of the heart with each statement testing the true depth of our love and comparing it to the love of Christ – the love which led Him to give His life at Calvary.

Here’s one: “If I covet any place on earth but the dust at the foot of the cross, then I know nothing of Calvary love.” That convicted this Navy wife on more than one occasion when faced with orders to change locations. How about this one: “If I take offense easily, if I am content to continue in a cool unfriendliness, though friendship be possible, then I know nothing of Calvary love.” Ouch. That hurts.

If you want a better understanding of Calvary love. . . If you want to hold your heart up to a mirror. . . If you aren’t afraid of the ugliness you may see there. . . If you want to love like Christ. . . then get If. Read one page per week. Contemplate it. Meditate on it. Then love with a Calvary kind of love.

If and A Chance to Die are both available in the Precept Camden Store in the right sidebar.

God’s Smuggler – Free!

Gods_Smuggler_large

In this post I told you about the book God’s Smuggler by Brother Andrew and the tremendous impact it has had on my life. I am very excited to tell you that you can download the audio version of God’s Smuggler here. And it’s free! Whether you listen to the audio book, read the e-version on your e-reader, or hold a real book in your hands and read it the old-fashioned way, I encourage you to read this book. Christian biographies are my favorites and this one is definitely in my top 5.

Click here to learn about Brother Andrew’s book God’s CallAnd click here to see a recent interview with Brother Andrew by The Christian Post.

Everyday Conversations, Eternal Impact

Measuring little more than 4″ x 7 ” and a mere 107 pages, Everyday Conversations, Eternal Impact by Lloyd Pulley is a powerful little book. The subtitle of the book is Lessons Drawn from Jesus and the Woman at the Well. Pulley, senior pastor of Calvary Chapel Old Bridge, New Jersey, carefully examines an unlikely encounter recorded in Scripture in the book of John Chapter 4. Jesus – a teacher, a Jew, Creator of the universe, a man  – sits down at a well in Samaria during the heat of the day and asks for a drink of water from a woman – an adulteress, a Samaritan, a woman. Pulley dissects this encounter and offers the reader a beautiful example of how to share the message of the gospel in our own everyday conversations with real people.

I agree with Pastor Pancho Juarez who says in the book’s foreword, “I love that Lloyd offers no slick formulas or evangelistic methods.” He gives no one-size-fits-all, fill-in-the-blank, tried-and-true methods. He does use the simple acrostic S.H.A.R.E. to help you stay focused when evangelizing. He is careful to say that evangelistic “methods in themselves are not necessarily a bad thing. . . However, when believers rely more heavily on methods than on the Holy Spirit, problems can arise.” (p. 44) Thus, S.H.A.R.E. which stands for Sensitive to the Spirit, Humbly Build a Bridge, Arouse Interest, Reveal Sin, Explain the Plan of Salvation. A chapter is dedicated to elaborating and illustrating each of those.

Something I really like that Pulley uses in this book are real stories from real people. Some of these stories are wonderful examples of how to effectively share the gospel much like Jesus shared with the woman at the well. Others, not so much. But even those stories serve as tools to learn a better way to bridge the gap in a conversation and lead it from the commonplace into the spiritual. I also love that Pulley stresses the fact that NOTHING can replace “waiting on the leading and empowering of the Holy Spirit.” (p. 58)

If you’re looking for a step by step guide to witnessing – do A, B, and C and get results today! – then this probably isn’t the book for you. But if you want to learn how Jesus engaged people within their own cultural understanding and led them into conversations about eternal matters, then you should read Everyday Conversations, Eternal Impact  by Lloyd Pulley. It is concise, profound, biblical, and powerful. I highly recommend it.

Under the Overpass

I just finished reading Under the Overpass by Mike Yankoski. I was going to begin my review by saying that it is an easy read, but easy is not the right word. What I mean to say is that it is a relatively quick read at 224 pages. But easy? No way.

Under the Overpass is the story of 2 men, Mike Yankoski and Sam Purvis, who spent 5 months living as homeless men on the streets of 6 major U.S. cities. The idea for this journey began in the heart of Yankoski as he sat in church one Sunday and had something of an epiphany concerning the disconnect in his life between what Christ calls His disciples to be and to do and what he realized was his “comfortable upper-middle-class life.” Yankoski says, “I sat there in church struggling to remember a time when I’d actually needed to lean fully on Christ rather than on my own abilities. Not much came to mind.” Thankfully, Yankoski wasn’t content to ignore this disconnect or bury it in the depths of religious busyness. Instead, he says he “walked out of church that morning seized by a big idea, assaulted by dozens of questions, and sure that I had heard deep in my heart a still, small voice saying, ‘Follow Me.'”

This book will challenge your perceptions of homelessness and the homeless. It will force you to confront the hypocrisy and prejudice that may be lurking not so inconspicuously within your own church and heart. It will force you to reflect on what it really means to take up your cross and follow Christ.

I don’t think you can read this book and stay the same.  I hope that you can’t. Living this story changed Yankoski and Purvis for the better, I’m certain. Reading it did the same for me. If I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, then I must love the unlovely, embrace the repugnant, and serve those that the world has deemed unworthy but that Christ calls “the least of these” (Matthew 25:40).

Jesus said the harvest is abundant but there is a shortage of workers (Luke 10:2). It’s time to stop the busyness and be about the Father’s business. It’s time to repair the disconnect.

Stuff Christians Like

Watch the news on any given day and chances are it won’t improve your mood. It’s a downer, man. The truth is – life can be a downer. Srsly. I’m talking big-time downer.

Now I know that as a believer in Jesus Christ, I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. I know that with God NOTHING is impossible. I know that greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world. I do. I really do. And I claim each one of those promises and cling to it like there’s no tomorrow.

But sometimes, just sometimes, even the most spiritual of us gets down. I’ll bet even Billy Graham needs a good laugh every now and then. I’m no Billy Graham but I definitely need a good laugh every now and then. And, boy, did I get one today. I stumbled across this blog while I was surfing the net at work. (Don’t get all bent out. It’s part of my job to surf the net and stay connected to my peeps.) I laughed. I laughed much. Then I came across this post on said blog. And I laughed even more.

Jon Acuff, by his own admission, has had many jobs. But he has finally found his dream job working with financial planning expert Dave Ramsey. In addition to writing the blog Stuff Christians Like, he authored a book by the same name. If the two posts mentioned above are any indication, this book has to be hilarious. I can’t wait to read it!

Find your purpose for 2012!

As a new year begins, I think this is a good time to encourage you to read a book that I love. What better goal to have for 2012 than to find the purpose for your life and begin living out that purpose? 

(Originally posted April 2011)

Today I was reminded how much I love this book – The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. About seven years ago, a friend lent me his copy and said, “I think you’ll like this book.” The copy he gave me came with a journal. Not being the journaling type, he said I could keep the journal but he wanted his book back when I was done. So I read the book, worked through the journal, and I did, indeed, like it. I liked it very much.

The reasons I like this book are myriad. However, most of what I love about this book can be expressed in just one word: simple. Its simple, easy-to-understand theology does not take a Doctorate of Divinity to understand. Just the word “theology” conjures up all sorts of connotations, some of which may be negative. A simple definition of theology is a study of God and God’s relation to the world. Sometimes theology is expressed by theologians in words and thoughts that are difficult for everyday people to understand. But in The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren presents the teachings of the Bible and ideas about God in ways that everyone can understand. He simplifies the message of the Bible without sacrificing the truth found there.

The Purpose Driven Life is a wonderful book for people new to the Christian faith as well as people who are seeking meaning and purpose in their lives. It is written in simple, down to earth language and explains basic doctrines of the Bible in a way that anyone can understand. I recommend this book to anyone who has ever asked the question, “What on earth am I here for?” However, I also recommend it to those who may not struggle with this question but who are interested in helping others find a meaningful answer to it.

The Purpose Driven Life – with QR Codes!

I love The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. I really do. In this post I told you all the reasons that I think this book is special. But I recently discovered that there is a QR Code Enhanced Edition! If you don’t know what a QR Code is, then read no further. This post isn’t for you. Actually, I take that back. Keep reading. You may learn something! (In this post I discussed my love of QR Codes. I still haven’t stitched that pillow. I need to get on that.)

If you have a smartphone, then you know what QR Codes are. They are those nifty squares scattered throughout magazines that encourage you to scan it and view a video related to the article you are reading. Wikipedia has an easy-to-understand definition: “A QR Code is a matrix barcode (or two-dimensional code), readable by QR scanners, mobile phones with a camera, and smartphones. The code consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on white background. The information encoded can be text, URL or other data.” Well, sort of easy to understand.

Now this book that I love to give as gifts to seekers (and recommend that every Christian read) has 40 unique QR Codes within its pages. When scanned by your smartphone, the codes link to videos of author Rick Warren. What a great way to incorporate technology in this treasure of a book and bring even more illumination to its reader. I have a feeling we will be seeing more of this technology included in books, magazines, and newspapers.

I’ve said it before. I’ll say it again. Technology – for such a time as this.

Mountains of Spices

In this post I told you about Hannah Hurnard’s book Hind’s Feet on High Places. As I have said before, I highly recommend it. And when you finish it, you need to read its sequel, Mountains of Spices. This book continues the story of Much Afraid who journeyed to the High Places of the Shepherd and whose name was changed to Grace and Glory. Written in allegorical form, Mountains of Spices compares the spices found in the Song of Solomon with the fruits of the Spirit found in Galatians 5: 22-23. For example, it is on the Mountain of Saffron that Grace and Glory learns of longsuffering from the flowers bearing that name and growing on this mountain.

As different members of Grace and Glory’s family renew their acquaintance and relationship with her since her transformation at the High Places, one by one they, too, are transformed as they enter into friendship with the Shepherd. Just as He did with Grace and Glory, changing her name from Much Afraid, the Shepherd changes the name of each one as a sign of how He has changed their character and their hearts. Mrs. Dismal Forebodings becomes Mrs. Thanksgiving, Spiteful is given the name Compassion, and Grace and Glory’s cousin, Craven Fear – the one who in large part drove her to the Shepherd in Hind’s Feet – is given the name Fearless Witness.

You may see yourself in many of the characters of Mountains of Spices – perhaps even before their transformations. But hopefully, you will change even as they did – as they got to know the Shepherd better and made a decision to enter into a relationship with Him. Hurnard herself sums up her book best: “I have tried to show as clearly as possible that the very characteristics and weaknesses of temperament with which we were born. . . can be transformed into their exact opposites and can therefore produce in us the loveliest of all qualities.”

Yes, transformation is possible. But only by God through the power of the Holy Spirit and through a relationship with His Son Jesus Christ. “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:19

Hinds’ Feet on High Places

*This post originally appeared here last year. But I am currently reading the sequel to this book and will post a review soon. So I thought it would be a good time to re-post and encourage you to read this wonderful book in preparation for reading the sequel!

A much-loved passage of Scripture found in Habbakuk 3:17-19 says:

Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines, Though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food, Though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, Yet I will exult in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.  The Lord GOD is my strength, And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet, And makes me walk on my high places.

What a glorious anthem of trust to our God! His ways are so far above our ways that oftentimes we must simply trust in Who He is even when our circumstances seem bleak and hopeless. The book Hinds’ Feet On High Places: The Original And Complete Allegory With A Devotional For Women by Hannah Hurnard obviously gets its title from these verses in Habbakuk. Originally published in 1955, it is an allegory that has become a Christian classic.

In the style of John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, the main character Much-Afraid journeys to the High Places of the Shepherd. She is accompanied by two guides: Sorrow and Suffering. Much-Afraid learns many spiritual lessons along the way about herself, but, more importantly, about the Shepherd. There are many spiritual lessons that we can learn as well within the pages of this special novel.

Please read Hinds’ Feet On High Places. I know that you will be blessed and encouraged. And I believe you will also be able to sing along with Habbakuk and his hymn of praise to our great and glorious God who gives us hope when there seems to be no hope.