Creator’s Heart, part one.

“An artist cannot translate the passionate intensity of life without working in passion. Scholar’s, scholar, critics, critic, but the artist burns and beats and blows and jumps and rushes. It’s all a mater of virtue, i.e. virtuosity.” Jack Kerouac

I have a friend who is an aspiring writer. I use that term for those of you that might not understand that, despite not being published, he doesn’t use the word ‘aspiring,’ he just says writer.  Now that may sound presumptuous to you but understand, he truly believes that anyone who writes to express themselves should be called a writer.  I can remember thinking that he was wrong. The idea at first seemed to me to be a bit degrading to those struggling folks, including himself, that worked very hard on becoming published, not just writing for their own sake.  And I would never call myself a writer, I’m a pastor and teacher who happens to scribble down a few ideas from time to time. But I’ve been thinking that my approach is all wrong.

Last week was Passion Week and I tried, and succeeded, to write a new blog post every day for that week. Many of you read the posts, thank you. I discovered a great deal about my creative process during the week. It had already been on my mind as I had been reading a little Freud and a little M. Scott Peck, looking at the term cathexis.  A good friend of mine had engaged with me in a conversation about creativity and where the energy for it originated.  I have noticed in the last several weeks that when I am at my most creative, whether prepping and speaking a Sunday homily or writing, I had a peculiar feeling in my chest. It wasn’t sadness, it wasn’t happiness, it was like someone had rammed something into my heart like sticking a chair in a revolving door to hold it open. It was a bittersweet transcendence not unlike C.S. Lewis’ definition of joy in Surprised by Joy. So, I wondered if I could reproduce the feeling or I just had to wait for it. Turns out, with prayer, effort and meditation it can be reproduced. I told one friend that I had to injure myself and bleed onto the paper to accomplish anything at all artistically. Now that brings me back to the Kerouac quote.

Passion is the answer. Not just passion as we think of love and lust and the overcoming desire to know and be known by a person, although that’s part of it. Passion also means suffering as in The Passion of the Christ.  Could passion and joy be related? I think they must be, Christ certainly equated them. The Man of Sorrows wanted His disciples Joy to be full as His was. He preached an abundant life but one that required us to take up our cross and die daily. Passion, on the border of ecstasy and agony, certainly fits. Now I will finally get to my point, thanks for your patience.

Art requires passion. If art is the expression of the passion inside of us, then anyone can be an artist! Furthermore, the greatest artists in the world should be those of us who choose to follow Jesus Christ.

Wait a minute, wait a minute! That was quite a leap! Not really. Think back through your lists of great artists, especially from the Renaissance, how many were Christians? How many who weren’t still claimed some tie to the divine and lived in search for truth?And if that’s true, where are the great Christian artists of our day?

The real problem is that as Christians we have ceased to live passionate lives or even believe that it is necessary or right.  In our constant dumbing down and teeth-pulling of our faith to make it less risky, safer, tamer, more palatable, less reliant on grace, we have destroyed the passionate heart that thrills with the adventure of following Jesus. We have placed His great love in tiny containers and compartments so we are not bothered by suffering in the world. We have put up with tepid worship services and tepid marriages. We have pulled down the Romance of God and replaced it with the golden calf of expedience and security. And so, we have lost our art; and our heart. Change must come. Now that’s where you come in.

Bringing change to our faith is a process and it has to start with individuals. Sometime this week, work through this excercise.

1. Read Ephesians 2:10. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

The word translated ‘masterpiece’ is from the Greek, poiema. You can figure it out from there.

2. Meditate on the thought that you are a masterpiece of God’s. You can visualize prayerfully God creating you as a great painting, or a statue, or a poem, or a song; whichever artistic medium best fits in your mind’s eye.  How lovingly did he create you? How careful were His brushstrokes? How many times did His hammer strike the chisel? Get it?

3. Think about the passion that God released into your creation. How much love? How much suffering?

4. Now, if you are His creation, and you are made in His image, and He has created you to do things, good things, are you doing them with passion? Are your good works your art?

5. Finally, dwell on this, if God is The Creator and we are created in His image, should we not also be giving artistic expression to the passion in our lives? Gifting decides much of who affects the culture, but everyone can express their passion! Create something!

We always let kids do craft projects. Talk about passion! There is nothing more beautiful than a five year old girl expressing her love for her Daddy and making a mess of paste, macaroni, beads, fingerpaint. In the process of expression, children literally become the art they are creating! Isn’t that a perfect metaphor? Many of you are artists of one kind or another, don’t think of your art as a pastime or a guilty pleasure, pursue it with the fury of God’s love! Be passionate as He is passionate. Find your place of joy, passion, open your heart and bleed onto the page or the palette or the yarn. Bleed your passion into others lives and show them what it is to truly live. Make music, learn to fly, paint, sculpt, write, sing, dance, act! Let yourself go! Release your heart, o best beloved! Catch the lightning of God’s love for you in a bottle and point it back at the sky or your spouse or kids or friends!

More on this, later this week!

Love Dangerously!


18 thoughts on “Creator’s Heart, part one.

  1. Maybe so. I’m not quite finished with the thought. My point though was questioning what has happened to our faith that has eliminated the artistry that used to be there. You can make the argument that the church used to spend money in patronage on artists and that the artists just chased the money, but I don’t know if that’s true. Of course we could drive off into the “what counts as great art” argument. But that’s a pointless circle of debate.

    I don’t think that all great art comes from Christians. I do think that Christians should produce great art. I think it’s sad that we have kept ourselves from doing so.

  2. Sorry, I had meant to expand on my original reply a little more, but got caught up in something else. I agree with all three points you make above. What I don’t agree with is that art created by Christians ought to be/necessarily must be greater than art produced by non-Christians.

    All of this assumes art can be quantitatively measured independent of the observer, however, which as you point out is a fundamental flaw in the reasoning. 🙂

  3. Ah. I see that. I think maybe I should have said something like, “those who claim a connection to God should be, according to that claim, the greatest artists in the world.” That’s the same thought without the ‘Christ-centric’ language.

    However, I should point out that I am ‘Christ-centric.’ SURPRISE! 😀

    There was a more inclusive way to make the point though, you are correct. I’d edit but then our conversation wouldn’t make any sense. Thanks Ben.

  4. So here’s a question for you. If you were to see a tremendously beautiful and moving piece of art, the greatest art you’d ever seen, would you conclude that the artist was Christian?

  5. That’s kind of a tricky question. My response, before explanation, is no. But I feel that way because so little artistic work is coming from the church. Imagination is looked down on and artistic lifestyles are discouraged. I believe that if Christians have the connection to God that they claim, they should be producing and creating, that’s what God does.

    Now, back to our fictitious art. My bias, born of my experience, believes that all truth is God’s truth as Augustine wrote, among others. I believe that anything that touches on truth will move me as you mentioned above, so I would also believe that the artist was close to God or understanding God in some way if he or she was not actually a disciple of Christ.

    Again, though, the point of my post is what I think should be, not what is. So there ya go.

  6. Cool. I thought that’s what you were trying to express, but the only way to be sure is to ask, after all. 🙂

  7. Wow. Your passion has fed my own. I am moved to move. Thank you, from one who is a formerly “aspiring” writer and who hopefully is now is a “just” a writer. Thank you from one who hopes he possesses the kind of passion that is also highly contagious.

    I’m glad my wife introduced us.

    1. Me too, benjamin. Perhaps God will make us friends! Friendship unlooked for is like finding an ice cold water fountain in an unexpected place during a Texas August.

      Thanks for the comment, it was very encouraging on a fairly down day.

  8. I feel like I should have something profound to say about this – especially since it was fairly affirming to read. I definitely agree with what both you and Ben Kimball are saying, but what really struck me about this post was what you said about the church not encouraging and, in fact, actively discouraging creative lifestyles.

    And creativity itself. Being creative, by its very nature, encourages both passion – and seeking. Creativity encourages questions. If you don’t ask, you can’t create. You can’t write a story without asking ‘what if’ and/or ‘what could happen next?’.

    In my experience, institutions (by their nature as institutions) don’t like questions. Questions bring about change. Differences – such as artists tend to be different – tend to bring about friction.

    My point being, rambling as it is – I see the discouragement of passion and creativity as being tied into the culture of conformity that has always bothered me in the traditional church.

    1. @jayiin, the part of your comment about institutions challenges me. I believe that God called out the church to BE an institution because institutions change the culture, but changing the institution is really, really hard, even when it bears your own fingerprints and blood.

      1. Is the church supposed to be an institution or a living, dynamic organism? The church is a lot of things and supposed to be a lot of things – but can an institution be all the things the church needs to be?

        The Well, as a church, has changed dramatically since I first started attending – as our membership has changed, as our demographic has changed, so have we.

        I’m not convinced that ‘institution’ is the right word that should be used to describe the church. Nor do I believe that God would have intended any institution created in His name to be a home for His followers and be a platform to spread the knowledge of Christ would be intended to be a place where change (which is at the heart of becoming a Christian) should be difficult. Painful – yes, sometimes. Revealing – yes. Transformation – yes.

        But as Christians, we are each in our own, unique relationship with God/Christ and we are each growing and changing at our own rate. Just by becoming Christian – by saying ‘I am so totally and completely messed up that I can’t fix it on my own’ – we change. When surrender to Him, we give up ourselves and allow Him to change us.

        To think of the church – a ‘place’ in which that change is supposed to be facilitated and nurtured – as an institution – feels innately wrong to me.

      2. Um, I think the modern concept of ‘institution’ as something evil is the problem. By definition, an institution is just an organization formed to pursue a specific cause. Misuse of authority has colored the word in our minds. We can call it whatever we want to, and yes, by its nature it is a living, dynamic organism. Maybe it’s just a matter of the church having the appearance of an institution so that it can affect the culture, like being all things to all men, but I’m splitting hairs. The church is certainly not a bank or Greenpeace or the Republican Party, that’s not what I mean. What I mean is, from a Kingdom standpoint, institutions affect culture and only institutions can affect other institutions, think of organizations as individuals. We (The Well) let our light so shine before (institutions) that they see our good works and give glory to our Father in Heaven.

        And of course God didn’t intend change to be difficult, but our lack of faith and fear of the unknown, very human problems, make it so.

        Good thoughts, man.

    1. From your lips to God’s ears, Mr. Kimball!

      I think maybe we’re getting there, I still feel stage three a lot.

  9. This post makes me think of Beethoven. The crescendo in Ode to Joy speaks to my heart in a way no other song has because Beethoven couldn’t hear it. How can anyone deny that God speaks to his followers after hearing that?! I’m not sure how much is true or not but I’ve heard that he had to be turned around when the song was over to observe his standing ovation as he wasn’t even aware he was being applauded and that he once said “God speaks to you but he screams to me” like in his silence God’s voice was so loud in his creation that he heard it as a scream. I just love that. Your blog reminded me of that, that if we let everything go silent in our heads and hearts and listened to Him what we would create could be monumental. Your blog inspired me this morning. Thank you!

  10. I know that my thoughts are often off the beaten path. My thoughs are… I am created by God’s own hand. I am art personified. I have choices to make that can either make this piece of art grow in value to the creator or it’s value can diminish… notice I said, diminish, not go away. So, my value to God is priceless regardless of my choices, but, I can grow my rewards or chose to let them diminish in value.

    Individual Christians have lost their passion in their relationship to God, our creator. As His creation and art, each one of us can stir our passion and make a difference wherever we are.

    Just imagine all of the art in all of the local churchs. If each piece shared their passion and allowed their value to increase… what a difference it would make in the local community of believers and in our nation.

    Good job as always

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