Twinkie Dust & The New Creation

Creativity, Holy Spirity, Icons, Imagination, Love, Prayer, purpose, purpose, renewal, salvation, Spirituality, Uncategorized, vision, vision

“Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. 

I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth; do you not perceive it?” 

~~ Isaiah 43:18-19

My favorite time in Vacation Bible School was the plaster handprint. When I was a child in the 1950’s, we were given our choice of one color to paint “our hand to serve Jesus.” When my daughter went to VBS in the early 80’s, her little hand had a rainbow of colors exploding all over it!

Those ladies are the unsung heroes in every generation, for they mixed and poured plaster into recycled pie pans and let all of us children put our hands into that goop so we could bring our “helping hands” home to our parents. They also cleaned us up afterward.

One summer Art in the Park teacher brought some real turquoise and real silver wire to a bunch of hot and sweaty kids sitting at a picnic table. My 10-year old hands make a piece of “jewelry,” which I still sometimes wear.  My Saturday art teacher took me under her wing as soon as I was able to write my name in cursive. I also have to thank my Mom for driving me all over town so I could do what I love the most.

Each one of those teachers stretched me as a child, but none stretched me more than two of my teachers at Georgia State University: Mr. Sitton and Mr. Perrin.  One week the head of the department would stop by and ask, “Are you working for me or Mr. Sitton?” Each time I would only reply, “I’m working.” Not letting that noncommittal answer go by, Mr. Perrin would keep asking until I had had enough of being interrupted and I burst out, “Neither of you! I’m working for myself!” It was the answer he was waiting to hear.

I do remember how these two pushed me to strive beyond myself and to grow as an artist. They encouraged me to find my own voice, my own style, and to not be an imitator of others. I could learn from others and study them, but to become an artist, I had to discover my own true vision.  So I had to press on to the new thing as yet unseen, and let the old fall pieces away behind me.

This is easier said than done. It’s much more comfortable to repeat a form than to move onward to the next one. The old one feels safe because it is known; the new one has risks because it is as yet unbirthed and unseen. It may arrive still born, and the work will seem as if for nothing. However the effort expended isn’t wasted, since the artist now knows that this path is a dead end and can try another with more confidence.

So, why is it we spiritual people have a hard time living this new and different life once we make our profession of faith in Christ? The world calls us “hypocrites” because we seem to live the same old lives as we once did before we knew Christ. There seems to be no outward transformation to match our inward change of heart and relationship. We do not become magically and radically different, but instead progress slowly into a newer and more perfect life in love. No wonder we have a hard time attracting the unsaved into our new way of life or into our congregations.  They don’t see a visible witness that our faith in Christ has made a difference in the person we are or in what we do.  We might “steal a church member from another congregation,” because they already know the drill: show up, go through the motions, and maybe one day, I’ll change into a better person. People of faith are afflicted with chronic optimism, for we “walk by faith, not sight” (2 Cor 5:7).

Now if “going onto perfection in love” really operated in this manner, I could just go to the gym and laze around, anticipating that one day my body would magically become buff and lean.  Having spent the better part of two years on a mandatory lifestyle change that has included giving up junk food, processed foods, lattes, double dip ice cream cones, large pizzas, and learning how to cook from scratch, I can say that there is no magic Twinkie Dust for weight loss.  Going to the gym means sweating, not standing around posing and looking nice.  I’m not very pretty when I leave, but I now understand the meaning of “working out your own salvation” (Phil 2:12).

Our bodies do not magically transform themselves anymore than we become perfect Christians by a mere profession of faith. We need spiritual guides, just as I have a trainer and a physician who help me through the rough spots of my remaking of my health and my life.  If I want to lose more than the 50 pounds and the 6 dress sizes I’ve already lost, my dietitian friend says I have to cut my calories to 1500 per day because of my age and medical needs.  This will require discipline, persistence, courage, faith, and suffering. It is a biblical model:  “And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Rom 5:3-5).

This might be a fun week to try out a new craft or a new theme in your art. You could try praying with the holy icons. I have an ICONS photo album on my Facebook page ARTANDICON that you can view on the computer or smart phone (they are for sale also). Spring is the time for renewing the Spirit!



“But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 
Therefore it is said, ‘When he ascended on high, he made captivity itself a captive; he gave gifts to his peoples.’” ~~ Ephesians 4:7-8  

Generosity is a spiritual gift that marks one as having the nature of Christ within them. The human nature says “mine,” but the Christ nature says “yours.” God is a generous God, sharing without reserve his image, love, provision, salvation, and his Son.

When my parents were newlyweds, they lived in a tiny garage apartment. Dad was home from World War II and was just setting up his medical practice with his older brother. Uncle Berkely promised him the grand wage of $45 per week to start. I came along and they moved to my grandparents’ rent house. With the impending birth of my second brother, we bought our first home in an older section of town.

As the oldest child, I had the privilege of handing out the gifts under the Christmas tree. I might have claimed this honor because I was the oldest, or I was the first to read, or I was hyperactive and needed something to occupy my busy hands. I think I enjoyed giving gifts to others and seeing their faces light up with excitement.  As long as we gathered at our parents’ home, I was the designated giver of gifts on Christmas Eve. This was our family tradition.

When we have nothing, we truly appreciate the generosity of another. When we are rich ourselves, are we able to be generous to others or do we hold on and say “mine?” If we have little, can we share what we have with others, and know the richness of giving from our poverty? If we are truly have the Christ image in our hearts, we have his generous nature there also and know that the measure with which we give will be the measure which we get back (Luke 6:38).

Sometimes we are so used to giving, that we can’t receive.  Then we rob someone else of the blessing of giving, for we’ve heard it said so often “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). As a designated giver, I know how hard it is to receive! It feels more “right” to me to gift someone than to be on the receiving end of the blessing.  Yet if we pause and consider, we are always on the receiving end of God’s inexhaustible gifts of grace and power. We are always the recipients of his unearned gift of salvation that is ours by faith in the work Christ did for us on the cross.  We aren’t the active partner, giver or the one who blesses in our relationship with God, for we are the ones who receive all good things from God!

Generosity in art is a gift also. How can I share my gift/talent with others? Too often “art” is tied up in the “sale” of art: merchandising, advertising, gallery contacts, commissions, and all the attendant hoopla that comes with that scene. That isn’t “art.” The work of creativity is art. The outpouring of heart, soul, mind, and spirit into paint, clay, stone, and other media is art. Whether a child, a hobbyist, or a professional, the artist is generous with their time and energy when confronted with their chosen medium. Time passes unnoticed and unmarked as the artist pours out her soul upon her work, a generous offering that holds nothing back. The blessing is visible—the gift is there for all to see! A thing of beauty is a joy forever!

Generosity for the artist is not just in the creation of the work, for the artist needs not just to give his all to his muse.  That would be self-serving; a giving that may benefit the audience, but also benefits the artist’s fame, celebrity, status, and accomplishments.  For the artist to be truly generous, his effort must benefit his community and lift up others. An artist that volunteers his skills to teach at risk children in a neighborhood art program helps his community.  My old churches in West Helena, Berryville, Parkview, and McGehee had afternoon programs that reached these kids with music, art, scripture & food. The volunteers weren’t always the best artists or musicians, but they had the best hearts!  God gave gifts to his peoples!

Giving of your self may be something new, a growing edge. As creative and spiritual people, we seek to stretch ourselves, to push our boundaries, and find the edge of discovery that allows us to find the deeper connection with our God and our selves.  If we are a little uncomfortable, that is good: God wants us to go to a land he will show us (Genesis 12:1). After all, this is a journey of faith into the unknown, not a well-worn path into the known.