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The Heart of Worship

For some reason these Matt Redman‘s lyrics have been in my mind for many weeks now… “I’ll bring you more than a song for a song in itself is not what you have required… You search much deeper within through the way things appear, you’re looking into my heart…”

In so many areas of life we tend to strive and push on with 110% of our capasity. This might continue for years, even decades. We work 8, 10, 12 hours a day, we run all around about hobbies, parties and stuff, we make it a matter of honor to achieve great things both at work and in private life. The corner office and one family house with two nice cars in front of the garage. This is an exaggeration of course, but you know what I mean.

Being an artist it’s very, very rare not to judge your own work through a loupe. On the other hand it is vital: without critical observation you end up making just this and that. Being the case that you consciously tend to work with the Holy Spirit, you also want to stay alert about what He wants. But. What is God really asking from you and me? Perfection? FAR FROM THAT AS WE KNOW IT! We will never meet the standards of “perfect” in order to fulfill our purpose of being by something we do. As Redman sings, God searches much deeper within, He’s looking into your and my heart. That is the only thing He is asking from us. Nothing more, nothing less. That we align ourselves along His will, that we humble our hearts under His management.

What is even more important is, that it is not about you or me. E-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g in our lives and our being, our environment and living, e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g is about JESUS! It’s ALL ABOUT HIM in the end, halleluyah! Our part is to love Him, because He first loved us!

I’m coming back to the heart of worship
And it’s all about you,
It’s all about you, Jesus…
I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it
When it’s all about you,
It’s all about you, Jesus…
King of endless worth
No one could express
How much you deserve

(parts from Matt Redman’s song ‘The Heart of Worship’)

How to hit the bull’s eye with your art

I bet it is more the rule than the exception for us believers, that at some point we get the looong glances. 😉 Like when I say I talk to God they say I’m “rightgeous”, but when I tell them God answers me back they don’t say anything… You can just see the flashing light from their eyes which cable “N-U-T-T-E-R!” 😀 But well, that’s what I was like before I met the Living God in the middle of the street in 2003, so I do understand where these glances come from. 🙂

When painting or other wise working with the Holy Spirit I’ve come to situations where I’ve had to choose whether to act along the first impression or stay asking God the right way. As many times as this has happened, I’ve also witnessed the “Holy Pattern”. You see, the devil is there quick as an ermine trying to convince “you didn’t hear correctly, maybe you should wait, maybe you should think about it before you start acting according to it, it was just a faint impression, nothing more…”

Don’t try to measure God’s ways with your mind, you’ll never make it even close! For me, the “Holy Pattern” most often has been, that the first impression I get, the first thought or ray of light I see when making my art work with the Spirit, is usually the right way to go further.

There was this miniature roombox that I made into an Ariel washing powder box. The name of this work was “Angel’s laundry day”. The Holy Spirit told me to use one specific Bible phrase with it, and it was: ‘A voice came to him again the second time, “What God has cleansed, you must not call unclean.” ‘ (Acts 10:15, WEB). I really didn’t agree with Him and was thinking a totally different verse, though I did use the one He asked. In the end, I had an exhibition in a drug and alcohol rehabilitation day center in Helsinki, and I later heard, that this specific roombox with this specific Bible verse was really touching a lady customer that was also visiting the exhibition. So keeping my own mind I might have hit 7 or 8, but when I did as the Holy Spirit told me to, my work wasn’t just somethingy nicey: it had the true word of God in it, and it hit the bull’s eye when it reached this lady. 

So what ever art you do, be true to the often very small voice of the Holy Spirit. He is gentle and He never forces His way in our life, but if you choose to rely on Him the greatest blessing is to see how He works with and through you! Stay blessed! 🙂

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False humility

false-humility
‘Humility’ is a word that isn’t necessarily connected with ‘artist’ so often. 🙂 It might be true that the majority of artists are people, who want to be ‘on stage’, so to speak, whether it’s in person or through our art work. If we want to work with the Holy Spirit though, we have to be humble in Him. He’s the One we really should honor, respect and fear above all.

But there is also wrong kind of humility which actually has pride underneath. (I’m not going in to that at this post, though.) A few times I’ve heard someone tell about a divine visitation when something extraordinary happened. When I’ve urged the person to share the story in front of the whole congregation because it is a great way to encourage fellow church members, he or she has refused. The reason has been: “I don’t wanna exalt myself”. What?! We are to proclaim about what He can do, that He is Real, and we’re not worshiping a plastic Elvis but an omnipotent God who does miracles of all kinds every single day! Of course it’s a different story if one really has got the understanding of not sharing, and that’s an amen on that then, but in general we should open our mouths so He doesn’t need to make the stones shout. 🙂

When we practice false humility, we allow the enemy to tie our thinking and possibilities regarding God. We have to realize, that how ever big dreams we’re having about the Kingdom, it’s never about us. It is always only and about God. His Kingdom, His glory, His people. Acting “humble” (note quotes!) in order not to accidentally exalt ourselves does no good to you, to your neighbor and least of all, to the Kingdom of God. And if you really actually would exalt yourself, God has the tendency to lower your nose, so fear not… 😀

Matthew 5:13-16 in WEB: “You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt has lost its flavor, with what will it be salted? It is then good for nothing, but to be cast out and trodden under the feet of men. You are the light of the world. A city located on a hill can’t be hidden. Neither do you light a lamp, and put it under a measuring basket, but on a stand; and it shines to all who are in the house. Even so, let your light shine before men; that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

Artist and (the) Glory

queen-and-servant

Do you have the heart of a servant, or of the one who wants to be served?

Difficult subject… Or is it? Maybe just a little uncomfortable? The society we’re living in has the habit of setting some people up on a pedestal. Often those people are the ones who affect in the cultural area of the society. It’s because they are thought to have abilities that a few have. And maybe it’s true. Some are creatively more talented than others.

As an artist we are used to be “on the spot”. We often also enjoy the attention. I know I do, when the attention is about my art. But it’s like a two-way street. The other way you need the attention to have your art do what it is suppose to do, but the other way it can be a spiritual trap. Sometimes we need to exam our motivation. Where’s our heart in? Is it in the taps on the shoulders? Is it in the admiration and (maybe) false acceptance? Or is it in servanthood? Is it where our Lord Jesus would so much love to see it, in serving others and encouraging them with our gifts?

I once met a Finnish musician when interviewing him for a radio show. He said something that has stayed in my mind ever since. He said as a young Christian he used to have this fear of getting arrogant as he also was one of the top ballroom dancers in Finland. He was so worried, that he went to his youth pastor and told about his concern. The pastor said: “Relax! You can let it go to your head all that you want, God will surely drop you back down on earth!” Haha, that’s comforting to know, but it is worth focusing our motivation radar every now and then in order to avoid the painful (sometimes ackward) landing! 😀

You or Bezalel?

The Arc of the Covenant.

The Arc of the Covenant.

After you read the posting, I’ve got you a question in half-way. 😉 But first; you know who was Bezalel? He was the bloke, who got the honors of building the Arc of the Covenant and the whole Tabernacle according to the vision that God gave to Moses. God told Moses, that He had called by name Bezalel, of the tribe of Judah, and He had filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship,to devise skillful works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, and in cutting of stones for setting, and in carving of wood, to work in all manner of workmanship. (Ex.31:2-5) I bet Bezalel was highly valued member of the society too, as he was such a pro.

"...she has been sharing her cast-iron-frying-pan-mini-gaiters with the blessings and Bible verses even in the Parliament of Finland!

“…she has been sharing her cast-iron-frying-pan-mini-gaiters with the blessings and Bible verses even in the Parliament of Finland!

Last summer I attended the summer event of the Evangelical Free Church of Finland. At one occasion I went to sit next to a friend of mine and she told me something really, really touching. She had just got this gift from an old Lady, who she didn’t know at all. The Lady had been sitting next to her before that day, and she had just given my friend this… well, it’s kinda like a woolen mini-gaiter. (You see the pic right here!) My friend said there had been a piece of paper with a Bible verse in it inside of the mini-gaiter, like a “manna tag” as we say in Finland.

Anyway, the Lady had explained, that she knits them herself and then gives them to people as a blessing. The purpose of these “gaiters” is that if you happen to have a cast-iron frying pan, you can easily slip the gaiter to the handler, so it doesn’t burn your hands. The Lady had said: “this is my ministry”, and that she has been sharing her cast-iron-frying-pan-mini-gaiters with the blessings and Bible verses even in the Parliament of Finland! That is absolutely fantastic and brave, don’t you think?!

So my question to you is: which of these two gifts and ministries is more valuable? The one of Bezalel, or the one of this old Lady? (You can ponder this a little before you continue reading. 😉 )

With this I want to encourage us not to underestimate our natural gifts. The old Lady’s ministry might very well be a life line to someone! Maybe she has given her present to someone, who has been planning to end his life, and the old Lady’s present was the thing that made all the difference with the blessing and God’s word in it. Or maybe she has been the key factor, when someone has been right on the edge whether to turn to the enemy or come to Jesus. YOU CAN NEVER TELL HOW GOD WORKS! Please, be very, very careful in judging a fellow-Christian’s ministry (or “ministry”, if you like) to be just a bric-a-brac, as God’s word will NEVER return to Him but it does what God has sent it for. The same concerns you, my dear friend: don’t ever underestimate your own call to minister. It can change someone’s life literally for ever. 🙂

Worship stop

Here you can see a glimpse of Finnish! :) This is the Worship stop advertisement.

Here you can see a glimpse of Finnish! 🙂 This is the Worship stop advertisement.

I love my church, the Evangelical Free Church of Mikkeli. During the summer we started these so called “Worship stop” -evenings, “Ylistyspysäkki” in Finnish. (“Stop” coming from the allusion of a ‘bus stop’; a place to stay for a bit before continuing, and a place from where you can get on to different directions. If any native English speaker comes up with a better sounding name, please comment!)

Worship stop -evenings are to encourage believers to be active in their creativity, and to find ways to give their talent to glorify God. The time is only 2 hours, but it is so because we want to spend it intensively in prayer and worship while we’re there. When the time is limited, it helps to keep our thoughts in Him, and to receive His inspiration and teaching. Everyone is reflecting the Holy Spirit in a way that is charasteristic to each, so we have painting, lyric writing, poems, worship dancing, etc. And of course someone leading the worship in flow. There’s no chit chatting during the hours, just experiencing the presence of the Holy Spirit and interacting with Him. Before we end, we share about what we have painted, written, experienced, and like this learn from each others’ experience, and get encouraged.

I see these evenings very important. Normally I don’t like to generalize things, but it seems as if many of us Finns are pressed down with our creativity ever since we were kids. I believe that in the background there is the fear of man. There must be thousands of adults in Finland, who recognize the creativity within themselves, but who have never, ever tried it in action! It can be that they don’t even know what their creative talent actually is, they just feel it’s there. Worship stop -evenings are e.g. as simple as The Place to learn to lift up your hands in worship, if you’ve been too afraid to do that. If you can’t yet walk, you can be on all fours, so to speak. We can start from the very basics of how to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit, how to recognize your talents and how to express them. But the point is, that we continue growing in creativity with the Lord, and take it always one step further. Glory to God!

Come out from the desert!

Come out from the desert and lean on your Lover

Come out from the desert and lean on your Lover. (Aquarelle on paper.)

As a believer you know, that sometimes God takes us to experience the desert. It is first and foremost, what we think, a spiritual desert. There we feel that we’re all alone, God doesn’t speak to us anymore. It can last for years, as harsh as it sounds, and get so severe lack of the Living Water, that one could even think about quitting the whole thing with Jesus. “If this is all You offer, I’m done, thank you!”. It could also be, that the enemy has convinced you, that the desert walk is your destiny and that’s all you’re ever gonna get from God. IT IS NOT TRUE!!!

But the thing is, that if we really want to grow in faith, it happens in and through the time spent in the desert. Of course we can be like a piece of lard in a freezer, so to speak, you know what I mean? You just “hang in there” and give up, as long as you still get out some day. But to grow in faith is also about striving when you are experiencing the desert. We are good enough for God through Jesus Christ, that’s for sure, but if you want to be Spiritually victorious here on earth, you sometimes just need to make the decision to keep your head above the water level. God has given us free will, and it applies also to how we decide to go through this experience. Do I really want to compromise my rightful place in Heaven, do I want to come through this time just barely alive, or do I choose to worship and relate with Him no matter what? Please, choose the “no matter what”, you can make it through Him who strengthens you! 

This piece was painted during a worship session in July. I felt I was just by the door to come out from a very long time in a desert, and I saw the picture of me leaning on Jesus as He was walking with me the last miles. (He’s been with me, and you, all the time, but I felt as if He would’ve made himself visible to me only a little time before I got out.) So my dear, what ever you go through and what ever you do, don’t give up, as your oasis is already visible!

How God started with me

artist-hands
Do you have it in your heart to tell about the Gospel but you just haven’t found your media yet? Or maybe you even know what your way to evangelize is, but the doors just don’t seem to open?

I’ll tell you how it all started for me, and maybe it can be encouragement for you too. So I had been doing miniature roomboxes for some years already before I came to faith in 2003. I had two small babies and was studying and trying to take care of the home. The desire to make the minis was… terrible. It took practically all the time when my hands were free. Along the way I started to feel that it wasn’t right, as it took my attention away from everything else: my family, studies and we also used to be a foster family for two teenagers who were living in the same house with us. But the biggest thing that was constantly in the background of my mind was, that it was between God and myself. I wasn’t able to grow in faith.

So I said “God. Take this awful itch to make miniatures away, or do something that I can make them with an easy conscience”. What a great, big, awesome God we have; He did exactly that! He had given me the skill to make miniature things, so much so that it became my passion. At this point I had already had many group and personal exhibitions around Finland, so I had it going with getting “secular” opportunities to show my art. But I will never forget the moment when it happened for the first time, that the Holy Spirit told me clearly what I must do…

I was in IKEA, London UK. Saw a package of 3 photo frames with different colours: orange, yellow and red. What I saw was a package of frames for beautiful miniature roombox displays. At the very moment my hand touched the package, I got three words: faith, hope, loveWhen I got back home to Finland it was amazing how the Holy Spirit gave everything: colours, Bible verses, installations, symbolism, newspaper articles, materials, He told me e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g  as the work progressed. When I was making a certain phase of the work, I didn’t know what comes next before it was time to move on. I haven’t experienced anything like that before or after that.  A real, genuine flow! 

Maybe I’ll write later about how you can learn to make art with the Holy Spirit? At least I can tell how He teaches me to work with Him through creativity. It is a whole different thing to paint and paint what He asks you to paint. 🙂

Try again (like you’ve never been hurt before)

i-can1
“Love again like you’ve never been hurt before”. That’s a beautiful saying. Creativity within an artist or a musician is a very private, genuine experience. So when it happens that you’ve been put down over and over again, how to turn it to a breeding ground? Well, trust is something you might have to build again. But trust especially between you and God. He speaks in His word so many promises of taking care of you in different levels of life. As you are His child, you are entitled for full care take from His part! 🙂  Just “consider the ravens: they don’t sow, they don’t reap, they have no warehouse or barn, and God feeds them. How much more valuable are you than birds!”  (Luke 12:24, WEB.)

Rejection and malign criticism to an artist that is just trying his/her wings to maintain his own vision in his art, let alone in ministry, can be really devastating. There was a time in my creative life, when I felt as if I had a barrel hoop stuck around me so that I couldn’t move even my arms. The urge to spread the Gospel through the media that was familiar to me was so huge, but for some reason there didn’t come many people who could’ve been supporting my calling. Actually I don’t recall any. But it just wasn’t God’s time.

There are many, many fellow artists who are in or who have experienced this situation. I want to encourage you: do not give up! If you think it is God’s promise that is on the background of your internal urge, then your job is to press on and keep reminding God about His promise and proclaiming His will to be reality in your life. What ever you do, keep practising your creativity, you WILL bear the fruit when the time is at hand!

What is your PASSION?

arts group

Both of my two passions are included in this photo: Sub-Saharan Africa and creativity, praise God! 🙂

I know very well how it is when you’re still not sure of your call. I waited for about ten years before I got the certainty, that encouraging Christians to use their creativity for God’s purposes would be one of the fields where God really wanted to use me. There were times when I actually was certain I had understood wrong.

So how can you know your calling then? There’s one thing that at least with us artists is quite a firm sign: PASSION. What is the area of your creative passion? If you know that, you already have a pretty good picture of what God might want you to do. At least what direction He might want you to start taking your steps.

As you’re taking these steps testing whether they lead to the right direction, God will open doors for you as you go further. You will meet many divine interventions in how things “just fall in place”. That is not “just”, that is God. 🙂

God is such a fantastic Father, as He often uses our passions for His purposes! He hasn’t given any gifts to believers just for “entertainment”, but in order to be really used! Start being active in your creativity!

 

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