“Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures.” — Henry Ward Beecher
I'm writing this post because I think a lot of us--girls and guys--need a wake up call when it comes to social and consumer media. Yikes, when I started typing (because I rarely stop and think before I start writing. . .its like I have these thoughts that want to come out, and they pretty much do what they want once my fingers hit the keyboard,) I really didn't know what the topic was. I think most of it has to do with a quote I read on Facebook (speaking of social media,) the other day: "You are the books you read, the movies you watch, the music you listen to, the people you spend time with, the conversations you engage in. Choose wisely what you feed your mind." — Author Unknown
I love me my media. I love Youtube and Facebook, and I'm a HUGE movie buff. Not ashamed of it either. I mean. . .not really. :P I just love movies. . .I've always been that way. I remember when I was a kid, maybe 8-9, back in the late 90's or early 2000's, crying my eyes out because I wasn't allowed to watch Sarah Plain and Tall. A better punishment, honestly, than a spanking. It meant so much--maybe too much--to me. Whenever our clunky dino of a television wasn't working (remember antennas and VHS tapes that crackled and got blurry? Wow I'm old.) I would have a minor freak-out session, adjusting all the bits and bobs just so I could settle in for a good movie night. Movies relax me. They stimulate me. They take my mind elsewhere when I just can't cope. Honestly I think as a writer, my artistic side gobbles up a good story and I live there. It's a creative place deep inside me that loves all the people and stories and possibilities in the world. Books are a treasure trove of imagination, but movies. . .movies are the same thing but alive because you can see, hear, and almost touch the adventure. Am I sounding crazy yet? I live for the creative arts. Music, movies, writing, color, song, dance. . .its part of what makes us so unique and special as people. Think of all the talent in the world. There is nothing that God--the Master Designer--hasn't given us the ability to do creatively. People are incredible. And some are just so crazy-talented. Maybe someday, when I actually publish a book (because I'm going to become a best selling author, in case you didn't know, ;) ) I might join their ranks. For now I'll content myself with enjoying all the movies, book, music. . .and adult coloring books. . . I can get my hands on.
Now the crux of this little pep-talk. Where does God fall into all of this? Its a question I've been asking myself a lot lately. How easy is it to turn on a movie at night, or cuddle up with an awesome book, (currently obsessing over Lynn Austin's novels right now,) instead of opening the Bible or focusing on my passion for ministry? It's cool to think of how the two can be combined. Film making, for example. The Independent Christian film industry is a huge movement. Its fun, its productive, and its inspiring. But like anything that reflects human talent, its easy to take the focus off of God, and focus instead on ourselves. Its human nature. When we accomplish something, people applaud. They turn us into celebrities and subscribe to us on Youtube. They want to dress like us, talk like us, use the same makeup products, wear the same clothes. I've done it. Have you? People are always looking for a god, whether they realize it or not. It's been happening since the Garden. We see pretty things--Eve vs. the serpent--we take the bait--the forbidden fruit--and we fall. Sometimes the progression is so slow, we don't even notice until we've gone so far, the person we once were, the standards we once hard, the principles we stood so firm on, are lost in the enticing, colorful, exciting fabric of the world.
Its a trap. Its real. And it's happening to you and me. The devil comes in all forms, all beautiful. A wolf in sheep's clothing. An angel of light. So subtle, our innocent indulgence grows and grows until it is an all-consuming pattern of vanity, self affirmation, and idolatry.
Because lets be real. When I'm sitting around watching vlogs on fashion or makeup, am I thinking about my relationship with Christ? Am I using my talents or interests to reach out to others, to glorify my King? Am I remembering my true calling, to be a light and testimony to the world? To radically grow the Kingdom, to impact in His name? When I'd rather turn on on a movie than read my Bible. . .where does my focus lie? Certainly not on what I know is really my passion. Ministry. Missions. Giving. Hope. Charity. Jesus in all I say, do, breath, and think. When I'm filling my mind with nothing but clothes, books, movies, and music, I'm thinking about number one. Michaela. Usually, I'm too consumed with myself to care. Then some days I read convicting quotes or hear something that reminds me--I am a creature in Christ. And I have a much bigger purpose.
Can the arts be used to glorify God? Absolutely. I fully believe that all the intricate, creative mastery of humanity was made for a purpose. Its a wild, alluring, dangerous tool. Its what caused Satan himself to fall. Don't forget, he was a musician. Whoa, makes you stop and think, doesn't it?
In the world but not of it. What does that mean? That as Christians, we should dress ourselves in baggy, shapeless clothes and live in cloistered communities with no sunlight? Absolutely not. That's the beauty of freedom in Christ--something I've personally learned so much about in the last several years. God created beauty. In people, in nature, in the way men and women fall in love. His artistry is apparent in every golden sunrise, the sky in all its purple-pink splendor before setting at night. Art is in the very core of who we are as human beings. Our bodies move so we can dance. Our hearts beat fast at the sound of stirring music. Our voices fill church halls and football stadiums. Our fingers and minds work together to write novels, Our hands craft delicate pottery and wield brushes to paint seascapes on a wall. Our imaginations take ideas and turn them into songs, sounds, sights. We are unlimited in our ability to make beauty. Its a concept that absolutely fascinates me. And yet, How often do we see a star-strung sky and praise our Maker? When we wake each morning, is His name on our lips? The energy surging through our veins, the minds that allow us to exude talents, the choices we have each day to do right or wrong. They all come from an all seeing, all powerful, limitless God.
- Impact. Today, find a way to reach out towards others. It may be a co-worker. It may be a tired mom in the checkout line at the grocery store. It may be your mail man, delivering cards from out-of-state-relatives. It may be the clerk at the local coffee shop. The light of He who shines through you can touch someone, even in the littlest way. Prioritize your time.
- Praise. There are so many ways to worship. It may be through song. It may be prayer in a favorite, tucked-away nook. It may be sitting under an Aspen tree in the Rocky Mountains. It may be silence, letting the Spirit speak to your heart. There is nothing more rejuvenating, more inspiring than alone time with Jesus.
- Glorify. Who made these hands? God. Who allows this brain to think? God. Take your gifts and give them back. The credit for all our earthly accomplishments belongs to Him. Its one thing to post a selfie and caption it, "I look this way because this is how God made me." Maybe that's extreme, but I've seen similar examples. Its a totally different ballgame when we throw ourselves into His work because we want Jesus to get the glory. Saying and doing are too opposite things.
- Create. He's given us all something special that defines us and makes us unique individuals. Remember, you have a voice. You may be the shyest young woman, the least noticed young man. Still, there is always something you can do for the Kingdom. Maybe its mentoring a younger person, or writing a note of encouragement to someone in need. Instead of laying around watching movies (trust me, I'm talking to myself!) how can we use our interests to reach others?
Remember, whatever we put before our eyes and into our minds reflects on who we are. We may not notice it at first, but once the focus drifts off of our goal--Christ and the Cross--it begins to effect everything we do and say. I'm in no way saying that music, movies, books, or social media are bad things. Freedom in Christ, remember? But they, just like our personal ambitions, can become bad habits. I don't know about you, but once my eyes are turned on Jesus and away from pleasure, I become excited. Excited because there is so much I can do. In my community. With my friends. To my family. It's a big world out there. Never believe the lie that you can't do more. He's the Master Artist, remember? God gave you a brain and body so you can reach the stars. Do it for Him.
“A painter told me that nobody could draw a tree without in some sort becoming a tree; or draw a child by studying the outlines of its form merely . . . but by watching for a time his motions and plays, the painter enters into his nature and can then draw him at every attitude . . .” — Ralph Waldo Emerson