A Few of My Favorite Things as a Christian Writer

Photo by Ravi Pinisetti on Unsplash

I recently rediscovered some welcome encouragement for writers that I have found inspiring in my own intensive writing days. I think that anyone involved in any kind of creative pursuit can appreciate these inspiring words.

One of the reasons I find these kinds of reflections so encouraging is that our most important creative pursuit is, of course, co-creating with God the masterpiece of our own lives. I love how whatever advice is given for artistry or craft—whether attention, focus, discipline, gentleness, freedom, trust—becomes even truer when I apply that advice to my life.

 

A Letter to Artists

Makoto Fujimura is a prominent artist, speaker, and writer, whose art has been exhibited around the world and who seeks to uplift culture through IAMCultureCare, integrating faith, art, and beauty. His websites offer many resources to artists of today, but I’d like to highlight his A Letter to Young Artists, which is a personal favorite of mine. In this essay, Fujimura offers wonderful advice about:

  • joy in creating
  • God as the author of all creativity
  • trusting the process—even the awkward beginning stages when our creative wings are “unformed lumps” (a reference to C.S. Lewis)
  • genuine creativity is sacrificial love

The Good Book tells us that we are loved. Because of that love, which exceeds our own love, we can move out to take risks in creativity. Love is the ultimate fruit of the Spirit and our total dependence on the true source of creativity will nurture love. Art, ultimately, is expression of that love. Therefore we cannot create but by sacrificial love. We need to redefine art and its effectiveness by how it helps us to love one another sacrificially. Fear and terror, in any form, will destroy creativity and people. Fear and terror will twist our creativity to expand our “Ground Zeros.” Even when we cannot paint or write, love is available to us a creative resource to share with others. Stand on the ashes of your “Ground Zero”; look up and create in love and hope. – A Letter to Artists by Makoto Fujimura

You may wish to browse the many wonderful resources Mako Fujimura offers for the creative life, including his own writings and the IAMCultureCare website. (On a personal note, I highly recommend Mako Fujimura’s book Silence and Beauty, as well as his video reflections on Martin Scorsese’s recent film Silence, which offer abundant material to deepen the themes of the film and Endo’s novel on which the film is based.)

Photo by Gerald Berliner on Unsplash

An Encouragement for Spring and the Writing Life

When I first read Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation by Parker J. Palmer, I found it full of practical wisdom about deeply living our vocation. (And I just discovered that he co-hosts a new podcast, The Growing Edge, which I’m going to check out.)

This 2014 short post by Parker Palmer, entitled An Encouragement for Spring and the Writing Life is fitting not just because some of us are tired of winter and ready for spring (Boston received its biggest snowfall so far this year in March!), but also because of the beautiful imagery his poem offers us to reflect on our own creative journey.

A great read for writers: Scribbling in the Sand by Michael Card

As a writer and communications artist, I am always looking for further inspiration for creativity from a faith perspective, but only rarely do I find real resources that I want to keep going back to. There are seem to be only a handful (which you can see on last week’s post here).

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That’s why I was delighted to recently discover Scribbling in the Sand: Christ and Creativity by evangelical musician and songwriter Michael Card. Michael’s songs are based on the Word of God and his following of Christ. They draw from the Scriptures and the Fathers of the Church, as well as his own prayerful reflection and lived experience. I have enjoyed listening to his prayerful insights into the Scripture in his exquisite lyrics for decades—since my first years in the convent when I first discovered his music.

Scribbling-in-the-Sand-PapeScribbling in the Sand: Christ and Creativity is a wonderful companion for anyone on a creative-faith journey. His insights and personal sharing into the artistic creative process and the closer following of Christ  inspire, provoke (in the best sense of that word—as Jesus’ parables provoke!), encourage, and set the heart aflame.

Michael’s evangelical wisdom is something I connect with deeply, perhaps because it comes from his authentic life experience.  To hear how his creative process works—which is much different from my own, but has so much in common with how I see writing as a service—was both encouraging and life-giving for my reflection on my creative process. This is especially true because at this time my creativity is “unfolding” in new ways, taking different shape and form.

Chapters 7 and 8 of Scribbling in the Sand are my favorites, although Chapter 10 is also amazing—a collection of letters from Christian artists to Christian artists. And the very short appendix, “Growing in Creativity: Some Practical Advice,” is also a rich summary of the book that is ideal for reflection and prayer on our lives as artists. In Chapter 7, with a true appreciation of the Letters of Paul which he frequently quotes, Michael invites readers to focus their creativity on the kenosis “song” of Christ in Philippians 2:6-11. He offers three “themes” of the Philippians Canticle as the “character” of creativity: Humility, servanthood, and radical obedience.

Chapter 8’s title is “A Lifestyle of Listening.” Michael’s description of the “three keys” of listening resonated for me: listening to the Word of God, listening to the silence of prayer, and listening to our own lives—as poem and parable.

If your creativity feels at a low ebb; if your faith life feels like a dry husk; or if you simply want to explore further the connection between faith and art, between our discipleship of Christ and our call to evangelize, Scribbling in the Sand is a real treasure. Michael’s other works (found on MichaelCard.com) are wonderful to explore as well.

I’ll close with a few of my favorite quotations from the book—it was hard to pick just three, there were so many beautiful ones!

“We are driven to create at this deep wordless level of the soul
because we are all fashioned
in the image of a God who is an Artist.
When we first encounter God in the Bible,
it is not as the awesome Lawgiver
or the Judge of the universe
but as the Artist.”

* * * 

“Being the Creator-Artist that he is,
the great Romancer,
the perfectly loving Father,
God calls out to us, sings to us, paints images in our minds through the prophets’ visions.
These sounds and songs, these visions,
stand at the door of our own imaginations
and knock.
Through them God opens the door of his own inner life to us….
This is the heart of prophecy:
God speaking to us
in such a way as to recapture our imaginations.”

* * *

“The greatest, most beautiful expression of our creativity is to find a way to give ourselves.”   

— Michael Card, Scribbling in the Sand: Christ and Creatity