Category Archives: Christian Life

Art as a Ministry

Shortly after I moved to Illinois, I was invited to an art circle, a meeting where artists get together and show their work and talk about art. While there, I met a young lady who created art out of light (literally light). It was amazing! When it came my turn to share, I talked about my writing and the books I had published. This young lady contacted me a couple weeks later and shared how my books had intrigued her, so she went home and started reading Daughter of Light.

That connection led to us having coffee and her sharing how she came to know Christ—from an antagonistic atheist to a follower of Jesus—and how her passion is to not only create art, but to reach fellow college art students with the gospel. As a fellow artist, I resonated with her words and was moved by her heart for college students. I’ve been in ministry for a long time, but I’ve never heard of anyone with that kind of passion for art and for students of art.

Not only that, Sara gets college students and speaks into their unique world. She shared with me a story about how she was talking to a young lady who was viewing her artwork and the topic of Star Wars came up. By using Star Wars, Sara shared who God is and how He works in the world. No big words, no eloquent gospel presentation. Just using an image the young lady already knew, and using it to help her to understand God more. To Sara, the gospel flows naturally through her, whether that is directly through her artwork, or through whatever topic comes up when she is speaking to people.

As one artist to another, I am inspired by Sara’s passion and love for art, for God, and for people. Because of that, I wanted to introduce all of you to Sara and the ministry she is embarking on to reach art students. Here she is to tell you her story in her own words.

Being-installation-Sara-paige

During my time in grad school, I realized just how hostile the arts can be towards Christians. I was baptized four months before coming to the University of Illinois, so faith as part of my art was a new concept for me. I felt like I had to hide or be covert about faith topics within my art. I reached a point where I could no longer be ashamed of who God called me to be and the power within His truth. I got a lot of push back from classmates and some professors when I started being open about the influence my faith had on my art. Once I allowed God into my art practice though, I witnessed amazing growth, spiritually, artistically, and relationally.

God is the ultimate creator. He created everything, especially us, in His image. I honestly believe that as artists, when we create we enact on that image of God within us. God wants to be a part of our artistic practices, whether it be visual arts, design, music, theater, dance, or writing. He longs to see His kingdom come and what better way to bring that than through the arts? We as artists make physical the unseen. We take the unimaginable and put it into words/movement/imagery. Our sole purpose is to reflect the glory of God!

My calling is to help shepherd art students at the University of Illinois. There are 2,300+ students in the college of Fine and Applied Arts. My goal is to start a revival and help bring redemption through the arts. These students face many struggles and are in desperate need of the Truth. As a staff member of Illini Life, I will be able to establish an arts outreach and help build a community of artists who will boldly proclaim the gospel.  

However, I’m not currently on campus and working because I first need to build a team of people who believe in what I’m doing to support me. I’m looking for partners to join me in this mission through prayer, resources, and financial support. This is an opportunity to be a part of the bigger story God is writing in the lives of students at the University of Illinois. My goal is to be fully funded by August, so I’m ready to meet the thousands of new students coming to campus. If you are interested in joining me in this mission, please send me an email! I would love to meet you and get to know you 🙂

***

That afternoon when Sara shared her vision and ministry with me, I knew I wanted to support her, not just financially, but with prayer and as a friend and fellow artist. She will be reaching other artists, young people who I will probably never meet or have a relationship with. But she will. And I get to be a part of that, and that’s exciting!

If you’re interested in learning more about Sara’s artwork or ministry, or want to talk drop her an email, here are her links:

Ministry: reliant.org/sara.hoag

Artwork: sarapaigeart.com

Email: sara.hoag@reliant.org

Thanks, Sara, for sharing!

What is True Love?

heart-1170606For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been reading 1 Corinthians 13, the famous “love chapter” of the Bible. Why? Because I’ve needed a refresher on what it really means to love people and to put it into practice. I’ve been reading it in the NLT version (New Living Translation) and let me tell you, it really puts love into perspective. Love isn’t some lighthearted feeling we feel bubbling up inside our chest. In fact, some of the word choices the NLT uses really brings home what love is… and what love is not. Let me show you.

First, I love how Paul talks about all the great things a human could do, and in context, how the Corinthians thought if they could have these more amazing spiritual gifts, they would be something. Instead, Paul says it doesn’t matter if you can speak all the languages of the world, have all knowledge and even know God’s secret plans, be willing to sacrifice yourself, or give all you have to the poor, but if you don’t love your fellow man, it doesn’t mean anything. In modern terms, it doesn’t matter if you win the Noble Peace Prize, broker peace in the Middle East, give all you have to help the homeless, or be the smartest person in the world, but don’t love—I mean really love—those around you, it doesn’t mean a hill of beans. Useless. A waste.

So what does true love really look like? Here is how Paul breaks it down:

Love is Patient. Yeah, that means being patient with the people who cut you off in traffic or drive slower than you do. Or when the Walmart clerk is slow, or someone has more than 20 items in the 20 item line. Patience is a facet of true love.

Love is Kind. Kind to children. Kind to the elderly. Kind to the disabled. Kind to your co-worker. Kind to spouse. Love oozes kindness.

Love is not Jealous. Nope. Instead, it is glad when someone else receives a blessing.

Love is not Boastful. Boasting is saying “look what I have and you don’t.” Love doesn’t do that.

Love is not Rude. Rudeness is a form of selfishness. Rudeness only looks out for #1 and shoves everyone else aside. Love doesn’t do that.

Loves does not Demand Its Own Way. Ouch. I’ve really had to work on this one. I have one way of cleaning the kitchen or loading the dishwasher or folding the towels. Real love gracious allows others to do things in other ways. Most often fights occur because we want our own way, when in truth there are many ways things can be done.

Love is not Irritable. Notice it doesn’t say gets angry. The word irritable makes me think of a small dog who-when you get close to it-starts to growl, then snaps at you. I do that to people, especially first thing in the morning. True love doesn’t do that. It doesn’t let things get under its skin. Next time you want to snap at someone, or feel yourself growling inside, remember love is not irritable 😉

Love keeps no Record of Being Wronged. No back pocket list. No hidden paper with every offense. If you have a list, let it go. Especially toward your spouse. But, but, but… Nope. If God doesn’t keep a list about us, we shouldn’t be keeping a list about others.

Love does not Rejoice About Injustice. We should not be cheering when injustice happens. That is not love.

Love rejoices when the Truth Wins Out. This is truly something to be happy about! Love always wants to the truth to win.

Love never gives up. Have you giving up on someone lately?

Love never loses faith. Have you lost faith in someone lately?

Love is always hopeful. Have you lost your hope recently?

Love endures through every circumstance. Every single one.

Looking back at this list, real loves seems impossible, right? Sometimes I think that. “But God, you don’t know that person. They really get under my skin!” Or, “God, that person hurt me really, really bad.” In some circumstances, there is absolutely no reason a person deserves our love. That is why real love transcends human nature, and why it takes God’s power to love. We can’t love like this on our own. But we can through Jesus Christ. After all, this is how He loves us. Patience, kindness, no record-keeping, never gives up on us, never loses faith in us, always hopes, and endures through everything.

This, my friends, is real love.

Should You Say That?

More and more people are sharing their thoughts and feelings on the internet. In some ways, this is good. There are more discussions happening. However, in some ways, people have forgotten that there is a real live human on the other side of that computer screen and perhaps not all things should be shared. I have a feeling many things would not be said if you were face to face with that person.

So how do you know if you should share something? Or how should you share something? For example, a topic has been brought up that you’re passionate about and want to leap in with your side of the argument. Or you’re tired of all the rants, and so you want to go on your own. What kind of filter should we use, not only on the internet, but with the people around us?

A friend of mine shared his thoughts with my husband and me a few weeks ago and I was blown away by his wisdom (and so that I’m not completely ripping his idea off, Jason Fortriede came up with this first and really needs to write all those books he has ideas for!).

I loved what he had to say and started applying it immediately with my kids. You know how family can be, especially between brothers and sisters. You’re not always kind to one another and say stuff that perhaps should have been filtered. Here are the three things you should ask yourself before you speak or write, and if all 3 apply, go ahead and say it (or write it). If they don’t, stop. Just stop and think about it. You might save yourself and others a lot of grief. Here you go:

Is it truthful?

Is it helpful?

Is it kind?

I’ve heard people say, “It’s the truth.” Sure, it’s the truth, and you just used the truth like a 2×4 to hit someone across the head. Ouch. I don’t think they heard the truth. They just feel the pain from the bludgeon. If it’s truthful, is it helpful right now? If not, stop. Sharing that the widow’s husband was a jerk at his funeral is just a stupid place to share the truth (I’m exaggerating on my example).

Let’s say it’s truthful and helpful, but is it kind? Telling someone, “You’re breath smells like a dog,” before his first date might be truthful and helpful, but certainly not kind. Two out of three is still not enough. Maybe try this: “Hold on, your breath needs a little work. Here’s some gum. I want you to make the best first impression you can on this date.” Bingo! Truthful, helpful, and delivered in a kind way.

But what about being kind, but it’s not true? You know, a little lie to make the person feel better? And it’s helpful, too 🙂

No, no, no. If I found out someone said something nice to make me feel better, but it wasn’t true, I would not believe any other nice things they said. You want people to know you are genuine and truthful in your statements. If it’s not true, don’t say it.

But mom, what if they ask me a question like do I like their picture and I hate it? What do I do?

You can always find something truthful and positive to say to someone, even if you don’t  like their house in Minecraft (yeah, that example is for my kids). Here’s an marriage example: “Honey, does this dress look good on me?” No, not at all. But the color does bring out her eyes. Don’t say yes and lie about it. Instead, say “I love the color, but the style doesn’t quite suit you. Let’s see if we can find something in the same color.” Bingo. All three: truthful, kind, and helpful.

See how much of a difference these three questions can make in our daily interactions, both in the physical world and in the cyber world? So the next time you’re wondering if you should answer someone who just posted on Facebook “The 49er’s stink,” ask yourself if your answer is truthful, kind, and helpful. Instead of “Yes!”, say, “They had a hard season, but there is always next year.” Or just don’t answer it at all. See what I mean? 😉

I can tell you this is already changing the way my family interacts with each other. My kids are asking each other if their comments are truthful, helpful, AND kind. Our words have power. Let’s think about them before we use them.

 

 

One Chapter Short

I had a review come in the other day where the reader really struggled with where Daughter of Light was going. Eventually she gave up and put the book away. As I glanced over her review, I was struck by the irony that if she had just continued on to one more chapter, she would have realized the point of the book. She would have reached the chapter where Rowen finally meets the Word and finds her strength in Him. Sadly, all the reader saw was the darkness and the hurt and the anger that my characters were going through and never went far enough to see the light and hope.

Isn’t that how life is sometimes? Sometimes the paths God takes us down are dark and hard. There is a reason that David in Psalm 23 calls that place “the valley of the shadow of death.” As we continue down into the valley, everything becomes darker and darker until we come to a point where everything inside of us is screaming for us to turn back and give up. But it’s usually at that very point where we are almost through the valley. The light is just up ahead. We just need to take a couple more steps.

I’m writing this post to remind us not to give up. Many of my friends are going through some dark valleys right now: unemployment, the death of a child, sickness, and life-altering change. Those are some very hard paths to walk. Sometimes you wish you could turn around and run back to the way life was before the valley. Or you’re just so tired that all you want to do is collapse and cry on the valley floor.

Don’t give up! There is light ahead. It may not be the outcome desired, but there will be renewal. There will be strength. There will be hope. There we will finally see God and realize He’s been walking with us the whole time.

Don’t stop one chapter short. The next chapter may very well be the one that gives you light and hope.

DoL Dark

It’s Okay to be a Martha

Martha or Mary

Every once in a while I run into blog posts that remind us Christian women that we need to be a Mary in a Martha world. In fact, I ran across it again the other day, and the hurt, and the shame, and disappointment welled up inside of me. For years I struggled with who I am. I am not a Mary. I am not a quiet and meek woman. My strengths are logic, calculations, tasks, and getting things done. And every time I ran across those articles telling me I needed a different personality, I would curl up in a corner and wonder why God made me this way.

It took a while, but I slowly began to see God did not make a mistake when he made me. People like me are needed in this world, and they are needed in the church. Our strengths shore up other’s weakness, just as much as our weaknesses are honed and made stronger by those different from us. We need friendly, outgoing people. We need kindhearted caretakers. But we also need people who are detail-oriented. People who serve behind the scenes. We need Marthas and Marys.

So why do so many of us elevate Mary and put down Martha? I think it’s because we don’t understand what Jesus was really saying in that passage. Not once does Jesus tell Martha to become Mary. Instead, he pointed out where Martha’s focus was. She was so busy serving Jesus that she forgot Jesus. She was worried, and that worry made her lash out at her sister. Instead, he wanted to direct her attention back to what would really last. That meal she was preparing? It would soon be consumed and done. But time spent with him? It would never vanish.

Now does that mean we never cook another meal again (hahaha! I wish!). No, it means while we serve, we keep our focus on the one we are serving. It’s not about being Mary or Martha, it’s about Jesus. Are you a Mary? Then in your quietness enjoy your Lord. Are you a Martha? Then in your service, enjoy your Lord.

If you are a Martha, God isn’t calling you to be a Mary. He is calling you to spend time with him, and serve him with the gifts, personality, and talents he gave you. Those are the moments he spoke of that can never be taken away.

How about you? Are you more like Martha or Mary? Do you ever struggle with the person God made you?

The Gospel isn’t just for Non-Christians

Every few months the topic of Christianity and fiction crops up around my Facebook feed. The usual arguments ensue, but this time one commentator’s thoughts made me pause. In fact, I found myself awake later that night writing a protest inside my head. His view is a common one I find among Christians: the gospel is for non-Christians only. Once saved, Christians move on to bigger and better things. The gospel is milk and we need to consume meat. But what I’ve found in the Bible, the gospel is not something Christians move on from, it is central to our lives for the rest of our lives. We don’t move on from the gospel, we move deeper into it.

It is our life.

Almost every book in the Bible, and all of the New Testament talk about the gospel. Over and over again. Given that many of the books are geared toward Christians and their walk, I would say that means the gospel is not a single point in time but something that is the cornerstone of our faith.

“For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work…” Romans 1:16, emphasis mine

“This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith…” Romans 1:17, emphasis mine

“I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!” Philippians 3:10-11

Even Jude wanted to share, but found he needed to write about something else more pressing: “Dear friends, I had been eagerly planning to write to you about the salvation we all share. But now I find that I must write about something else…” Jude verse 3
Note, he wasn’t writing to non-Christians, but to Christians.

So why does this keep me up at night? Why am I disturbed about this trend I continue to find among Christians? Here are my reasons:

-Because it lessens the power of the gospel. When a persons sees the gospel as an event, as a prayer prayed in the past, they no longer see need of it now in their lives. They forget the depravity of sin, and the cost for our forgiveness, and the deep, deep love of God. Instead, it becomes a distant memory.

-When a person no longer needs the gospel in their life, they no longer share it. Yes, they know that they are commanded to share the gospel, but the fire is not there, and so it is a tepid share at best. I know, I’ve been there.

-They don’t live out the tenets of the gospel everyday: we are forgiven, and so we forgive others. Grace given and grace received. The awe of a relationship with God. A thankful heart for all that we have. A hurt for the brokenness of our world.

Instead of a zealousness, I find moral Christians who are brittle and lukewarm inside. Perhaps that is why I write what I write. Every time I write about the deep complexity of a broken person finally finding God, the fire of the gospel is rekindled inside of me. And I want to kindle that fire in others. I want people who read my books to remember what it was like to be lost (and thus have a heart for those who are lost), to remember when God touched their heart, and how it felt to be transformed, to be brought back to life.

The gospel isn’t just for non-Christians. It is for Christians as well. It is our heartbeat, it is what changes us, and it constantly reminds us of the God we follow.

Doing What’s Good for You

It’s not always easy to do what’s good for you. My husband hates vegetables. Taste, texture, even smell. It wasn’t until a couple months ago he finally starting adding them to his diet in the form of a veggie protein shake, that way he can slug his veggies down. I decided to join him in slurping those veggie shakes, partly because if we are both doing it, he’ll more likely drink it in the morning and partly because I could use more veggies in my diet.

There are some mornings I don’t want to make those shakes. And there are some mornings I would rather have something else (like a doughnut, yum!). But I tell myself, “No,” and then I go and make those shakes. And I am always glad I did!

Shake
Our morning veggie shakes, yum!

As I was making our shakes this morning, I realized how this applies to other areas of my life. There are days I don’t want to read my Bible or pray. I’m energized and ready to tackle my to-do list and the thought of pausing for twenty minutes to have my quiet time feels deflating. But I’ve lived long enough to know that I need to center my day around God, and so I head to my room, get on my knees, and pray. I never regret taking that time out each morning.

The same goes for my writing. There are many days I don’t want to write. I just want to be a regular mother and take care of my family. But if I don’t write, the story doesn’t happen and deadlines are not met. So I put aside my tasks (I’ll admit, it’s not hard to say no to laundry!), sit down in front my computer, and write out my word count for the day. Sometimes the words flow. Sometimes I feel like I would write faster if I just pounded my head across the keyboard. But in the end, I am always happy that I took the time to work on my book. Each day of writing brings me that much closer to a finished manuscript.

How about you? What do you not always enjoy doing, but you know is good for you? And how do you feel when you do it?