J Scott McElroy

Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

Summer 2014 Update

In Art, Arts Conferences, Christian Art, Christian Arts Conference, Church Art, Creativity, Uncategorized on June 23, 2014 at 6:39 pm

(Note: You’ve come upon an archive site. Scott is now blogging at JScottMcElroy.com. These and fresh posts can be seen there! )

After spending 7 months sitting at the writing-table with the new book, I’m venturing out for a couple of great speaking opportunities in July.

Karitos 2014

If you are in the Midwest, consider attending Karitos 2014 in Chicago, July 10-12. It’s their 20th anniversary and I’m honored to give a featured address and lead three workshops: “How to karitosBetter Hear God’s Voice in Your Creativity”, “The Joy of Personal Prophetic Art”, and “Practical Ideas for Bringing the New Creative Renaissance into Your Church and Your Culture”. More information at http://Karitos.com.

The Creative Church Conference 2014

Then it’s on to the long-awaited Creative creative church logoChurch Conference 2014 in Boise, July 25-27!  If you at all interested in encouraging the arts and creativity in the church, you should join us! This year’s lineup of speakers and activities is stellar. This year’s theme is “The Artist in Community”.  Speakers include:

  • Dr. Colin Harbinson (Stoneworks Global Art Initiative)
  • Jessie Nilo (VineArts Boise)
  • Jason Leith (Artist, Director of Arts, Saddleback Church )
  • Manuel Luz (Imagine That, Worship Director at Oak Hills Church)
  • Dave Blakeslee (Potter and Pastor)
  • Bryn Gillette (Artist)
  • Andrew Nemr (Dance Artist)
  • Cecilia Brie Tschoepe (Actor, Writer, Director)
  • Me
  • and many more.

(Look for profiles on each speaker over the next couple of weeks on the New Renaissance Facebook page. )

Plus, plenty of workshops, creative free time, performances, interaction with other artists and leaders, and more.

And, it’s only $75!

Go to the website to register and for more information: http://TheNewR.com

The event is sponsored by VineArts Boise and The New Renaissance Arts Movement (a department of ACT Intl).

New book on the way!

You may have noticed that we had planned to do a Creative Church Conference in Indy this year, as well.  The New Renaissance Arts Movement, which I direct, is the main intervarsity-press-IMPRINTSsponsor of the Indy event, and one of our biggest priorities is to get a new book out about the arts in the church. IVP (InterVarsity Press) offered to publish the book last year and I began working on it full time last November. That process took considerably longer than expected and the first draft was completed in May. Since I was tied up writing, we decided to consolidate this year’s Creative Church Conferences into the one in Boise. (We plan to do Indy again in 2016.)

Now the new book is in the editing process at IVP and we have an official title: The Creative Church Handbook: Releasing the Power of the Arts in Your Congregation. We expect it to release in Spring 2015. Thanks to all who have prayed and contributed during this process!

Adventures in (Re)Design

In Art, Christian Art, Creativity, Interior Design, Kitchen Remodeling, Uncategorized on October 25, 2013 at 6:02 pm

(Note: You’ve come upon an archive site. Scott is now blogging at JScottMcElroy.com. These and fresh posts can be seen there! )

If you haven’t heard from me for a few months, it’s not that I don’t like you anymore. It’s that I’ve 10bbeen largely indisposed on an unending project.  After 650 man hours the beautiful beast called THE BIG KITCHEN REMODEL is vanquished. And I think my remodeling bug is completely sated…for now. It’s time to dive into completing the new book (more details to come), but I wanted to take a moment to show you how the remodel turned out.  It is, after all, important to savor the results of the creative labor that God has given us to do.  He modeled that for us in Genesis when he contemplated what he created at the end of every day.

But first, as a follow up to the thoughts in God Enjoys Interior Design, I was reminded of another excellent example of God’s enjoyment and value of design while reading The Gift of Art (IVP, 1981) by Gene Veith, Jr. recently.  Veith says:

The Lord’s requirements for the tabernacle and later the Temple do, in fact, take up a good part of the Old Testament… The details of how many hooks  to place in the curtains, how many cubits the frames must be, what to cover with beaten gold and what to make from bronze, are tedious to modern readers and have led to the abandoning of many a (entire bible) Scripture–reading project.  But it pleased God to include theme in this holy Word. God, the designer and maker of the universe, clearly places great value on details of design, construction and artifice.

That’s true.

I hope the builders of the tabernacle and temple didn’t run into as many challenges in the details as we did in this remodel. God did give us solutions to every one, but the problems were plentiful. Fortunately, I was working with my good friend Scott Rieger on this project so we had a healthy mix of humor, trivia, and theological discussion along with the challenges.

Mom’s house was built in 1979, long enough ago that many design elements are outdated. Add to that the fact that it is on a concrete slab and the home was configured oddly to be wheelchair accessible, and you have some interesting problems. Plumbing can’t be changed, the concrete promoted years of condensation and rot in the cabinets, and there are limited options when reconfiguring the kitchen layout. But enough of the boring explanation.  Here are the pictures, with slightly more interesting explanations.  For those interested in some of the specifics of products and processes, I’ve created footnotes at the end of this post.

Challenges

Here are just a few of the problems that needed to be addressed: (Click on the pictures to see the explanation.)

Before and After

The plan was to transform this kitchen from a dated and clutter hodgepodge of design to a classy and  warm Tuscan-inspired family gathering place. I think we got pretty close. Here is a sampling of before and after shots. Click on any of the pictures to go into the gallery with explanations.

More Design Updates

In addition to refinishing or replacing nearly everything in the kitchen, we added many extra design touches. Here are a few. Click on any picture to go to the gallery with explanations.

Notes:

(1) The pendant lights came from Menards. I went for a simple, classic light that could accommodate a 100 watt bulb.

(2) The cabinets required a 4-step process to get this look. 1. Liquid De-glosser was used to prepare the finish for staining. 2. A coat of Rust-o-leum Kona stain was applied  to darken the cabinets. 3. A coat of Rust-o-leum Black Cherry was applied to give a rich red tone. 4. A few coats of polyurethane went on to toughen up the finish. These stains are available at Lowes.

(3) I spent a lot of time looking for the perfect backs plash tile to complement the beautiful granite. Its a more difficult task then you might think. I settled on white natural tumbled marble tiles (4”x4″) from Menard’s. It had rough edges and a lovely washed out look. This was placed in an offset, subway tile pattern for an retro look, then sealed with a simple stone sealer. The grout was biscuit colored to blend with the stone (white grout was too stark). I used tumbled marble chair rail tile to trim. The whiteish tile and light granite is a great contrast to the rich wood floors and dark cabinets.

(4) Osbourne Wood Products provided the corbels for the island and sink trim. Very nice quality and detail. I highly recommend them.

(5) The paint came from Sherwin Williams and I went with three complimentary colors. The walls were “Pavilion Beige”, the lower trim “Tiki Hut” and the upper trim and beams were a shade lighter with “Sanderling”.

(6) I found the range hood on line at Signature Hardware. This hood is made exclusively for them and though is doesn’t have some of the bells and whistles like LED display, timers and etc, it does have high air output (550 Cfm) and great design lines. You can easily spend several hundred dollars on a chimney range hood, but this 30″ came in at $299 (on sale).

(7)  The pot rack is one of the few 24″ hanging styles available.  Made by JK Adams, available from Crate and Barrel. Fairly reasonably priced at $140.

(8) The pulls came from Menard’s and are 96mm in a Black Nickel finish.

(9) I found the best deal for engineered hard wood floor at Menards. The Floors of Distinction brand Acacia wood in Cabernet with a hand scrapped texture completely satisfied the desire for a rich, medium dark floor that could “float” over a concrete slab floor.

God Enjoys Interior Design

In Art, Creativity, Interior Design, Kitchen Remodeling, Uncategorized, Writing on August 26, 2013 at 4:53 pm

  “If I were asked to say what is at once the most important production of art and the thing most to be longed for, I should answer, ‘a beautiful house’.” William Morris

flowering plant

The interior design of a flower.

Some may find it strange for a guy to admit, but I’m passionate about interior design. I love the variety of elements that go into a pleasing design, the interplay of line and form with color and light, and the positive effects of good design in a home, church, or business.  I’ve found a well-designed space can actually facilitate openness to God’s spirit. In fact I think that God is a fan of interior design, as well. He certainly enjoys all the elements of it, as we can see by the abundance of these things in nature. In fact, you could say that he is the original interior designer, having conceived and executed the incredible interior design in humans, animals and plants. He is a master of mixing form and function.

As much as I love writing, visual art, and the ministry God has called me to, I can’t get away from working with interior design. And my wife loves it, too. Danielle and I are opposite personalities in many ways, but when we can compromise on design ideas in our home the result is eclectic and (I think) inspired. In fact, I could tell you many stories about how God has inspired or blessed our design process; like the blue leather chair he led me to at Goodwill for $35, or the set of 100 year old candelabras I got for $8 at a random garage sale, or the deeply discounted Crate and Barrel rug he dropped in front of me that, as “the Dude”from The Big Lebowski would say, “…really ties the room together.” In fact, another thing some may find odd, I’m the one in our relationship who enjoys shopping for design items (clothes are not included in this category). If you want to know where to get a certain sofa, table, lighting, or drapery in town, I can tell you and may even find it for you.

OK…I guess I’ll show a few pictures of the house.  And here is a link to before and after shots.

16

The kitchen after. We knocked out a wall, painted and distressed cabinets, added rough cherry wood floor, solid surface counters, and new lighting.

10

This is the front room. We refinished the oak floors, added maple crown molding, eclectic furniture and lots of color.

12

This is the sitting room. We removed parts of two walls to create a large arch with columns (left) and smaller arched doorway. We also added custom sconces, and echoed a theme of oblong circles in room. This one is worth seeing in the before and after section on the link.

Kitchen Remodel

I really enjoy remodeling, as well. In fact, I find  that doing a little manual labor and handling solid material like wood and stone is a nice balance to the brain work of writing and developing a non-profit. I’ll be going into high gear on the latest book project during the last few months of 2013, so I decided to take the summer to  tackle a kitchen remodel project for my mom. My good friend Scott Rieger joined me in updating and re-envisioning my mother’s poorly designed 1979 kitchen. So far we’ve replaced Formica (fake) butcher block counters with new granite, tore out the old green tile and replaced it with natural field tile, reconfigured and rebuilt the island. It once had a cook top and veggie sink in it. We eliminated the cook top and expanded the veggie sink. We raised the bar counter top height, rebuilt all the lower cabinets in the kitchen, removed the old vinyl flooring, added lighting, removed  a wood stove and moved the refrigerator to make more room.  This week we’ll add a stainless range hood and pot rack, finish the tile, darken the cabinets, and replace the cabinet hardware. I thought It’d be fun to show you a few pictures from the project, and document the “before and after” as we wrap it up.

IMG_20130816_203932_571

In progress. The fridge and stove have been moved to open the space up, the counters replaced with granite (Bianco Romano), and border removed. New cabinet color, door hardware, and lighting is on the way.

DSC_2733

The kitchen before we started. It’s 12 feet wide, but the fridge and stove take up 5 feet! Notice the Formica butcher-block counters, and the grape border.

IMG_20130816_203917_952

In progress, natural field tile is going up. This will complement the beautiful granite, but not detract from it. New lighting is in under the cabinets, the dishwasher is now hidden, and a stainless chimney range hood will go in this week. The oven is a new GE double, bought at a discount.

DSC_2735

Before, the stove side of the kitchen. There was also a cook top on the island that we eliminated. And we moved the dishwasher to the island to make it less conspicuous. Notice the 70’s green tile back splash.

Redeeming the Arts

In Art, Christian Art, Church Art, Creativity on February 27, 2013 at 1:29 pm

(Note: You’ve come upon an archive site. Scott is now blogging at JScottMcElroy.com. These and fresh posts can be seen there! )

I’ve just been re-visiting the wonderful Redeeming the Arts paper and had to share it with you. Belhaven University and Colin Harbinson, editor of their magazine Creative Spirit, published this amazing work in 2005. One of the most thoughtful and comprehensive statements on the role of the arts in the church and culture to date, it was commissioned by the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelism, an international organization founded by Billy Graham in 1974. It’s a must-read for anyone interested in how God designed the arts and creativity to play a role in his redemption of the world. Here is a link to the complete PDF copy of it. My suggestion: print, underline, and savor it. (It’s the size of a small book.) Enjoy!

 http://stoneworks-arts.org/stoneworks/wp-content/uploads/2010/Creative_Spirit_Redeeming_the_Arts.pdf

“The gospel comes to us as a living word and draws us to think imaginatively of how things could be different. Imagination is capable of moving us closer to the truth about the world as we look through the lens of scripture. As an imaginative activity, art too can open our eyes to see old things in new ways. This important role for imagination suggests that our faith communities need to do their part in cultivating an imagination well rooted in the biblical narrative and the images of scripture.”–Redeeming the Arts

BTW, the mention of Billy Graham reminded me of his quote about the arts I post on FB a few days ago:

“All the masterpieces of art contain both light and shadow. A happy life is not one filled with only sunshine, but one which uses both light and shadow to produce beauty.”
-Billy Graham

Yes.

The Creative Church Conference Recordings Are Now Available!

In Art, Arts Conferences, Christian Art, Christian Arts Conference, Church Art, Creativity, Uncategorized on November 27, 2012 at 7:23 pm

Here is the news from our non-profit, The New Renaissance Arts Movement.

New Renaissance

At the New Renaissance Arts Movement, we’re about connecting, equipping, and inspiring artists and churches for a New Renaissance. We believe that God is releasing a renewal of the arts and creativity in the local church and an infusion of spiritually powerful art into the culture. We believe this movement will connect artists with the ultimate Creator and their true selves, invigorate the Body of Christ, and convey God’s love to the world in authentic and creative ways.

To that end, last summer we hosted The Creative Church Conferences in Indianapolis and Boise; ground-breaking forums for ideas and inspiration about the role of the arts and artists in the church. Creative leaders liked Rory Noland (Heart of the Artist), Theresa Dedmon (Bethel Church, CA), J. Scott McElroy (Finding Divine Inspiration), Beth Booram (Awaken Your Senses), Jessie Nilo (VineArts Boise), Joe Boyd (Vineyard Cincinnati) and others shared visionary ideas and practical applications in 15 sessions and workshops!

Now, we are making the complete recordings from the Indianapolis conference available on DVD, CD and MP3 download.

Topics include:Creative_Church_Conference_DVD

Examples of the Power of the Arts in Community Outreach

Leading Your Congregation in Sensory Worship

Starting an Arts Ministry in Your Church

Healing Through the Arts

Creating Sacred Space

Thriving as an Artist in the Church

Painting Live for Church Services

Telling the Kingdom Story Creatively

Designing and Running a Church Gallery

Panel Discussions full of practical applications

and much more!

These recordings are full of ideas and inspiration for artists, church leaders, arts supporters, arts groups, and more. Order the complete set at a discount or choose individual sessions and workshops on DVD, CD or Mp3 download at http://www.TheNewR.org/.

Forward to a friend

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—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

Now Non-Profit!

The New Renaissance Arts Movement became a 501(c)3 non-profit in 2012, through ACT International!

We are supported by people who want to see creativity, the arts, and artists thrive in local churches, for the purpose of making God’s incredible love know in the world.

To make a tax-deductible donation click here or you may also contribute by check by making it out to: “New Renaissance/ACT” and emailing us for the address at : thenewr@thenewr.org

Please consider us in your year-end giving.

Art Heist Promotes Art

In Art, Creativity, Uncategorized on October 16, 2012 at 1:26 pm

My heart did a little hop of excitement when I saw the news that millions of dollars

A spot on the wall marks the place of one of the stolen paintings in the Kunsthal museum in Rotterdam on Tuesday. European Pressphoto Agency

(or euros) worth of art has been stolen from a Dutch museum today.

That visceral reaction of delight surprised me. As a Christian, I don’t condone stealing of any kind, and as a human I’ve felt the distress of theft many times, in many ways.

I think this crime gave me a thrill for what it signifies: someone recognizes the value of art!  These thieves could have stolen cash or jewels, stock certificates or automobiles.  But they went to all the trouble to steal art, knowing how difficult it would be to profit from it, but believing it was worth the risk. I think when I heard the news I instinctively realized that an act like this has the potential to cause people to stop and think, “Wow, art can have that much value? Why is that?”  Maybe the “there is no such thing as bad publicity” adage will apply.

It’s a little ironic that in  a time when schools and communities are cutting arts budgets, somebody thought the best way to make a bunch of money was to steal some old paintings. In fact, it is actually refreshing to be reminded that, in our mass-produced world where we more often see art as entertainment than as something that can touch us profoundly, one of a kind, creative vision has incredible value.

I can even see an application to my life. How many times has my spiritual enemy stolen or attempted to steal my creative passion, or tried to trick me into believing I have nothing original or worthwhile to offer?

Maybe, like an art theft, these larcenies only affirm that the creativity God has put inside me has great value. What I create may never be worth millions, but it may touch someone, do some good in the world, or at the very least, be a step in the journey of becoming who God intended me to be.

I think that’s true. And it’s true for you, too. The creativity God has put in us has great value. Why else would the enemy be so intent on stealing it?

Here is to the return of valuable creative works, in Dutch museums and our own lives!

“I will repay you for the years the locust have eaten.” Joel 2:25

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” Ephesians 6:10-20

J. Scott McElroy is the author of Finding Divine Inspiration: Working with the Holy Spirit in Your Creativity (Destiny Image), an arts advocate, and founder and director of The New Renaissance Arts Movement, which promotes the arts in the church. Reach him at: Scott@TheNewR.org.

Over the Rainbow Transcendence in Church

In Art, Arts Conferences, Christian Art, Christian Arts Conference, Church Art, Creativity on September 1, 2012 at 11:43 pm

“Imagine if the local church became the place in culture to experience creativity, transcendence, and beauty.”

That’s one of the thoughts behind The New Renaissance Arts Movement  that I’m part of.  Honestly, these are things that are not often experienced in many churches. At least not yet.  So, over the summer we presented The Creative Church Conferences in Indy and Boise to create forums for ideas that could inspire artists and church leaders to be facilitators of God’s creativity in local churches.  To our joy, inspiration did happen on many levels.

One moment that particularly thrilled me came during one of our worship sets in Indianapolis. Before the Saturday evening session with Theresa Dedmon, Jason Barrows and The Heritage led us in a beautiful worship set made up of many of their original songs.  A sweet, restful spirit washed through the place.  We’d absorbed nearly two full days of teaching and discussion up to that point and the chance to settle in God’s presence during worship was serene. Then Jason took it to another level. He and the band surprised us with a nearly a capella rendition of “Over the Rainbow”.

I’ve been to a number of “seeker-sensitive” churches that will use “secular” songs during worship for various reasons. Sometimes it works better than others. I’ve heard some songs that felt completely out of place and forced, and a few that did add something special to the worship. At our church we’ve worked songs like “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel (1) into the mix with good results, and we often integrate a chorus from “Babylon” by David Gray (2) into the worship song  “I Love Your Presence”(3), which is wonderful and often brings me to tears.

But this version of “Over the Rainbow” knocked my socks off. In the situation it seemed like the perfect song; just sublime and peaceful, at the same time nostalgic and heavenly minded. You could feel the Holy Spirit’s hand on it, comforting us, giving us a pure and simple gift. Really, a beautiful, creative, and transcendent experience–just what we were there to talk about creating.   A number of attendees just “lost it” with joyful tears.

At that moment I realized that there might not be another song that captures the basic human longing for heaven so well, “Christian” songs included. It’s made up of rainbows, dreams, happy Bluebirds, simple lyrics, clear voices and lovely harmonies. No deep theology, just truth that our heart can connect with. No evangelism, just the desire to be with our Father in a better place.

I wonder if we wouldn’t do well to introduce that kind of childlike joy and longing into our churches and services a little more often.

Here is that rendition of “Over the Rainbow” by The Heritage. I haven’t been able to stop watching and listening to it. Enjoy!


(1)See “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel, HERE

(2)See “Babylon” by David Gray, HERE

(3)See “I Love Your Presence” w/”Babylon” chorus from Bethel Worship, HERE

Learning the Family Business of Creativity

In Art, Christian Art, Creativity, Family on August 2, 2012 at 7:30 pm

I just finished reviewing a yet to be released book called Empowered Creativity from a fiery young author named Art Thomas.  I particularly enjoyed this thought about working in the “family business”:

In the culture of the Bible, as soon as a child reached the teenage years, he or she was considered a full-fledged adult.  When a young man reached the age of his bar mitzvah, he was welcomed into manhood and given responsibility in the family business.  The father would announce to the town, “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased,” which essentially implied, “This young man represents me.  I support him completely and have given him my seal of approval to represent me and carry on the family business.”

If you remember what it was like to be a teenager, you might be wondering if this was wise!  Adults often think of teenagers as brain-damaged risk-takers with untamable hormones.  But biology hasn’t really changed in the last few millennia—only our perspectives and expectations have.

The extra bit of information we don’t often think about is that the newly dubbed “man” spent his childhood working alongside his father, learning the family trade.  Jesus, for instance, would have watched Joseph preparing wood, drawing plans, and expertly crafting tools and structures.  By the time Jesus was considered a man (at the ripe old age of thirteen), he already had more hands-on experience and insight about carpentry than someone today who may have attended a trade school.

By spending time with their fathers, the young men of Israel learned to run the family businesses.  Craftsmanship and skill were taught, handed down, and developed.

Our Heavenly Father has a family business as well.  He is a Creator who deals in acts of love and power.  If He can’t make something with the elements that are available, He simply speaks new elements into existence.  He is so creative that He thinks outside the realm of what exists.  He calls things that are not as though they are. (See Romans 4:17.)  He dreams, He invents, He forms, and He empowers.  Our Father’s business can be summed up as this: “Limitless, Love-filled Creativity in Action.”

How do we get involved in the family business?  The same way the young men of the Bible did.  We spend time with our Father.  We study His craft by watching Him at work.  We learn from the projects He has done in the past.  We ask for insight about the projects that now need to be done.  We pay attention and learn from present-day demonstrations of His work.  In this way, we learn the family business so that, like Jesus, God can declare over us, “This is My beloved son, in whom I am well pleased,” thus commissioning us into the family business. (See Matthew 3:17.)

That’s what I want to hear! Thanks Art. Good stuff!

A Little Justification for Art

In Art, Arts Conferences, Christian Art, Church Art, Creativity, Family on March 22, 2012 at 2:52 pm

Rookmaaker in the classroom.

In 1977 noted Christian philosopher Hans Rookmaaker wrote a small book titled Art Needs no Justification. His premise was that art, creativity, and beauty have inherent value simply because God gave them to us. In a general sense, art doesn’t need a reason to exist, any more than a tree needs a reason to exist. (I included a larger quote from it here.) It’s an inspiring thought.

But it is nice to have a little justification; an occasional confirmation that our artistic endeavors are on the right track.

Scott speaking at Bethel ’11.

Last spring, during a speaking trip to California, my daughter and I were at the Bethel School of Supernatural Creativity in Redding to lead a workshop. One of the interesting  things they do at the school is set up an “Encounter Room”, where attendees can experience a number of forms of creativity that are designed to be led by the Holy Spirit. I’ve written before about the prophetic culinary table, where chefs create a delightful treat in front of you while interpreting the meaning of each ingredient.  There’s also an area where dancers will do interpretive prophetic dance as you sit and pray, and a booth where children from the Bethel elementary school will pray for you then ask God to give them a picture or a word about your life. It’s amazing how powerful those innocent little crayon and colored pencil pictures and words are.

This kind of risky, out-of-the-box creativity is at first disorienting, then thrilling to watch. “What if it doesn’t work?” you might think. Well, what if it does! These people trust that God will inspire their creativity so that others can experience a unique personal encounter with Him. It may sound downright strange to the uninitiated, but it’s certainly not any more unusual than much of performance art you see in the world, some of which is designed to shock and disturb. This is designed to spread God’s love.

One of the encounters at this event involved a roving drama troupe that would walk around the “Encounter Room” looking for people whom God seemed to highlight. The actors would address those people and perform a little improv drama. When this troupe came across my daughter they gave her some encouraging words, then handed her a branch from a bush that they felt God had led them to collect earlier. It was some sort of holly I think, with shiny, thick leaves. This was a meaningful experience for Hailee, for reasons she couldn’t fully explain, and she kept the branch, carrying it during the last leg of our trip in California then on the plane back home to Indiana.

Somewhere along the way we noticed that the branch actually had a strange growth on it, like a very hard and reptilian-looking cocoon. At home we decided to put the branch in water and see how long the leaves would stay green, and then we pretty much forgot about it.

A couple of weeks later my wife started noticing dozens of pesky little green bugs around the kitchen. There’s nothing that Danielle hates more than bugs in the house, so my mission became to eradicate them and find the source of the infestation.  As I took a closer look at the little pests, I realized that they weren’t gnats or average, run-of-the-mill bugs; these were actually baby praying mantises! Yep, that odd cocoon had a little rip in it. They were Northern California praying mantises that had survived the multi-day journey home and a couple of weeks in our kitchen, to hatch when and where God intended!

This little miracle was a confirmation for Hailee of how God loves and cares for her and of His appreciation for her unique personality.  She loves random and odd occurrences and this turn of events brought a sense of joy and wonder to both of us.  When she looked up the meaning of a praying mantis, what jumped off the page is that they can be interpreted as a symbol of direction, to point your way home. As a 20-year old in a confusing world, she needs direction, and this was God’s confirmation that He will bring it. That He sees her.  It also served to affirm some personal things He’d been speaking to her.

This special message for my daughter started with a group of young artists, many Hailee’s age and younger, who were nurtured and encouraged by the ministry of a risk-taking church. They asked God for a little inspiration and stepped out to make an unusual improv performance art piece, hoping that it might have some impact on someone. It did, and neither of us will ever forget it.

Dear Artist of faith, keep working in the areas, on the projects that God is compelling you to. Keep seeking Him, asking for ideas and inspiration. Keep aspiring to collaborate with Him, keep taking risks. The making of art may need no justification, but sometimes, in surprising and whimsical ways, God gives it.

A baby praying mantis on Hailee’s finger.

J. Scott McElroy is the author of Finding Divine Inspiration: Working with the Holy Spirit in Your Creativity (Destiny Image), and Founder and Director of The New Renaissance Arts Movement. Reach him at: Scott@TheNewR.org.

Art Needs No Justification

In Art, Christian Art, Church Art, Creativity, Uncategorized on March 19, 2012 at 12:01 pm

This quote is lifted from Hans Rookmaaker’s 1978 book, Art Needs No Justification. I’ll refer to it in an upcoming post, and thought you might find it inspiring. I know I did.

“God gave humanity the skill to make things beautiful, to
make music, to write poems, to make sculpture, to decorate things. The artistic
possibilities are there to be actualized, realized by us, and to be given a concrete form.
God gave this to humankind and its meaning is exactly in its givenness. It is given by
God, has to be done through God, that is, through the talents he gives, in obedience to
him and in love for him and others. In this way it is offered back to him.
If in this way art has its own meaning as Gods creation, it does not need
justification. Its justification is its being a God-given possibility. Nevertheless it can
fulfill many functions. This is a proof of the richness and unity of Gods creation. It can
be used to communicate, to stand for high values, to decorate our environment or just to
be a thing of beauty. It can be used in the church. We make a fine baptismal font; we use
good silverware for our communion service and so on. But its use is much wider than
that. Its uses are manifold. Yet, all these possibilities together do not justify art.
Art has its own meaning. A work of art can stand in the art gallery and be
cherished for its own sake. We listen to a piece of music simply to enjoy it, a kind of
enjoyment that is not merely hedonistic; it surpasses that even if in some cases it can give
great pleasure. But it has the possibility of a great number of functions that result from art
being tied to reality with a thousand ties. It is exactly this last element that has been
underrated by those people who spoke of high Art as autonomous, for its own sake.
As art does not need justification, nobody has to be excused for making art.
Artists do not need justification, just as butchers, gardeners, taxi drivers, police officers
or nurses do not need to justify with clever arguments why they are doing their work.”