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The Christian Palette, Issue #006 -- The Exhortation
July 03, 2015
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The Exhortation by Marlita HillMarlita Hill, a dancer, and I have been in conversation for a couple of months now. With her permission, I have included an excerpt of an email that she sent me which is rich with sound counsel and godly wisdom.
See her here creatively express her faith in dance.
Marlita - On RelevanceRecently I was sitting at my desk, trying not to get anxious about one of my many to-do lists. I was struggling to focus, so I logged onto Facebook and was just overwhelmed with what was going on in the world. Baltimore, Nepal, Indiana. People were literally dying, being jailed for their beliefs, losing their jobs and homes and I was consumed with how I was going to get my books noticed and my choreography presented. And in that moment, I was confronted with this tremendous sense of frivolity as an artist in the midst of these tragedies. I felt really silly about where my focus was - as a child of God, as an African American, as a woman, as a citizen and as a human being.
But, the Holy Spirit immediately began to minister to me. He reminded me that the books I’ve written were out of obedience to Him. That my dancing came out of a burden He laid on my heart. Because of that, my books and my dancing are the ways He has given me to contribute to humanity. In God, I needn’t feel trivial about my art in the midst of tragedy. In Him, my art is the way I bring an answer in the midst of tragedy.
For more of her insight on the role of Christian artists regardless of your medium of expression, I recommend her book.
Marlita - On Our Identity as Christian ArtistsIn a lot of places, I’ve seen the term Christian artist. I think this is a very efficient term of identification, as we are both Christians and artists. However, some operating under this moniker presented sincere, but less than quality work, making more highly skilled artists of faith want to distance themselves as much as possible from that association. These more highly skilled artists have a spectrum of self-identification, with a far extreme being an artist who just happens to be Christian. Well, though efficient, we are more than just Christian artists. Though I understand the sentiment, we are NEVER artists who just happen to be Christian.
For the assignment God has given me, clarity in who we are is paramount. You see, God has charged me to help artists engage faith in their entire artistic process, empowering them to be Kingdom ambassadors who excel artistically and contribute to cultural and civic life. But contribution and impact are impossible without understanding who we are and the source of our effectiveness. Art in itself, can facilitate a measure of civility, but it will take nothing less than the power of God to bring about the kind of change and the answers needed for the complex, multifaceted dilemmas of our day.
If we are more than just Christian artists, and we are NEVER artists who just happen to be Christian, who are we? We are sons, fulfilling our covenant, ambassadorial responsibility to manifest the glory of God and expand the Kingdom of God with, in, and through our art. See, instead of artists who just happen to be Christian, we are sons who have been formed and equipped to express our sonship through our art. But what does that mean? What does it mean to be a son? What is our ambassadorial responsibility?
As a child of God, you and I can never see ourselves as just artists and we can never produce art through the lens of being just human. Whether we are exploring salvation or the curiosity of the toothbrush, our exploration of nature, our world and our humanity must be through the lens of our relationship with Christ and our responsibility as a son, because again, you and I were not called into this covenant to produce poetry. We were chosen to manifest glory and expand a Kingdom, to infiltrate the kingdoms and the systems of this world and bring them under the dominion of our God as we engage and excel within them (Rev. 11:15). By Rom 8:14, we know that those who are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God and by Rom 8:19, we know that creation groans and travails waiting for these sons of God to produce the fruit that Jesus told us we were chosen to bear in Jn. 15:16.
Marlita - On Our RoleAs a child of God, our art is not a vocation. It is a vehicle through which we bear fruit and minister to creation. What is it then that makes our vehicle a weapon for change, ministry, and conquest. How can a poem, a song, or dance change a life, heal a nation, overthrow a system? How did Moses’ staff part the Red sea? How did marching and shouting around the wall of Jericho make it fall? How did a boy with a slingshot and a stone defeat the Philistines most skilled warrior? How does speaking a word bring salvation, healing and deliverance?
According to Zech 4:6, it is not by power, nor by might or skill, but by His spirit.
In Jn 14:10, Jesus tells us clearly that it is the Father who does the work.
If the Father does the work, and if things are accomplished by His Spirit, what are we here for? Like Moses staff, the Israelite's march and David’s slingshot, our art produced at His word, by His leading is a vessel of agreement, a point of transfer between spirit and matter, between Heaven and earth.
We are the body of Christ, we are the temple of the living God and He dwells in us. In Josh 1:3 God tells us that wherever we put our foot, He gives it to us?
Why? Because He is in us and we are in Him so wherever we are He is. Thus when we step out into creation and make art at His word and by His leading, we give Him something through which He can perform.
God tells us that He watches over His word to perform it Jer 1:12 and when we follow His leading, we are doing His word.
It is His "super" on our "natural" that transforms our art from a hobby or career into a weapon of mass disruption, uprooting, flipping over, and ejecting that which exalts itself against the things of God - through our poems, dance, films and music.
In 2 Chr 32:8, when talking about the king of Assyria, King Hezekiah said the Assyrian king only has an arm of flesh, but we have the Lord with us to help us and to fight our battles. Why is the Lord fighting our battles? Because it was never ours in the first place.
This is the Lord's battle and He just needs His body to show up in the ring so He can deliver the right hook!
I encourage you to bring your artistic life under His leading and let Him use you, His sons and daughters, to manifest His glory, His goodness, and to minister to creation, for it has been waiting for you!
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