Category: Mind

A “fowl” lesson for quitters like me

Percy, the persevering rooster is hand-carved from wood and crows at the impending day. Acrylic painted accents.

A few years ago my family and I traveled to Costa Rica to visit my wife’s sister, Nancy, where she and her husband, Sean, serve with Cru in Central and South America. It was my first trip south of the U.S., and Costa Rica was full of new sights and sounds. But one familiar sound greeted me every morning—a rooster. Without fail, that Costa Rican bird crowed around the same time early each day just before it was getting light. I’m not a morning person, but I would like to have a little more of one of his characteristics: perseverance.

Roosters, more than any other animal, are known for greeting the dawn. In fair weather or foul, hot or cold, wet or dry, in all kinds of circumstances, when a new day starts to dawn, they’re going to announce it with their cock-a-doodle-do, just the way God designed them to. Back in 2013, Japanese researchers made the news when they determined that instead of depending on external cues from their environment, roosters use a built-in circadian clock to help them crow on time. It’s as if they’re designed to persevere, announcing each new day, regardless of what’s going on around them.

Am I any different? God has designed me to be in relationship with Him. The Creator and the created—in communion together. He also has designed me to do good works. In the New Testament, Ephesians 2:10 spells it out very clearly, saying, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”

Like the rooster, God has built in me the ability to do what He has created me to do. And it’s in the perseverance of the rooster that I see a difficult lesson. Too many times I don’t persevere. I get tired or frustrated. My circumstances are tough. It’s raining. It’s cold. So I give up on doing those good things I was created to do—the good works that God planned long ago for me to do.

Sometimes that looks like giving up on praying for others, or on praising God. I can always pray later, can’t I? Sometimes it looks like giving up on lending a helping hand. I’m too busy, after all. It looks like a lot of things, but what it doesn’t look like is perseverance. In the apostle Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians (verse 3:13), he writes, “As for the rest of you, dear brothers and sisters, never get tired of doing good.” That suggests that we are, in fact, inclined to get tired of doing the good things that we have the opportunity to do. We might have great intentions, but our interest wanes, or other needs create demands on our time. The good thing we set out to do do becomes difficult and we lose momentum.

It’s been said that too often, we give up right before we are about to succeed. The big breakthrough—that extra measure of energy, of contentment, that resolution to a thorny dilemma, is just over the hill, just around the corner, just one day away. But I give up—we give up—just before we see it. I created Percy the Persevering Rooster to remind myself that if a rooster can get up every morning and do what he was created to do, surely I can too. Maybe he’ll remind you, as well. Persevere!

Check out Percy strutting his rooster stuff in the shop! Just click the button below.

The power of a good book

Image of Quiet Solitude, a sculpture in wire and cut paper on driftwood.

“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.”

Oscar Wilde

The quote above from Oscar Wilde, who was not known for weighty, serious comments, is worth taking seriously. Summer is now in full swing and while it’s become known as the season of the blockbuster movie, it was, and is still also known as the season of books.

“I will never forget the first “big kid” book I read,” says Patti, who’s Wire People sculpture, Quiet Solitude, is an autobiographical work recalling her days as a young girl captivated by a well-told story. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm was given to me by my great aunts in 1966 and I couldn’t put it down.

Image of a book that Patti enjoyed as a young girl
Patti enjoyed “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm” as a young girl

It was around that time I decided I wanted to be a teacher. Many years later, that book was on my bookshelf in my fourth grade classroom. I often wondered how many students would read it and love it as much as I did.”
Maybe you have your own summer reading list. Whether you’re beach bound for a much-needed vacation or just looking forward to a few lazy days at home, it’s the perfect season to dive into something new or finally finish something you started in the winter.
The challenge is usually what we’ll read. My mother is a member of a book club. She enjoys working with the group to decide what the book of the month will be and ensuring that there are enough copies at area libraries for the group members. She appreciates the structure of the book club, explaining that she ends up reading books that she wouldn’t otherwise read and enjoys the variety that each member’s tastes in literature bring to the group.
Meanwhile, I have a friend who prefers to read on her own. She reads constantly, but values her independence and moves quickly from one book to the next.
We’re all different, aren’t we?
The sobering thought for me is that I’ve realized that no matter how fast I read, I won’t live long enough to read all the books I have, let alone all the books I want to read. I have—we all have—a limited amount of time. Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.” What will I read during the increasingly brief time I’ve been given? When I think of it like that, it somehow increases the gravity of my choices. Will I read inconsequential fluff, or worse, complete trash that, like cholesterol-laden junk food clogging my arteries, fills my mind with trite or leads me into thoughts and attitudes that are contrary to God’s word?
My nephew just graduated from high school. He concluded his outstanding valedictory address with this piece of advice: “Read old books.” And he meant really old books—as in Plato’s Republic, written around 380 BC. I agree. And just as important as age is message.
The driving purpose behind Inspiring Handmade is to create art and writing that leads us into our own Philippians 4:8 moment. In his letter to the church in Philippi, Paul wrote, “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”
Even if we’d rather not think about the brevity of life, we know that summers fly by, don’t we? The summer of 2019 will be over almost as soon as it begins. In no time, we’ll start seeing the fall catalogs arrive and after Labor Day, it will be just one more memory—hopefully a good one!
But what will we do with this limited handful of days? Will we use them to feed on a great book that draws us closer to God? What are you reading this summer? If you have a great book that you know would encourage other readers, don’t keep it a secret—share it in the comments below! And while you’re at it, please share Inspiring Handmade with someone you love and know would love what we do here. You can read more about Patti’s piece, Quiet Solitude, here.

Welcome to Inspiring Handmade

In Christ sculpture in progress

We created Inspiring Handmade to celebrate original art and crafts—work on which we can feast our eyes and feed our souls.

We’re a group of artists and makers who believe that everyone is creative because we are all made in the image of The Creator of heaven and earth. We all have the spark of creation in us somewhere. And we all have a built-in, hard wired need to dwell on our Creator, to commune with Him.

Here, we explore the creative process of making original art—sculpture, painting, textile art and all sorts of craft work. And we celebrate unique and beautiful original creations which inspire us to be makers ourselves as we spend time with our Creator.

Inherent in the Inspiring Handmade vision is a secret from the book of Philippians. If you’re like us, you sometimes struggle to keep life from dragging you down. Seems there’s always too much to do, with no quiet time—no mental margin to just be still and rest.

Instead, explosions of images, text, and sound bombard our eyes and ears nearly every day, blasting their way into our minds. Emails, texts and instant messages merge with Facebook posts, 24/7 news blasts, and the latest cat video into a swelling spray of mental flak that shatters our peace.

Psychologists have coined various terms for this—information overload, infobesity, infoxication and others. Xerox even produced an amusing video on the subject a few years ago. You can see it here.

But jokes aside, mental flak can have negative consequences, deforming us into distracted, unproductive, ineffective, and inattentive people.

We don’t have to accept this as the norm, however. God offers peace and rest—a place of quiet shelter, like a cave hidden behind a deafening waterfall. He invites us inside, encouraging us to refuse to be conformed to the world’s patterns and behaviors. He offers a different way because our Maker, after all, has His own perfect pattern for our lives. We don’t have to remain pinned down under a hail of mental flak. God promises that we can be transformed. We can have our tired, frazzled minds renewed.

And that’s the big secret—one of the great treasures of Philippians found in chapter four verse eight. There we’re encouraged with these words: “… whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Paul then follows up with the results of dwelling on these things, adding in verse nine, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

Did you catch the promise there? “And the God of peace will be with you.”

In a world where we constantly receive information—often of the distressing variety—via an overwhelming number of channels, it’s more crucial than ever that we develop a habit of thinking on the true, the honorable, the pure, and anything that is praiseworthy.

When we surround ourselves with things that build up rather than tear down—art, writing, music, other people—we’re putting Philippians 4:8 into practice. We’re also putting ourselves in a place where God can recalibrate our sensitivities, and reinvigorate us. And that’s when we’ll experience genuine rest in the true peace that only comes from the ultimate Maker Himself.

Stop back in anytime to celebrate the creative and rest in the Creator!

A New Year

In Christ sculpture in progress

Picture God at your birthday party singing louder than any of your friends or family. Is that hard to imagine?

Welcome to the new year. ‘Tis the season of resolutions. Someone once said, “A New Year’s resolution is something that goes in one year and out the other.” I’m not a fan of making resolutions, but if I were, I’d likely adopt the two that eighteenth century pastor and theologian, Jonathan Edwards, made: “Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.”

But I prefer goals to resolutions. And one of my goals this year is to create art that keeps Scripture front and center in my life and in the life of those who see it. My wife jokes (sort of) that I can’t find anything in a cabinet or the fridge if it’s behind any other item. To a large extent, she’s right. I’m the type of person who works better with everything laid out where I can see it — be it sketches I’m working on or tools in my studio — seeing it all helps me remember that it’s going to be needed — that it’s part of the workflow.

The same is true for God’s Word. Seeing verses from the Bible as I move through my day helps keep God’s truth at the center of my life, reminding me of His loving presence, His promises, and His power.

I’m reminded that God’s loving presence is guaranteed. After His resurrection from the dead, Matthew records Jesus speaking to His followers before He ascended into heaven: “… and behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” I won’t face any trials that come my way in this new year by myself. And Psalm 138.8 encourages with these confident words: “The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me; Your love, O Lord, endures forever—do not abandon the works of Your hands.”

God’s promises are comforting. In the book of Jeremiah, 29:11, we read, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” I love that verse, especially when considered in light of another one in Romans, 8:28: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. No matter what 2017 brings, I can trust that God is in control and is working things out for my good if I place my trust in Him and align my life with His purposes.

God’s power is absolute. There is nothing He cannot do. The gospel of Matthew, 19:26, records Jesus describing the power of God the Father: “But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” And I love the vivid language of Zephaniah 3:17: “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by His love; He will exult over you with loud singing.” That’s quite a statement, that last line. Picture God at your birthday party singing louder than any of your friends or family. Is that hard to imagine? Why? God created you and He loves you more than you can imagine.

An anonymous pundit said, “Many people look forward to the New Year for a new start on old habits.” We might chuckle at that, but it takes intentional effort not to do just that. This year, I’ll be aiming to create more art to help me visually weave Scripture into my everyday life. Do you find that to be helpful in your own life? If so, what are some ways you’ve helped yourself focus on God’s truth throughout your day? Feel free to leave a comment below. And happy New Year!

The Secret to Peace From Philippians 4:8

Peace Like a River sculpture in the Salvaged Messengers series.

Next time you’re feeling tired, mentally fatigued or overwhelmed, just tell folks you’re hitting a little Fliegerabwehrkanonen. Ah, those wonderfully long German words. Fliegerabwehrkanonen is the word from which we get “flak”— exploding shells fired from anti-aircraft guns. No pilot wants to fly through flak, but we fly through mental flak almost every day.

Explosions—not of shell fragments—but of images, text, and sound bombard our eyes and ears, blasting their way into our mind. Emails (yes, like the one you’re reading), texts and instant messages merge with Facebook posts, 24/7 news blasts, and the latest cat video into a swelling spray of mental flak that shatters our peace.

Psychologists have coined various terms for this—information overload, infobesity, infoxication and others. Xerox produced an amusing video about it which you can see here.

But joking aside, mental flak can have negative consequences, deforming us into distracted, unproductive, ineffective and inattentive people.

We don’t have to accept this as the norm, however. God offers peace and rest—a place of quiet shelter, like a cave hidden behind a deafening waterfall. He invites us inside, encouraging us to refuse to be conformed to the world’s patterns and behaviors. He offers a different way because our Maker, after all, has His own perfect pattern for our lives. We don’t have to remain pinned down under a hail of mental flak. God promises that we can be transformed. We can have our tired, frazzled minds renewed.

This is one of the great treasures of Philippians 4:8. In it, we’re encouraged with these words: “ … whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

In a world where we constantly receive information—often of the distressing variety—through an overwhelming number of channels, it’s more crucial than ever that we develop a habit of thinking on the true, the honorable, the pure, and anything that is praiseworthy. That’s part of the secret of not conforming to the patterns of fatigue and frustration that are so prevalent in our world. When we surround ourselves with things that build up rather than tear down—art, writing, music, other people—we’re putting Philippians 4:8 into practice. We’re also putting ourselves in a position where God can reprogram us, re-calibrate our sensitivities, and reinvigorate us. And that’s when we’ll experience genuine rest in the true peace that only comes from God Himself.