Category: Thinking

Give peace a chance

Protesting the war—on ourselves

If you’ve been reading us for a while, (or if you’ve read our welcome post) you know the vision behind Inspiring Handmade is found in Philippians 4:8, where the apostle Paul writes, “…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.”

Inspiring Handmade celebrates original art and craft, writing, and other creations and offers you a break from the things in the world that drag you down—a chance to dwell on the true, pure, and praiseworthy things. Through the art and craft works as well as the blog posts, Inspiring Handmade invites you into your own Philippians 4:8 moment. We want to create work on which you can feast your eyes and feed your soul.

Genuine peace is possible if we engage our minds

This week, I’ve been thinking a lot about what we dwell on. We are surrounded by negativity, temptations, and all sorts of other influences that, if allowed to occupy our minds, will do us serious harm.

Martin Luther once said, “You cannot keep birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.” It’s a picturesque acknowledgment that, even though we may be bombarded by harmful thoughts and temptations, it’s the dwelling on them that’s the problem. We can’t help what thoughts may creep into our minds, but we can decide what to do next. Do we allow them to remain—to build a nest— as Luther would say? Or do we immediately give them the boot? In 2 Corinthians 10:5, Paul tells us that it is possible to overcome temptations and harmful thoughts. “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,” he wrote to the church in Corinth. And one of the best ways to do this is to choose to dwell on what’s good and pure.

Truth meets art

We all know it’s true. Giving in to temptation, feeding negative thoughts about ourselves and others, thinking on things that are impure, and untrue always results in turmoil, guilt, shame, anger, depression, and more. There’s no peace when we head down that path and when we do, we find ourselves in a vicious, self-defeating cycle from which it’s difficult to break free.

But there’s a positive, life-giving cycle we can experience when we dwell on the good things. To illustrate this truth, I’ve created the sculpture, Dwell. One one side is a reminder of what Philippians 4:8 encourages us to dwell on. Spin the sculpture around, and you see the result of dwelling on those things: peace (see Philippians 4:9)! Dwell shows the connection between what we dwell on and the peace of mind and life we enjoy. Dwelling on the good brings peace, which comes from dwelling on the good. And repeat. Original art picturing life the way The Creator designed it to be.

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.

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.