You are more than what you do.

It has been a struggle for me recently to really take the time to enjoy God and take a step back from all of the things I have been doing. Although it is a blessing to be able to have work, it's easy to let it be a distraction to what matters most. I have found that being in this busy head space has brought a lot more worry and anxiety into my life. I know that isn't healthy for me or those close by. I am thankful for community that reminds me there are seasons in life where you don't always have control over the external activities, and yet making internal space for God amidst the busyness is so important. You are more than what you do. I am loved by my creator and I realize that I have been given gifts to serve him, but I must also know Jesus. If you aren't finding spiritual rest like myself, then maybe writing this not only help remind me but spur you to be proactive in finding time in God's word and in prayer. Love you all, and thanks for loving me.

Sam

Scraping Away The Dirt On Ourselves And Others

We have to be willing to sit in the dirt with others and not give up at the tip of the surface. That is where the beauty is and freedom is found.

Imagine walking along and you see something that is jetting out of the ground. It is subtle and you could have easily missed it. It is dirty and blends in with the surroundings. Here you have a choice. Do you continue on or do you examine what it is? This is going to take getting dirty. Sitting in the dirt and scraping away the layers. Do you have time for that? Is that something you really want to do? But when you do actually get in the dirt and take the time to really dig and discover then you end of finding something that is so beautiful. You discover that it is not just a dirty edge of a rock but a giant geode. Full of color and bright. Complicated and stunning. 

No body does anything for no reason. We are always expressing ourselves even when we are trying not to.

I have found that people are that way. Everybody walks around carrying different things. Things that you could not tell from the surface. Whether they are things from their past or situations they are currently in. The surface may be so dirty or so uninteresting that they are overlooked. Someone's outward behavior may even be offensive or repulsive. And out of our own fear or lack of understanding we walk away before we truly understand. We give up too soon. I wonder how often I have missed out on someone because I did not understand or take the time to do so. 

No body does anything for no reason. We are always expressing ourselves even when we are trying not to. We all have our motivations whether they stem from fear or hurt or even self protection. All of our experiences affect the way we see the world and how we interpret the messages around us. We cake layer upon layer to cope and to hide and to not be seen. And it takes time to even understand why we do what we do. 

To understand people we need to take time. Lots of time. Time to sit with them and truly understand where they are coming from and why they do what they do. And I am confident that under every layer of dust and grime there is a treasure. Something beautiful and complex that has been hidden over time. If we stop at the surface we will miss out on the beauty. 

But first we have to be willing to dig within ourselves. To uncover the lies we have believed. To get past the coping mechanisms we have adopted. To understand our own griefs and wounds. To dive into our own pain because that is where healing begins. This is not an easy task and requires dedication and bravery. And yet someone who understands their pain will not be afraid to work along side others as they face their own pain. We have to dig so that we can dig deep with others. We have to be willing to sit in the dirt with others and not give up at the tip of the surface. That is where the beauty is and freedom is found. 

-written by Lauren Stuck

 

Billy

I met Billy at Lifesource a few years ago. Lifesource allows South Church to meet on Sunday evenings around 5pm. Food is served, worship music is played, and Jon Baker talks to whoever wants to listen. Out of all the people I have met there, no one has been like Billy. One day I find him in the back of the room and the worship team is playing a song and he is dancing and laughing and praising Jesus about every 10 seconds. Obviously I wonder why he is so happy. I mean, Jesus makes me happy, but not the kind of happy that makes me jump up and down and raise my hands all the time. I introduced myself to him and we quickly connected and he seemed to appreciate me listening to him some.

 

At first I would say I was more interested in his crazy personality than trying to connect to him on a personal level. Something I have learned spending time at South Church is how I view the "cast" system of our society. I thought that for me to be able to connect to someone that is poor, I would have to lower myself or step out of my comfort zone. For most of my life I have been more of an introvert. Coming into contact with someone like Billy has really helped me see how easy it is to share love to others. I remember taking him to Walmart one day and we are in the self checkout isle. He immediately turns around and boldly states to the woman next to him, "You are beautiful and don't let anyone tell you different!" I was pretty uncomfortable when he did that and I'm sure she was too. But I'm also sure that she might remember that someone told her she was beautiful for a long time. Billy shared with me that he had struggled with Meth addiction and was bi-polar. After I spent some time with him I one day said, "Billy, I think we are going to be spending a lot more time together soon." This was before I invited him to stay in my home for two weeks. For some reason I trusted him and he gave that trust right back at me. It's that weird feeling you get when you can look into someones eyes and they know you want what's best for them. Billy saw that and he saw God providing for him by bringing him into our home for two weeks. Every day he would wake up from the couch and be reading and reciting the word from his etched up Bible. I began to notice that even if he had some mental problems, I would say 90% of the things he would talk about all day was truth from scripture.

I didn't want to tell him to be quiet because of that. Another thing Billy would be free to do was to pray in the spirit. I hadn't really experienced the amount of charismatic prayer before. I grew up being anointed by oil when I was sick and my parents sometimes prayed in tongues. The way Billy prayed, crazy or not, he seemed to fully believe that he was talking directly to God and that he was worshiping. Now I know that here is this man, who is a drug attic with mental problems, and I am beginning ask if he is the crazy one or if I am? I believe that God put Billy in our home for two weeks because of the love that he gave and the way he worshiped. God demands our love and our worship. Billy did that, crazy or not.

Seeing the other side

I sometimes am overcome with nostalgia for my childhood days playing in the backyard with my little brother chunking crystal rocks onto the ground and finding the clear insides. Riding go karts around my house for my birthday. Scoring the winning bucket for my 5th grade basketball team. Winning state soccer and running on the field in a frenzy with all of my teammates. Getting pumped up before a football game and running out of the tunnel screaming as loud as I can. Those were the days. Not much to worry about, other than feeling accepted and a part of what was going on around me. I didn't care that I had a broken back, or have three surgeries in my shoulder. All I cared about was to get back into the game with my friends and playing video games. There were no dark seasons because I never had any real responsibilities. I've had my share of injuries and set backs in life. Inner ear disorders, e-coli infections, torn shoulders, and a broken back have happened at different times in my life and each have had a different impact on my life. It's easier to look past difficult times when you are younger. When I have an illness or an injury now it seems that I take two steps back in life. Like I'm never going to catch up. The past few years I had a season where I was bed ridden for more than six months. I don't have any nostalgia for anything other than sitting in a hot bath for two hours. This was only to help heal up the huge infections I had from an e-coli infection I got in Rwanda. It's interesting to think about how I would have responded if I was still in jr. high/high school if something like that happened to me. I would have probably just kept thinking about when I could get back into the playing field or be able to hang out with my friends. Except this most recent setback was really a time for me to see where God wanted me to be in my heart. I personally believe that he didn't cause my illness, but allowed it to be used to show me what was best for me. That was community, a church, and a new set of eyes on how I viewed the poor. These three things are what I prayed for when I was in this alone season. I struggled with feeling depressed, and felt alone. Without myself having full absence of these things, I don't think I would have sought deeper roots in my community, church, and the poor. I realized that God was moving me in the right direction. That he was patient with me. And he answered my prayers. I'm not saying that I have those things all figured out, but my life has looked very much different the past few years. I have a community that I seem to be connected to, a church that loves me, and relationships with the poor in my home. So if these words make any sense to you and you seem to be in a dry or dark season. I would take a perspective that God wants you to pray for the things that he knows are best for you. To ask that God would open your eyes to his love and what he can show you about your heart. Keep pushing through and see the other side.

The Working Man

This portrait is of my friend's grandfather. My friend asked me if I would do a drawing of his grandfather as a tribute to his family and his grandfather. I have been staring at this drawing for a handful of months. Long enough to wonder what he is thinking. I've even practiced his pose a few times, but I can't seem to muster up the sophisticated demeanor he has. The original photo of him was taken in some business meeting and he definitely looks like he's ready to say something that moves a mountain. I also have thought about his life and what he did to provide for his children, the hard work he had to endure, and the influence he has had on his children and grandchildren. I don't think he was only a thinker as this picture depicts, but a hard worker. A scripture that came to mind about hearing and doing of the word is in James 1:25 and it reminded me of him, 

"But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing."

I know the context is talking about hearing the word of God and being obedient to it, but also correlates to what it means to be a working man. He seemed to be someone that has lived a life not only a thinker, but a doer. To not only hear the word, but a doer of the word. A dreamer who lives out his dreams. I know these things about him because I know his grandchildren. And they want something to remember him and his influence. I've already learned something from him.

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Mama Carmen's Mural WIP.

Here is a Work In Progress (WIP) of the Mama Carmen's mural. At this point I would like to have some type treatment in the middle of the canvas, a background landscape that flows into the foreground, a timeline of the coffee process, and botanical coffee plants/beans in the landscape. Let me know your thoughts and suggestions!

A few things to know: 

- Mama Carmen's script font will likely change to a thicker form. 

- The botanical drawings of coffee will be floating in free space as well as part of the landscape. 

- There will be a bridge that people will be crossing over to bring the coffee into the cup. 

- The mountains and water stream will be influenced by Mama Carmen's landscape in Guatemala.  

 

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Mama Carmen's moving forward

As I move forward with the mural for Mama Carmen's I would like to create something elegant and natural. A mix between modern design and the older botanical style. In the middle of the Mural will be some type treatment and a landscape scene that shows the process of the coffee coming from the farmers to the cup. Floating all around I am hoping to incorporate botanical drawings of coffee plants and beans from different regions. The first thumbnail I have is a first attempt at creating a type treatment and a drawing of a coffee plant. Things are likely to change but I would like to keep track of the process here on my blog. Stay tuned! 

Mama Carmen's From the farmer to the cup

It is an exciting time right now with Mama Carmen's Coffee. I was recently asked to help rebrand Mama Carmen's Coffee off of College Ave in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The process involves a new mural painting on the right side of the building and new signs in the front. There will be many changes which involves some art/music things in the works. I will try to share a visual story of what Mama Carmen's is about and the process of the coffee we buy. 

Made new.

A girl told me how she was in a state where she saw herself as dirt and unclean and that she didn't want anything with God. She fell on her face asleep during worship not wanting to be a part of what was going on. Someone began praying for her and she began crying and once she looked up she saw me paint the hand print in the painting. This hand is Gods hand that is pure and makes us who we are as children of God. Spotless and blames in his eyes. Jesus rose today to wash awa all sins. Although sin still exists and pain and suffering, it is just a most that comes and goes and a way has been made for us to be in full joy with our creator some day. Our identity is in his hand

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Reaching the Unreached.

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Of the world's 6,500 people groups, 2,500 are still unreached. New Tribes Mission helps local churches train, coordinate and send missionaries to these tribes. I met with Jack Crabtree a few months ago, and he shared his heart for Papua New Guinea and the unreached nations. I see he and his family are trying to be faithful by moving there soon and they are in the process of raising more support to help them be sustainable while they focus on their ministry in PNG. I offered to do a piece that would help share the vision for what NTM is trying to do in PNG and to see the faces that God is bringing himself to through people like the Crabtree's.

Please take the time to visit Jack's website and get connected. http://blogs.ntm.org/jack-crabtree/

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How good is enough?

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Sometimes someone points out to me that I am the best artist they have ever seen. But, I know for a fact that I am pretty normal when it comes to my craft. Craft, as in skill level and how well I execute my ideas. I realize that I could obviously be a lot better in my art execution. I would say I don't understand color theory as well as I could and my figurative work could use improvement. So when someone says, "You are like the best artist I've seen!", I would like to sometimes reply with a "you have not seen that much art then." I usually just go with, "Wow, thank you. That means a lot to me.." Because it does. I know that they appreciate me as an artist/person and the work that I make. But I know that appreciation might not be as much as my skills/craft but more of what the message is saying or conveying. As I find myself growing as an artist and a follower of Christ, I see that the importance to pursue my skills doesn't weigh as much as my relationship with God and other people. Lately, I haven't really spent as much time as I would like on studying and reading art books and practicing new things for my work. And I don't really care. I usually just jump into a project and expect it to work out. And it has. I'm really enjoying the community I am in and the people that are around me. I do have some big project ideas that God willing I will get to. I have dreams of changing the world with my art, but more and more each day I see that there is no possible way that I can do that on my own. Only through the Spirit, if given that gift, can I make an impact with my work. My definition of making an impact would be determined on how people come closer to God and loving him, and loving other people. How they find the light in the darkness. That's what I want. Some days I wake up and see a different life of mine flash before my eyes if I didn't know I was a sinner in need of a savior. I also see all of the wonderful opportunities God has given me a taste of to see that lifestyle of trying to please myself with my art. I am so thankful for that. I have failed in relationships and have tried different things that just didn't work out. I thought I was going to travel the world and just make art all the time and sell it and get famous. Some of those things could still happen, but it would probably look different than what the world expects. I want to see how God is enough in my life and let his heart be mine. His eyes be mine. What he sees and feels be what I see and feel. I have been able to experience that through just spending time with people. I feel the spirit inside of me. He is telling me that He is enough.

So teach us to number our days

that we may get a heart of wisdom.

Psalm 90:12

Calling

Family Reunion

“In large measure, becoming an artist consists of learning to accept yourself, which makes your work personal, and in following your voice, which makes your work distinctive.”

I accept that I am a flawed human being, but have faith that one day I will be reconciled. As an artist I hope to help people see themselves they way God sees them.

I desire to be used as one who brings hope to others, to bring light into the darkness, to gently guide a lost soul back onto the path towards the Light.

Great I Am

Behold

I can't put this past weekend into words. God showed up.

It was such a gift that us as sinners can come together and worship Him. Truth was spoken and prayer was heard. One thing we prayed for was that this wouldn't be an emotional high that we have for a few days but that God would keep that fire growing inside of us. That our worship would be our lives. Jesus is worthy of all praise. The old has gone the new has come.

Being on stage worshiping with the team is something that I am not used to. I had to constantly be in prayer to draw my thoughts away from myself and on Jesus. I wanted to be used by Him. Painting is just a tool that God uses and I think He did. To be able to give a visual process of story telling can make things click for people. It does for me, and it's how I express my heart and how I see God. I am so thankful that I got to do this. Doing something so fast in an hour on 5 ft. canvases made me be more free with the paint and just worship and enjoy God's presence. His Grace is enough.

Living Mission.

Alex

Artists have generally been undervalued in mission and even more so in community development. Yet poets, storytellers, writers and painters have historically played an essential role in activism communication of Gods heart for the poor. Our God is a creative God, and by allowing our senses, our imaginations, our minds and bodies to fulfill their God-given potential for creativity, we glorify our Creator. No only this, but God expects us to use these gifts for greater kingdom purposes. An artists work is always informed by her or his experience. So, in order to speak with credibility and insight on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves (prov 31;8), the artist who feels called to communicate Gods heart for the poor must first learn the joys and struggles of the poor by living among them. As one critic once remarked, "You say you care about the poor? Tell me their names."

- Living Mission; The Vision and Voice of New Friars

This is Alex. I spent some time with Alex last year and haven't seen him in a handful of months. I forget exactly what country Alex is from but he has a strong accent. A gentle, kind, little man with a big heart. He would come over for Bible Study on Friday evenings and spent the night a few times and was always considerate and appreciative for anything you did for him. He would come to Celebrate Recovery with some other folks and some of the best times I had with him was driving him and some other guys on the "people mover" driving around town after we were done and he just had this infectious laugh. One interaction I will never forget one day with Alex is when I saw him walk up to my house in dead beat summer and he is sweating and exhausted. In my head I feel frustrated because I wanted to take a nap and didn't want to associate with anyone at the time but noticed how selfish and prideful I was in the moment. Here is a friend of mine that has been walking around town all day with no where to rest and here I am not wanting to deal with him because I was tired... So I let him take a nap on my couch for an hour and I do the same. When it is time to leave I noticed all he had on him was a grocery bag with two Gatorades. Without hesitation he looks at me and offers me one of his Gatorades. I quickly decline but say thank you and send him on his way. After he leaves I just think to myself, I just saw Jesus. Jesus showed himself to me that day. Selflessness. Alex offered me half of what he had. It crushed me. It still crushes me. Jesus loved me through Alex that day. I thank God for him.

Art & Fear

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We all learn at a young age the perils of being perceived as different. We learn that others have the power to single out, to ridicule, to turn away from and mark the one who is different. Choose your own memories, but one way or another we've all felt the hurt of the little boy who wanted to write poems, or the little girl who tried to join the sandlot ball game. As an artist, you learn these lessons all over again - with a vengeance. In following the path of your heart, the chances are that your work will not be understandable to others. At least not immediately, and not to a wide audience... Wanting to be understood is a basic need - an affirmation of the humanity you share with everyone around you. The risk is fearsome: in making your real work you hand the audience the power to deny the understanding you seek; you hand them the power to say, "your'e not like us; you're weird; your'e crazy."

This is an excerpt from a book I'm reading, Art&Fear, which dives into just that. Art. And Fear. It explores the way art gets made, the reason it often doesn't get made, and the nature of the difficulties that cause so many artists to give up along the way. As I read it I see in my life where I have been afraid, especially in making art for a living. How am I going to create security in my family? Will there always be a demand for my work? Will people forget about my work, or even yet me? Can I even make a difference or get noticed without selling out and make what I think other people want to see? How and what that looks like might change a lot, but I honestly don't see myself not doing art for the end of my days. I kind of just know that I was made for it. How I use art as a tool is what brings me fear. The fear that I taste is knowing that for me to make myself vulnerable and help other people I must be open to rejection and disappointment. Rejected by who? People? Surely people can't determine what kind of art I create... Right? I am not rejected but already saved. I've already been washed up on shore and being put back together. I need to bring others with me. For all have fallen and fall short of the Glory of God. All have failed and will fail in what they do in life. There is this song by Listener that goes,

I am the barely living son of a woman and man who barely made it but we're making it taped together on borrowed crutches and new starts we all have the same holes in our hearts... everything falls apart at the exact same time that it all comes together perfectly for the next step but my fear is this prison... that I keep locked below the main deck I keep a key under my pillow, it's quiet and it's hidden and my hopes are weapons that I'm still learning how to use right but they're heavy and I'm awkward...

Dan wrote this song from a dream that was about a coastal town that wanted to build a church but had no lumber, so they built it out of the wood from ship wreaked vessels. I truly want to create art that exposes the holes in our hearts. The brokeness in our lives that desperately needs saving. I want to not keep my heart locked up but make myself vulnerable so others that are hurting can see the power in vulnerability and honesty. I want to use my art to change lives to create something that all comes perfectly together. To be reconciled. Maybe my art moves you or maybe it doesn't. But what I do know, is that I must not fear my calling in life but embrace it knowing that I am loved by a creator so much that He lets me create.

WHAT'S GOING ON

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LOTS OF WONDERFUL THINGS HAVE BEEN GOING ON THE PAST FEW MONTHS! HERE ARE A FEW THINGS THAT ARE ON MY PLATE:

1. I WAS RECENTLY ASKED TO BE A PART OF ILLUSTRATING A CHILDRENS BOOK THAT DEALS WITH ABUSE AND TRAUMA. ALTHOUGH IT HAS BEEN SLOW MOVING, I FEEL THAT THE DIALOG BETWEEN THE CHARACTER AND GOD CAN BRING HEALING TO OTHERS.

2. I AM WORKING ON A BODY OF WORK THAT CONSISTS OF "OUR NEIGHBORS". I WANT TO BRIDGE THE GAP OF THE RICH AND POOR IN MY COMMUNITY AND SHARE PEOPLES STORIES.

3. MY CLOSE FRIEND LOWELL JUST RECIEVED A GRANT FOR WOOD SUPPLIES AT HIS MEN'S TRANSITIONAL HOUSE AND I PLAN ON BUILDING HIGH END FURNITURE WITH OTHER MEN THIS SPRING AND SUMMER.

4. IN A COUPLE WEEKENDS I AM HEADED BACK TO A STUDENT RETREAT LEAD BY NEW HEIGHTS AND BRING SOME LIVE PAINTING TO WORSHIP. I REALLY WANT TO PUSH MORE TOWARDS THIS AS I GROW AS AN ARTIST AND HUMAN BEING. IT IS A GREAT OPPORTUNITY TO SHOW CHRIST THROUGH THIS PLATFORM.

5. JACK FROM NEW TRIBES IS ALLOWING ME TO ASSIST WHAT HE IS GOING TO BE DOING WITH HIS FAMILY IN PAPUEA NEW GUINEA. HOPEFULLY I CAN SHARE SOME STORIES SO PEOPLE HERE BACK IN THE STATES CAN KNOW WHO THEY ARE REACHING.

6. MY DAY JOB AS A GRAPHIC DESIGNER HAS BEEN GREAT. THE PEOPLE I WORK WITH AT B-UNLIMITED ARE A BLESSING TO ME AND I HAVE BUILT SOME WONDERFUL FRIENDSHIPS. GOING INTO A GRAPHIC DESIGN FIELD THAT I HAD NO TRAINING IN BEFORE HAS REALLY OPENED UP MY EYES.

7. I REALLY CAN'T WAIT UNTIL ART IN THE PARK STARTS UP AGAIN...

8. THAT IS ALL FOR NOW! THANKS FOR READING.