So What's a Painting Doing in Church?

So What's a Painting Doing in Church?

“Oh no, I messed it up!” I stepped back in fear.

“Oh my gosh, I have 6 fingers on the right hand! I better fix that!”

“Thank God for my trusty palette knife - whew! But I am up here just to worship. It’s ok if I made a mess. God will use it. Just worship. Okay. I’m good. Just me and Jesus.”

This is some of the conversation I had with myself as I was painting on stage during a Christmas Eve service. I had prepared a dark background beforehand so I could quickly paint in the subject during our 15 minutes of singing. When I laid the first stroke of bright color on the canvas, it shocked me, and made me more nervous. I panicked because it didn’t look like the image I had in my head. In fact, I thought it looked like a mess. I stepped back, wondering if I could make this into something God could use.

A few days later, a new friend, Ginger Robertson, texted me asking if I had painted Jesus’ hands. I hadn’t intended them to be, but I always remain open to the message that the painting sends to someone else. I asked her what Jesus was saying to her. 

“One looked a bit like it was bleeding and the other not (I hadn’t noticed that until she said it!) so it was like past and present. Like Jesus is healed, not hurting so don’t ever feel bad about those nails and my past too...things happened but healing has too”.

What? Jesus used my mess to bring healing to another person? Wow! But of course He did! That’s what He does! He takes what’s broken, destroyed, and lost, and restores to relationship with Him. And He does that in a community. We need each other to remind us of our freedom.

Do you see how that happened? In the past two years, Jesus has restored my heart, and my image of myself to the one He has of me - as a child of His, created by His Creator Self, to do good works. For me that’s painting, and other things! He used one of these good works as I stepped out in obedience - into a community that has embraced me in my “odd” requests to paint in worship on stage (That’s worship? Yes!), and He met Ginger in a holy intersection between that image and the Holy Spirit’s voice, to send her an intimate message He wanted her to know. I’ll never get over watching Him work in peoples’ lives through art.

This is the God I’ve come to know in the past two years. As I’ve been learning that we have creativity in common, He seems to be speaking in images directly to my heart, and my imagination. I do my best to capture them, and He uses them to send messages to people who need them. And while I can’t find a verse in the Bible that talks about this exact process, I do see that the first thing we learn about Him is that He created! Then He created us in His own image, which tells me He put creativity into each one of us. You may not paint, but look at the things you do. Become aware of the ways you do them that no one else can. That is the creativity that God placed inside you. And it only grows as you say yes to His invitations to create new things with Him!

Then, God asked Adam to name the animals with Him. Have you ever created something, then given it to a stranger you don’t trust to name it for you? No! God had just put creativity into Adam, and trusted Him to call out the character of each animal He brought to him. They co-created! And this is the relationship He died to restore with us. One of making things together.

“We have become his poetry, a re-created people that will fulfill the destiny he has given each of us, for we are joined to Jesus, the Anointed One. Even before we were born, God planned in advance our destiny and the good works we would do to fulfill it!” Ephesians‬ ‭2:10‬ ‭TPT‬‬

The simple promptings we often feel and dismiss as coincidence or just ourselves, are actually from the Holy Spirit. Remember the One Jesus promised to guide us into all truth? How can He guide us if we don’t believe we can hear Him? He’s always speaking to us. I used to be the quiet girl who sat along the side of the sanctuary, a few rows back from the front so as not to gain attention. Then the Holy Spirit started sending me pictures during worship, and I had a strong desire to paint them - up front, during worship. It took me over a year to say “yes” to Him. I wish I wouldn’t have wasted that time. How many more people could’ve seen Him more clearly and gotten a personal message from Him? And so I will continue!

These are some comments I got when I displayed the painting for a couple weeks in the foyer and asked for feedback:

“This painting makes me think about worship and the creative ways we can worship Him!”

“I will keep your painting in my mind’s eye as an illustration of surrender.”

“It could be about God saying, “open your hands and I will give.”

“The painting reminds me of service towards Heaven above. Our hands in service, praising God above.”

A few days after this Christmas service, I talked with Jesus about that fear I had on stage, when I felt the shock of the bright paint. He said, “Don’t shrink back. Do as I ask.” It was a lesson from Him in obedience, and in renewing my mind. The old me would’ve never had the courage to get up on stage, and the new me is walking in His footprints, taking each step of invitation from Him with courage, even if it means making a messy painting on stage!

Lastly, you know how Jesus told parables and used what the disciples saw around them to show them secrets of the Kingdom? I believe God can use our various gifts to reveal His character in ways that are alive in the moment, and speak to us without words. We’ve spent years listening to well crafted sermons and songs that have blessed us. I also believe we are missing a richness in experience that left the church with the reformation, when it was feared that people might worship the art. Let’s bring it back in prayer and worship of our God so big that we don’t have words to describe Him.

So God used this painting in congregational worship as I created it with Him on stage, then to speak to my friend, Ginger, in a personal way, then in the foyer as people personally reflected on it, and discussions with others who wanted to talk about the power of worship, and in my own life experience in my relationship with Him, and now you are contemplating all of these ways that one painting has changed peoples' view of their relationship with God as their Creator, with each other in worship, how an artist might be able to use their gifts to edify the Body, and so many other things!

Wouldn't you like to use that creative thing that God our Creator gave you to spend a little time with Him, creating something that will encourage others in their worship, and shine His glory bright into the earth?

I see a blossoming of creativity happening around the world! I see people who don’t believe they are creative, capturing the lies of the culture about art and who they are, and renewing their image to the one Creator God put into their DNA. I see projects and praises coming into our local church! Lots of them in various stages. Some in part, and some more whole - kind of like the people that make up His Body.

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