New Day - Resigning from The Worship Studio

Gandhi  said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

I’ve experienced a lot of transition in the last year and my thoughts often have been about this little word “change,” which when it comes, can mean monumental shifts in your life. Over the past year, I’ve ended a 22 year marriage that had been dysfunctional for many years and in the process learned that I do not have to live with abuse in my life. Over this year, I’ve grown up and into a knowledge that even when love is present and people do the best they can, staying in an unhealthy situation is not acceptable. I’ve learned that loving God, others, and yourself well with sincerity is the only way to go.  “Change” is so often the key to open the door to a healthy balance of being able to love well - God, others, and yourself. 

I’ve been recently climbing waterfalls and mountains and centering close to the land and spending time with sincere friends and loving my children well. I’ve learned so much in those simple things. Nature keeps teaching me of the unchanging love of God and his ability to hold all things together, while yet, as I look at the constant transition of things like a fern unfolding in Spring, or Autumn leaves dying yet becoming brilliant, or witnessing the continual cycle of life as I watch a friend’s breath in conversation becoming a vapor that will become eventually a cloud, I’m understanding that change is always happening and there is a season for all things.

I’m writing to announce another more public change that is now coming into season with me. I’ve decided to resign as the Associate Director of The Worship Studio. I have loved working for the past 3 years with The Worship Studio, our team, and alongside Matt Tommey. Matt and I have been, in the past, great friends and ministry partners. We have enjoyed a certain ministry dynamic that has been creative and has actually blown us away at times because of the way the Lord showed up in our working together. We have also faced many hurdles about walking together in ministry, which we have spoken of and joked about with most of you who have been in connection with our ministry endeavors. A friend said to me as I was considering this decision to resign: “Friends are like iron sharpening iron. Sometimes the iron is as sharp as it can get.” Since I believe that ministry should come out of authentic relationships and it is the only way I know to have authentic ministry, it is impossible for me to walk with Matt at The Worship Studio any longer. 

From my estimation, Matt and I have both changed very much in the past year and our focus has become very different. During transitions and separations in ministry, I hate it when leaders sugar-coat things and play the political ministry game of  “spinning” out a false statement in order to make things look nice. Inauthenticity never benefits anyone, so that is something I will not do. I also hate it when people hurt one another and I’ve learned that in difficult transitions, kindness goes a long way. So with that said, I will simply say this... Matt and I are finding it difficult to continue walking together in ministry. There are things that I am not in agreement with concerning the direction of the ministry, so therefore I will not dishonor myself or disrespect others by presenting a dishonest view through our events, videos, classes, the Equipping Center, etc. so I am disengaging from all the Worship Studio structures. Though I feel confident in this decision that I need to be separate from The Worship Studio, I do believe in the vision and I bless Matt in that he has within him many gifts to give to the body of Christ. 

I will be continuing individually in ministry with the things that I have always been about. My Journeyartfully resources, the book, the blog and the creative life-coaching are all still very dear to my heart and will be something that will continue to develop. I will continue to be about encouraging and connecting with artists, providing helpful resources for the development of artists, encouraging authentic community, and ministering and speaking as well as hosting workshops and weekend gatherings, as I did individually before working with and while working with The Worship Studio. This transition will also give me more freedom to collaborate with other ministries in the areas of creativity and the arts, healing, Appalachian culture and being close to the land. 

In this oncoming season, I will be continuing to mentor the many artists I’m honored to walk with through my Journeyartfully Coaching. I’ll be writing and releasing some new books next year, including my Sacred Revolution book I’ve worked on for many years. I will also be blogging more and creating helpful videos and resources for artists in 2015. I will take a bit of a rest from public events and speaking for the rest of the winter and maybe into the Spring in order to spend an intentional focus with my children, close friends, smaller home ministry connections, painting, and writing. I’m putting no expectations upon myself and have no desire to replace a loss with something manufactured. As I try to always do, I will let the rhythm of what I offer as an artist, professionally and in ministry, unfold as it seems to make itself known. 

I've done a lot of soul searching to find my truest truth in this matter - asking God and myself questions about what is most authentic to the real me and what I need in my life. This is how I've realized I need the change. Gandhi said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world. Leaving The Worship Studio is a huge sacrifice to me and a very difficult decision. It seemingly affects almost everything in my world. I'm believing though that the things I've created thus far that are the truest parts of me: my art, my Journeyartfully book, family and my sincere friendships and authentic areas of community - these are the things I value most and I want to be about them. This is the change I want to see in the world - that people would know their truest truth and live it even when it means sacrifice.  ”I taught this year at Gathering of Artisans about creatively flying by faith into your new day - that is what I believe we are to be doing in this season as artists, so that is what I am doing. I'm flying into a new day.

I recently climbed a very difficult trail up to a mountain that is so high it is above all the other Appalachian mountain ranges around it. I had to pace myself, stopping to take breaths, focusing on the ever-changing beauty as I would take deep breaths in and out, my legs burned with the push and I would have to stop and rest to wait for more energy to get into my lungs and my legs. As I kept moving, rhythm became very important - simply paying attention to what seemed “right.” I got to the top of that mountain - stood on a huge boulder with my arms stretched out, the wind blowing so strong that it literally felt like it could blow me over and I yelled to a friend as a joke, “I’m flying, Jack... I’m flying!” As I now think about that, I realize how life transitions are just like that... pace, rhythm and the hope of the exhilaration of reaching the top where you will fly (and see beautiful sunsets that connect you deeply with the very heart of God) are important.  

I welcome you to pray for me and my children, The Worship Studio and all of our team, and all of the artists that God is bringing into their destinies. We are all meant to fly! 

Surrendering in Times of Loss

A daily treasure... this one inspired a poem. I love how images and fragments of words can speak so clearly to the depths of our souls.

Takes its toll
Like exquisite leaves floating away in dirty water
A waste?

I watch one swirling under
Struggling to float
But losing the battle
... Or is it merely surrendering to the inevitable current of life -
The changing season that won't quit coming on?
Nevertheless, it fades under the water
as if diving into its watery grave in a fitful dance with destiny

A tear falls that I didn't even know was resting there.
It had sat long enough to become warm
comforted my cold face at the descent.
The chill bites at my bare arms
Thought it would be warm today?
Why this chill?
It's too early.

My treasure gift today
Empty cocoon resting inside the fold
A home that served a purpose for a season
And though the space does not hold life anymore
Surely the beautiful remains remain

But for what reason?
To cut my soul with the fragility of it all?
So tender its fibers
So transparent its layers
Its softness beckons to be touched
but the impossibility of the embrace wrecks me

And the river of life must go on sounding and resounding
A determined expression of the flow
The halts
The bright moments
The murky depths
The current that takes us into our tomorrow.
I surrender all.

The Greatest Remain

Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love. ~ Ephesians 6:23-24

How many months I’ve been at sail
pulling the beauty from the depths
until the heaviness of it seems like an anchor
that has went vastly below the light
resting at the bottom with the unknown.
Is it a bad thing?
It has me sitting still
and yet still I’m pushing full force.
Where is Your wind?
“Be still and know...” I tell my heart.
Yet in the quiet 
the tendons of my neck tighten
and the weight on my chest deepens
and I ask the hardest question -
the one I hate to ask:
“Where are You?”
Grace... only grace.

Beauty, Stay

And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us, And establish the work of our hands for us; Yes, establish the work of our hands. - Psalm 90:17

spaces open and closed
filled with color and emptiness
wrestling with the friction
centering on the steadiness
taking paths that come full circle again and again
the rhythm - it rises and falls
crosses and hatches
leans and looses

remind my spirit and mind to keep
taking in and breathing out
the inhale is preeminent
the exhale is pertinent
watch as it rises
and twirls
and dances
in the atmosphere

there is always beauty
i see it there
stay, won't you?

Perspective - Finding Beauty in the Plain Places

Lately, the Lord has been teaching me a lot about perspective. This morning as I walked by the river, I glanced down at this plain little decaying leaf and something about it intrigued me. I felt the Father's prompting to pick it up. It was very plain. As I walked on, holding the fragile leaf, I approached a little enclave with a park bench which sets nearly under the noisy bridge and the flowing river... what a juxtaposition. 

That bridge which is every morning cluttered with vehicles busily trying to get where they need to go carries me to my studio. I usually stop, darting out of the long line and pull into the park so I can have a few minutes of rest-searching for my day. Today rest found me as I was sitting on the bench studying the busy-ness of the bridge and the way the current flowed around the bridge columns. I could only think of how bland everything looked. It's a hot humid morning and the river smells bad and the traffic is noisy. I think about how we pollute our world and my heart longs for a mountain barely touched, a river rarely seen. I think about how it would be nice to vandalize the bridge columns and paint beautiful patterns there. My imagination runs wild with thoughts of how one... okay, of how I, may be able to paint the columns.... perhaps from a small boat or swinging from a tethered harness.... It would be some feat to bring beauty to the river under the bridge right here in the River Arts District of Asheville. I come back to reality and smile at my outlandish thoughts.... always thinking the impossible.... always seemingly caught up in the things that are too big to easily accomplish. 

I look down at my hands and ponder why I do this, and my eye is drawn to the leaf again... poor little ugly thing. I look closer. Why has this one found me this morning? I hold it up to the light and my perspective shifts. My spiritual eyes awaken. The yellow of the leaf comes into its radiance and the dance of light comes through the empty spaces of the decay. Beauty in the ugly. Radiance in the plain. Life in the death. I suppose it is all about our perspective. How we look at things... and whether we choose to search for the beauty. 

Cocoon Sailing - Shadow of Hope

"Shadow of Hope"
Mixed - Media
Cocoon Sailing Series (1)

This is the first piece in my new series, "Cocoon Sailing." It is made of tulle, chiffon, silk fibers, papers, purple threads,  sheet music and this amazing green woolen yarn mounted on a poplar branch.

Within the safety of the cocoon, the shadow of hope rests. There is a strip of sheet music within the tulle that says, "Shadows may fall upon the land and sea..." Have you ever longed for hope... you know Big Hope... hope that changes the world, even if in some small way? This piece is a reflection of being enlightened by the revelation of God's glory, knowing it can change things... shift atmospheres... transform paradigms... but because we know that is so huge, we cling to the soft place of the shadow of it. The hope of the Hope needs to be nurtured... thought on.... pondered. It needs to be held close within the soft words of the Father's heart. The other strip of sheet music in this piece says, "You said I was very nice to know." Isn't it beautiful that the Father says that to our hearts even when we can only hold a shadow? This shadow... the hope of Hope... seems to be the right place to begin with this series. It's the glimpse - the conception - of one day, sailing. It's the glimpse of soaring. These works are a looking back and a looking forward place for me - a way of processing some past memories and a way of artfully living into the future moments. May His grace cocoon every expression.

Birthing New Works - Sailing with His Wind

I began this morning with my walk by the river, watching the trees - no - the leaves sway over the ripples and the going-on currents. It was wonder... and I was sharing it with the Father. How good He is to give us beauty, awe, and wonder. How good He is to blow through this land... the land of my soul. I see and respond with a bowed heart... a quietness that sings loudly as an incense to Him.

A couple days ago, I was captured by an image of sail-ships on a vintage Horizon book. I've been processing the metaphor of sails and ships and wind for the past year. I've not created many things with my hands yet in the theme of sails, but many things I've painted and sculpted in my imagination. I saw a note recently in a friend's bible that said, "Miracles come from the imagination of God." I've pondered this intensely as I hold the imaginations of my heart, waiting for the birthing - the sailing. See, I want the very work of my hands to be miracles released - signs revealed, so there must be this holding of the holy within my God-embraced imagination until the delivery is evident. I've nurtured the development, and I'm feeling the revealing is near. 

I'm sensing to make cocoon-like shapes that appear to be like sails. This is a change for me - to shift to sculptural fiber forms rather than paintings... but I feel God's embrace with it for a season. I'm not sure what it will look like or how exactly it will feel. I've explored it all in minute ways in my paintings - a line here and a form there... but to purposefully process the sailing material in my hands - in the very fibers - is exciting to me. 

I've meandered through many changes over the past few months - being pulled by the updraft of God's will and blown slowly and swiftly with His myriad of breath blown into the the caverns of my being. I've taken in the hundreds of pieces He has given - the images,  the words, the songs, gifts of the minuteness of His creation. I've studied His wind. I've touched the veins of the leaves. I've watched them sail. The effect of the wind upon the waters and the land is ever-mesmerizing. Have you ever noticed how water moves? Have you seen the wind? I've felt the fibers that can hold the wind of the Spirit. I've painted the encapsulated forms of His Presence, I've sailed through the lines of His movement and touched the colors of Heaven. I've found the resting place in His Heart and He has found His resting place in me - in the very process of this creativity He has given. My sails are so full.

In the spirit of knowing that my creativity is never only my own and that God makes us all to breathe together, I keep my awareness turned to others.... turned to awe-inspiring creativity all around me. I've soaked in the rhythmic form of a vase and wondered what that movement felt like as clay under the hands. I have discovered the beauty of the dance of raku colors and the blackness produced by the charring and wondered how that hot process spoke to the potter over the fire. I've seen the delicate natural forms of trees that have taken a hundred years to produce the most intricate patterns that come alive under the lathe of a woodturner. I've watched as my friend weaves new patterns and finds a new basket design almost daily and it is confirmed that God's mercies and goodness are new every morning - and that He weaves His newness into our lives daily. Community and togetherness is so vital to our creative lives.

After the river this morning, I came to the studio and began my morning devotional - my place of connection to God's heart that readies my heart for expression. I read Oswald Chamber's Utmost about steadying my heart and awareness on Jesus - and that when we do that, then, He will be our all in all. I want His all in all of me - His breath in every cavern - every fiber of my sails filled with wonder.

Almost daily, I search for inspiration from another creative: a painter, fiber artist, dancer, writer, musician, dramatist... on and on.  It is in their sharing and my soaking in of their unique creative message that I continually stay fused with creativity that is outside myself.... that is the opposite of self-awareness. The celebration that comes into my heart when I see another artist effectively translating beauty and wonder gives rhythm to my sailing. It helps me to feel part of the fleet.

So this morning, I landed on the TED video by Janet Echelman: Taking Imagination Seriously. (Watch below.) In the video she shares about her process of creating billowing, building-size fiber sculptures that literally transform the atmosphere. I was so in awe as I watched her forms move into the rhythms such as I have painted. She truly had created the ever-transforming visual shapes of the wind. Actually, she had only created a form that could capture it and reflect the wind. Isn't that what we are to do. Capture the movement of God and reflect it? Her sculptures appear to carry the movement of God. They are transforming the stagnant caverns inside people. At the end of her video she shares how the business-like people of a nearby building left their work and laid under her sky-filling billow, watching the effects of the movement change and transform. Surely their spirits shifted with the movement. 

May we be observant. May we have keen eyes to see the wind in the sails. 
May the growing imaginations inside me find their birthing moment. As Jane Echleman says at the end of her video, may we forever be "sharing the rediscovery of wonder."