August 4, 2016
For an article they are writing on creative spiritual people, someone asked me for a quick summation of what makes me tick? Here was the live recording, so unedited. Still, may the parts for you, be guided into the right parts of your heart in order to bless and bring His Kingdom there. My answer goes off on several areas along the way, as i often do-i love rabbits!-but i hope it will be helpful on your own quest. It was a long answer (I tend to include everything in one answer or quest-ion), but i was surprised what was emphasized:
My father is a pastor and my mother an artist, so I’ve been trying, or allowing Him, to integrate those worlds for a long time! I lived in, visited and started several arts and spiritual communities over the years, went to art school and seminary, in my quest. The Kingdom seems to be the key! Art and spirituality are both contextualized and integrated by His Kingdom.
I have a hard time feeling settled anywhere down here. When I first saw those floating world Chagall paintings, I related to that landscape—somewhere between worlds. I used to do drawings when young of a man walking a wire between worlds. I would drawn the earth in the bottom right corner and the Sun filled with music in the upper right corner—it’s rays were people of God (the saints), and below were the cities and seas.
My home was in between, where the actual music was. I drew them in my drawings as musical notes, and they were the atmosphere. I had a vision once of the funnel of music between the realms. All the fruits of the Spirit were represented as musical composition in notation. As long as I was staring at Jesus, I could enjoy the ambiance of the music and how it touched the earth and issued from the heavens. I could travel back and forth freely. The vision felt true. Since then I’ve had many other dreams and vision about the simultaneous realms, the endless interface between heaven and earth.
Another way i came to look at it was in layers. I started writing poems about the Kingdom being present at cafes as people were talking. I’ve never seen it as “way over there”, but rather as interfacing here. Wasn’t that Jesus point, to come to earth and bring it here! The highway, the new city—they are meant to be coming here!
Anyway, at my wedding i wore at least nine watches! I love something about simultaneous times going on at once. I still collect watches. I have hundreds. God is Lord over space and time. Time is where Jesus entered from space.
The Jews write lots about consecrating time and space. I relate to that. Both are tabernacles of meeting–places to know God.
Much of my direct interaction with the spiritual has happened in transit, on the road or train stations or on airplanes. God meets me in the liminal-the in between is sort of home to me. Prayer art space is my home.
Mysticism is just the way things actually are to me. There are multiple realms interacting all the time—that’s biblical. Daniel (one of my favorite king prophets!) saw it, as did all the prophets really. What I like about Daniel is he was a practical prophet. Met God is rulership as well as mystical experiences. Anyway…more personally…
God has chosen to emphasize my identity, to use that as part of His Story about Himself. “You are being what we are talking about” as one friend put it to me. This idea of the life itself, being part of the message-i relate to that way. That your actual life is God prophesying about Himself! Yes, we also prophecy, and i do often, but we are also ourselves prophecies! That’s an important thing to see well. We are living stories or testimonies, and that is half the content. The vehicle of the message is part of the message–if you get my point.
In the Old Testament, where the prophets lived, if they were married or not, where they gave their messages, which direction they were facing when speaking–all were part of the content of the message itself. I’ve always felt that was true. So just being somewhere at a certain time, is part of what He is communicating through me. What I wear (prophetic fashion has always interested me-the cover of a book reveals the content! Christian publishing missed this), or my tone is part of what He wants to express. That is part of the art of the prophetic. I call it prophetic orientation. But you can’t get the full message of the older prophets if you don’t consider all this. Their identities were part of what God was saying!
Jeremiah and Paul both had anointed autobiographies. I relate to that. Like King David’s life story was part of the message. I’ve always related to that.
Sometimes God highlights identity. That’s been so in my case. Not in an egotistical way, but in a way in which God uses the story of Paul’s life as part of his message. Who we are is part of what God is saying about Himself! So we need to know who we are!
So my life passages from the bible, were always celebrating identity—Jeremiah’s calling: I knew you, therefore I called you; or in Ephesians: we are His poetry…etc. Paul’s, “I know a man..” speaking of himself in the third person. David’s, “I am myself fearfully and wonderfully made!” (Psalm 139). These are life examples of how to let our biographies become His! How our life stories become living testimonies of God. It’s a unique calling, but it’s how my life has been. Who I am, is part of His story or whatever He is saying through me.
One’s life story is part of God’s message to others and to the earth itself. We are symbolic and symbolizing creatures. Some of us highlight that. We are poems and books about and from God, expressing aspects of who He is, as we get out of the way (lose our lives in Christ), and come into His Way, we shine as more our true selves. That much is simple. Peter stares at and sees who Jesus is, and Jesus tells him who he is- Peter’s true name. To know ourselves, is to know Jesus. The white stone name then starts getting whispered.
True or authentic identity then, has been my life’s theme. Jesus turns out to be the source and revealer of true identity-so is the way to really know oneself and others, for that matter. God’s song of myself.
It’s a thin line to consider identity so often without “making it all about yourself”—the line between narcissism and allowing God to celebrate your true identity (David did it well!), and looks stupid, but as in my dream about Bono-where from the audience’s perspective he looked like just a rock star, but from behind he was praying and being priestly, and actually suffering (bruised all over his body, in the dream)—that is how it is for me. God has chosen to use me as a disco ball, outwardly shining and appearing as this or that, depending on context, but inwardly just being in and with Him.
We are close friends, and that is my basic spirituality—friendship with Jesus. That’s not changed since i was young.
Context has, but not content.
When you emphasize unique identity, you often meet the most unique people in the world. And I have. Many of them. Some very high impact personalities. Some very connected, some very lonely, but all of them remarkable, one of a kind people—God’s favorites.
I’ve been blessed to know myself and to get to know many other remarkables. I’ve always gotten to ride on the “special bus”!
Yet, i can’t remember ever feeling at home anywhere here. I’ve lived all over the world, and certainly all over my own nation (almost every region now), but nowhere has felt fully home. I’ve always felt like I was from everywhere and nowhere. Always a local and a foreigner, so I relate to both, but never really home. I relate to the refugees and the people who house them. I’ve done both in life-lived homeless, lived in my car, in parks, but also had small castles to host in and haven others, resources to bless. But really Jesus has been the only home I’ve known. The rest keeps changing. Our friendship has been the gravity line in my life, the only orientation point which hasn’t changed. The backdrops keep shifting over and through times and seasons. They shift geographically, culturally, and physically, but He has remained the same.I’ve had glimpses of my heavenly terrain several times.
I had a vision I was in a landscape something like west Ireland, but even greener and more verdant. Every color so vibrantly alive with life. Crystal streams, the works really! Lots of animals, interestingly enough. God would sit close to me, and was giving me messages and I was running, sometimes leaping or dancing, and delivering them to people in joy. I was allowed to be very creative how i gave the words, and God enjoyed how I would choose to communicate them. At the end of this vision, He sent me back to earth on a balloon, which i just loved, as I do love balloons in real life! So I didn’t mind so much going down through the stratosphere into the interruptions on earth.
That also hasn’t changed. I talk to God, and tell people and places what He said. I try to tell them in a way which is in their language or tone or style. I’ve gotten better at expressing the messages, but the process has been the same for many years.
So my spirituality is friendship, but my calling is expression. Specifically expressing what God tells me to express to others.
What has grown in the process is getting to know His Ways through doing it. To be blown away by how kind He is and His desire to specifically communicate to so many. Carrying the poetry of His thousands of thoughts towards each us daily has been a privilege, and continues to be. I’m mediocre at it, but He enjoys it when I try! His actual messages are so much more nuanced and subtle than we can express. His Tone alone would re-shape a mountain in an instant! Much less a person. If we properly received even one word from Him, we would be eternally altered! That’s the power of even partially expressed prophecy down here!
So, identity and expression are the two words written on my heart. But I’ve gotten to grow in knowledge and love as I’ve gone. According to Peter, Godliness, brotherly love, endurance and perseverance and Wisdom would be next in line…
Still, I am so thankful He integrated my creativity and my spirituality. He did that early on. I’m thankful, as it’s allowed me to enjoy life and Him more. I think I help people integrate their’s as well. I also was given the gift of authenticity. I am able to help people have an authentic not a borrowed, spirituality. And I think i model that. So He made me an authenticator in His Body. And an integrator.
Again, I’m grateful. To give people permission to have their own authentic relationship with God is wonderful. I enjoy that. You can have a unique-you shaped relationship with God, because He is personal, and He made you unique. You two have your own style of relating. And it’s a gift to others in the end.
It’s not just do your own thing, but it is be yourself in Him. Sometimes, it’s be yourself, despite yourself! But it is always allowing Him room to celebrate His song of yourself, as a song about Himself! Who are we to block His Voice. Let Him sing the notes of your being in Him!
In another dream, i was teaching some seminary students that they could be themselves. I taught from Psalm 139 about celebrating yourself as a poem of God. In the dream, i gave them permission to find their true identity in Christ. That He was the Namer and Author of who they really were. So there was no need to interface through some external system to have direct relationship with God. Jesus brought God to us.
We can be ourselves. We can be authentic and creative. We can be both artist and followers of Christ. There is no need to make art about God, but rather from your relationship with Him. To make authentic expressions flowing from the journey of your relationship and growth in Christ.
So I give people permission to be real or authentic, and permission to integrate their creative process. I think that is one area where i move in healing or helping make things whole. I think its the same with cities for me—i like to help mend and integrate the imaginations of cities. I’m very interested in people having a baptized imaginations. And when cities do this—heal their cultural expression; something amazing happens. They become living testimonies of God.
What about the needs of the art and church worlds?
I have favor in the art world and the church world, and that has always been the case. He allows me to contextualize the art world, and to free up the church world. It’s been a neat role in both arenas. I feel fortunate to be able to freely be myself in both art and church worlds. Both need different things.
The art world needs a way of interpreting true value and context of the creative process outside of materialism or entertainment (the constant need for validation-often lack of fathering-drives many artist into some form of prostitution, or her ways!); the church world needs to be freed up to make authentic art flowing from their relationship with God. Permission to be, and not feel they have to only use their creativity to carry the gospel. That they can just create unto God or before Him, as little priest! And that they celebrate who God is by doing so. Francis Shaefer taught this well. And I spent years under his teachings. The Lordship of Christ over every area of life, means we are free to just create, it doesn’t always need to be overtly about God.
In my theology of the arts, I would add, that God loves the whole person, including your imagination. And wants to baptize your imagination into active relationship with Him. This would cure pornography in a day, if we really related to God actively through our perception! The three I state as a foundation for the arts: Jesus Lordship over all of Reality, including the symbolic; God’s Oneness, so His desire that all the areas of your life be one or integrated; and His Love of the whole person–still hold true for me! I discovered these three over time in my own journey.
The art world needs an interpretive context, the church permission to be and express freely! Again, The Kingdom provides for both! And engulfs them!
I’ve been able to walk in both worlds as myself. And it’s a joy.
This is part of my testimony, i suppose. To be allowed to be fully myself in the art world and in the church world. And I’ve gotten to know very high impact leaders in both over my life. Thankful again.
I think the kingdom contextualizes the art world and the church world. The Kingdom is bigger than the church, and is certainly bigger than the narrow confines of the art world.
I’ve tried to live from The Kingdom, and let my friendship with Jesus dictate everything else.
Thanks for asking….(to the interviewer)
Again, i’d say my personal spirituality is about friendship with Jesus, and my outer expression of that has been to live as an artist. Or to let my life itself become His art.
I also like helping people integrate these areas of spirituality and creativity. My wife and I ran an arts community for many years-upstairs was community, downstairs art studios, so the two could come together under the same roof-be literally physically integrated.
For the christian artist who lived there, the number one issue was being ok to just create without making it overtly about God, to let there expression authentically flow from their relationship with God-to make it less about and more from. For our friends from the art world, it was about contextualizing their creative process in a spiritual process of formation and relationship with God and His Kingdom. For both worlds it was about integrating their creativity and their spirituality. That’s a need for both the church and the art world, and His Kingdom provides the Key. I would say the core practice is prayer-or sitting with Jesus as He prays. That’s where true vision takes place. My own art flows from that space. Visions and dreams happen there for me.
He mainly talks to me through dreams, study, visions—most often through the symbolic. But He also talks to me directly in words and images during prayer. Prayer is a central daily practice in my life. It’s where i see and hear things, which later turn into art or ministry.
To the church, i would be given as a prophetic person. To the art world, more as a guide. I’m thankful He’s used me in both worlds to bring the fragrance of Himself and His Kingdom. I doubt that will ever end. I’m blessed, and we are friends, and He enjoys me running around and expressing from our friendship, all that He tells and shows me.
I have so many stories of meeting famous people like Madonna, and getting to prophecy to her and her entourage. And getting to talk a man off a suicide bridge in Paris entirely in tongues and by sketching some images. Stories of what must be miracles as well. For many years, He would directly tell me where to go exactly when. Once, He told me which airline to get on and when to leave, and flew me in to bear witness to 911. This sort of direct leading has never stopped for me, and is part of our relationship. But my angels have the best footage of all this. I’ve forgotten half of it.
Even meeting my wife was a divine appointment, but I’ve had so many of these they are normal spirituality now. Go to this parking lot and wait. Ok, ask that lady if she knows your friend. This happened when i was first getting to know my wife. The woman he told me to ask turned out to be her best friend. God knows stuff if we listen and act. These tales increase and continue daily—that’s never changed for me, and I suppose it keeps me jazzed, or helps make me tick. I like collaborating with God daily.
What would you challenge people with?
I would challenge you to let God pronounce the poem of who you are, less interrupted. To let Him prophecy your life to yourself firstly, then out to others. It sounds simple, but most of us don’t lose our lives to find them enough! We don’t live near the cross, as the old timers used to put it. We don’t die daily in order to become the glorious poetry we actually are in Him. That would be my challenge. To allow God to share His Own art—the art of who you are, to His People, to the world, and into the heavens. He wants to pronounce us as His Own poems ultimately about Himself and who He is.
When people hear these poems, they will realize what a wonderful Poet King and Almighty Creator He actually is. He wants to reveal who He is—His True Identity—through yours! Our job is to get out of the way, and let Him do so.
The way to know and express who we really are, is to get to know who Jesus and His Father really are. That’s the journey or trajectory. God is making us His art, and we are meant to be collaborators in this process, yielding to His pronunciation of ourselves. Our creative collaboration makes me tick! It’s His testimony I am becoming, His living pronounceable poem.