Although not exactly “The best of times and the worst of times”, 2011 was a bit of a personal rollercoaster ride. I touched on some of the year’s difficulties in the last post, but before January slips away I want to recap the positive highlights. And there were many.
There were exciting opportunities to carry the Finding Divine Inspiration and New Renaissance message to more people in more places in 2011 than ever before. I had the privilege of speaking across denominations and age groups, from Catholics to Pentecostals, and 5th graders to grandmas. It’s thrilling and humbling to watch God release creativity and open the doors of hearts and churches across the country. I thought sharing some of these successes might be an encouragement to you.
The year began with a January conference called “The Releasing” at Bread of Life Church just outside of Indianapolis. I was invited to lead a workshop and train people in the concept of collaboration with God in our creativity. Gaining the skills of hearing and responding to God’s voice is one of the most important things any believer can do, so helping folks to experience that and then practice it is one of the greatest honors of my life. The most profound spiritual growth in us individually and the most effective work for the Kingdom is built on the foundation of personal experience with and guidance from God.
Suzy Yaraei led a some really wonderful worship during the main sessions of this conference, and I did a little spontaneous live painting.
In February, it was off to Nashville, TN to speak at The Foundry and attend the inaugural C3 Conference. I’d heard about the great work with the arts that Scott McLeod and his team at The Foundry and Harvest Sound have humbly and consistently cultivated over the years; weekly worship coffeehouses, church services, worship training schools, music and recording ministry, and mentoring. And my heart felt at home when I experienced the enthusiasm with which they worship and the love and inclusiveness that pervade the place. I spoke on Tuesday night to a small but VERY enthusiastic crowd, and snuck back in on Friday night to absorb some of their weekend worship. One of the highlights for me that night was when one of the singers cut loose on the word “blood”, screaming it out like “screamo” bands do. “Nothing but the BLOOOOD!!” It was thrillingly appropriate. I look forward to visiting The Foundry again, soon!
After The Foundry, and still in Nashville, The first annual C3 Conference got underway. The lineup of speakers was remarkable: Andy Crouch, Mako Fujimura, Donald Miller, and more presented some of the richest insight on the arts/faith connection that I’ve experienced at a gathering like this. Organizer Tim Jones offered us booth space to share the New Renaissance mission and materials. If you are looking for an excellent arts conference and you are anywhere near Nashville, I highly recommend C3, March 1-3. Andy and Mako will both return this year.
Vineyard National Conference
In May I headed to Phoenix and the Vineyard National Leaders Conference. One of the hats I wear is Director of Arts at the Indy Vineyard Church, and I love the Vineyard’s international legacy in the arts. The movement has always welcomed artists, having been started by a musician (John Wimber), and Vineyard worship music played a central role in the revolution of contemporary church music in the 80’s. Jessie Nilo, my cowriter and Director of VineArts at the Boise Vineyard, and I believe that this movement can lead the way in the visual and performance arts, as well. We hosted two workshops at this conference, “How to Start and Arts Ministry in Your Church” and “The Emerging Role of the Arts in the Vineyard”, both well attended with enthusiastic audiences. Our sense that God is stirring Vineyard churches to embrace the arts was confirmed many times while we were in Phoenix, so much so that we’re in the process of planning two creative arts conferences based in our home churches. More info on this will be announced shortly.
I always take some time to get out and touch the landscape wherever I am. The desert around Phoenix has always been a favorite and the cactus flowers were blooming. It was 50 degrees in Indy and 105 in Phoenix. Perfect.
Later in May I braved the bumpy heat thermals of the Phoenix airport once again, on my way to Sacramento, CA, to lead a full-day FDI seminar for Bridgeway Church’s Haven arts ministry. This was the beginning of an 8-day Northern California trip. It can be tough to be away that long, but the fact that my lovely daughter Hailee (20) came along made it a fun, funky adventure. (Which, by the way, is a fairly accurate description of her as a person!) In spite of some surprise physical difficulties on my part, God was at work and the presence of the Holy Spirit was indelible at our Bridgeway seminar, as people learned, shared, and dreamed about His design for their creativity. Again, there is nothing like seeing eyes light up and smiles spread as people get in touch with their ability to hear God’s voice and creatively collaborate with Him. I made some wonderful new friends, and we got to sow into the cool things that God is doing to bring the arts to life in Sacramento. That area seems to be a hotspot for the arts/faith renaissance.
After that, Hailee got to live every bohemian 20-year old’s dream of exploring San Francisco. Then we took in the beauty of Golden Gate bridge, Muir Woods, and the stunning coastline.
Bethel School of Supernatural Creativity
The second speaking stop on this trip was Redding, and the influential Bethel Church. In 2010 I devoted a blog post to the wonderful experience that Danielle and I had at the Bethel creativity conference that summer. That was an especially meaningful time for Danielle, and it turned out to be similarly significant for Hailee. She found her “tribe”, a group of people free to spontaneously create and express what God seemed to be doing in the moment, and she couldn’t stop smiling. This was a huge answer to my prayers.
There is a uniquely free spirit of creativity at Bethel, and fresh ideas seem to flow. These people aren’t afraid to take creative risks. A creative encounter room featured roving drama teams doing spontaneous performances for individuals, acting and speaking as God led them. A culinary team made delicious prophetic desserts then gave you the interpretation as you ate them. Young artists from the church’s elementary school prayed with adults then made pictures of what they thought God might be saying.
The main sessions with Shawn Bolz, Teresa Dedmon, and Patricia King were inspiring and enlightening. It was a blast leading the workshop, “Finding Your Unique Role in the Coming New Renaissance of the Arts”, and around half the total conference attendees signing up to come. As I was winding down the message, Hailee unexpectedly came to the mic and led a spontaneous prayer for my jaw trouble, not caring that the whole thing was a live, internationally streamed telecast! When she was 18 she had the meanings of her names, Hailee: “heroine”, and Greer: “courageous”, tattooed on her feet. That afternoon I saw her step into the fulfillment of those prophetic identities. Among all the other highlights of 2011, I’d have to say that was the best moment of my year.
Still glowing from our experience at Bethel, we headed back to Sacramento to wrap up the trip up with a talk at a Holy Trinity Catholic church in El Dorado Hills. It was the first time I’d spoken to an exclusively Catholic audience and I found it surprisingly refreshing. Where many Protestants have difficulty connecting our senses with the mysteries of God, Catholics were raised that way. Many of them have no problem thinking about how God might be speaking through nature, in signs and wonders, or even the face of Jesus on a grilled cheese sandwich. The Pope’s recent embrace of the arts and artists is wonderful, and it’s one of the things that inspired the creation of the New Renaissance Arts Movement.
I look forward to speaking in more Catholic venues!
CIVA Biennial Conference
June brought another trip west, this time to Biola University in Los Angelos for the biennial CIVA (Christians in the Visual Arts) Conference. I was invited to lead the Spiritual Formation track (3, 90 min. workshops), a real honor, and host a nightly prayer time for the artists.
I’d been experiencing some severe spiritual attacks in the week leading up to the conference. That often happens when I’m preparing to speak, but this time was particularly intense. Sitting in the prayer “hot seat” of my church home group the night before I was to leave, I told the group how utterly overwhelmed I felt. As they prayed, God completely lifted the crushing spiritual oppression. I left the Poland’s house with a strong sense of joy and that carried through the whole weekend. How wonderful!
The first workshop I led at CIVA was “Finding your authentic voice: Becoming who you were meant to be”, and the little lecture hall was nearly full. This workshop included an exercise in “soaking” in God’s presence (with music) and asking Him to let us know how much He loves us. Understanding and centering on this unconditional love and acceptance is, of course, one of the keys to breaking the difficulties that artist have, like performance orientation and fear. One woman who works for a Christian college told me later that while the exercise was going on she was not hearing anything. She felt disappointed. Suddenly, the e.e. cummings poem, “maggie and milly and molly and may”, popped into her head.
Then she heard God say, “I love you enough to give you back yourself”. She told me she’d felt trapped in her administrative job. This little moment meant God saw her heart. Her eyes welled up as we spoke, and I sensed God saying that she needed to make retreat time a regular part of her schedule, something she’d just felt too busy to do.
The second workshop was called “The joy of collaborating with God”, and featured the in-depth modeling of listening to God through practicing the Lord’s Prayer. Several people from the first workshop returned, which I had hope for. The third and final workshop in the track featured a panel of 5 artists talking about their spiritual journey and spiritual practices. There was standing room only and lots of engaging conversation.
In addition to the panels, the CIVA folks asked me to head up a nightly prayer ministry for the artists, so for 3 nights from 9:30-10:30 Jessie and I prayed for whoever came by the little campus prayer chapel. God gave us words and pictures for these folks and the tears and expressions of relief were worth every minute.
I got to see my friend and co-worker in the New Renaissance, Jessie Nilo, step more fully into her calling as a mentor and coach to arts ministers. She had committed to come to the conference on faith, knowing only that she would be praying for people with me and add some to one of my workshops, but by the time she arrived she’d been asked to share her thoughts in two different panels! We also had wonderful support from Jessie’s co-leader in Boise, Lisa Marten.
Considering all that God did at this conference, its no wonder the spiritual attacks were so intense!
Cultivation Generation Boise
In August I traveled west one more time to join my friends in Boise for a large youth conference called Cultivation Generation. I led a couple of workshops for the kids (ages 12 up), teaching them to listen for God’s voice and share His messages with others through art. This was one of the first times I’d brought the FDI message exclusively to kids and it was so fun to watch them dive in and connect with God and others. As there leaders kept telling them, “There is no ‘Junior Holy Spirit’, God will move in and through you as powerfully as in an adult.” It was wonderful to be a part of planting seeds of faith in those young hearts.
Thanks to the VineArts team, artists painted and kids created during all the main conference sessions.
Later that weekend we did a special workshop the VineArts ministry. I’d been to Boise in 2010 to do a similar workshop that turned out to be one of my favorite things that year, so I was looking forward to this! We really got into listening to God and hearing His heart for us in the 3 hour session and several people came away with wonderful encounters and testimonies. I got to pray with a number of people for freedom from fear, perfectionism, performance orientation and healing. Learn more about my friends in Boise here.
Gathering of Artisans
I traveled to Ashville, NC at the end of September for the Gathering of Artisans weekend and gave 2 workshops, 3 hours each called “Collaborating with God to Find Your Creative Potential”. Both sessions were wonderful, with several individual breakthroughs and “aha” moments, encouraging words from God, tears, and a strong sense of the God’s presence at some points. It was interesting to see how God put a very different twist on the separate sessions, but both were fun and effective. I made a lot of great new friends over the weekend and enjoyed the wide array of fabulous artistic gifting at the conference. Hailee and my mom came along for the trip, as well.
The traveling year ended with Creative Encounter ’11, another event that went beyond my—and I think everyone’s—expectations. The late October fall colors were on display outside at the Camp Tecumseh Leadership Center in Northern Indiana, and encouragement and affirmation flowed inside. We had 27 participants, all primed and ready to collaborate with God for a full weekend! The Holy Spirit was wonderfully present and our prayer times were especially good. The tracks–Art and Writing–were great times of insight, breakthrough, and fun. There were many testimonies and revelations and I think everyone (including me) went away with more inspiration than they expected, and a sense that God is taking us to a new level of collaboration and freedom. It was a wonderful way to wrap up the year.
This is the part where I might say something like, “And I expect 2012 to be EVEN BETTER!” Maybe it will. There are certainly some exciting things coming up, which I’ll share more on shortly, but my main goal this year is to hear God’s voice more clearly and be obedient in what He’s given me to do.
And if you made it to the end of this epic post, thanks for your interest in what God has been doing with the Finding Divine Inspiration and New Renaissance message! I pray that He would continue to open new doors and give clear guidance in the things He’s called you to, as well.
In 2012, may His kingdom come, His will be done on earth as it is above!
I am enjoying your book and also this newsletter. Am looking to God for a touch of serious healing after some spinal surgery… I have so many ideas for my church which they are open to but the touch of his healing hand is so needed.