Meanderings “Having gifts…let us use them.”

(Painting titled “Pots of Clay” inspired by 2 Corinthians 4:7, painted to be used to illustrate a sermon at my church.)

“Having gifts…let us use them.” (Romans 12:3-8)

I am humbled and also contemplating my calling as a Christian artist/leader. Here’s why; I received a message from a friend. She was thanking me for encouraging her to show her art work in a recent art show I organize at my church.  Frankly, I was surprised and humbled by her acknowledgement and appreciation.  The reason for my surprise is because my desire to encourage, teach, and help Christian artists to share their gifts is a calling from God done out of my effort towards obedience.  Just like much of the artwork that God inspires and allows me to create. It is part of my calling as a Christian artist. Therefore, in creating art and encouraging other artists, I am turning this calling into an act of obedience to God. My goal and prayer is that all my work and efforts would be motivated by my desire to please God and give Him glory.  That is why, when someone thanks or credits me for encouraging them to share their art, I am humbled.

This striving towards obedience is also my motivation for organizing opportunities for Christian artists to display their creations.  As Christian artists we are called to create things that give glory to the original creator, the one that taught us and continues to teach us to create.  If you are an artist and a Christian, what motivates you to create and show your art?  Do you attend a church that supports and encourages creative types to use their unique gifts? Are people at your church given opportunities to use their creative and unique gifts as part of worship and other events? Scripture teaches us, “For as in one body we have many members and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ,” (Romans 12:4). Therefore, if you are a leader in your church, do you look for, welcome, and encourage artists that exist within your membership?  Does your church provide opportunities for artists that work outside the traditional and expected art forms (i.e. music and liturgical arts) to use their God given gifts?  1 Peter 4:10-11 is very clear about how this should work.  “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace; whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies – in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

If you are a Christian artist are you taking time to encourage other creatives to use their gifts as a way to give glory to God?  Let’s go back to scripture to learn what Jesus has to say about this unique mission for His people. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”  (Matthew 5:14-16)  So friends, “encourage each another every day, while you still have something called ‘today’.  Help each other so that none of you will be fooled by sin and become too hard to change.” (Hebrews 3:13 ERV)

So this is why I am humbled and contemplative today. These are some of the questions and thoughts that my friend’s message brought to my mind.  We are all called…no commanded…to support, encourage, teach, and help others to shine their light for God’s glory.  This is our Holy calling.

Meanderings by Marianne Gonzales Sims

Jesus Overwhelmed (Matt. 13:33-35)

I have been hearing the word “overwhelmed” in conversations with my Christian artist friends lately and it concerns me.  I have found, over the years, that the word overwhelmed is a word that people use to describe the feeling of a great mental and emotional weight accompanied by anxiety.  I understand how artist types, including myself, may be especially prone to these feelings.  It could be because we tend to have a heightened sense of awareness and sensitivity to our surroundings. This sensitivity can sometimes lead to feelings of being overwhelmed and anxious. Many of us also tend to be perfectionists which can also lead to anxiety.  This anxiety includes being in a constant state of criticizing oneself because “good” never seems “good” enough.

So why, as Christian artists, should we be especially concerned about these feelings? There are two reasons.  One reason is that this feeling can lead us down a path of stifled creativity and a diminished drive to engage in our artist work.  This work is a gift given to us by our Creator who calls us to use this gift for His glory.  Therefore it is very important that we do not allow negative feelings, thoughts and emotions to stifle it.  The second reason is that being overwhelmed and anxious in this life is NOT how God wants us to live.  Given this, I would like to start by exploring what the bible has to say about the feeling of being overwhelmed.

In scripture the apostle Mark tells of a time when Jesus, knowing the great trial, pain and suffering ahead of him said, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch.  Going a little farther he fell to the ground and prayed.” (Mark 14:33-35)  Let’s break these verses down a bit.  First off, don’t you find it reassuring, to learn that even our Lord Jesus had such times of feeling overwhelmed and anxious?  Take comfort in the fact that we do not live in a bubble of isolation where no one understands our pain.  Jesus understands it! “My soul”, he says, “is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of DEATH.”  His feeling of being overwhelmed was so strong that he describes it to his good friends as sorrow and death.

He goes on to asks his friends for help. “Stay here and keep watch,” he tells them.  When you’re feeling overwhelmed do you reach out to your friends, your “tribe” of fellow artists and Christians?  Maybe attend an artist’s retreat, join an art club, get together with friends to create art.  God’s perfect plan includes placing us in community with other believers and artists who can listen, care and maybe help.

What does Jesus do next?  He goes straight to prayer. “…he fell to the ground and prayed.” Jesus, who is our model in all things, shows us how to deal with feeling overwhelmed…turn to God in prayer.  Jesus himself said “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28). He is there if you just seek him and ask for His guidance and help.  God’s perfect plan for us is that we would live joyful, productive lives, in communion with him, engaged in our community and in activities that bring glory to Him.

Acknowledging that creating art can be both physically and mentally exhausting is also important. This exhaustion can help contribute to feelings of being overwhelmed and anxious.  Add to that the constant stress of deadlines, high cost of supplies, entering art shows only to have your piece rejected, time constraints…the list goes on and on.  Are you taking time to rest and recharge your creative battery?  I recharge by engaging in other types of art like singing in choir, seeing a good movie, going to a gallery, reading and writing.  I also spend time alone. My “quiet time” is extremely important to me.  How did Jesus recharge?  Also by spending restful time in retreat.  Once again Jesus models for us how to deal with these negative feelings.  From the gospel of Mark there is an example of this. “Because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.'” (Mark 6:31)  I love this quote by Saint Francis de Sales who was a Roman Catholic bishop and doctor in the 16th century; “Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself.”  Be patience with yourself. Give yourself a break. Get some rest.

Another helpful attitude I have developed over the years is to think of my art as a process not a product.  Try creating art just for the sheer joy of it.  With no preconceived ideas. I think that creating art should be like going on an unplanned road trip, full of fun and adventure.  Try not to approach it with feelings of being overwhelmed and anxious.  Surrender the notion of constantly trying to control the outcome.  Rethink how and why you create.  A resource I would highly recommend is a book by Steven Aimone called “Expressive Drawing, A Practical Guide to Freeing the Artist Within.”  This book is a colorful fun “workshop” full of examples and inspiration that will help you rediscover the fun adventure that creating should be.

If you’re a creative type or any type who has been feeling overwhelmed and anxious remember:

  1. Pray every day, constantly.
  2. Spend time with your tribe.
  3. Don’ t be afraid to ask for help.
  4. Take time to rest and recharge.
  5. Rethink how you think about and approach each project.

Meanderings by Art by Marianne

The Christian Artist and Christmas.

This Christmas season has been especially exhausting to me. To say I’m exhausted is an understatement. It’s more like a feeling of being completely depleted.  Wrung out.  Near collapse.  Last night at our church’s Christmas eve service, while singing in the choir, the great weight of this overwhelming exhaustion hit me hard.  This unusual feeling startled me so much that I prayed to God to help me get through the evening.  I understand and appreciate that this time of year finds many people in this same condition but for me this is a very out of the ordinary feeling. I’m not used to being exhausted.  My normal state is one of joy, child-like excitement and creative energy.  I have very little patience for those who complain about being “exhausted” and “overwhelmed” as part of their normal conversation. Therefore, so as not be “one of those people”, I’ve spent much of today thinking and praying about how and why I became like this. “Why God?” I’ve been asking, “Why am I feeling so overwhelmingly exhausted?”  Yes, I have the normal life events happening, job changes, family illness, a long list of “to dos” but there must be something more going on.  And while thinking and praying about my new condition a thought came to me…I’m on sensory and emotional overload.  Those family illnesses I mentioned have been more than just a cold or the flu. They are things that have required hospitalization and trips to the doctor. The long list of to dos just never ends.   Adding this to the extra music, decorations, lights, colors, people, food, noise, and hustle bustle of the season can make daily life become overwhelming to even the non-artistic types.

Please let me explain further. As an artist, the added visual and sensory stimulus that comes with the holiday season, combined with the everyday life stressors, can send us completely over the “cliff of exhaustion”.  Artists by nature are sensitive and many times overly aware of the visual and auditory beauty that surrounds us during Advent.  While we love it, look forward to it and eagerly participate in it, the sheer volume of it can leave us feeling a little out of sorts, uncomfortable and consequently exhausted.  As you know, being creative, whether it’s painting, writing or composing, takes a lot of mental and sometimes physical energy.  If one combines this with the normal exhaustion that accompanies the Christmas season an artist can begin feeling so overwhelmed that we may even run the risk of temporarily losing our motivation and desire to create.

So how, as Christian artists, do we “heal” from the onslaught of emotional, physical and spiritual exhaustion we call the Christmas season? The answer is simple. We pray, stay in the word, and hold tight in our hearts to the good news that comes with this time of year. On a quiet night, in a quiet town, in a quiet spot our Savior was born.  Hold on to this good news. While we are a long way from our eternal home right now, this good news guarantees repentant believers that someday we will be there. Where we can finally enjoy peaceful rest.

Today, the words to an ancient Christmas carol have been on my mind. The lyrics are a prayer of praise, thankfulness and great hope.  They are a reminder that right here, right now I can find the a measure of the peaceful rest I need in the promise of Christmas and Emmanuel.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

And ransom captive Israel.

That morns in lonely exile here.

Until the Son of God appears.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to thee O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-Spring come and cheer.

Our spirits by Thine advent here

Disperse the gloomy clouds of night.

And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emanuel

Shall come to thee O Israel.

O come Desire of Nations.

Bind all Peoples in one heart and mind.

Bid Envy, strife and discord cease. Fill the whole earth with

Heaven’s peace.



Meanderings by Art by Marianne

Hi Friends,

I thought I would start my first blog post by introducing myself.  I spent all my “growing up” years (no “serious” artist ever really grows up) in rural towns in Northern California and Southern Oregon.  I was (and still am) a very active and rebellious youngster. Because of this I started painting when my Mom bought me my first paint set as a way to “calm her down” (her words).  Creating artwork has been a calming force in my life very since. I did my first oil on canvas painting in Junior High School and fell in love. (Just as I side note; can you imagine, in this day and age, a Junior High art teacher giving his/her students oil paints?  This teacher is still one of the super stars of my childhood memories.) While oil painting continues to be my favorite medium I have recently been experimenting with mixed media and acrylic.

A few years ago, God opened my heart and mind to the idea that I should begin using my artwork to minister, teach, worship and further His Kingdom here on earth. (1 Peter 4:10-11 and Ephesians 4:11-16).  God has blessed me accordingly with opportunities to show my artwork at galleries in California and Oregon and it is included in private collections.  My painting titled “I Will Pour out My Spirit on All My People, Acts 2:18” has been published in two Christian magazines.  I currently curate the Art of Faith art gallery and annual art show at Fremont Presbyterian Church. I love teaching and sharing my love of art with others.  It is a great blessing for me to see others be inspired and encouraged to create art.  

 I’ve titled my blog “Meanderings” because when I think about my time here in this place (we call it “life on earth”), that’s the visual image that comes to mind.  God’s word teaches us in James 4:13-15; “Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your Life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “if it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 

So, like a stream, I meander through this life, with God as my channel, determining my course, listening for and trying to follow His will, trying hard to love people and to do things in a way that brings Him glory until I’m called Home.  For me there is no higher calling. 

Thank you for reading.

“Hiding Place” (look closely to see a hidden surprise) Mixed Media on Canvas $500