We Need Higher-Quality Christian Art.

quality art

Today’s Christian media needs some help. Granted, there are some good Christian artists out there. But for the most part, Christian music is shallow and repetitive. Christian books are cliched, and Christian movies are cheesy.

Christian art should not have this reputation. We have so much to share, so much truth and beauty to express in the things we create – so why do Christians continue to recycle cliches and chords and characters to give people a fuzzy feel-good moment rather than a teary-eyed sense of God’s majesty?

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” -Colossians 3:23-24

God demands our best, our diligence, in whatever we have been called to. And this extends to the arts, certainly. If we feel called to a life of creativity, we must then seek to do our best, to learn our craft, to produce things that honor God by showing His excellence. In order to do that, our art has to be objectively good.

A Christian message is not enough. If something is badly written or badly made, it doesn’t matter how many Christian messages it has crammed into it; those messages will not make it automatically good. And the art will not have the impact that it could have.

Our art could be an incredible witness to the world. But if we want it to show the excellencies of God, it has to first be excellent. So, Christian, learn how to do your craft well. Practice often. Don’t be a perfectionist; that’s not what this is about. But put effort into your creativity, knowing that we will never make an impact with books and movies and music that are forgettable and poorly-made.

 

If you are an artist, how do you seek to improve your craft in order to better serve God? Who are some of your favorite artists who create both high-quality and Christian media? Share in the comments! 

love, grace

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Why the Arts Are a Valid Career Path for Christians

arts career

“It’s impossible to make money doing that.” 

“How on earth are you going to support yourself?”

“Maybe you should find a real job.”

Those are all reactions that many young people get when they express their dreams to be a writer, or an actor, or a dancer, or any other kind of artist And sadly, this happens in both secular and Christian circles.

But this is such a problematic way of thinking. If God gives us talents, He wants us to use them for His glory. Shouldn’t the church be encouraging that? God gave that girl a passion for singing, and He doesn’t want to see it wasted. He gave that guy the ability to paint beautifully, and there are so many ways that talent can be used. Telling someone to let go of their God-given passion and ability (whether that’s the arts or something else) in order to get a job that will earn them more money is not Biblical or healthy.

Because the Christian life is not about money. The Christian life is about bringing glory to God with whatever we choose to do. For the Christian, choosing a job should be about several things: What am I good at? What do I enjoy doing? What will make the most impact for the kingdom? What will allow me to continue pursuing God first and foremost in my life?

It should not, ever, be solely based on how much money we will make.

Here’s the thing, too: the arts are not nearly as unrealistic a career path as everyone makes it sound. With the Internet, it’s easier than ever to create a platform, gain a following, and reach people with the things you create. You might not ever be a celebrity, but so many people are finding small success through YouTube or blogging or self-publishing. You don’t have to reach millions of people; you just have to faithfully use your gift and trust that God will cause it to have an impact somewhere.

This is not to say that everyone should go quit their jobs. This is not a call to be irresponsible. We should make wise life choices that allow us to live responsibly and support ourselves, but we can trust God to take care of us, and we can trust that He has a plan for our lives. By having that trust, we can step out in faith and use our gifts if that is what we feel He is calling us to.

For the artist, that could look like getting a part-time job to ensure a little bit of income, and then devoting the rest of your time to creating. It could mean intensively saving money for a year or two, making a solid budget, and only then quitting your job and dedicating yourself to the arts full-time. Whatever you choose to do, do it prayerfully, seeking God’s will. It might be hard. It will take perserverance and faith. But why do we always look for the job that will make us the most money with the least work? If something is hard, that means it will be worthwhile in the end. If something is disappointing for a while, the success will be all the sweeter.

And ultimately, the world’s vision of success is fundamentally flawed. We can’t let it blind us to what God cares about. If your writing causes one person to come to faith, that is success. If your song heals one person’s heart after a terrible tragedy, that is success. Those are the successes that bring glory to God. And those are the successes that the world needs more of.

Seeking to spend your life using your gifts for God’s glory is not stupid. It’s not reckless. It is, in fact, what we are designed to do.

Even if your gifts aren’t considered a “real job”.

 

Have you ever had people say things like this to you about your passions? How do you plan to use your gifts to glorify God, both now and in the future? Share in the comments! 

love, grace

Read more:

Why Christians Should Care About the Arts

So I Got Deferred from Princeton This Week.

When You Don’t Know Your Purpose (and the Future Seems a Scary Thing)

On the Movie Screen: Jan-March 2018

on the movie screen.jpg

A new feature, in which I share with you what I’ve been watching, and what I would recommend! 

Movies

Mini-Mini-Mini Reviews: 

Hamlet (3 stars) – appreciated that it was totally unabridged, although it made it a monster-length movie

Persuasion (3.5 stars) – really rushed, although I loved the casting of Anne and Wentworth

Interstellar (3 stars) – not quite as much of a wow as I hoped

The Greatest Showman (4 stars) – will probably rewatch over and over, family-friendly, a visual treat, and the music is amazing

Captain America (5 stars) – my fourth time watching it, successfully got my friend obsessed

The Truman Show (5 stars) – entertaining, yet also deeply thought-provoking, great attention to detail, could write an entire book analyzing it…probably my favorite of the year so far!! must watch!!

Miracle (4 stars) – I always like sports movies more than I think I will

Black Panther (4 stars) – not my favorite Marvel movie, but really good, I loved Shuri, and I appreciated that they tackled really important issues without an agenda-y tone

The Importance of Being Earnest (4 stars) – absolutely perfectly-cast from the play, hilarious, just a really light and enjoyable movie (especially if you want to see Colin Firth in a very different role from Mr. Darcy)!

I Can Only Imagine (3 stars) – inspirational, and I cried a lot

TV

Mini-Mini-Mini Reviews: 

The Great British Baking Show (season 1) – super fun and makes me hungry, the contestants are really positive and support each other (no backstabbing)

Friends (episodes 1-10) – started watching and decided to stop because it wasn’t really clean, so be warned, wouldn’t recommend starting at all because it’s addicting

Mansfield Park (miniseries) – not the highest-quality filming, loved some of the casting and hated others, but liked how true it was to the book

 

What did you watch in the last couple of months? Do you agree with my ratings? Do you want longer reviews or content guides for any of these movies? Let me know in the comments! 

(Also let me know your thoughts on the format of this post. I’m experimenting and I want your suggestions and feedback!) 

love, grace

Interview with Victoria Lynn – London in the Dark Anniversary Tour!

London in the Dark.png

Hi everyone! Today I’m really excited to bring you a slightly different post. Fellow blogger Victoria Lynn is hosting a blog tour to celebrate the publication anniversary of her book London in the Dark, and I’m participating!

It seemed opportune since I’ve been thinking a lot about Christians and the arts lately, and Victoria is a lovely example of someone seeking to use their gifts for the glory of God. I ask her more about that in my interview with her! Plus you can get more information about her book, and enter the giveaway she’s hosting this weekend.

About London in the Dark

London Cover Full (2)London, 1910

Budding Private Detective Cyril Arlington Hartwell has a conundrum. London is being ravaged by the largest run of thefts in recent history. His hunch that it is all tied together may put him and those he loves in more danger than he could have reckoned.

Olivia Larken Hartwell is just home from boarding school for the summer anticipating time with her adoring parents. She misses her absent brother, Cyril, hoping for the day he will finally come home. But tragedy strikes, causing upheaval for all concerned and changes her life in a way she never could have imagined.

Olivia, Cyril, and their friends must bring the hidden to light, seek to execute justice, and dispel the darkness that hovers over London… and their hearts.

 

Meet the Author

headshot for book and websiteVictoria Lynn is in her 20s and if she’s not writing, she is probably sewing, singing, playing the piano, washing dishes, creating something with her hands, or learning something new. She has a passion for serving her Creator, encouraging others and being creative. She blogs at www.rufflesandgrace.com about writing, fashion, modesty, her walk with God and life. She lives in Michigan with her parents and 8 siblings.

 

My Interview w/Victoria

Welcome to the blog, Victoria! I’m so excited to have you here. 

Thanks so much for having me Grace! I am excited to be here!

When did you start writing?

I have always been writing stories. I have lots of notebooks and binders full of things I have written over the years. It was about three years ago that I started writing with the idea of publishing in mind.

What advice do you have for young people who want to start pursuing their passion?

Don’t be afraid to try new things. To push yourself. Learn everything you can about what you want to do, and most importantly, pray and ask God’s blessing and guidance.

How do you incorporate your faith into your writing?

It’s not so much a matter of incorporating as it is a matter of letting it flow. I can’t seem to write anything without the truth of God’s word flowing into it. And I hope and pray that God breathes into my writing and uses it to encourage others.

What impact have writing and storytelling had on your life?

Ooh. that’s a tough question. It has really given me a purpose. I’ve really found something special in doing this and it feels like such a gift. I feel so blessed to be able to do this and to have so much inspiration.

What does a day in your writing life look like? How do you find balance between writing and other responsibilities, such as family?

Good question, to be honest, I find a hard time balancing it in the other direction. Writing is something that I have to find and make time for. It’s hard, but I have to be purposeful about it and MAKE the time to write, or it will fall by the wayside and I tend to put it off. Any small moment is worth it.

What are a few books that you think everyone should read?

Every girl should read Little Women and Anne of Green Gables. Louisa May Alcott was the biggest inspiration of mine along with L.M. Montgomery and Grace Livingston Hill. Some other little-known classics are by Gene Stratton Porter. Read Freckles. Your life won’t be the same. 😀

What are your plans for future books?

London in the Dark is the first book of a trilogy. Book two is coming along quite nicely and I hope to finish the first draft in the next few months. I am also nearly finished with a modern suspense that I hope to have published by the end of the year. Lots of great things happening and I can’t wait to share them with the world. 😀

Thanks, Victoria! Best wishes in all your future writing endeavors. It’s so great to connect with someone seeking to honor God with their art. 

Thanks so much for having me Grace, it has been a pleasure!

 

Giveaway

Victoria is hosting a giveaway to celebrate! Here are the details:

Giveaway

First Place winner must be in the United States only. Winner receives one paperback autographed copy of London in the Dark, a London themed t-shirt of their choice from my Zazzle shop, and one Book Themed mug designed by me from my Zazzle shop.

2 second place winners. Open internationally. Receives one ebook copy of London in the Dark.

Click here to enter!

Learn More:

Find London in the Dark on Amazon and Goodreads.

Join in the Facebook event today and tomorrow for more fun.

Find Victoria Lynn around the web:

Blog

Amazon

Facebook

Instagram

Pinterest

Go check out these links and give Victoria some love! 

 

 

I’ll be reviewing London in the Dark sometime in the next month, so keep an eye out for that too! 

Have you read London in the Dark? Will you read it? How do you make time for the things you love to do? Share in the comments! 

love, grace

Why Christians Should Care About the Arts

 

arts

Photo by David Hofmann on Unsplash

I love the arts.

I write fiction, and I am a voracious reader. I’ve been dancing since I was six. I sing in choir and play the piano.

And recently, as I’ve started to make plans for my future, I’ve been thinking a lot about my purpose. Since the arts are such a big part of my life, I’ve been thinking a lot about their purpose, too, and about how I might be called to use them.

And I’ve come to the conclusion that the arts are a vital, important part of the Christian life, and of our witness to the world.

Made in God’s image, we create because He is creative. Without Him, art would not exist. Beauty would not exist. From the Fall, He left us remnants of beauty, slivers of what heaven will be like, reminders that He is good, and beautiful, and lovely, even when it feels like the world is a mess. And so for the Christian, everything we create is a little reflection of the beauty of the God we worship.

This is why I believe the arts are so important. I think that in artistic expression, we see God’s glory in a different way. There are parts of God’s nature that can’t be put into words – and the arts help us to portray that feeling of awe and love that can’t be expressed any other way. Well-made art is glorifying to God because it shows His beauty, helping us to connect with Him more deeply and fully.

Thanks to God’s common grace, this even extends to art made by unbelievers. Since there would be no beauty without God, anything that is beautiful points back to Him, intentionally or not. And if even secular art brings this kind of glory to God, what happens when Christians purposefully harness the power of creativity as a witness to the world? What happens when we cultivate our talents and then channel them into making real, high-quality art that honors our God?

Amazing things happen.

So I think it’s a mistake for Christians to be afraid of the arts, to refuse to let their kids read fiction, to think all dancing is sinful…or even to think that artistic pursuits are less important, less valid, not a real career or a meaningful contribution to the world.

We believe in a beautiful God. And our art, whether music or writing or dance or anything else, brings Him glory in a special way, and broadcasts His beauty to the world.

 

This post probably doesn’t even do justice to the amount of thoughts I’ve been having on this subject lately – expect to see more exploration of it in coming months. So let’s start a conversation in the comments! I could talk about this all day. How do you glorify God through art? What do you think about secular vs. Christian art and media? Where do you see God’s beauty in your daily life? 

love, grace

Read more:

Why I Don’t Limit Myself to “Christian” Entertainment

Music Spotlight: The Gray Havens

Superheroes, Science, and Sanderson (Reading Recap Jan-Feb 2018)

I’m starting something new today: here on the blog, every two or three months I’m going to share a collection of the books I read and highlight what I thought of a few of them. Here’s my collection from January and February.

*the inspiration for this post’s format came from the lovely Tracey at Adventure Awaits, this post in particular!

12 books (9 fiction, 2 nonfiction, 1 play)

Lowest-Rated

stargirl

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli – 2.5 stars

unsatisfying ending//looks at an important problem but offers no solution//rushed romance//new age elements//genius in some ways but overall disappointingly forgettable

heart of darkness

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad – 2.5 stars

read for AP Literature class//beautiful writing and fun to analyze//super weird though

Rereads

penderwicks

The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Jeanne Birdsall 

approximately the fourth time I’ve read this//made me almost cry//never gets old

a tale of two cities

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens 

amazing in a different way the second time//wow, the foreshadowing//must read

Favorite Reads

renegades

Renegades by Marissa Meyer – 4 stars 

totally met my expectations//incredibly unique settings//memorable characters//read entire second half in one day//thought it was a standalone, need the sequel now

earnest

The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde – 4 stars 

read for AP Literature//read out loud in class which is highly recommended//hilarious Victorian comedy//so much quotableness

counted worthy

Counted Worthy by Leah E. Good – 4 stars 

didn’t feel self-published//Christianity not sentimental or cheesy//inspiring//I need to memorize more Bible verses//God is bigger than government

final empire

The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson – 4 stars 

audiobook//narrator makes great voices//how did it take me so long to read this??

 

What were your favorite reads of the last few months? Which of these books would you like me to review? Have you read any of them? And what do you think of this post format? Share in the comments! 

love, grace

How to Study the Bible: The Verse Brainstorming Method

biblestudy-4

Today I want to share another method for digging into Bible verses that I discovered a while ago. I used it for a good chunk of time recently before switching to another method, and I’m sure I’ll go back to it again (I change my routines up often).

I first got the idea for this method when reading Tim Keller’s book Hidden Christmas. In the book, he tells the story of a conference he went to where the speaker instructed them to write down at least thirty things they could learn from Mark 1:17, listing things for a whole thirty minutes even if it seemed there was nothing else to possibly write. It sounded intriguing, and so I decided to try it.

And every single time I picked a verse and spent long enough writing things down, I made some kind of breakthrough discovery in my understanding of the verse, something I would never have gotten out of a ten-minute study. It made me realize that the majority of the time, I don’t go nearly deep enough in my Bible studies. So today I want to share this method with you.

The Method

I’m not going to do an example, because this is a very straightforward method that would be hard to demonstrate thoroughly in a blog post. Here’s how it works:

  1. Choose a verse.
  2. Choose an amount of time (thirty minutes recommended) to write things down. Choose this before you start so you won’t be tempted to stop whenever you think you’ve run out of things to write!
  3. Write down everything you learn from the verse. Continue writing things down until your time is up (I promise there’s always more to say).

That’s all! Really simple, but the extended amount of time forces you to pay a lot more attention and care to what you’re reading, to dig for definitions of specific words, historical context, Biblical context, application points, etc. Think of it as a brainstorming session, where you jot down absolutely everything that comes to mind. Depending on your handwriting and speed, you should be able to fill 2-3 pages of a notebook easily.

You’ll probably be surprised at the really good insights that start to show up 15-20 minutes into the session (so don’t give up early!).

When to Use It

If you’re in a dry season in your Christian walk, or you’re starting to feel like you’re not getting anything out of your devotions, this is a great method to help you reignite the spark and make some new discoveries about what you’re reading. It’s especially great to use for studying those familiar or cliche verses that we’ve all seen so often we’ve forgotten what they really mean.

When Not to Use It

If you don’t have the time to commit at least twenty minutes (and thirty is better…or even more) then this method probably isn’t the right choice. I would recommend the  SOAP method I shared last week to study a verse in a rush.

But if you have the time (and even if you have to make the time) this is an amazing method to try! It takes some diligence and patience, but it’s totally worth it for the insights you’ll gain.

What do you think? Have you ever tried this, or will you try it now? How else do you like to study verses? Share in the comments! 

love, grace

Book Review: Counted Worthy

Image result for counted worthy

Counted Worthy by Leah E. Good

My Rating: 4.5 stars

Age Suggestion: 12+

About the Book

Heather Stone lives in fear of repeating the past, yet she continues doing the one thing that could trigger another disaster. When the police trace an illegal Bible to her house, Heather’s world begins to crumble.

Her father’s life hangs in the balance. No one with the power to help knows or cares. If she tries to save him, she could lead her friends to their deaths. If she does nothing, her father’s fate is certain. Can she evade a hostile police force and win public sympathy before it’s too late? (from Goodreads)

My Thoughts

This book is scary to read; it’s dystopian, yet it doesn’t feel like much of a stretch from where our society is right now. A government intent on hunting down Christians, Bible-smuggling, and a society built on fear and lies are what make up the backdrop of this book, and it is a terrifying backdrop.

But that is what makes the book even more inspiring. Because it follows a girl who, even in the midst of all of this fear, is willing to stand up for what is right and do what it takes to get her father out of jail, and all of the people who stand with her.

The plot is exciting and fast-paced. It doesn’t offer trite answers or simple solutions, but shows the struggle of being a Christian in a hostile world honestly and clearly, with a good dose of action and banter mixed in which makes it a quick, engaging read. Heather’s character development is phenomenal. I can’t say too much about it without giving away the ending, but it ties so beautifully into the theme and is so well-done. And she’s surrounded by a cast of supporting characters who all have unique situations, strengths, and personalities. Especially Bryce. I love the simple care and chastity of their relationship, although I reallly hope it develops into a romantic one in the future 😉

The world-building is good, although the plot is very limited to one area, so I didn’t get much of a sense of the surrounding world. I do feel like that might have been purposeful, and I’m hoping to get more details about the history and the government in all of that in future books.

The writing really surprised me with how good it was! I went in knowing that this was a self-published book, and as such, expecting the writing to be the weak link, as I’ve found is the case so often with self-published books. But not this one! The writing is short and to-the-point, but somehow still manages to pack in tons of detail. Overall, in both writing and design, Counted Worthy didn’t feel self-published, and I could tell that Good knows her stuff.

And ultimately, the best thing about this book is the Christian themes. This might be the first Christian fiction book I’ve ever read that portrayed Christianity with high stakes, deep emotion, and no cheesiness. The Bible-quoting felt seamless and powerful, the faith wasn’t instant or easy. This book showed how hard Christianity can be, and how worth it. It showed how faith makes a person brave even when they’re scared. And it was powerful. Christianity in fiction is very hard to get right, and this book gets it right for sure. 

(Content: No language. Bryce and Heather have a boyfriend-girlfriend act they use to attract less attention, but there’s very little focus on it and their relationship is pretty much totally platonic. Some slightly intense scenes because of the genre and subject matter.)

Overall, I think every Christian should read this book, and I absolutely cannot wait for a sequel to come out!

Have you read Counted Worthy? Did you like it? How do you feel about Christianity in fiction, and what other books have you read that do it well? Share in the comments below! 

love, grace

Read more:

Book Review: The Divergent Series by Veronica Roth

8 Books Every Christian Teen Should Read

Writing for Building Up (or, I’m Tired of Depressing Stories)

How to Study the Bible: The SOAP Method

biblestudy-3

In the last two posts in this series, I shared two methods for studying long passages of Scripture to get an overview of their meaning in context. If you missed those, check them out here and here. Today I want to move on, and focus on the first of two methods for breaking down individual verses.

I want to note that there is a place for both things in the Christian life, and one is not better than another. Studying larger passages helps us get a sense of the context and scope of what we’re reading about, to see the full story and the broader sweep of God’s plan. But there’s also a lot to learn from taking a microscope to a particular verse, getting down into the details, and this method, one that I’ve seen on Pinterest many times (I didn’t make it up!), is a simple one that will help you do just that.

The Method

  1. S: Scripture. Choose a verse and copy it down word-for-word.
  2. O: Observation. Write a few sentences about the meaning of the verse.
  3. A: Application. Write a few sentences about how the verse’s meaning applies to your life.
  4. P: Prayer. Write out a quick prayer relating to the verse.

For an example, let’s use 1 John 2:17.

S: “And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” 

O: Everything that people chase after outside of God’s will is temporary and ultimately meaningless. This world will go by like a flash, and trying to find meaning only in the things of the world is a fruitless pursuit. We find purpose and meaning in our lives by knowing God’s will and living it out. He has provided a way to eternal life, that allows us to bypass the temporary nature of the world.

A: There’s no reason to wish for things that I can’t or don’t have. I have God, and that’s enough – being able to live “freely”, do things the Bible forbids, or seek entirely after worldly things would never make me as happy as I sometimes fall into the trap of thinking it would.

P: Lord, help me to remember this verse when everything around me is glittering temptingly. Help me to remember that pursuing Your best for my life is the only way to happiness, and to see worldly things as temporary and fading.

When to Use It

This method is great when you don’t have a lot of time for Bible study. It doesn’t require you to do a lot of reading – you can read 3 or 4 verses and then choose one to focus on. It’s a quick and simple way to cover the important points.

When Not to Use It

Honestly, anytime you want to study a verse, this a great method to come back to. You can adjust it to be as quick or as deep as you want: the Observation section could take two minutes or it could take twenty. You could write out a two-sentence prayer or a two-page prayer. There really isn’t a time that this method can’t be adapted to fit your needs.

Next week, I’ll share another method that I started using recently to study verses that’s a little more time-consuming and naturally goes a lot deeper.

What do you think? Have you tried this method? Do you like it? What are your favorite ways to study individual Bible verses? Leave a comment and let me know! 

love, grace

Read more:

4 Reasons to Read the Bible

Lessons from the Law: How to Get Into the Old Testament for Yourself

5 Ways to Stay Grounded in Truth This School Year

Favorites Roundup: December/January ’17-’18

winterfavs edited

First of all, The Rebelution went through a recent leadership transition. Read Jaquelle’s goodbye and Christopher’s hello to catch up.

I got some really great ideas from this video!

 This fantastic podcast episode on modesty was really helpful and encouraging to me.

If you’re looking for some exquisite Christian humor, watch this…

why-i-stopped-doing-my-best.jpg I could relate to this so much!

This is incredible:

Two great reads from Ann Voskamp:

This is What Finding Some Real Peace REALLY Means 

The Most Important Skill That Your 2018 Really Needs

Image result for the greatest showman

(If you haven’t seen this movie, you’re missing out.)

And finally, this most beautiful song:

 

What are some of your favorite things from this winter? Share in the comments! 

love, grace