Archive for July, 2012

July 25, 2012

I Give Up

I wish I could walk you through what has been going on in my life since the beginning of this year, before the FortyOne20 Ministries blog was even launched. But I can’t. I wish I could help you understand that I’m not really giving up or walking away, I’m just at a God-0rchestrated standstill. But I can’t. I wish I could hang on to all of the people who are going to walk away from me because they don’t understand. But I can’t.

I wish it all boiled down to my circumstances. But it doesn’t. I wish it was as simple as my not having enough faith. But it’s not. I wish it was because I’m being sinful and disobedient, and hey, I just had it coming. But that’s not quite how it is. I wish you could help me. But you can’t.

Before I say what I have to say today, I want you to understand that I know exactly what this looks like. Please believe me when I tell you that under the surface something completely different is happening, and I can’t tell you about it because it’s between me and God. I’m a naturally transparent and vulnerable person, so I want to tell you about it, but this time (and perhaps only this time) I have to keep it close – it is that personal.

I want you to know I am at peace with what is happening. I do not entirely know why things are happening now the way they are – but… they are. I recognize that God is always good, all of the time, and that He works all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. I love Him and am called according to His purpose, so like everything else, I know this cannot be bad. As with everything else, God is bringing me through the transformation process.

Lastly, I need you to know that this is not about you. I’m not sure it’s entirely about me. I’m not trying to hurt you when I do (or do not do) things – it’s just not personal. It’s about my relationship with God and drawing closer to Him as He strips distractions away. Please understand that there are days when it is excruciatingly painful, and I may just need to be alone with God. I love you all, welcome your encouragement and exhortations, but some days… Some days I may not receive it the way you intended it to be taken.

***

For month of August, there will be no content on the FortyOne20 Ministries blog. I am doing a guest post at Barefoot Hippie Girl sometime next week reviewing The Dark Knight Rises but otherwise there will be no content. I am hoping to use this next month to build content, re-vamp our online presence, design a logo, enlist some co-directors and develop the production proposals for our upcoming video projects. It is my intention to be back with content three times a week and our production plan in the beginning of September, but God may have another plan and direction for FortyOne20 Ministries, and I will wait for Him. I will update you towards the end of August if this is the case.

Right now, though, God’s mandate to me is simple: “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

It’s funny because I always thought there must be something horribly wrong with a believer who is sitting still. Shouldn’t we always be going and doing? The story of Mary and Martha just came to my mind, when Jesus tells Martha that she is troubled about many things, but Mary chose the one important thing – sitting at the feet of Jesus.  I was also reading in Exodus 14 earlier this week where God leads the Israelites out of Egypt into a place where they are blocked in and can’t move. Moses tells them to stand still and wait for the Lord’s deliverance. There was simply no other option.

I know some people will mistake stillness for stagnation, and to be honest, I am a little worried about those people. I have to trust God, and do and be what He wants me to do and be – even when it looks like nothing.

Later!

-Lydia-

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July 18, 2012

Mini Blogging Sabbatical

Hey, All.

No content this week or next week. I am taking some time to regroup and prayerfully consider some major life decisions, which I will share in good time.

I plan to be back on August 1st recharged and ready to go!

Lydia

July 12, 2012

Absolute Beauty

 In Theory

 Have you ever been delighted at having your mind stretched quite unexpectedly?  I was having this experience as I sat and listened to my photography instructor over lunch.  I was tired of learning about photography in a secular environment, where pornography was “artistic nudes” and relativism was the worldview.  I needed more instruction but didn’t want to sacrifice my convictions at its expense.  So I joined a Christian photography school.  I thought it would simply be photography instruction without the trash.  It was more than that.  After our intense instruction and daily devotionals I was feeling like there was nothing more I could handle learning that week.  And then my instructor started talking to us about absolute beauty.  I was intrigued.  Christians can pursue art, and delve into a philosophical world unbelievers cannot fully go: 

 Light and shadow.  Black and White. Beauty and Ugliness.  Philosophy, Photography, Art, and…GOD.

 After I came home and began to discuss absolute beauty with others I got a wide range of reactions, from interest to complete rejection.  I realized I needed to clarify. What it is: just a theory – a philosophical concept that helps you in your pursuit of art as a Christian.  What it’s not: a standard or measure for outward physical appearances. 

 It’s so much more than that

 The best place to begin is with Him, who is absolute beauty,

 GOD. 

I know absolute beauty exists because HE is most beautiful.  He is the definition of beauty.

 “The Mighty One, God, the Lord, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to where it sets.  From Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth.”  Psalm 5:1-2

 God is the origin of beauty, is the Designer, and is the ultimate creative Artist.  His character is perfection and never changing.  He is Holy. 

 Flawless. Beautiful.

Everything around us is created by Him and for Him.  It is a reflection of who He is.

Creation sings of a Creator. 

 “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”  Romans 1:20

 

 (Copyright Kathleen Shook.)

We are created in His image.  Out of all creation we are the greatest reflection of Him. 

 “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”  Genesis 1: 27

 I don’t believe this verse is referring to a mere physical similarity.  No, it’s who we are, our inward man.  We were designed to love what He loves, and hate what He hates.  We were designed to worship Him.  We were created sinless and designed to be holy.  The fall produced inherited sinfulness but…

 Christ redeemed us when we still hated Him. We can now be holy through Him.

 What is beauty? Truth is beautiful.  Every Christian whose Christ-like character and holiness points us back to Him is beautiful, and that beauty radiates through their eyes and smile.

I know I can’t quantify absolute beauty, but I can clearly declare that God is perfect beauty and anything that reflects Him is beautiful.  Beyond that there is no clear cut line spelled out in Scripture.   But, there are examples within nature of organized beauty created by God that gives us models to follow.  (For a complex example of composition naturally found in creation look up fractals and be prepared to have your mind blown!)

 Another way we use creation’s example is to approach our art in an organized way.  When I teach photography I always teach about composition “rules.”  Composition rules are taught in every art school.  They are universally acknowledged to produce a more pleasing picture or piece of art.  It is understood that only those who really grasp the rules can properly break them. 

 

(Copyright Kathleen Shook) 

The first picture lacks two major compositional rules.  It falls flat and is uninteresting.  The second picture has depth and follows the “rule of thirds” and immediately we can see the difference in the two images.

 A flower is almost always described as gorgeous, while an “Orc” from the movie, “Lord of the Rings,” never gets that praise. The “Orc” (in its fictional story) is a human/elf hybrid who has been tortured and mutilated.  He is evil to the core; a distortion of what is good and natural. 

(Copyright Kathleen Shook) 

What do these examples tell us?  Beauty (and dare I say, art?) is not purely subjective, as others would like us to think.  There are objective realities to our art.   Since God is the ultimate Creator can we ever say His untarnished work is subjective and that some of it is good and other parts of it are not?  We do not have that authority!

 “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good.  And there was evening, and there was morning…” Genesis 1:31

 

 In Application

 I began to realize that if I was created in His image and am now an heir with Christ then my art must reflect this.  My goals in photography began to take shape and I began to form my personal convictions. At what point does my photography cross a line and is no longer beautiful?   Beyond building my business and taking pictures for my clients that they can enjoy, I began to have personal goals and ambitions every time I picked up my camera.

 1)      Focus on Portraits.  People are beautiful, created in God’s image.  Because of this, my favorite subject is people.  I earnestly want to take pictures of more than the outward appearance and capture who they really are: what’s inside.   Portrait photography can get so external and so vain.  I don’t want that to be my focus, my focus is on the eyes, the window to the soul. 

 

(Copyright Kathleen Shook)

I traveled to Peru a few years ago and, even though the landscapes were breathtaking, it just wasn’t my niche.  I made it a personal challenge to take a portrait of a Peruvian every single day.  To show the world people who often get forgotten, like a street child or an old man sitting on a bench.  They are valuable in God’s sight and, therefore, in mine.

(Copyright Kathleen Shook).

2)      Because I view the body as beautiful and as God’s creation, I honor it and the privacy it deserves. The undressed body, while special, is valued most when kept within its beautiful role in marriage.  I will not include undressed or half dressed people in my photographs. 

3)      To capture real, raw moments and to tell a story.  I know my pictures won’t always be pretty  – but sometimes telling the truth is beautiful and that is what I respect about photojournalists who get in the middle of wars and tragic events.  They tell the truth.  I never want my photography to be so abstract that most people can’t interpret what I’m trying to say.  Abstract art that has no message is bordering on relativism and should be used with caution.  

4)      My photography shouldn’t always have a price.  Volunteering your services for a good cause is an exchange for something that is infinitely more beautiful and valuable than riches. 

5)      Taking portraits of those who are overlooked in our communities: the disabled and disfigured.  They defy the world’s terms of beauty but not mine, and not God’s.  Because I believe in absolute beauty I want His beauty to shine through me and in everything I do. 

(Copyright Kathleen Shook).

In your artwork are you focusing on the beautiful or ugly in this world? Does your artwork reflect that you are created in God’s image and that Christ has redeemed you?  Pursue excellence.  Pursue absolute beauty.  Pursue Him.

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”  1 Corinthians 10:31

 *** 

Kathleen Shook is a professional photographer in the North Texas area and is also a private piano teacher.  She has been married to her husband, Blake, since 2011.  She is also involved in her local church in young women’s ministry.  If anyone is interested in having a professional photographer take photos for their ministry free of charge, please contact Kathleen at Kathleen@kathleenthomasphotography.com   You can see some of her most recent photography work at her Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Kathleen-Thomas-Photography/84009566569.

 ***

*****EDITORIAL NOTICE: The photographs included in this article (“Absolute Beauty”) are the property of Kathleen Shook. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from Kathleen Shook is strictly prohibited.  

Used by permission.*****

 

 

 

 

 

July 12, 2012

Everyone’s A Critic

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

~Theodore Roosevelt

 

I honestly don’t care about Miley Cyrus’ newest tattoo, but it did get me thinking about Theodore Roosevelt’s The Man in the Arena speech and how incredibly easy it is to criticize.  Pointing out others’ flaws and shortcomings – in their personal lives, in their ministries, in their art. With online social media expanding, anybody can be a critic. In fact, most people are. Including me.

The problem with criticism is exactly as Mr. Roosevelt says: many critics aren’t actually out there making their own mistakes … just criticizing the people who are brave enough to go out and try, come what may.

With almost every film I analyze, I analyze in terms of how it deals with gender. (Just go look at our Artist’s Picks and you’ll see what I’m talking about).  Most of the film theory classes  I took in college dealt with gender on some level, but it was always from a humanist perspective. At the same time, God was dealing with me personally on His ideas about gender, and I became extremely dissatisfied with how men and women are portrayed in movies. I genuinely believe there is reason to be concerned with these portrayals.

However, if you watch the movies I’ve made, none of them address gender issues. I have a lot of thoughts on how I would approach gender in my movies, but I haven’t actually put them into practice yet. That has to change.

I’m really excited about the launch of FortyOne20 Ministries’ Video Production division because I’m really hoping to change not just the way we analyze movies, but how movies are made. After our introductory project we have plans to produce a fiction miniseries for the Internet that will address some of these gender issues. Maybe once I’m in the trenches I’ll have a different perspective, not to mention critics of my own.

Now I’m not suggesting we don’t need to be analytical of the art we’re observing, because we should be. We should consider it through the lens of God’s Word and be discerning about the art we’re consuming. Additionally, God tells us to “think about how we can spur each other on to love and good works” (Heb. 10:24), and I believe this includes art consumption.

We also need to be practicing the standards we apply to others’ art when creating our own art. We need to have grace with other artists who maybe do things a little bit differently than we think we would in their situations. And as artists, we should put ourselves out there, even when it means opening ourselves up to the critics.

***

Lydia holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of North Texas where she studied film theory and video production. She is passionate about reaching and equipping artists for Jesus Christ.

July 11, 2012

Enjoying God

How does it all get this way?

I’m tired.  I have zero energy to deal with anything beyond getting up and going to work, and many days, I don’t even feel like doing that.  I feel like a failure because I graduated almost eleven months ago and I still don’t have a job that pays my bills, even though I apply like crazy.  I was a part of an incredible community in college, and let me just tell you dear friends who are still in college, the post-grad road is pretty lonely.  And honestly, I’m slightly angry, because my life is so not going the way I planned. 

I know what you’re going to say (trust me, I’ve heard it before … a bajillion times). I shouldn’t be tired (Gal. 6:9). The joy of the Lord should be my strength (Neh. 8:10). I’m never really alone (Heb. 13:5). And God doesn’t promise me that life is going to go according to my plan (Is. 55:8). Yep, I know.

I think somewhere in the midst of the hustle and bustle of post-grad life, I’ve stopped enjoying.  I’ve stopped enjoying art – if I’m going to see or hear a piece of art, I’m always thinking in terms of FortyOne20 Ministries. I’ve stopped enjoying relationships – it’s hard for me to make time in my schedule for people, and then I feel guilty (and I think reasonably so) because it’s all about the people.  And, *collective gasp* I’ve really stopped enjoying my time with God. (I imagine you’re thinking that’s exactly where I went wrong. I’m not disagreeing).

It’s not just the whole thing where life isn’t going according to my plan, it’s that being obedient to God is (at least in my experience) hard and costly.  There is a song on the radio and part of it goes, “You and I embrace surrender,” and I seriously switch stations every time that comes up because who in the world embraces surrender? (Maybe you do. Good for you).

It happens this way because somewhere along the way I shifted my focus off of Jesus and onto what I want (but don’t have) or don’t want (but do have). The last time this happened to me, I was trying to hold on to what I was afraid to lose, and ended up losing it anyway. For me, the root of depression is either connected to covetousness (that focus on what I don’t have) or fear (a fixation on what I don’t want to lose).

I’ve heard a lot of “spiritual solutions” for depression. I’ve been told my whole life to just get over it, or to just be joyful, or to have a blessings journal (which is great to have regardless, but in this case, it has never really worked for me). BUT the only thing that has ever worked for me is enjoying God. Seriously.

Getting to that point where it’s just me and Him. Where I am dwelling on Him. And that’s the point of the FortyOne20 Ministries Devotions. Once a week I want to take from the overflow of what I’m learning about God and share it with you. It doesn’t specifically pertain to art necessarily, but I just want to be dwelling on God in the midst of article-writing or art-reviewing.

For this week I want to dwell on Jehovah Rapha – which means the Lord who heals, restores, and makes healthful.

Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah.) So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What are we to drink?”  Then Moses cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a piece of wood. He threwit into the water, and the water became fit to drink. There the Lord issued a ruling and instruction for them and put them to the test.  He said, “If you listen carefully to the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keepall his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseasesI brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who healsyou.” Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped there near the water.

~Exodus 15:22-27

Our God is the One who turns bitter waters sweet, and brings us from desert to oasis.

A prayer for this week: “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me” (Psalm 51:12).