Why do I create?
There is something in the way artists are internally wired which drives them to keep creating. Personally, I find that, the more time I spend drawing, sculpting, imagining, the more I sense the urgency to do more. I carry my sketchbook wherever I go, so I’m always ready to put substance to the images that appear in my head.
However, there’s another layer to this answer.
My identity as a Christ Follower shapes and informs everything I am and do, including my art. That does not mean that my art becomes what one might associate as “Christian Art”, but there is a continuous thread which quietly works its way through both my creative process and the work which grows out of it. It is the foundation for the hope I stand in, and the source for the truth of which I speak. It is the purpose out of which everything else flows.
One expression of this purpose is my work with OM Arts. The guiding conviction of OM Arts is that we, as artists, are Incarnational, in the sense that we create something seen from what is unseen. The idea of “incarnation” is seen first and foremost in the presence of Christ as Emmanuel, or “God with us.” The unseen God chose to become flesh and blood, to step into our world as one of us, not just to proclaim truth, but to demonstrate it by living it out among us.
When we (artists and non-artists alike) follow an Incarnate God, we too become incarnational.
God’s heart is for us to take this Truth about Him to the nations. In the past, Christ followers understood that to mean preaching and teaching. However, as our understanding has grown, we have come to realize that God intends us to touch every part of society, whether that means building a school or hospital, fighting for justice for those caught in human trafficking, or speaking into the artistic language of the community.
So, where has this calling taken me?
Moldova (2010): While this trip was not directly associated with OM Arts, was the first time I used my art in a cross-cultural context. I somehow managed to lug 100 pounds of clay through an international flight and get it through customs (with an inspector who spoke no English, and me speaking absolutely no Romanian). Little did I know how this little exercise in teaching clay to a bunch of children under a tree in Moldova would reshape my life.
Hungary (2011): My first trip with OM Arts would, in many ways, turn my world upside down. This was the first time I actually came face to face with the reality that God speaks through my art. I had always assumed that God could speak through “Art” in general, but that He would speak through me, using this thing I had always thought of as a hobby or pastime, totally floored me. This trip was led by Pat Butler, and I have said since then that, “Pat has a way of turning my world in its head on a regular basis…”
Prague (2012): Where Hungary had been a spur of the moment idea (“Hey! Let’s try this out!”), Prague was a time to start getting serious about understanding what it meant to use art as “mission”. I have felt an association with the Czech Republic (or Czechoslovakia, as it was known before the fall of the Soviet Union), from the time I met my wife Sue. Her mother was a “war bride” from WWII, living as a young lady in Plzeň when Sue’s father came as a part of the US 3rd Army and liberated Czechoslovakia from the Nazis… but that is another story!
Prague (2013): I have noticed God pulling my heart stronger and stronger toward the nations of Eastern Europe, and to the Czech Republic in particular. Sue and I returned to Prague with another OM Arts team, the year after our first trip, working with the same small Russian church. This was the trip where I began to come around a corner in my life–a nexus point–to begin seriously considering joining OM Arts full time, possibly leading trips like Prague myself.
Italy (2014): On my previous trips, I gained an awareness that God was calling me specifically to use the gift of art and creativity which He had planted inside me. However, Italy was a time to get specific about the idea of taking tangible steps toward turning this dream into a reality. This meant facing the very real challenges of finances, change of roles and responsibilities, and stepping into the unknown.
SALT (2015): I had actually planned my trip to the SALT conference in Brussels, Belgium before my rather abrupt transition out of the OM USA IT department and into OM Arts (brought on by the decision to outsource the IT function in the US office to an outside IT services vendor). However, it couldn’t have been more perfectly timed! This was where I started living the phrase, “the rubber meets the road”, in terms of actually putting hands and feet on my transition into the identity of a full time artist. This was an important start to building community.
Italy (2016): In 2016, I attended the OM Arts International, Incarnate School of Arts in Mission. This is was the same three month long training program which I visited in 2014, only this time I participated in the full three months, instead of just visiting for two weeks. This program was a time to step fully, not only into my identity as an artist, but as a child of the Heavenly Father, modeling the love of the father to the younger students there in the program. This is where I began to understand what it meant to be, “The Chuck”.
Czech Republic, 2016: After missing the Prague for two years in a row (long story), I was able to return in 2016. This was a return with the lessons of Italy very fresh in my mind and heart. In fact, out of a team of five visual artists, four of us had spent three months together together in Incarnate. It was a great time to work again with Rebecca Bromley, as well as Jessica and Bryan, and to meet another artist who had spent time working with Jessica before. Flying into Prague was strangely familiar this time, a feeling that I will not soon forget…
Czech Republic, 2017: Having gone to the Czech Republic a number of times as participating members of a team, it was time for Sue and me to actually lead one of the outreaches. In 2017, under the guidance of one of the former team leaders, we were able to gather another international team of artists to return to Prague. We were invited to work along side of the same church we had worked with in previous years. This time, we spent a week in a community center in one of the suburbs of Prague, sharing with people coming in from the local area, and then one week in the Náměstí Míru, or “Square of Peace”.
Italy (2018): In 2016, I was able to attend the Incarnate School or Arts in Mission as a participant. Two years later, in 2018, I was part of the teaching and spiritual development staff. Once again, we had a group of around 15 students from 11 different nations, coming for three months of intensive training, followed by another month of practical ministry. It was a very different group from the 2016 school, but with its own personality and life. We were based in the same conference center in the heart of Italy, for a time of study, worship, personal and spiritual development, play, creativity and growth as a community.
Things continue to get interesting, as the story continues…