I shared the following scripture, quotes, and thoughts (posted below in a condensed form) with the photogenX track on campus at the University of the Nations in Kona, Hawaii in August of 2008. They helped as signposts along the creative way. At present the team is putting together a powerful publication of photographs and stories to show how the abuse of sex and money devalues human life.
1 John 1: 1-4 – …that which we have seen and heard we declare to you.. John, son of Zebedee. John, son of Thunder. John the brother of Jesus. John, the disciple that Jesus loved. Writer of a gospel, three epistles, and a cataclysmic and encouraging book about the end of time. John: one man with one voice whose words have impacted believers for centuries. He wrote because he felt an urgency to tell people something that he believed they needed to know: believe in Jesus and you will have eternal life. His gospel. He wrote thoughts and instructions to people about what they should do once they were informed of the truth. His epistles. He wrote as a response to the things he saw and the experiences God gave him. His revelation. John had authority to speak about Jesus because he saw Jesus and he knew Jesus. John wrote what he knew. You also, like the apostle John, have had incredible experiences: you have seen, heard, touched. You have authority to share stories in words and images because you have had authentic experience. Your experience will translate into significant impact as you tell these stories. That which you have seen and heard, declare it!
Ephesians 2: 4-10 – We are what he made us, created in Christ for good works. Have you ever asked the question, “Who am I?” This question can be painful, filled with disappointment. It is often clear who we aren’t. The world is good at showing us how we don’t measure up, even rubbing it in our faces: who we are not, why we cannot do it, how we fall short. The question can also be an exciting one, and Paul gives us a thrilling answer. Throughout the book of Ephesians he reveals to the believer who God made us to be, generously invited by God to do what is pleasing to the Lord, things that are good, right, and true (5: 8-10). There are over 60 declarations in the book that Paul makes about the believer’s identity in Christ. Here are a few that relate to you: people who expose deeds of darkness (5:11); subject to one another, putting others before yourself (5:21); hard workers (6:7); strong in the Lord (6:7); filled with God’s power (6:10); equipped with spiritual armor (6:10); fighters and victors in a spiritual battle (6:13-17); alert, knowing when, how, and what to pray about (6:19); seated with Christ in the heavenly places – victorious overcomers with authority over evil (2:6). May these words encourage you as you set out to fulfill the task of this creative project. You were created for it. You have authority to do it. It is important and you have so much freedom to create it in a way that is good and right and true.
Luke 1: 26-38 and 46-55 – Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. God brings about salvation in unexpected ways. The world in the first century was dark. Mary was caught up in a drama – a scandal to her relatives. And yet through it, God was bringing about the salvation of the world by conceiving his son inside of her. The creative process is also a form of incarnation. Ideas and words take root in our hearts, form and grow. We need courage, patience, and grace to birth them, even when we cannot see how it can be possible. Though you write these stories in a short amount of time, seeds, experiences, and ideas have been deeply planted in your hearts and they have been hidden inside of you, growing for twelve months. My prayer is that like Mary you will invite Christ in and that he will be fully formed in you and this process. Whatever creative challenges you face, Christ is here inside of you, working out salvation. As you create, may your work be fresh, courageous, and make people think!
Ephesians 4: 1-16 – There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling. The world is very competitive. I think the root of this competition is fear: fear of failure, fear of being overlooked, fear of not measuring up. Paul tells us in Ephesians that we are all on the same team. Where we are different is in the spiritual gifts God has given individuals – diverse gifts that are meant to more effectively see the Church reach the same goal: unity and maturity as people, full in the stature of Christ. Imagine if we had to compete for the things of God, for his mercy or for his love? The good news is that we are not in competition with each other. We don’t compete for the mercy of God, for his love or for his gifts. He freely gives these things to all believers. Diversity is a blessing in the body. Different gifts don’t suggest God choses favourites, but are given to achieve unity. My prayer is that you will be united in hope, united in faith, united in love. And that as you have unity in these ways, that you will see the kingdom come the remainder of your time together. As you share your publication with others you will see the oppressors and unjust overcome.
Joshua 4: 1-7 – These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever. Throughout Israel’s history God gave his people memory prompts to connect them to past events where God worked out promises, redemption, and grace in their circumstances. The rainbow in the sky as a reminder of his promise to never destroy the world again by flood. The stars at night as a reminder that Abraham’s ancestors would be impossible to count. The covenant of circumcision to serve as a symbol of a people set apart. Memorial stones. One thing that is clear about the human race – we see it in scripture and in our own lives – is that we quickly forget the good things God has done and get restless, anxious, and irritable in our present circumstances. We need to remember. The good things God has done in our lives. The good things God has done among us. It can feel ridiculous to share these things, especially aloud, especially when we feel anxious or irritable. But when we do, it builds our faith. Hearing the testimony of the goodness of God creates expectation that God can, that God will, show his faithfulness again because he already has. So I exhort you to Re:Member. RE (Concerning) Member (Each other). As you remember the good works of God, as you share them aloud, you will build up each other. Remember.
Annie Dillard. The Writing Life. New York: Harper Perennial, 1990. Pages 75, 78. At its best, the sensation of writing is that of any unmerited grace. It is handed to you, but only if you look for it. You search, you break your heart, your back, your brain, and then – and only then – it is handed to you. From the corner of your eye you see motion. Something is moving through the air and headed your way. It is a parcel bound in ribbons and bows; it has two white wings. It flies directly at you; you can read your name on it. If it were baseball, you would hit it out of the park. It is that one pitch in a thousand you see in slow motion; its wings beat slowly like a hawk’s. One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The imp8lse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes. After Michelangelo died, someone found in his studio a piece of paper on which he had written a note to his apprentice, in the handwriting of his old age: “Draw, Antonio, draw, Antonio, draw and do not waste time.
Alexandr Solzhenitsyn. From his Nobel Lecture. The artists duty is to be a receptor for that “one word of truth that outweighs the world.”
Gary Haugen. The Good News About Injustice. Intervarsity Press. 2000. Page 67. In the end the battle against oppression stands or falls on the battlefield of hope. No one knows this better than the oppressors. They know that they never have enough power, lies or loyalty to withstand the onslaught of even a fraction of the power, truth and courage that humanity could at any minute amass against them. Therefore they rely on, utterly depend on, the inaction of despair. They know full well the preeminence depends on m ost people in their community, their nation and their world doing nothing.
Annie Dillard. Advice to Young Writers, a letter to students at Chapel Hill. Found in Image Journal. Always locate the reader in time and space—again and again. Beginning writers rush in to feelings, to interior lives. Instead, stick to surface appearances; hit the five senses; give the history of the person and the place, and the look of the person and the place. Use first and last names. As you write, stick everything in a place and a time. Don’t describe feelings. The way to a reader’s emotions is, oddly enough, through the senses.