A post about art and sheep and crosses and such…

I work at this place called YWAM Sarasota, where we do cool stuff with art and missions and Jesus. I had the privilege of writing this post for their blog, which you can read here. It was written after a breakthrough brainstorming session in the kitchen, dreaming about the heartbeat of our Marriage of the Arts Discipleship Training School.

What does one do when they have encountered the Living God? For us, we must express through art. Poetry comes alive, paint flows from the brush in worship, and new melodies are birthed that make your heart sing. We don’t want to make art for art’s sake. That’s not it. There’s this unspoken spouse, missions. We marry art with missions because it births something so powerful. We create because we are made in the image of the Creator God. We create in response. We create with a message. Not for art’s sake… But because we believe that God wants to transform the nations, in every sphere of society. And for us, right now, that sphere is ART.

I don’t care what anyone else has told you about art, but God LOVES art. He is the most creative person who EVER LIVED. And to think that there isn’t a place for you as an artist in his kingdom! That’s almost like spitting in his face. To reject the very thing in yourself that is the beauty of who he is reflected in you. You love the harmony of lines arranged just so and the beauty of a well-composed photograph FOR A REASON. Don’t believe the lies. Don’t believe them! God waits to be wanted. He waits for you to INVITE him into your creativity. That doesn’t mean that your art becomes all about sheep and crosses. Really, please don’t do that. But what I’m saying is that he wants to create with you. He wants to dance hip hop with you. He wants to write punk rock songs with you. He wants to recite an awesome poetry slam with you. He wants to draw manga with you. He wants to write novels with you. He wants to animate movies with you.

None of it is more or less spiritual than writing worship songs or dancing in church or painting crosses. What makes a difference is that you invite HIM into it. That you know who HE is, and therefore know who you’ve been created to be. God wants to reach into every art form, every sphere of society! He created them in the first place! For too long the world of missions has existed within the borders of what is traditionally acceptable. Of what is “spiritual”. And art has existed over here, in this other place, where it’s “not spiritual”. What the heck! Everything has a spiritual side to it. Everything is spiritual! God never put missions in a box. He never said that the Great Commission was supposed to be carried out in a certain way. What he said is that we need to “GO and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20) That means through any and every avenue possible. That means through art, also, but not just sheep and crosses art. Through every type of art. We believe that change is possible, and that we can transform nations and disciple individuals even in the sphere of the arts.

Any and every kind of artist and creative is welcome at the MOTA DTS. Whether you are a dancer, a photographer, a writer, a fine artist, an illustrator, a musician or songwriter, into the handmade arts, a graphic designer, an actor, craftsman of any kind, you are welcome here. You are invited in to a creative community where you will encounter God. Imagine during a time of worship, a big canvas is placed on the floor, and you are invited to respond to God through creative expression! Imagine that art supplies are placed on a table, and you’re given a topic to explore and process with the Holy Spirit! The possibilities are endless.

Forget anything you have ever learned about “traditional missions” and imagine with me. Imagine what happens when you play a song you wrote in an airport terminal that inspires a young Chinese university student so much that he switches seats to sit next to you on an airplane for 14 hours, and you get to share Jesus with him. Imagine what happens when you do a photography project in a cafe in Tokyo, and get to pray for and speak identity over a Japanese business woman. Imagine what happens when you knit a blanket that gets taken to Africa, and it gets wrapped around a baby who then is completely healed from AIDS. Imagine what happens when you write a poem that brings tears to the eyes of an army veteran and he is set free from PTSD. Imagine what happens when you dance over a village in the mountains of Nepal and the whole village is set free from bondage!

The possibilities are LIMITLESS.

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That thing I used to do…

Once upon a time I sent out these hipster album of the month emails. Well, I can’t promise that I’m starting again, but here’s some music for this month.February

melancholy, thoughtful, poetic. Those vocals!!
good processing music. Resounds to me right now because of all the travelling I’ve been doing and long distance.
Good to listen on a rainy day when you can sit next to the window and think. Was a recent discovery on Noisetrade. 🙂
 
Recommended Track: Where Have You Been
If you’re not familiar with Levv, you’re still probably familiar with one of the artists, Audrey Assad. This is her indie project. 🙂 This album is full of soaring vocals, a unique blend of pop with indie, and thoughtful lyrics. I’m currently stuck on this album.
Recommended Track: Arrow
 
Hopefully most of you, if not all of you, have listened to this album. If not, you need to listen to it!!! So good.
 
Recommended Tracks: Wonder, So Will I
4) Brian and Jenn Johnson – After All These Years
This album is so beautiful. The music style is different than your typical Bethel style, and I like it. More melancholy, with lots of violins and full of feeling. It was written out of years of experience and yet still full of hope… because after all these years, Jesus is still faithful. This album has ministered to me a lot.
 
Recommended Tracks: You’re Gonna Be Ok, Only Jesus

I’m going to Japan!

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Photo by Andre Benz

Japan. Land of wonder and ingenuity and creativity.

The Japanese people have a very aesthetic culture. They love things that are beautiful and fashionable, and well designed. The way they live portrays this.  Art is appreciated in Japan, and is a deep part of their culture, heritage, and future. They take art very seriously.

Tokyo, Japan is a modern, thriving city. Yet, there is a void. There are problems. Suicide is high. There is heavy pressure in the work place. Heavy pressure in education. The virtual world has replaced so many real life relationships.

What do you do for someone who has everything, but still lacks? What do you give someone who is excelling on the outside, but dying on the inside?

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Photo by Eutah Mizushima

HOPE.

You give them hope.

You give them a reason to be alive, a reason to fight, a reason to create, a reason to breathe.

And I want to share with the people of Japan the reason why I have hope.

I want to see the people of Japan encounter God. Because in His presence is fullness of joy, is life and light and hope! And I believe that God wants to reach the people of Japan in limitlessly creative ways. He knows the things that they love, and He created art and the ways they are artistic anyway. That’s why I’m excited to go into this trip with my art together with the Holy Spirit, and help people encounter Jesus– the giver of all hope.

I’ll be in Japan for about three weeks, from November 14th to December 9th. Two other staff members are going with me, and we will be partnering with a local YWAM base to do ministry in Tokyo.

I already have my plane tickets, praise God! However, I still need to raise about $500 to cover the costs of housing, food, and transportation. Would you consider giving toward my trip?

You can give here: https://www.paypal.me/ClaraChristofferson

Thank you for partnering with me to bring hope to Japan. Even if just one person is impacted, it is worth it.

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Photo by Andre Benz

Albums of the Month for December

Merry Christmas, friends!!!

I don’t know about you, but this month I’ve been feeling rather chaotic… not just with the busyness of things happening around me, but in my mind and heart also. It’s a fight to take time to be still in the middle of it all, but it is worth it. So— my encouragement for you is to take time to be still this Christmas, and when you turn on the music, let your heart sing.

“Behold the goodness of the God of your salvation everywhere, and be held— how His love falls like blossoms of grace in December.” -Ann VoskampScreen Shot 2016-12-21 at 6.30.22 PM.png

1) SVVN—Arnarstapi

Arnarstapi is an album full of ambient and inspiring wintery music. “SVVN is an ambient artist from Nashville, TN. Rich textures, sweeping melodies, and powerful drum line rudiments construct seamless movements of stirring music, all inspired by producer and composer Jeremiah Dunlap’s journey across Iceland. SVVN’s thoroughly crafted elements ranging from organic field recordings to analog synthesizers create a cinematic musical experience unlike any other.” —The Drop

P.S. I haven’t listened to it enough to have recommended tracks. So…. Just listen to the whole thing! 😀

Screen Shot 2016-12-21 at 6.30.28 PM.png2) Rend Collective— Campfire Christmas

This album is pretty rambunctious and hopeful. I also love how joyful this album is, and how many wonderful instruments are used in it (and all of Rend Collective’s music, for that matter!) There’s lovely mandolin, banjo, and I’m pretty sure accordion and some kind of bag pipes.

Recommended tracks: Hark the Herald Angels Sing (Glory in the Highest), Ding Dong Merrily On High,  For All That You Have Done

Screen Shot 2016-12-21 at 6.30.33 PM.png3) The Oh Hellos—The Oh Hellos’ Family Christmas Album  and free on Noisetrade: http://noisetrade.com/theohhellos/the-oh-hellos-family-christmas

This album is just wonderful all around. Instead of tracks, this album has movements, and each one is a blend of different Christmas songs that move through Luke 2:8-14, and basically through the Christmas story. My criticism of this album is that it is too short! I wish it didn’t end so soon. Good news is, it’s available for “name your price” on Bandcamp,and free on Noisetrade, so you can essentially get it for free either place. It’s one of my favorites, and I hope you enjoy it also!

Favorite track (since there’s only 4): Mvmt II, “Begin and Never Cease”

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4) Hillsong Worship— We Have A Savior
More Christmas music… but Hillsong makes really good quality music. Some Christmas music just seems like another version of the same Christmas song, but I think this album is very worshipful, and does a good job of making these songs their own.

Recommended tracks: Born Is the King, We Have A Saviour, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (the banjo!!!!!), The First Noel (Holy Is the Lord)

“Let every heart prepare Him room.” This line,from Joy to the World, has been sticking in my head lately. Is there room in your heart?

Merry Christmas! Let your heart sing it!

Hipster Albums of the Month for November

Let the Christmas music begin!!!

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1) Josh Garrels—The Light Came Down https://joshgarrels.bandcamp.com/album/the-light-came-down Listen on Bandcamp or stream on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=skUUMWb2uvw&list=PL4bOHSxPfve7X0lXDfcoml_95Wn2a9bO5

This album just came out the day after Thanksgiving! I’ve been listening to it alot, and I love it!

Recommended tracks: May You Find a Light, Shepherd’s Song, Hosanna

2) Calie Garrett— Light http://noisetrade.com/caliegarrett/light free single on Noisetrade or stream on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-yybecy2SL0

I really love this song. Like, a lot! I love the cello and the harmonies, and the power of the lyrics. I’ve been listening to it on repeat this month. It’s one of those songs that fills you with hope!

3) Branches— Songs for Christmas https://soundslikebranches.bandcamp.com/album/songs-for-christmas

This album is one of my favorite Christmas albums, probably because it is rambunctious, joyful, has a banjo here and there, and is also solemn and serious when it needs to be.

Recommended tracks: I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, O Come O Come Emmanuel, Oh Holy Night

4) Seeker and Servant—Sound of Joy EP http://noisetrade.com/sands/sound-of-joy-ep

Another of my favorite Christmas Eps! “A homey batch of songs for the Christmas season. This EP consists of two new original tracks inspired by Luke 2 (the Christmas story) and a live rendition of O Holy Night.” —S&S

Recommended tracks: Sound of Joy

5) Bebo Norman— Christmas… From the Realms of Glory https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLyCBGvPpRnDrBate1i373rYeYuF_Djgwg

A friend introduced this to me last year, and I’ve fallen in love with this album!

Recommended tracks: Come and Worship, Born to Die, What Child is This, and Silver Bells

Happy listening,
Clara

Hipster Album of the Month for October

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1) Kelise Plante — To Find You https://kelsieplante.bandcamp.com/releases or free sampler on Noisetrade: http://noisetrade.com/kelsieplante/to-find-you
I am SO EXCITED about this album. I just bought it this week, and I love it already!! You may remember her from the sampler I sent out quite a while ago, but this time it’s a full album!!! Her voice reminds me of a mixture between Bethany Dillon, Latifah Phillips, and her own magic.

“Kelsie Plante is a Canadian worship leader and songwriter who is currently working full time with refugees and displaced families in the Middle East.” “Her debut album “To Find You”  is a collection of songs written over the past 6 years through her travels and work overseas with people in areas of poverty and war, as she saw God’s goodness in the midst of chaos and brokenness.” —kelsieplante.com

Already these songs have been speaking powerfully into the season of life that the Lord has me in right now. I pray that they are an encouragement to you also!!

Recommended listening: To Find You (My favorite by far), Through the Walls, To the Fatherless

2) October Wedding — Sabbath http://noisetrade.com/octoberwedding/sabbath-ep <—free on Noisetrade
This album is just cool. Like, really cool. It’s got some sweet guitar, cello, banjo, and beautiful voices, not to mention that it’s a concept album about rest and redemption! They remind me a little bot of The Oh Hellos, except that their music is totally about Jesus.

On their Noisetrade page, they included this quote from St. Augustine: “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee.” It’s interesting to me that this quote has been the inspiration for a couple of different songs (All Sons and Daughters, Audrey Assad) that have come to my attention lately, and I don’t think it’s just a coincidence, you know?

“On this journey, I’ve at times walked roads of restlessness. Through it all, peace has found me. A rest that is bigger than the struggle. If your heart’s been restless, I hope this makes you believe again that God is real.” – David (From their Noisetrade page)

Recommended listening: Sabbath, This Is Your Breath, Leper Song

3) Seeker & Servant — Sojourner https://seekerandservant.bandcamp.com/ or free on Noisetrade: http://noisetrade.com/sands/sojourner-ep
If you’ve been getting my hipster album of the month emails, then you’ve definitely heard of Seeker & Servant before. If not, you should check out all of their music!!! I’ve had the privilege to meet them, and they are so sincere and real, as well as goofy and hilarious (see their lyric video for their new song Heart Change). They are brothers, and have such a beautiful heart for the Lord, and it really comes through their music.

“This 4-Song EP deals with our journey over the past couple years of Christ sanctifying us and enlightening the eyes of our heart to sins in our life and the truth of His never changing word. Our hope is that through these 4 songs you will be stirred to look to Christ alone and rest in Him.” —Seeker & Servant

Recommended listening: Sovereign Hands, Heart Change, Make It Known

4) Hillsong Worship — Let There Be Light https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLtLFUxCBUmmyxbvIqgg8eHEsgHif5NG5K
The most recent Hillsong Worship album. They release one every year, and this year’s album is just very Hillsong-ey, in a good way. They’ve returned to some of their older musical roots, but are still writing excellent new worship songs! I haven’t listened to this album a ton yet, but so far it’s really uplifting and well made. If anything, Hillsong just keeps getting better!

Recommended listening: Let There Be Light, What A Beautiful Name, In Control

 

Happy listening!

—Clara

A Response to That Literature Book.

Dread in my spirit
of the state of this world—
why is everything sexual?

Poetry paints such pictures
why can’t we focus
on that which is
lovely
not
explicit
innocent
not
tainted
true
not
man’s opinion
noble
not
coarse
upright
not
in
the
gutter

Get your mind
out
of the gutter.

What more beautiful
what higher
what more lovely
than the very
depths
of the heart of One

Deity clothed in humanity
who stooped
to
the
gutter
to
restore innocence
to bring what is lovely
out of
ashes
to bring hope
to the
hopeless
to die for the
tainted
to redeem—
for He so loved
the world.

The voice of shed blood
calls
“there is hope”
to the vilest of sinners
from the noblest Person
to ever
share
the
gutter.

The cross hung
between two criminals, after all.

There
is
hope
for
the
gutter
don’t
forget.

The tyranny of time

March… March was the last time I wrote a blog post. That’s kind of sad. I didn’t used to understand how people could go through months at a time without blogging or without talking to me, but I do now. Seasons of life come and go… some of which are much more intense than others. This season has been one of those intense ones. Following Jesus is not for the faint of heart… nor is the School of Discipleship. Yet God is faithful… and even (and sometimes especially) in those in between, seemingly silent times, He is working.

Sometimes it takes the deepest wounds for Him to do the deepest works. I don’t understand why He chooses to do things the way He does, sometimes, but He doesn’t ask us to understand; He asks us to trust, and obey. So how am I living that out? Sometimes not so well. This anxiety that creeps up unannounced loves to take any opportunity to pounce. I must be active in my pursing of God and of the things of God… it doesn’t happen by accident. I am glad, though, that the Lord has given me this opportunity to be in a place where I am reminded of truths like that often(like in class this morning).

Why is this a season of change and many things outside of my comfort zone? Will it ever not be a season of change? I know not. But I don’t have to know. God has chosen this for me, and that is enough. That should be more than enough.

World Water Day

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So many people in this world don’t have access to clean water! I take it for granted so often. Right now, I live in a house with 7 other girls, and sometimes the shower is cold. One day, I found myself annoyed because I was one of the last to shower and it was, indeed, cold. I started to whine to God about it and then I thought about it some more. I HAVE RUNNING WATER! It was kind of cold, sure, but I HAVE CLEAN RUNNING WATER! Millions of people don’t have that. Who am I to complain? So I chose to be thankful that I was able to shower with clean water that arrives in my bathroom right when I turn a faucet! Seriously, that is a privilege, not something every person in the world has access to. One in nine people in the WORLD don’t have access to improved water sources. That means that millions of people have to walk for miles just to find enough water to drink, or have to drink from the same pond that they wash dishes, their animals, and themselves in! I challenge you: every time you turn on a faucet today or tomorrow, pray for those who don’t have access to clean water, and thank God for the clean water you are privileged to have! And, if you want to provide clean water for a family or community in Asia, take action here: http://www.gfa.org/water/!

“Behold, I will do something new”

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Another year, come and gone. 2014 is breathing its last. Admittedly, this year has held some not so great days. It has been one of the hardest, most stretching years of my life. I’m not a child anymore, and this year I was forced to taste adulthood in small ways. This year has left a bittersweet taste in my mouth, and as much as I could linger, or regret, or wish for could-have-beens, I am choosing to accept that this year has been what it has been.

In the hard things I have found more than sorrow, I have found a blessing. Standing fast in hard things forces you to not lean on your own understanding, not to lean on emotions, and to look a little bit more understandingly and frequently at Jesus. Fighting to accept with joy the hard circumstances (and not always winning) but fighting nonetheless brings peace. Face to face with unwanted realities, you are forced to make a decision, but this time in your heart, not just your head: do I believe that God is completely Sovereign? I know this to be true, but in my heart of hearts, do I believe it? When I finally say yes, even though I don’t understand, the trust between me and my Savior is deeper, and sweeter. God has asked deeper surrender and trust in Him of me than I have ever known this past year, and the surrender has been painful, and not easy, and an ongoing process. But through the tears, and the hard, hard days in which I could barely see the light of day, I am learning to know deeper and more fully that He is for me and with me; He is good, even if I don’t feel like it. The days of trudging are building endurance. That doesn’t mean I understand, but He has carried me through this year, and I trust Him more deeply than I did at the beginning of the year.
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Don’t give up in the face of your trials, my friends, whatever this past year may have held, no matter what you’re still going through. Look through them; God is refining you in His fire, for His glory and for your good, and He always has lessons He wants to teach you through the trials. He will help you see them, and help you learn, if you let Him!

Now, I look forward to all this next year will hold. Many things will change; this I know. I will be attending Gospel for Asia’s School of Discipleship, and it will be my first time living away from home. But He has chosen this season for me, and I know He has much purpose in it, and many good things in it. I don’t think I have seen or understood all of the lessons of 2014, but that is okay. It will come in due time, and I will not forget the Lord’s faithfulness in this year. There have been hard things, and there will continue to be hard things, but nevertheless I press on. God has chosen this season for me, and I accept with joy. He is good, and I trust Him.

These two verses I cling to at the turn of the year:

Yet, my brothers, I do not consider myself to have “arrived”, spiritually, nor do I consider myself already perfect. But I keep going on, grasping ever more firmly that purpose for which Christ grasped me. My brothers, I do not consider myself to have fully grasped it even now. But I do concentrate on this: I leave the past behind and with hands outstretched to whatever lies ahead I go straight for the goal—my reward the honour of being called by God in Christ. Philippians 3:12-14 (PHILLIPS)

Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past. Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth: will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:18-19 (NASB)

I am excited to see what new things He is going to do in me and you this year. Keep your eyes open, keep pressing on! God is for you, God is with you, and He will never forsake you.

An anthem for the new year:

P.S. And if you still want to give a tax deductible end of year gift but don’t know where to give, I encourage you to prayerfully consider donating to my support for the School of Discipleship (I am currently at 24%!) or donating to help Gospel for Asia share the love of Christ in Asia. You can make a difference with any size of gift, and you will get a tax break through it too! 🙂