03 December 2007

Mentor Monday--Art for the Poor

I met Brenda Gribbin at a women's retreat. She led a breakout session on using art in prayer. It was an amazing class, but even more amazing was this woman standing in front of me. I realized that this was the woman behind so much of the art I had seen at our church. Brenda uses her art to work through her prayers, reflect her relationship with Christ, and raise money for the needy. Often, she sells pieces and donates the money to Real Options (a ministry for pregnant women) or Buckner (a ministry for orphans both in the States and around the world). She's also been known to donate her art to churches.
It's an interesting perspective on how to intertwine our art and our passion for the oppressed.
If you're in a rush, scroll through to the last question about using your art, and read Brenda's final comment!

Brenda, what is your inspiration for your art?
When I started formal art training (in my 40's) my goal was to find a way to glorify God without painting Calvary or praying hands all the time. I learned that the best way to do that is to develop the gift He has given me. To work at my art as though EVERY painting were for Him...paint for an Audience of One. My inspiration ultimately returns to my purpose...to worship God. Sometimes inspiration comes from words that burn an image in my brain...it's so clear, I can't believe others can't see it on my forehead. (Right now, I have Isaiah 6 screaming to get on canvas.) Often, I'm working out a technical "what if" and a series of abstract paintings comes running out. Once the urgency takes over, I work fast. I consider myself a "drawer" rather than a "painter" because my art is born quickly, like sketches...even if the image has been incubating for months. It's as if I have a message to deliver and nothing will do, but that it is explained quickly and with a lot of strong language (color, line, etc.) I believe God has a purpose for this gift, and it is my responsibility to use it to usher others into His presence. I am absolutely intrigued by the powerful beauty of tiny things in nature. I could do an entire wall of azalea petals and not get bored...but they would have to be magenta pink!

What drew you to Real Options and Buckner ministries?
It's that responsibility thing again, but there's a LOT of joy behind it. So many children and young people deserve better than what their struggling and misdirected parents can provide. No one should make life decisions when they feel painted into a corner. Everyone, every child of God, should have the opportunity to know Him and experience the abundant life He designed for them. I think these organizations are well positioned to be effective ministers of God's love, and I want to be a part of that.

How are you involved in these ministries?
I went to Russia with Buckner in 2002 to deliver shoes to orphanages in St. Petersburg, and absolutely fell in love with those kids. I've been involved with shoe drives, taking volunteers to the warehouse to sort shoes and humanitarian supplies and other efforts for Buckner over the years, but nothing compares with meeting the kids. I leave December 8th for Peru, part of a 25-person team delivering Christmas gift boxes to kids in Lima and Arequipa. I am so blessed to be able to go where many others cannot...to love the children some others will not. Real Options is a new involvement for me, but something that has tugged on my heart for several years. God blessed a recent fund raising project I did for Real Options, and I'm anxious to see what He has in store for me with this ministry.

What made you realize that you could use your art to support the ministries?
Five months after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, I went to New Orleans with a "muck out" team. Before the trip, I felt a strong call to do a painting for the church we were working with. Since I had never met them or seen their worship space, I spent a lot of time in prayer over this project. At one point, I literally got on my face before God, asking Him to speak through me. The result was a painting that will probably not receive wide recognition or even be long-lived...but it was significant to the members of that church, and spoke to their own struggle and promise for the future. I saw what God could do with the gift He had given me...use it to encourage others in their walk. I knew then that I could take my prayer life and offer it to others as image...a visual encouragement.

If others want to use their art/creativity/craft in ministry, what are some things that you suggest?
I believe God has given us the "creative" tool to speak to Him...to help us sort out what He is leading us toward. Be genuine. Don't look for specific results, but anticipate miracles. It must be for His glory, and not ours. If you find a way to clear the clutter out of your mind enough to understand how much God loves you and wants to bring light into your darkness, share it with others! Sing out!

Anything you want to add, Brenda?
I am uncomfortable in my current walk...challenged to speak out and step up to things I never would have dreamed of in the past. I give all the credit to the Lord, because I KNOW what a mess I made of things when I tried to do it my way. I am humbled and grateful for the opportunity to share the Gospel in fresh ways...ways that catch the doubtful unaware. I pray God continues to push me into new territory for His sake.

Thanks for taking this time with us. How true that God often calls us to something uncomfortable! But that's how we best grow and shine His glory.


Christianne said...

Heather and Brenda, this is a fantastic and thought-provoking interview! My hub and I get involved in a lot of conversations about art and theology, art as spiritual formation, art in the church, etc., and this just fanned my flame for more of those conversations. I'm going to pass the link on to him for more to chew on, too!

Brenda, I was so inspired by your process. I love how you said Isaiah 6 is screaming to get out on canvas. I experience my writing life in much the same way -- sometimes something is pressing in on me so hard and deep, and I have to let it incubate itself so it makes sense to itself and to me, and then it comes screaming out of me.

Thank you for being willing to be used by God in this way in your life, and for wanting to do more than paint Calvary crosses and praying hands for the rest of your days.

Erin said...

I was just talking (preaching?) with my kids about our God-given talents today, so this was a great post to read on the heels of that, Heather.

Being a good steward also includes what Brenda is talking about- using the creative talents God has built into each of us in order that we might edify the Body and glorify our Lord.
This was totally up my alley. :)

Does Brenda have a website or a blog I can visit?

Jennifer Tiszai said...

Wonderful interview. Brenda, I love your take on glorifying God with your art.