A few weeks ago during a preach on true Kingdom prosperity, Bill Johnson was talking about the difference between tithes and offerings. This was not a new concept for me, but my heart began recognizing a new season of giving coming on. Until now, the tithe has been absolutely non-negotiable, but the offering has been relegated to the “I so wish I could, but I can’t even pay bills much less give any additional offering money” corners of my mind. “When I finally am making enough money to support myself,” I reasoned, “Then I will finally be able to be as generous with my finances as I desire to be.” But generosity sometimes means sacrifice, and trust usually means risk.
In the days following the sermon, I was intentional about asking God if He would have me steward my finances differently in this season. I have considerable school debt, and I’m not yet making enough monthly to cover my basic budget, but He’s been so epically faithful that I wanted to be sure I wasn’t missing something He might be wanting to do. What I felt Him say was, “Your offering is loving those around you well and being a patron of the arts.” I was reminded of a dinner party I hosted for my friends on Valentine’s Day and felt His hand of blessing on it, albeit an expense I wasn’t sure how to cover. I was also reminded of incredible art I’ve been seeing as I’ve been pursuing relationships with other artists for the Parallel Bible community. In that moment, I heard Papa say, “How can I bless and support you as an artist if those I’m calling to buy your work aren’t faithful to my call? Likewise, if you want to see a shift in the culture of appreciating an artist for their work, you need to lead by example. If you want artists to know their value and be paid it for their work, you need to know their value and pay them for their work. Your heart is to pastor and empower artists – do so by helping them support themselves by doing what I’ve called them to do. Those I’ve called will no longer be ‘penalized’ or looked down upon for following the passion and gift I’ve placed within them. It’s time for the artists to arise and rebuild the Tabernacle with Kingdom inspiration and resource. You are no longer survivors but thrivers – you are faithful to steward the dreams and visions and creative projects I’ve placed within you all for such a time as this, a time when the world so desperately needs an encounter with Beauty (My love). Buy art, empower artists – THAT is your offering…and it’s a pretty good deal since you get to surround yourself with tangible expressions of breakthrough and encounters with My love in return.”
Last week, I attended a creative conference at Expression58 Church in LA where I was surrounded by incredible creatives living out their passions and calls. I thought I was doing pretty well by supporting the musicians in cd purchases rather than downloads or Spotify, but my heart became heavy upon seeing a hauntingly moving painting – without even knowing the backstory, I was drawn to an image toward the back of the room but avoided it because I knew I’d never be able to afford what it was worth. “Why even bother falling in love,” I figured, “If it’s going to be one more thing I can’t yet do?” I reasoned it away based on the facts that I dislike “girly” stuff and there were flowers and splashes of pink all over the image – SO not my style anyway.
But then the artist was called on stage and presented that very piece. As she spoke of transitions and seasons and beauty from ashes, I felt my heart turning in complete resonance with her process. The painting is a direct correlation with my own story since 2011, right down to the scattered birds underneath. My heart was both inspired and encouraged to know others are going through (and creating from) similar seasons of vulnerability AND deeply saddened that I am not yet in a place to afford to purchase art on this level. Beauty is always held in tension, is it not?
I stalked the painting from afar, and then I went in for the kill shot – it was just as incredible up close. I grabbed her business card in hopes to connect with her later should I ever get up the guts to make relevant art as well and want to do a show in LA.
Today, I found that card and the bio for the painting. I was just as moved, if not more, reading her words about her process (brackets are my commentary):
It’s a modern twist on My Fair Lady [I LOVE Audrey] inspired by LA street art [I’ve always loved street art, but LA has recently become a huge player in my heart]. It speaks of beauty coming out of chaos and shows a woman blossoming in her identity [my time here at Bethel has been all about just that – finally shaking off the ashes of mourning and trauma and stepping into my identity as a whole, powerful daughter of Papa]. It was created over another painting done in 2011 called “Transition”. 2011 was a particularly challenging season were I was struggling to find my voice in the middle of a lot of change [My life has been in crazy transition since 2011 – I was working on my college senior art exhibition which is what started my bird-obsession, left all I knew in SanDiego, had an extremely challenging desert season in Oakland followed by a failed engagement, and have been ruthlessly pursuing counseling and inner healing for all the abuse and trauma I’ve experienced in my life]. One afternoon at Pihop, I painted birds flying chaotically in different directions as if a gust of wind had just scattered them [How I’ve felt for years until this year]. The Lord was doing a deep work in me [Deeper than I could ever express]. I find it really fun how the finished result of both paintings woven together represent how beauty and order can come out of things that initially feel very chaotic [The chaos of my life has set the foundation for the most beautiful Love and intimacy with Papa]. I love how the birds in the finished painting appear more playful as they dance around the flowers of the blossoming woman [I’m finally becoming the woman God intended, and He’s been calling me to dance as a part of my healing and worship expression]. God does indeed make all things beautiful in his time. Spring has sprung, so let your creativity blossom [one of the final hurdles of fear that I still hold is in my art making – He’s calling me out to create again, healing my process, and calling me to be bold]!
– Jessica O
I remembered Papa’s words about offering and art, and I remembered that sometimes offering is a sacrifice. I also remembered the power that Kingdom art has to continue to release the breakthrough and anointing from which it was created and that we are called to keep altar stones for seasons to always remember what Papa has done on our behalf. I decided that, while I may not be able to go all out and buy the biggest one, I am willing to take a risk on a smaller version. Do not despise small beginnings…On the journey towards the best, I’ve been learning to let good enough be good enough because at least it’s something rather than nothing at all. Though I know the last thing I wanted to do was to take on MORE debt, I feel so strongly about this image that I’m making the leap of faith, knowing that, even if I’m only hearing the voice of my own selfish desire and making a “bad” choice, Papa is still bigger than that and oh, so incredibly forgiving.
So, happy early birthday to me as I step out of my 2011-2014 desert season of scattered birds and solitude and surviving and into embracing this new season of spring, growth, finding my voice, singing my song, and bursting forth out of fear and into the passionate creativity Papa’s placed within me! Some people sacrifice for physical bodily beauty as they grow older, but I’m choosing to sacrifice for an expression of the internal beauty Papa is bringing about from my life. Time for Love to bloom in my heart (See: Hinds Feet on High Places), and to boldly place my feet on the promises He’s made.
What are the small risks He may be inviting you to take in this new Spring season?