See - Isa 64:8 & Jer 18:6

Dear friends,

As we round the bend into 2009 I am aware how time has slipped through my fingers and, the writing of these letters with it! Today is the day to remedy that. I trust and pray this letter finds you well – resting in His grace and hoping for Christ' coming anew in the paths of your personal journey.

Since we last visited I have had many interesting moments of both the practice and observance of worship, art, and healing. I am, as you all know, regularly concerned for the struggle of the church to find peace in its worship life. As I reflect on recent experience, I know within my heart that the need for healing among artists and clergy, congregants and leadership is more acute than ever. Even in the world, as various servants are requested to appear in public and ask God’s guidance for the next chapter of our nation’s political life, we argue over theology, morality, and freedom of speech and thought. Is this any wonder? The church, wanting so much to be a beacon of light and hope for a lost world, often shows better how dysfunctional it is – rather than applying grace and forgiveness as the Lord of Life never failed to do.

It is therefore my passion here to share with you several things I am convinced of. One, through great art, literature, and music God is both author and giver of gifts to His people. Second, God can move the coldest and most stubborn heart through a melody, a painting, a poem, a movement of grace – and that is a huge responsibility for His artists! Most importantly, to be an artist in God’s house must first be FOR God and for man second. Let us then begin a discussion of how best to function as an artist for these truthful purposes. Indeed this will be our topic for a few sessions.

Working for The Designer

bulletIt never ceases to amaze me how great musicians, artists of all sorts really, are motivated and inspired in their work by pain they have suffered. This is true in all genres, all mediums, in the church and in the world. Even in scripture, primarily the Old Testament, great artists are colorful if not “artistic” in their temperament and make up. I believe this is because art is fueled by emotion (a good part of God’s design), perception, and experience. Indeed art is a creative reflection of what we see and believe – an “opinion” if you will. It stands to reason then that folks who have artistic gifts are going to find release and value in expressing what pain has taught them and how it affects their life. It may even be that this expression has a “ministry” to the artist himself. Many composers in the classical world have talked about the creation of a musical piece as a “painful birth” – something unavoidable and desperately inevitable. Stories of great hymn writers reveal poignant turmoil before some of the greatest lyrics ever penned. Contemporary song writers in the church often feel compelled to write about how God has used pain to bring them closer to the Light and the path of victory. These are often good roads to healing in worship.

This being true, our discussion of being an artist in the church begins with a question. Do artists in God’s house realize that appropriate and regular healing must be at work in their own hearts in order for God’s power and healing to flow through their art? It doesn’t have to be huge – it doesn’t have to be at light speed – it doesn’t have to be like the healing of others around them. It just needs to be – ongoing, and most importantly, the strong desire of every Christian art creator. Personal healing could certainly, and probably should be, under girded by prayer, study, fellowship with mature believers, and a devotion to the “inner life”. This last component is a necessity I have observed in the great writings of the likes of Henry Nouwen, Dietrich Bonhoffer, St Francis, John Donne, Annie Dillard, and Mother Teresa – to name but a few. Walking the “inner life” is not an exercise in self absorption, rather a discipline of laying aside all that hinders devotion to God. It is hard, lonely, and Godly. It is the place of clarification and the birthing room of freedom. In laymen’s terms, I liken it to emotional open heart/soul surgery, with Christ presiding as chief resident.

Many who read this, who are involved in small or large ways in church art, may react with various levels of skepticism. “You’re making too big a deal of all this” they will say – “it doesn’t have to be so complicated and serious”. On the contrary! Worship is serious work and those who lead; who create art, who sing and play on platforms, who write and perform, and who do it in the name of Jesus must take this journey of healing seriously. After all, it is the God of the universe we are working for and His beloved children whose lives we affect! And, lest we forget, it is the Good News we attempt to proclaim, encourage, reflect upon, and serve as artists in God’s house. Nothing could be more serious. And good. And God honoring. And encouraging to those around us. Most importantly, God wants His children to be whole and will do miraculous things for those who seek this healing.

So let us begin as artists in the house of God, with attention to our spiritual journey and any healing needed. It may be the healing of one event, the healing of a lifetime, recovery and twelve step work, or simply ongoing prayer for purity of heart, mind and spirit. This must be a healing we thirst and long for, ask for, entreat others to help us with, and above all be honest about. It is then our art will find a voice and a mission – to serve Christ and His church – and to be a blessing for the world to see.



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The Journey
God and Ron Connecting

bulletThis past fall I was honored to be with a church near Chicago as artist/consultant and saw anew how God would glorify Himself through my own past “pain/learning” as a worship leader. By sharing what I had experienced and learned, I was able to appropriately advise a good colleague in ministry and buoy her to be honest with her boss and the artists she works with.

Through provocative times of reflection among these dear folks, God reminded me about my own follies as a worship leader and renewed my sense of value by allowing affirmation of my gifts. It was a weekend for this church with richness beyond what we had prayed for. The biggest gift for me however, was taking Cynthia along for the first time and hearing her speak to me after the weekend about what she saw God do. Her comments about the work, the vigor and passion she saw, and how amazed she was were so humbly and deeply needed. After all, she knows me best and has been my partner all along the way.

While the work isn’t finished, I believe God was keenly present in this church consult and even more keenly present in my healing journey – to bring about rich fruits that others will taste.

“Weak and wounded sinner, lost and left to die.

Oh raise your head for Love is passing by.

Come to Jesus, come to Jesus,

Come to Jesus and live!”



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From the Other Side

We need and want to hear from you! Please don’t hesitate to critique and dialogue with me about these letters. Your prayers, thoughts, and encouragements are precious to me. And, if you feel at all inspired/able, please pass this on to others you know may need to hear about our discussions here.

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Ron and Cynthia Arden
My deepest thanks for your time spent here. I would be blessed even more if you’d pass this on to friends and church folk. Also, visit the website for tasty news about cds, workshops, and concerts available:

bulletRon & Cynthia Arden
A Cross Between Concert Ministries
2729 Enoch
Zion, Ill 60099