My latest book entitled Soul Artisan: Musings on Faith & Life (264 pages) is a compilation of my Daily Illumination writings from 2017. Most were published previously here on my blog, but many are only available inside. They are what I call “rapid-fire thoughts from the hip” to help others navigate the busy and often confusing intersection of faith and everyday life. The opening preface shares a personal discovery this past year.
FROM THE PREFACE
I’m an artisan. It’s taken me about 38 years to admit it. I had myself pegged an athlete in high school, a bourgeoning intellectual in college, and a biblical-theologian since seminary. I figured athletes play sports and intellectuals and pastor-theologians think big thoughts about God and teach them to others. So, an artisan?
My right brain has been trying to get my attention for years. I’ve been too busy doing important left brain stuff to notice. Or, perhaps I’ve been doing a lot of right brain stuff and giving the left brain all the credit. Or, have I been doing left brain tasks with a right brain flair or in a right brain way?
For example, I write “thinky” blog pieces, but then spend more time finding the perfect feature photo to go with it. I’m the lead pastor of a church but still oversee all our interior decorating, marketing and branding, stage design, etc. I labor over a sermon in my study for hours with little to show for it, but then take a walk in nature to bring all my senses to the topic and it all comes together in a rush of inspiration. I struggle boiling the Bible down to 3-point propositional sermons, and much prefer helping people get swept up into the drama of the Story.
This year, more than any other, I have begun to appreciate how God has wired me. I’m feeling less inclined to fit other people’s molds for how to be a pastor and fulfill my call. My left brain has now gathered enough Biblical data to justify a more right brained approach to spiritual leadership. Alas, I have stumbled upon the most obvious of truths about God and his purposes for humankind: God Himself is an artisan and human souls are his raw material—God is a Soul Artisan.
“We are the clay, and you are the potter. We all are formed by your hand” (Isa. 64:8).
The idea of a “soul artisan” brings my left brain’s accumulation of big intellectual thoughts about God together with my right brain creativity and passion, and sends forth a pastor who looks at each person as a lump of clay from which God is longing to fashion a masterpiece! Pastors, as soul artisans, partner the Creator in that formation process. (See my Music Artists & Soul Artisans tribute to Tom Petty.)
This collection of Daily Illumination writings bears this title and stands as a small window into my soul-crafting activity and my own personal formation in 2017. While I intend to produce a volume like this each year, I suspect this has been a special “transition year” in my life. I describe this year in some detail in the final chapter 52 (“A Look in the Rearview”).
This has been a terribly unsettling year in the public domain: the nasty political climate surrounding a Trump White House, increasing numbers of terrorist attacks, North Korea nuclear threats, racial tensions and NFL “TakeAKnee” demonstrations, and ending with the demise of many public figures due to sexual misconduct allegations.
I have weighed in a times on some of these macro-issues, but for the most part have tried to keep our focus on Jesus and His Kingdom politics and priorities. This collection has a more “personal” flavor than most of my previous collections. I put them in ink mainly as a record for posterity and an offering to my family and church should they want to know what goes on in the mind of this clay-footed potter in training. I’m a soul artisan who is himself held firm in the skilled hands of the ultimate Soul Artisan. We are His handiwork, indeed!
“We are God’s handiwork.” —Ephesians 2:10
“We are the clay, and you are the potter. We all are formed by your hand.” —Isaiah 64:8