Need some inspiration?
In this first topic based episode, host Tim Ristow goes solo, taking you on a deep dive into what it means to be inspired, how inspiration works and how best to respond to it when you're inspired. Ristow gives listeners 5 important takeaways on how you can help jumpstart inspiration in your own creative life. Learn how inspiration influences our creativity, our faith, and what we create; get some Biblical examples of inspiration along the way; and examine the greatest Creative of all time – God, and His inspiration.
Bible Verse Citations:
"A Daily Word for Men" by Jared Winger
"My Dad as Storyteller" by Tim Ristow
"What Inspires You: 15 Answers to this Interview Question"
"Why Inspiration Matters"
"The Two Types of Inspiration"
"Shifting Mindsets: What Does It Take?"
"10 Ways for Christians to Embrace Our Creative Power"
"The Challenge Every Christian Creative Faces"
Today on Creative Christians...what inspires you? What is inspiration? How are we inspired? And what can we do to help encourage inspiration in our own creativity? How are faith and inspiration connected? Today, we're taking a deep dive into what it means to be inspired, coming up in the first topic episode of Creative Christians.
Creativity, faith, inspiration. As Christian creatives, how is our creativity different because of our faith?... You've got to believe in what you're doing. Listen and let the Holy Spirit lead you. To be in Christ and have an identity in Him above anything else, I think is extraordinary. If you believe God's called you, you can't walk away from that... These are stories of creative Christians.
Welcome to another episode of Creative Christians, the podcast series that explores Christian creatives, their talents, their faith, and what they're doing at the intersection of both. I'm your host, Tim Ristow. Today, we begin the very first of the topic-based episodes of this podcast. Basically, these are episodes where I'll raise a topic of interest to Christian creatives and then spend the episode discussing it. I'm going to offer various thoughts, researched ideas, and personal reflections on the topic. I'll bring information and resources into the discussion and then give you some takeaways on the topic as well. My goal in doing these topic episodes is really just giving an opportunity to dig deeper into some of these areas of interest to us as creatives. I want to provide you with some solid information on the topic, but also be a little bit more personal in tone as I'll be sharing some of my own story from time to time, some of my bits of my creative works and ideas, and of course, I'll always be sharing about my faith. Now, the guest interview format of the show is not going away. I'm simply adding these topic episodes to the mix in between select guest episodes. So, let's launch off.
It's only fitting to start off any discussion of creativity with the topic of inspiration, because inspiration is really the beginning of the creative process, right? It's the springboard for creativity. Inspiration is that spontaneous idea to do something creative or create something.
Everything we create starts with some kind of inspired idea, I'd argue. Whether you're a writer, filmmaker, podcaster, musician, artist, whatever creative field you work or play in, at some point you've been inspired. You know that feeling too. You feel an idea or the start of an idea hits you, you get excited about it, motivated by it, your creativity starts flowing, and you are moved into action to create. You're energized, hopeful, and engaged. When we are inspired, we are motivated to want to create, maybe something artistic or creative, maybe in order to solve issues or problems or achieve specific goals, often lofty ones, but it's really this heightened awareness of what we can do and that we have the potential to create something of value through the gifts God has blessed us with.
I want to start with this article from HappierHuman.com that sums up the feeling of inspiration pretty well. This is titled "What Inspires You? 15 Answers to this Interview Question" by Sarah Kristenson. It reads, and I quote, "Inspiration is the act of feeling so enthusiastic about someone or something that you put all you have into making it successful. Inspiration creates an atmosphere that allows you to go from apathy to enthusiasm in a heartbeat. Inspiration is what keeps you moving ahead despite the obstacles that inevitably appear. Inspiration allows you to see beyond what is and opens up the entire realm of possibilities. You can say that a person who feels inspiration puts their very essence into what they are doing."
A Harvard Business Review article about creativity titled "Why Inspiration Matters" by Scott Barry Kaufman from November 2011 explains it like this. "Inspiration awakens us to new possibilities by allowing us to transcend our ordinary experiences and limitations. Inspiration propels a person from apathy to possibility and transforms the way we perceive our own capabilities." This quote suggests – at least a little bit – that we can do this on our own. And I'm going to segue to kind of challenging that thought a little bit because this show is about the intersection of faith and creativity. How does faith, how does God, make our creative inspiration different? All human beings have been inspired at some point in their life, but as a Christian creative you know that inspiration comes from a special place, God, and has a special purpose in motivating and enhancing how and what you're creating.
It's more than merely a spark that just gets the process going, although sometimes it may be just that, but at times it can almost be this kind of symbiotic relationship, I guess you could say. For creatives, you're looking for inspiration to take your creativity to that next level. You're looking for something outside of yourself to help you get to that point.
I got a great example of this. In the previous episode of this podcast in my interview with actor and playwright Scott Nurmela, he talked about being inspired to write his latest play, The Front Porch. If you haven't heard it yet, definitely take some time after this episode to go back and listen to it. It's a great, great interview and he's just fun to listen to. Here's a quick sound bite back to that episode with Scott Nurmela talking about being inspired to write a scene for his play, The Front Porch.
Nurmela: "I remember going outside and saying, you know, God I know you're giving me this play to write, and there wasn't any doubt about that. I don't think like this, I'm not a reader, writer, any of that stuff. So I would get these individual scenes that I call them beads that were laying out randomly on a table. And then I took those beads and I laced the story through them to each one of these scenes that God wanted me to write that he put in my head. And that's how I made the necklace. It was two o'clock in the morning, I just wrote a whole bunch more. One of the scenes with Charlie the main character and Ronald the neighbor, a powerful scene with the two of them that I've never seen on stage before. I've never seen anything like it before. I watched it as I typed it out. That wasn't anything that he gave me beforehand. And it was almost a shocker to me. And as I typed in the scene, I sat back in my chair and went, wow."
So he's referring to the writing of the scenes of his play, The Front Porch, as individual beads and the entirety of the play being this necklace. Love that analogy. And God inspired him with the words and scenes to do so. That's incredible. It's an amazing example of God involved in the creative process of our lives. That's inspiration.
Today I've got a whole stack of stuff that I want to share with you. A bunch of great resources to dig into and I'll build discussions off of that. I've got five main points, five takeaways regarding how to jumpstart inspiration in your life. And I'll leave you with those today. We'll dig into each one and I'll summarize them again at the end. Now these are not unknown points.They're probably things we all know. Maybe we even consider them from time to time. Some of them we might actually even do. But we don't really think about them much in how we do them. We kind of take them for granted, I guess you could say. So my hope is that I can draw you to be more aware and intentional about these things and give you some clarity about them going forward.
But before we get into all that, I do want to take a very, very quick look at the inspiration process itself. What's going on under the hood, so to speak. What's happening in the process of inspiration. I don't want to get overly technical and I'm not trying to deconstruct it either. But I want you to understand what's going on under the surface so that as you encounter inspiration in your own life, and of course you will, you have already and you will again, you can respond appropriately to it. You can recognize how best to respond to it when you do experience it. All right, so what we do with inspiration is perhaps more important than just quote unquote being inspired. There's this kind of two-part process going on really. And the thing is they're both connected together. Both parts make up inspiration.
According to PsychologyToday.com, inspiration involves a passive and an active aspect. It is passive in the sense that you see someone else who leads you to want to improve yourself. And active in that it leads you in turn to want to create something of value. Okay, so first we've got the passive. Improve yourself. You see something, so you want to improve yourself because of what you've seen or heard or what have you. You know, we listen to a TED talk, we read a book, we see a film, we hear a song, whatever it may be, and we are motivated by the person or experience to improve something in ourselves. Next we've got the active aspect to create something of value. We move then to the process to writing that book of our life story or make that independent film or documentary we've always been wanting to produce about that really passion project. We write that song. We start that podcast, whatever the case may be. So we understand there's these two aspects going on when we are inspired. Each one complements the other and they are both necessary in order to truly fulfill inspiration or the inspirational process.
So how do we move from one to the other? From the passive to the active? That's the key element here that we need to always keep in mind. I think we all know someone, and we may have been that someone ourselves, I know I have, where they come to you with this great idea for a book or a great idea for a script for a movie, and they can tell you all about it and who and what inspired them. You know, what authors or filmmakers inspired this idea. They read this book series and loved it. They saw this film and were inspired by it. They can go into great depth, you know, about all sorts of stuff about it, talk very excitedly about it, the style of it, all these things. They're obviously inspired to think about these ideas, inspired by other people and their works. But that's usually as far as it goes. Oftentimes it just stops there and you know it will never make it to book form. It will never become a film. It will never go beyond just talking about it.
So there's the key element again, moving from the passive to the active. As with so many things, taking something, an idea, and not just talking about it endlessly or thinking about it endlessly, but putting it into action and actually making it happen, that's a big challenge of the creative process, right? As Mark Twain once said, "The secret of getting ahead is getting started." So get started.
But how do we move from one to the other? From passive to active. Well, the world tells us we can do it ourselves.
There's an article from PsychologyToday.com called "Shifting Mindsets. What Does It Take? Four Ingredients for Making Changes." This is by Gary Klein. A couple quick nuggets I'm going to pull from it here real quick.
"Mindsets have power. They can help us become more successful or they can block our way and keep us repeating our mistakes. A mindset is a belief... a view you adopt for yourself. It guides how you interpret events and how you react to them, the stance you take."
One of the key points he has here at the top of the article is "mindsets stem from beliefs and can help us become more successful or keep us repeating our mistakes." So, again, there's this underlying element in the whole article that we can do it ourselves. We can make this shift. It's all about just changing your mindset yourself. As I said earlier, I'm really going to challenge that notion because as Christians we need to let go and let God.
Let's look at John chapter 15, verse 5, where Jesus reminds us, "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." I love that because that's just such a beautiful reminder of our need for God, of our need for a Christ-centered life. That we need God. We can't do the things that we need to do in life without Him. And it's not the idea that we sit around and wait for God to do all the work, but it's that apart from God we can do nothing. He is the one who gives our lives meaning and purpose and He gives us strength to do what we do, to take action.
So back to the PsychologyToday.com article where it says, "A mindset is a belief." Okay, yeah, and as Christians our belief is in God, in Jesus, in a biblical worldview. And so as the article suggests, you know, mindsets stem from beliefs and can help us become more successful or keep us repeating our mistakes. Okay, well also our belief in God is grounded in the Bible and God's Word. And so yes, it will make us more successful because we are focused on God and can help us keep from repeating our sinful mistakes, right? Because we're all sinful human beings, we can't be perfect, we need to rely on God, His Word, as our source of strength and guidance each and every day. And then here where Klein talks about the effects of the mindset shift. "The shift is going to change what you pay attention to and what you ignore." Well, yes. So if our belief is in God's Word, yeah, that's going to dictate what we pay attention to and what we ignore. It's going to change what goals we pursue, it's going to change our expectations in life and day to day, it's going to change the actions we consider, it's going to alter our identity because our identity is grounded in God's Word, which means our identity is in Jesus Christ and in God.
So there you go. That's how you move from passive to active. You let go, you let God and recognize that He is the source, that this is a shift we can't make on our own successfully, that we need to recognize God's active presence in our life and entrust Him to help us every step of the way. And it's not our actions that make this happen. Let's be clear about this. It's not a works-based thing, but it's us recognizing God's active presence in our life that opens us up to receiving what He's doing. That's how you move from passive to active.
In a passive mindset, there can often be more of an aimless kind of wandering, and you're surrendering to life just kind of happening to you. When you have an active mindset, you really accept responsibility over the things that you can change. You take ownership of your thoughts, your actions, your decisions, and the resulting outcomes. You take ownership of what you prioritize in your life, how and what you choose to spend your time doing. I mean, God is in control. But you have freedom to do what you will within the confines of this amazing thing called time. And that's a big one. That's where I'm leading to. God has given each of us the same amount of hours in a day. We've all got 24 hours each day to do what we will with that time. The length of our lives vary, of course, from person to person. But for the years we have been granted on this earth, we've all got the same length of time in a day to work with. What are you doing with that?
If you're a Christian creative, how are you using that time and the gifts and talents God created you with to serve others and glorify God in this life?
This leads me to my first takeaway point on how to jump start inspiration in your life. Point number one: make time for inspiration.
I know you're going to say, "Well, inspiration is spontaneous.
How can I make time for it when I don't know when it will happen?" So it really comes down to two things. One, making time for creativity in your life and allowing for more opportunities for the possibility of inspiration to occur.
And two, actively engaging in experiences that have the potential to leave you inspired to create.
You know how I picked the topic for this episode? I was inspired to do so. And it was about this very point, making time for inspiration. I was actually using my time to open the door for inspiration when this happened. Alright, let me explain. Lately I've been using the devotional book "A Daily Word for Men, a 365-day devotional". This is written by Jared Winger, published by Broad Street Publishing in 2021.
My two sons and I are going through this devotional together this year. We do a different devotional every year and share once a month via text about what devotional over the past month really touched us the most, really got us to pause and think in our faith life.
We're in our third year of doing this, and I just absolutely love doing this with my boys, and each year seems to grow a little bit further for each of us. But this devotional in particular is really unique in that it focuses on a different word each day. The devotion I want to highlight today is from March 10th, and the word is...wait for it...inspiration. The Bible verse is from Exodus 35, verses 31 to 32. "He has filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge, and with all kinds of skills to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver, and bronze." Now these are some classic verses about the value God places on artists and creativity. It's part of a larger story over several chapters about the building of the tabernacle in the Old Testament. Really, in some ways, you can make a case for almost half or at least a third of Exodus, Book of Exodus, is about the building of the tabernacle, and describing in a sense the details of it, and the people and the process, and the creativity of it all, really. So I'll come back to this whole story in Exodus in a moment, because there's several great points to make from it regarding artistry and creatives.
Okay, on to the devotional itself.
"What inspires you? Does it get you out of bed in the morning? How often do you find yourself drifting off, thinking about it, or daydreaming while at work? Inspiration takes place when we make space for it. It is an important aspect in the life of humans as it pairs with creativity. We were made to create. It is a unique aspect in us. What is beautiful about humanity is that our inspiration varies. We create so differently. Our creative inspiration occurs in very broad spheres, which makes for so much of the beauty around us. We can get busy with life. Time is taken in our responsibilities. A job, a wife, a family, a home, studying, volunteering, or spending time with friends. It can stifle inspiration if we don't leave some space. And when we are not stimulated by new thoughts or envisioning new things, we can feel stuck on repeat. How do we break out of routine to find inspiration? It takes place when we make space."
I just love that devotion. It really caught my attention when I read that. The reflection question that ends the devotion asks this. What can you say no to today that will give you room to be inspired? Okay, listeners, how would you answer that question? What habits are holding you back from making time for your creativity? What things get in the way of you making time to be creative?And what changes can you make in your schedule to make sure you are allowing growth in your creative life? I'd really like to hear from you all on this point. So listeners, email me at email@example.com and let me know your answer to that question. What can you say no to today that will give you room to be inspired?
Clearly, creativity needs to be fostered. We need to actively make time for creativity in our lives in order to help develop it and allow ideas some needed room to breathe and grow. Not everything is spontaneous. That first part of the inspiration process typically is, but that second part of putting it into action often requires fostering the idea in order to make it happen. And you know, in this fast-paced technology-driven world, it's easy to forget that and get swept up in the hectic pace of life. We tend to get caught up in so many other things that we aren't always as intentional about taking the time it requires to develop a really good creative idea and then create it. We expect it to just kind of happen or come to us automatically with little time or effort. And sometimes it does, but even then, it may need some time to ferment and be taken from a rough draft to a much more polished and refined idea. Scott Nurmela in the last episode talked about how he really doesn't rewrite any of his stuff. He kind of got inspiration and those first drafts were largely what he went with. You know, there was some minor tweaking, but that was pretty much it. That's kind of rare.
It does happen. But even look at a lot of the movies today and you know, you've seen a film, you go, "Oh wow, they really should have spent a little more time on that script." You know, they should have developed that idea, that story, the dialogue a little better than they did. You know, you can tell, you get a sense of things when somebody's taken a creative idea and they really haven't developed as well as they could. They kind of pushed it out the door before it was ready. So when we allow ourselves time to think about, dwell upon, reflect on, and contemplate ideas and what we want to create, what that might look like, why we are creating it, and how we're going to create it, then we really begin the process of actually creating.
It develops in the mind and the heart, but it really starts with making time to be inspired and to create. That is all part of inspiration. It takes time, it takes space, it takes intentionality, it takes thought, it takes work, it also takes rest, and it takes prayer. So just as in my example, I make time for devotions in my life. Now that's important for any Christian, whether you're a creative or not, but it's also important for creatives in that it opens up your mind to higher things, to God's word, and leads to the potential for inspiration, just like it did with me with this devotion and this topic for the podcast you're listening to right now.
My next point regarding how to jump start inspiration in your life is, point number two, seek biblical wisdom on inspiration and pray about it. I'm assuming that you're already studying the Bible in your own personal daily faith walk. This should be in addition to that. This is you seeking out God's word for insight on what God says about his inspiration to us and examples of creativity in the Bible that may inspire you in your own creativity. The Bible is, after all, the inspired word of God. There's that awesome word again, inspired. God inspired man with the words, God's words, to write the letters and texts that ultimately formed the Bible we have today, right?
So God gave the inspiration to men to do that. So what better source of wisdom and inspiration to rely on in your own creativity than the very word of God? Use the wisdom of God, wisdom of the Bible, to guide your creativity and to foster inspiration in your life. As I said earlier, inspiration typically comes from another source other than ourselves. It begins with someone or something outside of ourselves. Back to Exodus 35:32. Those who do every work and those who design artistic works, right? That's what that verse says. Again, this is about the building of the tabernacle. And so the leaders who were building the tabernacle were given a unique inspiration from the Holy Spirit to do this very important job. Now, it was a practical job. Build the temple. And God wanted the work done a very specific way and according to a very specific pattern. If you look back at Exodus 25 verse 9. So it makes sense that He specially inspired certain people to do the work. People with specific skills and talents that He inspired them with.
But even in those patterns or blueprints, if you will, there was room for creativity. So it wasn't just that God wanted a bunch of type A's running the show. He wanted people who could see beauty and imagination and creativity in those patterns, in those blueprints. He was clear about what He wanted, but He gave them freedom to create it, just as He does in our lives. In verse 35 of Exodus 35 we're told, "He has filled them with skill to do every sort of work done by an engraver or by a designer or by an embroiderer in blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen or by a weaver, by any sort of workman or skilled designer." That's beautiful. Sounds colorful and vivid and inspiring, doesn't it? Sounds like He wanted creatives running the show. Skilled creatives who could stay on task and get the job done, but also use their gifts of imagination and creativity to create something of beauty, something that would inspire, something that mimics the beauty of God's own creative acts, something that is creative, like God.
So in order to better understand how we're inspired, we need to look closer at who gave us our creativity to begin with. God. God is the first and ultimate creative, right? In Genesis we're told, in the beginning God, what? "Created" the heavens and the earth.
Created is the fifth word in the Bible. It's the first recorded act that God actually does.
I mean, He clearly enjoyed the process, right? The creative process. Six times He stops, pauses from creating, to observe what He's doing, and then say that it was good.
And then at the end He gives it a final review saying it was very good. So I mean, not only is He creating, but He's stopping long enough to observe, to enjoy what He's creating. What He's creating. And to that, it's amazing to me, He created everything out of nothing.
He didn't create using pre-existing matter. There wasn't any. He created with His Word, and it was effortless. He spoke, and the universe was created. I love Psalm 33.9. "He spoke, and it came to be." He created with His Word alone. Isn't that incredible? When you think about all the resources, tools, and elements, and time you and I have to put together to create something, I think about all the gear I got to put together just to do a video shoot. It's amazing to think about how God simply spoke, and it was. God, the ultimate creative, simply spoke, and His creation came into existence. He willed it into being.
Now, we are created in the image of God, therefore we are designed to reflect a creative God. We see the beauty in His creation and are inspired to recreate it in creative ways.
In Psalm 104:24, David praises God, saying, "O Lord, how manifold are Your works,"
manifold meaning variety, "in wisdom have You made them all, the earth is full of Your creatures." He's saying how the earth is filled with diverse, varied, creative beings and works.
I mean, God spends a full week just creating everything. He dedicates a week to creativity. There are times I wish I had a solid week just to spend on the creative process. You know, not all the prep and minutia that often comes with getting to that point, but I'd love to have a week to just create. But this all goes back to my first takeaway of making time for creativity. God clearly did. By the way, have you wondered what inspired God? Why did He create everything to begin with? Was He bored? Did He need something to do? I'm kidding, of course. We can't know the mind of God, and the idea of thinking what inspired Him starts to get mind-boggling. But as we talk about our own inspirations and how we are created in the image of God, it makes me wonder what inspired God to create. He's infinite. He always was, always is, and always will be. He always was, yet at some point He decided to stop, create the universe, the world, and all of us. What inspired Him to do so?
Check out Revelation 4:11 for some insight into the answer. "Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created. So the short answer is God created all things to glorify Him. He created us to reflect His glory and to give Him glory. And it was all part of His plan from the very beginning. From Ephesians 1:4, "Even before He made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in His eyes." Genesis 1:27 says, "Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." Well, God was inspired by God. We need inspiration by sources outside of ourselves. We're dependent creatures, dependent upon God. God is God. He inspires Himself. That's how amazing God is. He is the source of inspiration. He is creativity.
We can go on and on with scriptures, but the simple answer is this. God created out of His love and for His glory. So we should be creating with the intent of serving God out of love and glorifying Him through our creative process and works. Does that mean that everything we create should only and directly be about God? No, of course not. But we should create things and create them in a way that brings glory to God.
This is from the Christian Century, an article titled "10 Ways for Christians to Embrace Our Creative Power." It's by Kirk Jones. "Seeing God in a more creative light invites us to hear and move freely to the creative rhythms of the gospel." I love that. "The closer people got to Jesus, the more imaginative and daring they seemed to become. Peter did not try walking on water until he saw Jesus doing it. Martha had not wondered about her brother coming back from the dead until she heard what Jesus had in mind. The whole lot of them could not have imagined that Calvary wasn't the end of it all until it wasn't. There was no following Jesus without taking in and taking on the wild and wonderful possibilities He inspired day in and day out." That's pretty cool.
How has God inspired you to create? And what does He want you to do with it? Consider your subject matter. Consider the message or what you're trying to say through your creative works. Consider who you're creating it for, your audience. Why is it worth creating? What is God wanting you to convey through your creativity?
Last but not least, pray about it. Open up your creative life to God by talking with Him directly about your creativity, asking Him to bless it. Ask Him questions about how you should proceed with your creative projects, you know, point by point, go through step by step as you're going through this. Seek His guidance and be open to how He answers those questions that you ask of Him. Look for His guidance and be prepared for answers you may not expect, but be ready to act when He calls you to do so.
Here's something else that goes back to a point I made earlier.
You know, prayer is an open admission that without Christ we can do nothing. It's this open admission to God that we need Him and we wish to rely on Him and Him alone. He goes about providing the strength for us. Prayer is us turning away from ourselves and toward Christ, the source of all our strength. Prayer opens us up to God's calling on our lives. As Christian creatives and a recognition that our creativity comes from Him. And as we recognize that, we can more fully receive the things that God intends for us because we get in tune with God.
So as a Christian creative, we have a higher calling beyond just creating works of art or entertainment. God calls us as Christians to use our creative gifts in a meaningful, God-pleasing way to fulfill His will and to help show others God's light and love.
All right, my next takeaway is number three. Seek out mentors for inspiration. It's not tough to find people whose work we admire and want to emulate in various creative fields. I'm sure we all have filmmakers, authors, musicians, actors, actresses, what have you, whose work we admire, right? But now I'm talking about finding mentors and mentors who are fellow Christian creatives that we can interact with personally. Finding people you can look up to for inspiring the spiritual side of your creativity alongside the skilled side of it all.
People who have a biblical doctrine and biblical worldview that you both share while also being very talented at their craft. You want someone of good character. You want someone who's humble. This is all key. It's much like the people God selected and inspired to design and build the tabernacle, right? Now I realize finding a mentor is something you usually can't just go out and do. It's not like it's a shopping list item, right? And you can just check it off the list. This might be a little tougher takeaway to do, depending upon who's in your life right now and in your spheres of influence. One of the reasons why I started this podcast to begin with was to bring creative guests on to interview and learn from them and grow in the knowledge of their experiences and their creativity. And I've learned so much from each of my guests that I brought on so far. Of course, my goal and my hope has been that you listeners have benefited from them sharing their experiences and their knowledge as well. Now, contrary to what some believe, mentors are not people who are always offering you lots of advice, always trying to tell you what to do and the best way to do it. In fact, those are the people you should run from. You want mentors, not tour mentors. Now there's not necessarily anything wrong, of course, with people telling you how to do things or what you're doing wrong. That can sometimes actually be helpful, maybe even what we need on occasion, but that's not being a mentor. That's a critic.
Mentors are guides. They really don't spend their time talking. They may ask you questions, then they do a lot of listening. They challenge you to consider different perspectives, but they aren't seeking to clone themselves in you. They seek to help you find your own way through different creative challenges, which is almost certainly different from the mentor's own path. They pray for you and your creativity and faith. They are positive, affirming, uplifting, and motivating in helping you grow in your creativity and faith. We certainly need more of that in this day and age where everyone is a critic, feels they know better than you, and may openly express how much they know better than you, and so often really want to tell you how things "should" be done. I'm reminded of something Monte Reid, my guest in one of the early episodes of this podcast, reminded us about, in that we should speak the truth in love. It's talking about God's Word, of course, and that's from Ephesians 4:15, which says, "But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into him who is the head, that is, Christ." So in using that same line of thinking, that same line of conduct, we speak the often difficult truths of life, in this case when a mentor does need to speak some difficult things to you in your creative life, they should do so in a kind, compassionate, and loving way.
A gentleman by the name of Wes Molebash, creator of something called the Insert Image Comic, was writing for ChurchMag online, and he had this interesting point to make, and I quote, "Christian creatives face a unique struggle, if I may call it that. From the moment their creative talents are first discovered by their church leadership and or Christian mentors, they're often advised to create a specific type of art. You see, it's not enough for a Christian creative to simply create stuff, they have to create Christian stuff. So if you love Jesus and you're a dancer, you've probably been told to be a Christian dancer. If you like to cook, you've probably been told to be a Christian chef. If you like to paint, you've probably been told to be a Christian painter. If you like to draw blood for medical testing, you've probably been told to be a Christian phlebotomist. The struggle is trying to figure out what it means to be a Christian anything. I'm no stranger to the struggle. I can remember being told quite often that I should be a Christian cartoonist, whatever that means. I tried. When I was in my late teens, early 20s, I created a few evangelical comic strips and pitched them to magazines. They were soundly rejected because they were horrible. I learned quickly that forced faith messages are insincere and an audience sees right through that noise. But the beauty is that Christians don't need to force their faith into their creations. It'll happen of its own accord and it will be much more fluid that way."
That's a quote from cartoonist Wes Molebash back in 2015. I don't know much about him, but those are some great insights. And you know, I'm using this as an example because that's the type of insights you want from a mentor. You know, them sharing their personal experiences for you to learn from and apply to your own creative life, however it may help. And you decide how it applies to you.
So who are your mentors?
You know, when I asked myself that question, I think so many people that have fed into me over the decades. But my dad would have to be the first and foremost. And while I always had a great relationship with my father, and he was always a spiritual, fatherly, and masculine mentor to me, I didn't really recognize his direct influence on me as a creative while he was living. He passed away in 2019, and it was shortly before Father's Day of 2022 that I was just kind of personally evaluating and reflecting upon how the family dynamics had changed in the wake of his passing. And that I really started thinking about all the influences he had on me that were now gone. It was kind of this moment of discovery for me.
I quickly grew inspired to write about his influence on my life in a piece titled "My Dad as Storyteller." It's on my website at timristow.com if you're interested in reading it. But in it I talked about those many influences as a pastor telling stories from the pulpit each week. As a writer, he wrote thousands of sermons in his lifetime. As an amateur photographer and filmmaker, he certainly was the one who documented most of our family's events and memories, at least when I was younger. As a grandparent, he was sharing his lifetime of stories with my kids. And as a father, in the life examples he set for me, he always had my back, even when I screwed up. That doesn't mean he let me off the hook, but he was very compassionate. I always recognized those roles in the past, especially as a pastor, father, and grandfather.
But as I set out writing this piece, there came this moment of discovery and clarity, in that I recognized my father had been a creative too. His interests and pursuits of photography, filmmaking, and storytelling were elements that I had perhaps dismissed a bit too offhandedly in my youth. Simply because they weren't his professional skills or even necessarily passion pursuits for him. He simply enjoyed doing them. You know what? That was enough to inspire me. I realize I'm fortunate that I can list my father as one of my mentors, both in life and as a creative. I know not everyone can do that. And even though he's passed away, his influence is still felt. Who are the mentors or potential mentors in your life? I plan to do an entire future episode on this topic of mentors, so I'm going to stop here. But let's leave it at this. Seek out mentors who are humble. It doesn't take much to find those who are prideful, even fellow Christians. So you might have to search a bit to find a truly humble mentor who will lead with emotional intelligence and skill, but it's worth the effort. Spend some time wrestling with who you might seek to ask to be a mentor or mentors in your own creative life, if you don't already have them. And if you do have mentors already, spend time with them and learn all that you can while they are in your life. You can find plenty of information online about a variety of different resources and details of creativity and all sorts of things, but interaction with people is precious. And when you've got a mentor in your life, take advantage of that.
Moving on to takeaway point number four, study other creative works. Now that may seem incredibly obvious and out of every takeaway that I have on the list here, this one probably is most likely something everyone is already doing. We're living in a time when the sheer volume of choices we have of creative works to invest our time in is almost infinite. It's just, it's massive amount of material and it's easy to get caught up in simply just watching things for entertainment alone. You know, we're all binge watching the latest TV series, right? On Amazon or Apple or Netflix. We're all streaming our music on Spotify playlists. We're all watching our favorite YouTubers and the videos out there or catching up with a vlogger or listening to a host of different podcasts. There's no shortage of media that we're consuming.
That's the distinction for us. We've just become more often these passive consumers of media and content rather than seeking out to invest our time and energy and efforts in discovering and exploring creative works that have the potential to inspire us. In other words, make smart decisions with the creative works that you watch, listen to, engage with, choose wisely, look for things that you will invest not only in your creativity, but make choices that also help to invest wisely for your faith life as well.
Now I'm a filmmaker, so I get inspired by watching films and you know digging into the making of films and the stories that surround the making of films and all of that, you know, the story itself that the film is based on. If it's a true story, I love to dig into all that stuff. So I'm going to share a couple quick examples of films that I've seen recently that have been inspiring to me on different levels and in different ways.
The first film I want to talk about is a faith-based film called "Sound of Freedom". I'm sure most of my listeners have either seen it, heard about it, or are aware of it in some way, shape, or form. It is a powerful, powerful film about the very dark world of child trafficking and it stars Jim Caviezel as Tim Ballard. It's based on a real-life story. Tim Ballard was a Homeland Security agent who was involved in breaking up these child trafficking rings and Caviezel is just amazing in it, as is the whole cast and the filmmakers put together just an incredibly powerful film.
But what was inspiring about this on two levels for me that I want to talk about, it is labeled as a faith-based film and it is...in some ways subtle and in some ways very foundational without being preachy. That's what I love about it. So, you know, it's subtle in that there are references to God and to faith and to things of that nature that you would expect, but it's more just natural or organic the way it comes out in the story. Probably the famous line you've probably seen in the trailer, if you haven't seen the movie, is Caviezel's character is asked, you know, "Why do you do what you do?" And, you know, Caviezel again is amazing in this film. He's got those just pained eyes that are so expressive and just truly those windows to the soul. You can just see that he's emoting what this character has felt dealing with the horrible things he's seen. And his response to "Why do you do what you do?" is "Because God's children are not for sale." And it's a powerful line, it's very well written, but it also gives immediate credence to the fact that he is a man of faith who recognizes that, number one, there is a God and God created us. And he takes seriously his role as a good steward here on this earth to protect children, to protect the innocent.
Another scene that takes place between Caviezel's character of Ballard and a former cartel guy that has turned his life around somewhat, partly, and is helping Caviezel to try and ferret out these cartel guys and help save the children through the course of the story. So anyway, they're having a conversation and Caviezel, you know, asks him, "Why are you doing what you do? Why are you helping out instead of, you know, you could still be making millions in the cartel and living the life you did?" And of course, the cartel guy shares a very emotional story about essentially... I'm going to summarize this quickly because I do want to have an entire podcast episode about faith-based films... So the cartel guy tells this pretty powerful story of him coming face to face with essentially the children he's been victimizing and recognizing, that he's the problem, that he's, as he put it, he's the darkness that he sees in this young girl's eyes. When he recognizes that, you know, this is rock bottom for him, he's at the lowest point, and he puts a gun to his head, he intends to kill himself, and he says at that point, it seemed like a good time to ask if God exists, if God's there. And then of course, this next famous line, again, well-written, excellent line, he says, "And when God responds, you cannot hesitate." And I love that because there again is this depth of a spiritual message, again, a recognition, "Oh, he realized God does exist," and starts to turn his life around. Instead of killing himself, instead of ending it there, he changes his life around instead of being the problem, instead of giving into the darkness, he becomes someone that wants to fight for the kids and stop the thing that he was once part of the problem with. So it's just very powerful.
That to me is one of the best ways of handling a faith-based story, where the faith elements, the biblical worldview you could say, is there on the surface, it's clear, but it's also foundational to the story. It isn't preachy, it doesn't wear it on its sleeve all the time, but it's integral to the story and it's clear that it's the motivation of the characters, and there's a reason for it, and that these characters believe it, and they act on it. They don't always stop and talk about it all the time, but when they do have a conversation like that, it feeds into the character, it feeds into the story, it feeds into the motivation for it. This is where I think "Sound of Freedom" is very inspirational and I think changes the way faith-based films will be done moving forward, or at least will try to emulate, because this film...here's the second part that's inspirational to me, is the real-life story of "Sound of Freedom", in the sense of the film itself.
It was made for 14, 15 million dollars, and as of the time of this recording, we're here in the summer of 2023, this film is still playing in the United States, and it's made 175 million dollars, unheard of for a faith-based film with that kind of production budget. So it's a huge success, and it hasn't even gone global yet. I think they're getting ready to push it out into maybe a dozen countries, so its earning potential is still there. So it's an amazing success story both on screen in terms of the real-life story, the film telling the story successfully, and with a small budget that capitalized it and made the most of it. I mean, it's there on screen, you see that 15 million dollars on screen, in fact it looks like it was made for probably twice that, you know, so they made good use of their budget. And then it's also a success story in terms of, you know, the filmmakers and the film achieving way beyond what anyone anticipated. But that is an inspirational film, as far as I'm concerned.
All right, the second film I want to talk about that I've been inspired by is the film "1917". It's a World War I film from several years ago. A couple months ago, my youngest son and I had a chance to sit down and watch it. He was really curious about it, I was curious about it. But it's the story of two young soldiers in World War I fighting in the trenches of World War I. It's a men on a mission movie, so they're sent out across the battlefield through enemy territory to deliver a message to one of their other units on the far end of the battlefield. They've got information that says an attack that that other unit is about to launch will fail because they think they're going up against a smaller number of the enemy than is actually true. They've got information, intelligence now, that suggests that they are going to confront an overwhelming number of the enemy. So it's absolutely vital that they get this message to that other unit because they're going to launch that attack soon. And if they do, basically all those men are going to die. So they're the stakes for them getting across and getting across in time to deliver this message.
What's unique about this film and the buzz that kind of surrounded it before it even came out was that cinematographer or DP Roger Deakins who's also lensed films like "Blade Runner 2049" and I think a James Bond film and a bunch of other great stuff. He's a wonderful cinematographer and he and the director used the technique of wanting the movie to look like it's one continuous shot. Obviously it's not. They obviously use a lot of different techniques. There are some places where I was even looking for where the seams, you know, where they either edited or carefully made it look like it's, you know, the shot's still going. But it's tough to tell because a lot of it is staged very, very well and they did long takes, long shots and handing the camera off and things like that to kind of keep the shot going. But there are a number of shots. I haven't watched all the making of on this yet but I want to dig more into that. But my whole point on this is it's a very unique and compelling technical technique used to help put you in the story better and to follow along with these characters to make it feel like you are on the mission with these two young men. It makes the battlefield experience, it makes the whole mission experience that much more visceral.
So on a technical level, that's very inspiring because I look at that and go, "Wow, how could I use that technique in maybe some of my own work to help, you know, on my client projects tell a story from a more visceral perspective by following someone, you know, continuously through a piece?" That might be an interesting approach to take, you know, just kind of borrowing that idea and taking it to a project of my own. Or coming up with something else original, you know, just looking at my own work and saying, "Hey, you know, in '1917' they looked for a unique way to tell that story. And as filmmakers, we're always looking for a unique way to tell the story, to stand out from the pack. You're looking for ways to tell things differently, better, and take a unique perspective." And that's what stood out for me about "1917". You know, it's really a technical approach, but it influences the story and the storytelling, and that's what inspires me about "1917".
So, you know, these are two quick examples I wanted to share with you about some films, because I'm a film guy, that are inspirational to me. Look for that in whatever creative works you're studying, you know, whether it's books or music or art, or other podcasts. I mean, just look for things that you can invest your time in, but that will help you to be inspired. Don't just consume a bunch of stuff because it's available out there, but be more selective in choosing things that will help to inspire you in your own creative works and in your faith life.
And we come to the final takeaway point, point number five, observe God's creation. In other words, stop and smell the roses. Take some time out of your busy schedule to marvel at, enjoy, observe, engage with this wonderful, beautiful, complex, amazing world that God has created for us. Going back to my first takeaway where I said, you know, God set aside time for creativity, right? He set aside six days to create everything, the universe, the world, us. So he did take away number one. He scheduled time, right, for creativity. So then we should also be able to follow God's example by scheduling time to be creative. But the other thing he did was, of course, scheduled time to stop and observe his creation and say that it was good. Well, if God, again, sets that example, then we should also take time to stop and observe and engage with and see how good his creation is, to enjoy it, to learn from it, to be inspired by it.
This is really timely. Last night, me and my boys had our devotional share that I've talked about before, and my oldest boy sent me his favorite devotion for the month. And again, going back to "A Daily Word for Men" by Jared Winger, the word he shared was the word "tranquil" from August 15th. And the reference verse here is Psalm 46:10, "Surrender your anxiety, be still, and realize that I am God. I am God about all the nations, and I am exalted throughout the whole earth." And the devotion here reads, "The mountains were high above him, capped with black cliffs frosted by white snow. The sun was bright and the sky blue, the reflection creating imaginary sapphires shimmering in the stream. Birds chirped in the green canopy above, while squirrels tussled in the leaves below. He loved these moments of tranquility with no one around, just nature at its best and the creator by his side. He found in these times that stillness returned to his soul. The worries of life drifted away, and he found a soothing rhythm in the relaxing sounds that pleased his ears. There is great peace in God's creation." So it was really touching that my son sent me this. Last night I kind of needed a little tranquility myself too. It was a little bit of a crazy day, and it was neat that he shared that particular word, both for his benefit, but it also ended up benefiting me too. And it ties in really well with what we're talking about here. So I thought I'd share that quickly with you. Neat, neat way that my son has ministered to me, and hopefully is ministering to you too now by me sharing that. But a good reminder of what we're talking about here.
It's interesting, here in Central Texas we've had some brief periods of snow and ice the last couple of winters that have really kind of been brutal. In fact, we had an ice storm earlier this year here in 2023 that just the ice hung around so long it really stressed the trees and the branches. And we had a lot of breakages because it hung around so long and the weight was so much for so long that it, that we had a lot of breakages. And we have some old oak trees in their yard that we really didn't want to lose. A lot of breakages across the whole neighborhood here, a lot of damage. But as we entered spring, I watched as these trees bloomed again and there was all sorts of new growth sprouting all over the trees. Then the spring rains came and it started to recover really nicely.
My point is I'm inspired by the simple yet oh so complex changing of the seasons. You know, as I pause to reflect and watch God at work in His creation, the amazing ability of trees and grass and plants to rejuvenate, revive, resurrect if you will, after a harsh season is a reminder to me of God's presence, a reminder of Christ's resurrection, a reminder that He makes all things new again. So for example, it inspires me to want to incorporate some type of stories of renewed life into my writing or stories of revival.
It inspires me to want to find ways to use more time-lapse shots, for example, of the seasons into my filmmaking to convey the passage of time and create a more epic feel to certain scenes that are appropriate. Those type of visuals just carry a grander meaning to them when you condense time to convey meaning. It also reminds me that God is present in our world, and despite sin and all the destructive forces at work in our culture today, God is present and active in the daily life and functioning of our world and in our lives. The seasons remind me of all this and more, and so as I pause, observe, and reflect on those things actively going on around me, I'm inspired toward greater ideas and stories and shots and things that are bigger than me. It encourages me to want to explore those things in my creative work, through something as simple as observing the changing of seasons. So pause, watch, listen to the things going on around you in the world, in God's creation. You and I are part of his creation, so observe what God is doing in your own life too. Be a good steward of what you've been given with your talents as a creative, in the life you've been given to live and the time you've been given to live it. Don't just stop at being an observer, interact with the world and the people around you in your life. God's put you in this place with these people for such a time as this. What will you do with that? New stories and inspirations can occur by engaging with the world around you.
All right, very quickly let's review those five points about how to jump start inspiration in your life that we've covered in today's episode. Point number one, schedule time for creativity. You can find inspiration by making time to be creative. Point number two, study the Bible for inspiration. Dig into God's Word. You will be inspired. Point number three, seek out and find a mentor. Embrace and seek out potential Christian mentors in your life. Look for people who will willingly be a mentor to you. Also, we didn't get into this, but seek out community with other Christian creatives. That can be a whole episode in itself too. Point number four, study other creative works. Read, listen to music, study art, watch films, learn from them and diversify your study of the works of other creatives. And finally, point number five, observe God's creation. Look at what's going on around you, where God has placed you and examine it through the lens of your faith, God's work. Take a walk in nature, travel, explore the local community, the world around you. It won't take long to be inspired by something you discover. In fact, if you combine making time for inspiration with seeking biblical wisdom and observing God's creation all in one, you're virtually guaranteed to be inspired.
That does it for this episode of Creative Christians. Today we've been talking about inspiration and how to jumpstart it in your creative life. My hope and prayer is that this episode has been inspirational for you. Thanks for joining us.
Go to Apple Podcasts or whatever your favorite podcast distributor is and be sure to subscribe to catch each and every new episode. I'd really appreciate it if after listening, you'd take a moment to rate the show, helps me to gauge feedback and rankings for the show. And if you're really feeling generous, I'd love it if you left a brief review as well. Let me and others know what you like about Creative Christians. You can also email me directly with your feedback, comments, or questions at tim at timristo.com. I'd love to hear from you.
I'm Tim Ristow. Until next time, stay creative – and stay in God's word. Blessings.
Creative Christians is produced by yours truly, Tim Ristow. As always, a shout out to my lovely and supportive wife, Tracy Ristow. Creative Christians is an audio production of Tim Ristow Productions. Visit timristow.com to learn more. That's T-I-M-R-I-S-T-O-W.com.