Wild Words . . . Photos & Fine Art

Co-creating by heart with sandy cathcart through writers helps and art info, focusing on all things wild.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Need Inspiration?

I spent the entire day yesterday on the edge of the Rogue/Umpqua Wilderness picking the biggest, plumpest huckleberries ever! I never saw another human, and heard the engine of only one car the whole day. Instead, a gentle breeze caressed my face and sang through the tops of the tall timber, and blue Jays and chipmunks chattered at me from time to time. It was glorious!

And it was inspiring!

Good news I haven’t shared with you yet . . . an editor looked at my Wild Women chapter and was very interested. She, in turn, told her managing editor who asked for the rest of the book. Well . . . there is no rest of the book, because I’m not finished yet. So I sent him eight chapters.

He, read it, liked it, and gave it to his publisher, who read it, liked it, and asked for the rest.


But . . . I’m not finished . . . and . . . now the pressure is on to finish it as well as I’ve started. Can I do it? The pressure brought everything to a grinding halt.

Having two ten-year-old grandchildren living with me for the summer brought a lot of writing to a halt as well.

So, I did the thing any good writer would do. I took advantage of a free day to myself by heading to the hills. After all, huckleberries don’t wait.

The trick in this kind of inspiring activity is to go it alone. I was an hour from the nearest civilization . . . the thought both exhilarated and sometimes frightened me. But, boy, howdy, did I ever get ideas.

The outline I couldn’t quite pull together came into full view, or at least nearly full view. I’m aware of how the book will end now, and of most of the pieces getting there. I keep a small writing tablet and pen in my fanny pack and I pull it out whenever an idea hits.

Some of the ideas came while driving to my secret berry-picking spot. No need to pull off the road. There weren’t any other cars, but it was a good idea to come to a full stop in order not to plunge over the 300-foot drop into the canyon.

Other ideas came while I was picking. I had to make sure to look up every once in a while to make sure a bear wasn’t headed in my direction. I’ve seen lots of bear out here in the past. That’s one of the reasons not to bring anyone with you. They will either tempt you to talk, distract you right in the middle of your best idea, or (like my granddaughters) sing every camp song they know ten times at the top of their lungs to ward off bears. I wish you could have heard their voices drop from soprano to bass the day they picked huckleberries with me and I pointed out that they sounded exactly like my predator call. Ha!

All ideas and thoughts came to a halt about mid afternoon when my brain froze and I suddenly felt utterly exhausted.

I resisted the temptation to return home and took a break instead. Eating some cheese and crackers and taking a leisurely walk while enjoying the scenery and quiet. Then it was back to picking and the ideas started flooding my mind once again. I got a great title for an article I’m planning to write. I got other ideas for other projects . . . all written down on my little tablet.

I stayed till nightfall, then began the long trek home. A glorious sunset painted the back slope of Rabbit Ears an amazing pink glow. I had to pull over to the side of the road several more times to write down even more ideas.

So, this morning I’m writing some of those ideas down and I’m off to pick blackberries close to my home, then it’s back to the computer to put it all together. This time I won’t be stuck staring at a blank screen with a blank mind. I have direction and purpose . . . and best of all . . . passion to get it all down.

So, need inspiration? Then, head to the hills . . .

Monday, August 21, 2006

Steve Hopkins Message to Artists and Writers - Part XII

Today we end Steve’s message with a reminder to “Be Faithful.”

If you want to read the messages from beginning to end, scroll down on the right hand side of this page and go back to the beginning in the June archives.


(That's Steve on the right and Chris on the left)

Remember that artistic excellence is no substitute for a vital, living walk with the Lord Jesus Christ. What will it profit us if we gain the artistic world and lose our own soul? If our creative skills are more advanced than our godliness, then all our talent stands to condemn us because its source is the God whose grace we are spurning. If we have no real heart-love for Christ, everything we do is vanity.

If our craft is to have a welcome place in the church, we must cultivate godliness in ourselves and in those around us.

We have been given a tremendous responsibility and privilege with our callings. We need to never forget that all we do should be an offering, by faith, to the “Giver of all good and perfect gifts,” for His glory alone.


Wow! Now that’s a great word. Short, but very impacting.

You know how you get a song stuck in your head and it plays over and over in your mind? This weekend I’ve been thinking of the song, “I Am A Friend of God,” by Michael Gungor and Israel Houghton. “He calls me friend.”

Isn’t that the most amazing thing? That God calls us friend? Of course, this is only if we come through His Son, Jesus Christ. But when we do, then He truly calls us friend.

I listened to a pastor on the radio this weekend. His name is Damian Kyle and he was speaking from Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa. His message absolutely wrenched my heart. He spoke of how loyal and faithful God is to us . . . the most loyal and faithful friend we could ever have.

He also spoke of how God is a great king and a great Lord and He has a right to loyal friends. God has given us a window of time that is quickly disappearing when we can demonstrate our loyalty and friendship to Him.


Isn’t that what our art and writing and any other creativity should be about? Serving Him faithfully. What an amazing thing that He treasures the gifts we give back to Him.

And as a friend of God, I have been given a certain number of years to show my loyalty back to Him. But as Steve said, our gifts and everything we do is vanity if we have no real heart-love for Christ.

Madeline L’Engle once said that the artist’s works will stand up and speak for them, but the real truth is that Christ is the One who stands up and speaks for us. Our gifts may speak in the sense that they can show our loyalty to Christ, but if that loyalty isn’t there first, our gifts are nothing but clanging symbols making a lot of useless noise.

So, the first calling of any writer or artist or musician or human is to know God and love Him forever.

I don’t know about you, but these messages have made me want to draw nearer to the heart of God. I’ve been spending more time in the Word and coming before the Lord with all my joys and sorrows, and I have been finding Him to be completely faithful. Now, my real challenge is to demonstrate my loyalty and faithfulness to Him in the few years He has given me.

As Steve said, “we have been given a tremendous responsibility and privilege with our callings. We need to never forget that all we do should be an offering, by faith, to the ‘Giver of all good and perfect gifts,’ for His glory alone.”

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Steve Hopkins Message to Artists and Writers - Part XI

Continuing the second half of Steve’s two messages given at the recent Artists Retreat at Box R Ranch in Southern Oregon.

Point One of Steve Hopkins message to artists and writers cautioned us to be patient but persistent with our pastors. A lot of folks have given me suggestions and I will be sharing those at the end of the entire series.

Point Two explained the need to be persistent but patient with our pastors, Point Three told us to think local, Point Four cautioned us to be a servant, and Point Five reminded us to be creative.

Today we learn how to be a mentor and what that means for a writer or artist.


Be a Mentor

Christian mentoring is more than teaching, it is discipleship. Whereas a relationship between teacher ad student may not go beyond the specific subject matter which identifies their relationship, the mentoring relationship involves much more personal contact where not only skills are taught, but also a worldview.

The relationship is more one-on-one. This is how Christian artists and writers propagate their craft in a full-orbed way.

What is so valuable about this approach is that first we have the privilege of investing ourselves in the lives of others.

Remember the movie, Mr. Holland’s Opus? It clearly showed the value of mentoring. Here was a musician who, for most of his adult life, chased after the “brass ring,” thinking he would be successful in his field only by composing his “great work.” But, he had to put off his dream and answer the more immediate needs of his family and his job. He felt cheated…until he found at the end of his career that his great work was in the lives of the people he had impacted over the years.

Another advantage of mentoring is that younger artists, being mentored within the context of a local congregation, by local artists, learn their craft within the context of service and ministry, as opposed to the accolades of the stage or the art gallery.

Their art serves their church and their communities. It brings joy to the nursing home, hope and comfort to the suffering, gladness and wonder to the younger faces, beauty and glory to the worship service, and glory to God.


Wow! That was a good word.

Mentoring is something Chris Hopkins (Steve’s awesome artist brother) modeled for us very well at the art conference. He gave away all his “secrets,” and helped everyone as much as possible. He especially helped one young woman who was very eager to learn. You can see the result in the photos posted with this article.

Mentoring is something I’ve done for a long time.

My first real experience was in mentoring a younger woman as a worship leader. I had mixed feelings in doing so. It seemed I was training someone to replace me. And I wasn’t wanting to be replaced! It also irked me a little to give her all “my secrets.” But at the same time I found real joy in her eagerness to be all that God wanted her to be in the area of worship.

I struggled with these contrasting feelings until the day I realized that every time she stood up to lead others in worshiping God, I had a part in it. What a wonderful thought! I could be tired or sick in bed and still be honoring God through someone else’s gifts.

That simple realization made mentoring a joy to me.

I give away “my secrets” to fellow writers and artists and know that as they use them to glorify God I have a part and it blesses His heart and mine!

It takes away all the competiveness that sullies the art and writing world as well as the arena of music.

It transforms me from being a tortured soul into a thankful child of God.

It helps me to see my “gifts” in the right context.

Some of the people I’ve mentored have gotten their books published before mine. Ooops! There go those contrasting feelings again.

And how many times have I wondered whether I’m truly happy if God’s ONLY purpose is for me to mentor others while my own books remain unpublished. What does it really matter? Perhaps I’m reaching more people through mentoring than by the actual doing myself.

Another thing I’ve realized only recently is that I cannot finish all the things I hoped to complete in my lifetime. So, it’s a good thing to mentor others, because it will take all of us to complete the task! Ha!

The best thing about mentoring others is the awesome joy I feel when doing so. And the realization of God’s pleasure. I feel God’s pleasure when I write. But I also feel God’s pleasure when I’m mentoring. And it’s given me a wealth of new friends.

Steve’s concept of mentoring younger artists and writers in the context of a local congregation is a new thought to me, but it rings true in my heart.

I recently entered an art contest and didn’t place at all. Ugh! It made me feel like I wasn’t really of any worth as a painter. What foolishness! Art galleries, press releases, and accolades of stage are often the feelings of a certain crowd at a certain time.

Many artists weren’t recognized for their worth until after they died. I can choose to look at my art as a gift God can use instead of wondering if I measure up to someone else’s standards.

As a result, I now write for local papers that don’t pay much and I place some of my writing here and elsewhere on the web. Sure. I still have to pay bills, and I keep a certain amount of writing for that venue, but I also keep some as a gift and it feels really good to do so.

It also feels good to know that one of my paintings hangs in the hallway of my church where one of the pastors likes to see it because it makes him feel happy. A neighbor has one of my greetings cards featuring a bull elk hanging above their entryway. My granddaughter has a picture of Aslan hanging on her wall. I didn’t get paid anything for any of these things, but the treasure will last longer than money.

Now, I’m thinking of new ways I can bring glory to the worship service and to God. And while I’m thinking, I’ll also look for ways I can mentor others along the same path. Is there some way I can help them experience this same freedom of joy in service? Because that’s really what it amounts to—freedom. And it’s something that can easily be lost if we don’t guard it with all our hearts.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Steve Hopkins Message to Artists and Writers - Part X

Continuing the second half of Steve’s two messages given at the recent Artists Retreat at Box R Ranch in Southern Oregon.

Point One cautioned us to be patient but persistent with our pastors. A lot of folks have given me suggestions and I will be sharing those at the end of the entire series.

Point Two explained the need to be persistent but patient with our pastors, and Point Three told us to think local.

Today we learn how to be a servant and it applies very well to both artists and writers, or anyone involved in creating:


The Apostle Paul exhorts us to do our work heartily as unto the Lord.
Jesus Himself gave us the example of a servant when He washed His disciples’ feet.

Much of the bad perception of artists and their callings has been brought on by the artists themselves. Too many are struggling, tormented in soul, crying to be heard, living a bohemian life, consumed by their craft.

This is not a picture of a Christian artist.

Your craft is handiwork, an offering of worship to the God whose image you bear.

You create because you were first created as Imago Dei and you bear His creative mark within you.

The motive behind your work should be the glory of God through serving, not assaulting your audience’s sensibilities, nor impressing them with your prowess.

Now that’s not to say that your work should not be fun or entertaining, stimulating or challenging. But remember, Christian artists during the Reformation had the greatest impact on the culture by making their art accessible to the common people.

These artists, out of a servant’s heart, came down from their “ivory towers” and connected with the populace, and as a result, Christian art flourished.

We do not hear much about the modern, avant-garde Christian artists mainly because many have succumbed to the anti-Christian view of the “bohemian” artist instead of approaching their craft as a “servant-artist.”

Again, I am not saying that a Christian Artist should not explore new horizons of creativity or produce art that makes us think or challenges us, but you must not lose sight of the fact that your gifts are given by God to serve His people.

When artists continually create “over the heads” of people, they may as well be speaking in an unknown tongue.

So be a servant—and be a teacher with your craft.

Exercise your creativity by finding ways to make your handiwork easily accessible and understandable to your community without compromising your dedication to excellence.

Be Creative.

Discover ways to integrate your craft into life.



Now, those were some pretty heavy words, a bit of stuff there I hadn’t thought about before, but I like the overall idea of being creative in our lives as well as in our craft.

A fellow artist recently started a new cartoon and is beginning a cartoon club at his church. Now, that’s creative. Way to go, Dave!

Part of my problem is not setting enough time aside to be creative. When I find myself with any time at all I often simply start painting without putting a whole lot of thought into what I’m going to paint. I just let it happen.

That’s okay part of the time, but I suspect I’m missing out on the bigger picture by not taking time to seek God for direction. Oh, I pray and ask for direction, but I don’t take much time to be still and listen for the answer. I opt instead to kind of let God ooze through my fingers. Sometimes that works. Sometimes, God really wants me to listen up. And sometimes it’s a matter of me either being lazy or afraid to dream the big dreams God has for me.

So here is the challenge just as Steve gave it:

Exercise your creativity by finding ways to make your handiwork easily accessible and understandable to your community without compromising your dedication to excellence.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Steve Hopkins Message to Artists and Writers - Part IX

Today, Steve is continuing on the idea of using our gifts.

Point One cautioned us to be patient but persistent with our pastors. A lot of folks have given me suggestions and I will be sharing those at the end of the entire series.

Point Two explained the need to be persistent but patient with our pastors.

Today he tells us to think local:


Your first focus should be upon the local community.

Too many artists eye the artistic Mecca’s of this world as the goal of their careers.

Too many Christian artists are no longer oriented to the local Christian community. Instead, they have their eyes set on Los Angeles, New York, Paris, Nashville, or wherever the elite of their particular discipline congregate.

Chico Holiday was a Las Vegas singer turned gospel singer. He played big venues and small venues like Half Way, Oregon. One day, he did a concert where there were 15 or 20 people. A young man approached him saying, “Yeah, I’m a musician. I like…,” and he listed off a bunch of names. “And I don’t play this little funky town. I’m waiting until I get to Nashville.”

Chico’s response was great. He said, “You know something son? You say you’re too good for this town, but let me tell you something, it took me 20 years to get to play this town.”

Because artists, especially the younger ones, have big aspirations they are left without mentors and teachers. God may have a niche for you at the top, but don’t forget to minister along the way to getting there.

Look at the great artists of the past like J.S. Bach and Rembrandt. These men did not go about seeking stardom. They pursued their craft patiently and quietly, blooming where God had planted them. They did not really attain their fame until years after their deaths. These were Christian artists in the true sense of the term—not merely because of the excellence of their work, but because of the way they approached their craft and carried themselves.

So, the first course of action for the Christian artist who wishes to find a place in his church is: Focus your artistic energies on your local church and community.


Wow! Now, that’s not the word I expected to hear. In fact, it may take a good deal of imagination to figure out a way to focus our art on our local church and community. But isn’t that what being an artist is all about? Using our imagination?

I’m part of an artist forum made up mostly of Christian cartoonists. I think that’s great! A visual way of portraying the gospel. I also know Jeff, a musician (one of the members of the Daryl Mansfield band), who started making tee-shirts with Christian messages on them. Basically he turned his lyrics into a visual message!

I just returned from the Oregon Christian Writers Conference where I took a class on illustrating picture books. I learned that it is pretty hard for a new artist to break into the illustrating world. What if I did a large format picture book to be used with the children in my church? And who knows? Perhaps I would have something marketable in the end, but even if I didn’t, it would be satisfying to know that my project had an impact on someone’s life.

I met Pat, a young woman, at the conference who has been making the most awesome greeting cards…so imaginative and personal and uplifting and encouraging…I wanted to buy every one of them. She started out local and is now pursuing greater challenges. She didn’t wait for the big time to get her work out there.

I’ve done the same with my photo cards. Starting out small and seeing where it goes. There’s a lot of satisfaction in that kind of ministry. For instance, on the way home from the conference, driving by myself, I began nodding asleep at the wheel. A motel room seemed out of the question because of my meager finances, so I prayed for an affordable place. I pulled off the freeway and began looking, but every motel parking lot in the town was full of party revelers. So, I started praying for an affordable, safe place.

No more than ten miles down the freeway, I discovered a tiny motel out in the boonies. I pulled into the parking lot and stopped and prayed. Was this really a safe place?

Turned out to be safe and affordable. 28 bucks! Run by an Hispanic husband and wife team. Clean, comfy, and I slept on a bed as soft as a pillow. Ummmmm.

So, I left them one of my most popular small, framed photos as a thank you the next morning.

Who at your church would be blessed with one of your paintings/drawings?

And if you’re a writer, there are ways to use your writing without waiting for the big time as well. I wrote a little book called, Songs in The Night, years ago before I knew a thing about writing. I typed it on stencils, ran off 200 copies on a mimeograph (most of you probably don’t even know what that is), hand folded it, then took it down to be stapled and trimmed.

I gave that little book to anyone I thought might like it.

It was embarrassing at first, because the book was a story about my life, how my husband and I raised our five children in a home with no electricity or running water and where we had to park a half mile from our house, how we met each other when I was a bartender, and how God grabbed our lives and turned us around. So it was like, “Here. Read a book about myself.”

Yeah right.

But people did take the book. And finally I had given out all 200 copies. Then someone else decided they would like to make 300 books for me. They gave me the 300 books along with the typeset pages. I gave all those out, and some folks gave me a couple of dollars for the book, so I turned that around and made 200 more copies. Over the years I gave out 700 copies of that little book. Then a few years ago a woman’s group wanted copies after having me come as a guest speaker, so they took one of my books and made copies and gave them out.

I’ve never made the big time with that book! I’ve never even made any money other than turning it into more books.

BUT I’ve received letters from all over the world from people saying how much that little book impacted their lives. A letter from a missionary in Africa. A letter from a teenager in Texas who said something in the book touched her life and made her decide to return home. Letters from men in the county jail. Letters from firefighters, mill workers, and teachers. A recent phone call from a woman who said she found it in a used book store and just had to tell me how much it meant to her!

Goodness! None of my “published” articles or stories ever had that much impact.

I started out local and small, but God took it all over the world.

Where can you start? Pray about it. Be imaginative. Try some things.