"Inside-out" is a theme in my life. Over the years, God has woven inside-out thinking into the fabric of my life, and it has led to many amazing adventures!
In the eighties, when I was teaching art at my children's Christian school, I asked the Lord what He wanted me to teach the children.
"Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks."
I heard that phrase in my mind and dismissed it, asking again, "Lord what would you like me to teach the children?" I was praying as I worked in my classroom, preparing materials and displaying little works of art. Again I heard, "Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks." What in the world did that mean? Had I said something that I shouldn't have? I couldn't think of anything I'd said that was offensive. So I continued to work around the room, asking again, "Lord what should I teach them? Please teach me what to do." Again I heard "Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks!"
I said, Lord, what are you trying to tell me? Have I done something wrong? I must be dense! Please explain this to me.
And in a flash I knew. It will take several sentences to explain what I "just knew," but it came in an instant! The Lord just dropped it into my heart. "Just as your words are verbal communication and come from your heart before they come out of our mouth, your art is visual communication and comes from your heart before a brushstroke touches a canvas. Out of the abundance of your heart, your art speaks. I want you to teach each child, 'What's in your heart comes out in your art!' "
I realized that, indeed, art starts in the heart. In fact, understanding that fact explained a lot! Now when we saw a piece of art that was grotesque or a meaningless blob someone labeled "art," I could say, "Isn't it too bad that's all that he had in his heart? I'm so glad that your artwork comes from a heart that is full of love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness—and self-control! Your artwork is beautiful because you created it from the inside-out. It reflects your heart —and God's heart—to the world!"
God was faithful and continued to teach me what He wanted by students to know. He actually re-taught me my Bachelor of Fine Arts, showing me simple ways to help the kids understand His elements and principles of design. And as I taught the students, drawing out and affirming what God had placed in their hearts, their artwork began to sing! It danced colorfully above the lockers all the way down the halls. It was delightful!
That colorful hallway filled with examples of "Inside-out Art" opened up more opportunities for me to share what God was teaching me. It led to art displays at our local library, banks, and a paper mill administration building. It led to teacher workshops where I would pass on the lessons to others who would teach it. And it resurrected an old dream through an invitation to revitalize the Art Methods class in the Education Department of North Central University in Minneapolis!
"Inside-out" thinking is, indeed, a theme in my life. It permeates everything. In fact, it became the basis for my Leadership Development Framework, and is the foundation for everything we do through Leader to Leader™ Network. I know God isn't finished with me yet—as long as I walk this earth I will continue to experience inside-out adventures with Him!