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Ned Bustard: Made to be a Maker

Who are you created to be? What were you created to do? Do you relentlessly and freely pursue your calling with the talents and gifts you have been given?

Think of it this way: Birds bring glory to God when they fly as high (gravity) and as free as their wings allow (grace).

Are you willing to let your imagination fly beyond the stars, and allow yourself to explore to the very edge of grace to seek God’s will and the good works he planned for you?

Ned Bustard is an artist and designer who explores his vocation and calling in the space surrounded by gravity and grace.

Ned, you're a "maker." I think you and I are much alike, obsessively creative. What are you most passionate about, and how does that find expression at the intersection of your work and worship?

I was made to be a maker. It is often hard to imagine how God is going to display his sovereign plan in your life, but looking back now over the last several decades, I can see how his calling to me to be a maker was worked out in his providential care. I have been shaped by the "coincidental" setbacks and opportunities he has given to me. I have had so many things simply laid in my lap that I would never have been able to orchestrate. And the curious projects and people in my life have molded me into an artist I both could not have imagined I would be, and one whose experiences I would have never have dreamed could have been possible in my lifetime.

As to being "obsessively creative," I don't think of myself that way, but I can report that on numerous occasions my wife has asked me to stop coming up with ideas for a little while. Unfortunately, I've been unable to fulfill that request, but I have stopped spewing out ideas over the dinner table for a few days at a stretch to give her a break. N.T. Wright said, "Those who follow Jesus ought not only to be celebrating [beauty in the world] but contributing to it." And that is what I want to do. "I want to add to the Beauty," as Sara Groves has sung.

As to what I'm passionate about? I'm not sure. Things that fill my mind often include my wife Leslie, printmaking, books, art, music, sailing, leprechauns, my daughters, mermaids, theology, logo design, Narnia, church, CIVA, Ireland, chocolate, old English libraries (preferably with hidden doors), my gallery, and how much the government is going to gouge me in taxes. Somewhere in that wunderkammer of a list are sure to be some of my passions. I picture the intersection of my work and worship like a complex page in the Book of Kells. It is lovely, and interesting, and orderly in its way, but difficult to unravel. 

Certain words tend to float up to the surface at that crossing which I find fire my imagination: Glory, Making, Beauty, Faith, and Good. I wrote the essay on Good in my book It Was Good: Making Art to the Glory of God (because the artist Ed Knippers told me to) and it was providential—the idea of “Good” now drives me. While growing up I stubbornly resisted picking a “life verse” as those around me piously did, but when pressed I would say “Test everything. Hold on to the good.” (1 Thess. 5:21). 

Now I often will quote an excerpt from Exodus 28:2—"for Glory and for Beauty." That phrase resonates in me deeply. The ideas of Making and Beauty I have already touched on above, but are also captured in the motto I developed for our homeschool: "Forma et Fides" (which is Latin for "Beauty & Faith").

How do you personally approach your work as worship, and how is your work creativity an expression of that approach?

There is no dichotomy between my work and my worship. They are all one. Horton again writes: “The Reformation emphasized the truth that God had become human, bringing dignity to earthly, secular life. . . . One need not ‘sanctify’ art by demanding that it serve the religious or moral interests of the church. Creation is a legitimate sphere in its own right.” 

On my website I say that I want to create a place where “collaboration and imagination intersect, art and faith greet as friends, and good ideas take root and flourish.” 

That is my desire for my work life, but I also imagine that could be part of a mission statement for a young church to describe what kind of atmosphere they want to create for their times of worshiping God. I have no categories in my life where work ends and worship begins or where creativity stops to allow faith to start. It is all one in my heart and mind. “It will be a great comfort in a dying hour, to think we have glorified God in our lives. It was Christ’s comfort before his death: John 17:3, ‘I have glorified thee on the earth.’” wrote Thomas Watson (English Puritan c. 1620 – 1686). 

And he continues: “If we glorify God, he will glorify our souls forever. By raising God’s glory, we increase our own: by glorifying God, we come at last to the blessed enjoyment of him.”


Read the complete conversation with Ned Bustard in the book EntreWorshippers, available for pre-order from Amazon.com

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