Created by God, Creating With God
Dee Moss is a wildlife artist and wood sculptor living in Jackson, Tennessee. He and his wife, Arlene, are the parents of twin daughters. They attend Englewood Baptist Church (Southern Baptist Convention) in Jackson.
(1)Exodus 20:4, KJV, (2)Exodus 35: 30-33, NIV. The Bible verse marked NIV is taken by permission from The Holy Bible , New International Version, copyriht 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, Colorado Springs, Colorado.
As a sculptor, I pray before I begin a sculpture, and I pray during the entire sculpting precess, asking God to give me wisdom and to guide me in creating a piece of artwork that will glorify Him. I ask that every piece I make will be given an extra quality beyond what is visible, so that when people look at it, God will use it to lead people to Himself.
My love for the Lord and my love for art have both been lifelong. I was reared in a Christian home, and I asked Jesus Christ into my heart when I was a child. As a youngster I enjoyed drawing and painting, but it was literally by accident that I later took up art as a career.
As a junior in high school, I wanted to be a professional football player. But when an accident left me bedridden for six weeks--and ended my chances of entering sports professionally--I entertained myself by drawing a mural in chalk on my bedroom wall. After that I did several paintings which I sold. When I entered Memphis State University, in Tennessee, I continued to sell paintings to help finance my education.
I was graduated from Memphis State in 1973 with a degree in interior design. I got a job as a painting contractor to support my wife, Arlene, whom I married while in college, and me.
In 1974, we moved to Jackson, Tennessee, where I started hunting with a man named Bill Pounds. Bill and I spent many weekends out in the blinds searching the sky for ducks. It wasn't long before hunting and fishing kept me too busy to attend church. I continued to pray daily, but I didn't have time for church.
Thinking it would add to the thrill of duck hunting, I started carving my own decoys. That led to decorative carving of ducks for the sake of art rather than for use as decoys. As my carvings began to sell, I wondered if this was an area God was leading me into.
One day while Bill and I were sitting in a duck blind watching the eagles soar overhead, I got the idea to do a carving of a life-sized bald eagle. I began the project with enthusiasm, but soon found that holding a full-time job and working on such a huge project in my spare time was exhausting. Finally Arlene, who works as an audiologist, suggested that I quit my job and pursue sculpting full time. I wasn't sure that financially we could take such a step. But my smaller sculptures continued to sell, and this affirmed to me that sculpting was what God wanted me to do.
God also called me back into the Church. Every Sunday--when I was either leaving for a hunting or fishing trip or coming back from one--I noticed a family across the street all dressed up and leaving for church. It seemed as if they never missed a Sunday service, or a Wednesday night service, for that matter. After watching them for about a year, I told my wife, "Arlene, if they can be that dedicated, surely we can be more dedicated than we are." We had one-year-old twin daughters by then, and I wanted them to grow up with the same opportunities I had as a child. Going to church was one of those opportunities.
We found a church home, where in time I became active in Evangelism Explosion. In 1981, after struggling through a period of doubt about my salvation, I rededicated my life to Christ and was baptized again during a Sunday morning church service.
I finished the carving of the bald eagle in 1985 after six years of hard work, continual prayer and many tears of frustration. The day after I finished it, I packed it up and drove 1,200 miles to Maryland to display it in an art show.
Because the bird has an 84-inch wingspan, it isn't hard to spot. One man, who said he was attracted by the size of the bird, came to get a closer look. We started talking and I discovered that he was not a Christian. I took the opportunity to tell him something of my own experience with Christ, and I could see that he was interested. When he returned the next morning, I explained the Gospel to him in more detail, and he prayed to receive Christ. He said that now he knew why he had driven from out of town to the art show on impulse without making hotel reservations and without even packing a suitcase.
Whenever I go to an art show, I look for ways in which I can sow seeds in the lives of the people who come to look at my work,. I've had many opportunities to present the Gospel to people--right in crowded exhibition halls!
A gifted artist once said to me, "I've had to stop doing my art." When I asked him why, he said, "The Bible says, 'Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.' "(1)
I explained to the young man that we are not to worship graven images, but that art is a gift through which we can glorify God. I opened my Bible to Exodus and read, "See, the Lord has chosen Bezalel...and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts--to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of artistic craftsmanship." (2)
When the young artist realized that he too was enabled by the Spirit of God to create objects of beauty, he was able to return to his art.
The importance of taking every opportunity to witness to Christ becaame real to me when my friend Bill became ill with cancer. Even though we continued hunting together, I watched him grow weaker over a period of years. The doctors believed that they had checked the spread of the cancer, but Bill eventually ended up in the hospital with a serious infection, and he was not expected to live.
Our friendship had spanned more than a decade, and Bill was one of my closest friends, but I realized that I had never once told him about Jesus. I couldn't believe that I had never said a word about my faith. So one day when I visited him in the hospital, I presented the Gospel to him and asked him if he would pray with me. I knelt by his bed and prayed and, though Bill had a hard time speaking, he acknowledged that he had prayed the sinner's prayer in his heart. I was able to tell his children about their father's decision and the promise of heaven.
As I look back over the years and see what the Lord has done in my heart, I like to think of Him as a Sculptor making something beautiful out of my life, just as I make something beautiful out of a piece of wood. But He is the perfect Artist. I have only imperfect models to work from, as no bird is without flaws. I have no perfect instruction book to follow, as no book on carving is complete. And I have no perfect tool to use. Every tool falls short, and no tool can put back what has beeen taken off by mistake.
But God, in shaping me, wants to conform me to His perfect "model"--Jesus Christ. And God has provided the perfect instruction bood--the Bible--to guide me through all the simple and complex challenges in my life. The Holy Spirit chisels away at those parts of me that aren't Christlike, and He smooths over any parts that have been damaged by the pains of everyday life.
I sense that God is gently and lovingly sculpting me into the image of Christ.