This Day’s Thought From The Ranch- This Week’s Sermon

This Day's Thought from The Ranch

From The Artist’s Suitcase

by Kent Sanders

Note from Eric Elder: Today’s message is on the importance of attitude, written by a friend of mine, Kent Sanders. This message is from the Introduction and Chapter 1 of Kent’s new book called The Artist’s Suitcase which I wholeheartedly recommend to anyone interested in using their gifts and talents to the fullest for the Lord. Kent and I will be speaking together in St. Louis this Tuesday night and again at our fall retreat here in Illinois in two weeks. Both of us would love to meet you if you’re able to join us for either event! They’re free! Click these links to learn more about Kent’s new book, or the 3rd Annual Ranch Retreat, or see the P.S. at the end of today’s message for details about our live event this Tuesday night in St. Louis.artistssuitcase-kentsanders

Introduction to The Artist’s Suitcase
by Kent Sanders

I know we’ve just met, but let me ask you a question. And I want you to be honest. Really honest. It’s just you and me.

Do you ever feel like you’ve lost your way as a creative person? If so, I can relate.

I remember the day vividly. It had been a long day of teaching, and it was almost time to head home. I wanted to enjoy a few minutes of silence before fighting traffic, so I slouched down in my office chair and stared at the bookcase next to me.

I was exhausted. I was in my mid-30’s and 40 lbs. overweight. I thought about the courses I was teaching: Introduction to the Arts, Worship Leading, Speech, Technology for Worship, Guitar, and Introduction to Film.

All of these courses, in some way or another, were based on creative expression. The irony was that I felt anything but creative. The energy and enthusiasm of my 20’s was long gone. I had no clear vision for my future, and I felt like a complete failure. I had lost my mojo and had no idea how to get it back. I knew I had to make some changes in my life to recapture the energy and momentum I once had.

Maybe you feel like I once did. Can you answer yes to any of the following?

  • Do you feel like you’ve lost your way as an artist?
  • Are you stuck in your creative life and in need of some inspiration?
  • Do you need somebody to remind you that your creative work matters?
  • Do you need to get your creative mojo back?
  • Do you need permission to be yourself and follow your creative passion?

Are you looking for practical advice on navigating doubt and fear, dealing with critics, figuring out your priorities, and taking control of your time?

If so, this book is for you!

The Artist’s Suitcase is a call back to the basics. Just as the ABC’s are the foundation of the English language, this book is a reminder of some of the basics for artists. Whether you write, paint, act, dance, sing, play an instrument, design graphics, or do some other type of creative work, this book is for you.

The Artist’s Suitcase has twenty-six chapters, one for each letter of the alphabet. You might notice that the chapter titles don’t all match–there’s a mixture of nouns, adjectives, and even an adverb and a conjunction. In addition, don’t take the “26 Essentials” in the subtitle too literally. These aren’t necessarily “essential items” for the creative journey, but rather twenty-six chapters full of practical wisdom and inspiration for artists.

Just like in life, everything in this book isn’t neat and perfect. I hope you’ll embrace the joy and messiness of the artist’s life. Wherever you are on the creative journey, it’s always good to remember the essentials.

I also want you to know that I’ve written The Artist’s Suitcase as a person of faith. This isn’t a book of sermons, but I will occasionally use verses from the Bible or make other references to my faith. It’s simply part of who I am. If you are a Christian, great! But if you don’t share my faith perspective, that’s okay, too. You’ll still find a lot of content that will be helpful to you as an artist.

Before we set sail, let me make a few suggestions about getting the most out of this book:

 1. Read it in a way that suits you. The chapters aren’t sequential (except for the order of the alphabet), so jump around to whatever sections interest you. You can read the whole book in less than two hours. On the other hand, you can read a chapter a day and process the material in a deeper way.

2. Keep a notebook handy. I’ve included a few questions at the end of each chapter to help you apply the material. This is where the real learning takes place. Keep a notebook handy to write down your answers to the questions.

3. Join the Artist’s Suitcase Facebook group. Life isn’t meant to be a solo adventure. The journey is so much better with friends! Join the Artist’s Suitcase Facebook group and lock arms with fellow creatives who can help you become a better artist.

There’s nothing in the world like being an artist. I’m so glad you picked up this book and am honored to be your traveling companion.

Oh, and one more thing: when you pack your suitcase, be sure to make room for a zither. (That will make sense in the last chapter.)

Thanks for taking the journey with me.

Kent Sanders
May 28, 2015
St. Peters, Missouri

CHAPTER 1 – “A” is for Attitude

It’s no coincidence that the word “attitude” begins with the first letter of the alphabet. A great attitude is the most important character quality you can possess. It’s more important than talent, education, or titles. Your attitude is the most important factor that determines your level of success.

Some people are like thermometers. Their attitudes are a reflection of the conditions around them. When times are good, they are happy and cooperative. When times are bad, they are irritable and unproductive.

But successful people are like thermostats. They don’t just react to the environment, they determine the environment. They have decided in advance to be positive and productive no matter what’s happening around them.

John Maxwell, American’s foremost expert on leadership, said, “Attitude is one of the most contagious qualities a human being possesses. People with good attitudes tend to make people around them feel more positive. Those with a terrible attitude tend to bring others down.”1

How do you maintain a positive attitude when you don’t feel like it? How can you start to function like a thermostat that changes your environment rather than a thermometer that just reflects it?

The answer is that having a great attitude is a matter of choice, not circumstances. Here are three strategies I have found helpful in staying positive. I call it the “3G” approach:

1. Grin. Sometimes you have to act the part before you start feeling it. If you are in a bad mood, start smiling anyway. Talk to people as if you’re happy to see them. Act as if you have energy and enthusiasm. Pretty soon, you’ll start to feel happier and more alive.

2. Gratitude. There’s nothing like gratitude to help shake you from complacency or a bad mood. Take out a sheet of paper and write down five things you are thankful for. Pretty soon you’ll realize how blessed you are. Even better, thank another person for something they have done for you.

3. Give. A bad attitude feeds on itself and makes you focus on your own problems. Start focusing on others and their needs. Giving to others is a great way to improve your attitude. Think of how you can help someone in a tangible way. Encourage someone with an email, text message, or even a shout-out on social media.

It’s hard to be positive when there are so many discouraging things in life. But your attitude is a matter of choice. When you choose a positive attitude, you’ll inspire others and make yourself more valuable. A change on your inside will always show on the outside.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Do you tend to be more like a thermometer or thermostat?
  2. Who is someone in your life who has a positive attitude? How does theirattitude affect those around them?
  3. What are some challenges you face in developing a positive attitude?
  4. How does a great attitude affect your ability to be creative and makegreat art?
  5. What are five things you’re thankful for?
  6. What is a practical way you can give to another person today?
P.S. from Eric: I’ll be joining Kent in St. Louis on Tuesday night to share more about his new book and mine, Fifty Shades of Grace (written under the pen name Nicholas Deere). If you’re in the area, please join us! The event will be at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, September 29, at the Kool Beanz coffeehouse at St. Louis Christian College (where Kent teaches) at 1360 Grandview Drive, Florissant, Missouri. The party will feature some giveaways, a book signing, music, and of course lots of goodies that are available in the coffeehouse. We will also be streaming the event live on Periscope, and you can access that on the Periscope app (Kent’s username is @kentsanders). To read more from Kent and get several gifts just for artists, sign up for his free newsletter at

Come join us for our 3rd Annual Ranch Retreat, October 9-11, 2015!

If you need a boost in your faith, join us  in Central Illinois in October for a weekend of inspirational music, messages and time with new friends. It’s free! To learn more, visit The 3rd Annual Ranch Retreat.

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