Alabaster Co.

IMG_1077

What is beautiful?

Alabaster Co. founders, Brian Chung & Bryan Chung seek to address this question through the creation and building of their LA-based company. Inspired by theologian James Choung’s Real Life: A Christianity Worth Living Out,  the co-founders came to learn that with each generation comes a culturally contextualized spiritual question. Choung explains that for millenials, the question was “What is good?” For the up-and-coming generation (generation Z), the question that many are asking when seeking out paradigms for life and faith, is “What is beautiful?”

With this in mind, the co-founders were compelled to start their company. “How do we show that the gospel is beautiful?” They sought to build a company around this question, looking to cultivate and engage in conversation around beauty, faith, art, and creativity. Out of this vision, came Alabaster Co.

The company’s name comes from Mark 14, when the woman with the alabaster jar breaks it to spread perfume on to Jesus’ feet. Those around her see this act as pointless and wasteful, while Jesus calls it “beautiful.” It’s one of the only times in the gospels that He uses such language. Similarly, in a world that deems creativity and the act of creating potentially meaningless, Alabaster Co. seeks to serve Jesus by artistically highlighting the intersection of beauty and faith.

Alabaster Co. launched its first kickstarter in October of 2016 – Alabaster: The Bible Beautiful. This first project consisted of a set of the New Testament gospel books (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) in a familiar translation (NLT), but a totally new and creative format.

Brian & Bryan didn’t intend to start a “Bible brand” when they began their company. They began the creative process brainstorming a range of different ways to engage in the intersection of faith and beauty. They considered starting with magazine publishing or beginning an online journal amongst other options, but Brian eventually posed the thought “actually…we should start with the Bible.”

Given that the current generation is said to be one of the most dechurched and biblically disengaged of the era, The Bible Beautiful seeks to “present visual imagery, interweave it with the text, and see how people respond to it.” This set of quality-created, printed, and bound books creates a new opportunity for readers to explore the intersection between creativity, beauty, and faith; all the while engaging with the ministry and words of Jesus via scripture.

IMG_5347

“It started with the Bible, but the conversation continues as we engage with real people trying to do real creative work in the world,”  Bryan explained as we chatted about Alabaster Co. over the phone. After the success in publishing their first project, Bryan & Brian continued to seek out new ways to creatively invite people to explore the intersection of beauty and faith. Alabaster Co. has since released an online journal, spotify playlist, A Liturgy for Creatives e book, and a rendition of the Psalms.

IMG_9247-Edit

The company is currently working on a couple new projects. The Notebook just successfully completed its kickstarter campaign, and will be released at the end of this year in December – just in time for the holidays! The Notebook began out of a natural progression in the conversation regarding creativity and faith. Brian & Bryan noticed that “conversation doesn’t just happen in scripture, but in real life things. One of the biggest scriptural practices today is journaling, writing things down, and sketching.”

IMG_1256

The Notebook is a perfect companion to Alabaster Co’s other products, and an excellent addition to the spiritual and creative practices one might already have in place. It’s hardcover, with a gray-paper interior that doesn’t yellow over time the way white paper tends to. The gray-paper interior is inspired by artists and painters from the Renaissance era, who used grey canvases and backdrops for optimal color contrast and visualization.

Alongside the creation of The Notebook, Alabaster Co. is in the beginning stages of a kickstarter campaign to produce and print a rendition of Romans. Romans specifically addresses the topic of  “division” as Paul calls for unification of the previously divided Jew and Gentile believers in Rome. The co-founders thought this to be especially relevant, as there are many questions amongst the current generations regarding what it means to be “evangelical” in today’s particularly divisive religious and political climate.

Throughout the process of creating and building Alabaster Co, Brian & Bryan encountered the ups and downs that many of us who pursue creativity and/or entrepreneurship face. When asked what’s been the most challenging about running Alabaster Co, Bryan explains “Everyday is different. You’re always making decisions. Personally taking ownership of all these decisions can be challenging. You have to take responsibility for both good decisions, and poor decisions; [even] micro decisions [regarding] designs, partnerships, website content, etc.”

Yet amidst the challenges, the co-founders have also really seen God work in through the company. They’ve heard encouraging stories about those who have painfully left the church then begin to re-engage with Jesus through the medium of art and creativity that The Bible Beautiful presents. They’ve also witnessed the visual communication of their Bible collection speak to readers about God in a way that the words alone simply could not.

When asked what advice Bryan would give to other creatives, he responded, “ Don’t be afraid to put your work out there, even if you think it risks others naming it as ‘heretical’ or ‘different.’ I genuinely think there’s a real fear for Christian artists to really put their work out there, because there are invisible walls that are up (whether we’ve defined them or not) that define what can, or cannot be deemed as ‘Christian Art.” As mentioned before, there were (and still are) many risks that had to be taken in order to begin and build Alabaster Co. However in the midst of that, lives are being touched, and the Gospel is being shared in new and transformative ways. As the co-founders continue taking risks in starting new projects and creating new products with Alabaster Co., Jesus only increases and deepens their personal faith and discipleship as Christian creatives.  

IMG_9311

“Putting your personal work out there is a risk…art is your personal interpretation, and learning to be okay with that and live with the fact that this is the way you experience God is key. Trust that God sees it as GOOD, even if others may not understand it fully.”

From first-hand experience, the Alabaster Co. founders have exemplified just what it looks like to trust God in the creative process, and step out in faith by artistically sharing the beauty of the Gospel with others. It will be inspiring to see how Jesus continues to reach and transform those that engage with the company’s work in the seasons to come. If you’d like to learn more, or take part in the Alabaster Co. community, check out what they’re up to at their website: www.alabasterco.com. (For our A|S community, Alabaster Co. is graciously offering a 15% off discount code for use at checkout: ArtfullySeeking).


// Written by Mariko Sandico

Connect to the Creator

Written by Maali Padro // Photos by Priscilla Du Preez

priscilla-du-preez-607182-unsplash

There are many reasons as to why we should read God’s Word, but, first, I want to start off by answering a few questions.

What exactly is God’s Word?

“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and
the Word was God” John 1:1

The real question is not “What is God’s Word?”, but “Who is God’s Word?” God’s Word is God. It’s as simple as that. While many of us may already know this, fully grasping the meaning of this gives the Bible a whole new meaning. It gives it life. It’s no longer just a book full of other books, chapters, and words. It’s no longer just a book full of short stories, parables, wisdom, or poetry. It’s no longer an ordinary book from the shelf written by a few men, but it’s an extraordinary book spoken into existence by the breath of the Creator (2 Timothy 3:16).

Fully grasping that shifts the act of reading the Bible being a chore to something we do because we want to know our Creator. The Bible is no longer just a book we read, but a person we can connect with. When we read God’s Word, He gives us a piece of Him. Just like when we speak, people get to know us, we get to know His heart, mind, and spirit. His Word gives us access to Him.

And on a side note:

It’s so beautiful that God chose to use ordinary men to be a part of something extraordinary, and that He still continues to use us as a vessel for His voice to be heard. It’s His breath in us and His essence in all that we do and say in His name. Isn’t that so humbling?

Who is God?

“In the beginning, God created…” Genesis 1:1

God is the Creator, our Creator. He has always been and always will be. He has no origin because He is the origin (Colossians 1:16-17). In the same manner, His Word has always been and always will be. It’s eternal, without end or beginning, because it’s the essence of God. It is God. One might say, “Well, the Bible only has a certain amount of books, it’s only so long. It has a beginning and an end.” Physically, it does, but the Bible isn’t just a physical book. Like God, it surpasses the physical realm and dwells in the spiritual realm, and spiritually it has no end. We can read a passage one day and get something out of it. Read the same passage a few days later, not even days, minutes later, and God will reveal to us something else. God’s Word will never cease to speak to our hearts and souls. It’s an endless fountain of words that bring life to life because it is life. He is life. He is the beginning and the end.

“I am the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the
Beginning and the End.” Revelation 22:13

With that said, here are 5 reasons as to why we should connect to God’s Word, to Him, on a daily basis.

1. It’s through the written Word that we can resist the attacks of Satan and Satan himself.

The truth is that “Satan comes to steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10). God’s Word is our weapon. It’s what God has given us to fight this spiritual battle (Hebrews 6:17) because this battle is “not against flesh and blood, but against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Hebrews 6:12). When Satan went to attack Jesus in the wilderness, Jesus responded to each attack with the phrase “It is written..” and He spoke the Word of truth over the lies of Satan (Matthew 4). Because God’s truth, His Word, pierces with light through the lies that Satan tries to darken our minds with. Satan knows the Word probably better than we do. He was one of God’s angels once (Isaiah 14:12-15).  In fact, He was one of the most important angels. He knows how to switch up just a few words so that it sounds truthful enough to be the truth (Genesis 3:1-4), but if you know the real truth no lie can get pass you. Light shines brighter in the midst of darkness. If God’s Word is in our hearts, when the lies come, the truth will shine brighter in midst of all that darkness trying to creep in.

2. It’s through the Word that our minds are transformed.

God uses His Word to convict us about the matters in our hearts that aren’t right and of the things that we do that don’t please Him.

“For the Word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any
double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul
and spirit, joints and marrows; it judges the thoughts and
attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12

Without reading His Word we will continue to stay ignorant in the ignorance of our sins. Our minds can’t be transformed without conviction of ourselves and of the things we do that we have deemed as not a big enough sin to bring us down spiritually, but like the saying goes “a little leaven leavens the whole lump” (Galatians 5:9). All it takes is a little bit of sin to darken our hearts. His word pierces through our hearts and souls bringing to light all the dark areas and gives us the knowledge our minds need to alter our behavior and to continue on or start walking in the truth and light of His Word.

“How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living
according to Your Word. Order my steps in Your Word, and let no
iniquity have dominion over me.” Psalm 119:9, 133

If we speak His Word into our lives and declare it over our life each and every day. It’ll transform us inside and out with each passing day. It’ll become a part of us, of who we are.

3. It’s through the Word that God guides us.

God left us His Word as a guide in this life. His Word is as much as a physical guide through life as it is a spiritual one. His Word always has both a physical and spiritual application for our lives. There is no problem that can’t be solved with God’s Word. There is no answer that can’t be found in God’s Word. All we have to do is seek Him with all our hearts, silence our hearts, and we’ll find all our heart, mind, and soul needs in Him, in His Heart (Jeremiah 29:13). His Word is our light when our worlds get dark.

“Your Word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”
Psalms 119:105

4. It’s through His Word in us that we will shine and the world will know we are His.

What we put in comes out. Plant an apple tree seed, an apple tree will grow. Our hearts are just the same. If we plant hatred in it, hatred will come out. If we plant love in it, love will come out. By reading God’s Word, we are planting its seed in our hearts, and as we continue to nurture it by spending time with the Source it will sprout from our hearts into everything we do; and everything we do, small and big, will point back to Him and the world will know we are His because His light shines through us. Because He shines in us, we shine over the world. It’s a beautiful thing to behold, creation pointing back to the Creator through its creation.

“…Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you
hold firmly to the Word of life.” Philippians 2:15b-16a

5. It’s through His Word that He directly speaks to us, and He wants to directly speak to you.

This is something that God has heavily been speaking into my heart. It’s so easy to replace God’s Word with Christian blogs, Christian books, Christian podcasts, Christian friends, and other Christian resources. All these things are good, don’t get me wrong. But those things or people should never replace God’s Word in our life. God wants to directly speak to us. For example, if you’re in a relationship with someone you wouldn’t want to communicate with that person through their best friend all the time. Occasionally it’s okay because it’s sometimes hard to get a hold of a person. But there are some things that regardless of how long it’ll take you to reach that person you’ll wait because it needs to be said directly to the other person. My point is there are some things that God wants to speak directly to us, and He can only that through His Word. He wants a direct relationship with us. Tune in and Listen. There’s nothing like listening to the Father’s voice as He whispers into our hearts.

“Faith (the beginning of our relationship with God) comes from
hearing, and hearing through the Word of God.” Romans 10:17

priscilla-du-preez-638149-unsplashLike any relationship, a relationship with God takes not only time but intentional effort. In a world full of so much distraction and time-consuming things, it’s hard to pull away from it all and make time for the things that really matter. I get it. I find myself wasting time away all the time. And the problem is that a lot of us use our time unintentionally. Living the Christian life requires us to live with intention and purpose. Apart from God, our intention and purpose for doing things will get jumbled up with the intention and purpose of the world. So connect to the Creator. Connect to the One who created you and in whom you’ll find your purpose –His intention for creating you– and the strength and tools to live out that purpose. Most importantly though, connect to the Creator because He’s already connected to you. He knows your heart and thoughts and what makes you you. Don’t you want to know Him too?