Two Ways – A Chalk Art Story

Scared In Sunday School

Chalk art has become a very large part of my story.  For the better part of my life I have thought of myself as an artist.  That’s why something I heard in Sunday School once scared me very much.

I was a little Amish boy.  In Northwestern Montana the Amish community had Sunday School on the in-between Sundays(most Amish only have church ever other Sunday, and very few Amish have Sunday School). During this Sunday School time someone would read a passage of Scripture, then all the men would take turns giving their thoughts on the passage. It had been a rather hum drum sort of discussion so far that day. The sound of the men’s voices receded into the background, the aroma of coffee and lunch preparation began to beckon me, and I was anticipating the adventures my friends and I would have in John Miller’s barn after lunch (we ended up getting stung by hornets, but that is another story).

Third Grade Masterpiece - Note the braggadocios words in the sky.
Third Grade Masterpiece. Note the braggadocios words I scrawled in the sky.

Suddenly Old Man Beiler said something that jerked me back into the moment: something about being an artist when he was younger. He was an artist?  I was an artist too!  I had been an artist since at least third grade.  As I listened to his story, dismay filled my little Amish soul.

When he was a young man, he loved art.  He loved it when people liked his art.  After awhile he had quite a collection of artwork.  He received  a lot of pleasure from looking at his own artwork, drawing new pieces, and letting others admire them.  So far so good.  But then as he got older, he realized that God did not want him to draw.  He had to make a choice, he could continue to pursue the art that he loved, or forsake it in obedience to the laws of God.  At this point he became somewhat emotional again.  Very emotional considering we were in an Amish church setting.  He said he had burned all of his idols- his graven images- in order to please God.

What?!  Would I have to stop drawing and painting if I wanted to keep the laws of God?  I envisioned a grim day in the future when I, an Amish man full grown,  would take all my artwork, all my paint brushes, and all my colored pencils outside and burn them in bitterness of soul.

Even as a young boy I could tell that his ‘obedience to the laws of God’ had not brought him joy.  Instead it seemed to fill him with a certain fierceness about the laws of God.  For all the time I knew him, I do not recall one conversation of his that did not eventually turn to the laws of God.

God likes my art!?

Imagine my relief a few years later when I discovered that in Jesus Christ the requirements of the law had all been nailed to the tree.  Picture with me, if you can, my further delight when I realized that God was not only tolerant of my art, but was actually calling me to use it for Him!

It was summer in Portland Oregon.  As we left the coast that sunburned afternoon in 1995 our 1980 Suburban began overheating as we reached downtown Portland.  My dad whipped across several lanes of traffic and found a little parking lot in the concrete jungle. After adding some water he was able to coax the engine to continue the rest of our journey to the conference we were attending that week.

At the end of the evening I saw a man on stage drawing a picture with chalk while he gave a message.  I was completely captivated.  As we left the conference and headed for our lodging, both my parents told me that I needed to learn how to do chalk art.  I wholeheartedly agreed.  Three years later I started classes and I’ve been a chalk artist ever since.

Chalk Art in Sunday School – and a lot of other places too!

Chalk Drawing
Here I am telling the story behind the song, “It Is Well With My Soul”. Note my lack of a beard- this is when I was still a bachelor and didn’t have a wife who liked my facial manliness.

Since 1998 I have given a lot of chalk art presentations in Sunday School classes, summer camps, revival services, and missions to Mexico.  One of my all time favorite picture is a classic that a lot of beginning students have learned in their chalk art classes along the way.  I don’t know who first designed it, but I am grateful that they did.  I have used it dozens of times in three different countries.

Here is a video of the “Two Ways” drawing that I did several years ago and just now got around to editing.  I recorded the talking part two weeks ago. This video captures me combining two of my favorite things, drawing pictures and talking about my Creative Father in Heaven who designed me to love art!

Matthew 7
13 “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.
14 “Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.


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1 thought on “Two Ways – A Chalk Art Story

  1. Patricia Schmidt Reply

    I just finished watching the 6 episodes of Breaking The Silence and was completely mesmerized! O, and then I decided to “duckduckgo” Joseph Graber! And what to my wondering eyes did appear……..this talented artist Joseph. As a former Catholic married to a Catholic who refuses to believe any other religion is valid, I understand a little of what the Old Amish must feel. God bless you, Joseph, for all this. I’m sharing this with some family who might have their eyes opened to true salvation!

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