Archive for December, 2017

A year or so ago my friend Mike Furches contacted me to ask if I would illustrate a children’s book he and his wife, Mary Jane, had written. I almost always say “no” to these projects because more often than not, publishing companies want to pick their own illustrators for projects, so all my efforts come to naught. For some reason though, I said “yes” to Mike and Mary Jane, and I am glad I did.

The culmination of our efforts is a book on Mindstir Media called Herald the Angel. I got my copies yesterday and I must say I am very pleased with how it turned out. It’s available in both hard cover and paperback. My hard cover is going right to the young man I dedicated my illustrations to, my grandson David John.

A synopsis of the book is as follows:

Herald is an angel who struggles to trust that he is good enough. No matter how hard he tries, it seems that others are always outshining him. As a heavenly choir is assembled to celebrate the birth of the Christ child, Herald must decide whether he will share the gifts he has to offer.

Join Herald on his journey to discover the beauty of what’s possible when you put your whole heart into whatever you do. Herald deals with other issues such as bullying where parents can openly discuss issues with their children as a learning point in an easy to understand way for small children.

My prayer is that this book blesses and helps a lot of people. I had a great time doing this project and it has put the bug in me to create a book of my own. If you’d like to pick up a copy for yourself, click here.

Using the story of David and Goliath as the background, Louie Giglio writes the wonderful book on overcoming the “giants” we face in our lives—giants like anger, fear, addiction, etc. The solution is clear, these giants not just can fall, they MUST fall! Through personal stories and strong biblical teaching, Giglio makes a wonderful case for the freedom God wants each of us to have in our lives. Now to be clear, I have heard teachings relating the story of the biblical giant killer to overcoming our struggles before, but there is something very unique and very correct here. Most authors writing books like this one will tell us we’re to be like David, we’re the giant killers, etc. Giglio takes a different tack and I believe it is the correct ones. You see, he goes to great lengths to remind the reader that we are not the giant killer in this story, Jesus is and so it is with us. The ultimate victory in our battle against the giants we face will not be ours. It is Jesus who will win the battle and it is Jesus who will set us free. This is an excellent book that everyone who has ever struggled with anything should read.

I read this book in a single day and it is great. I was using it for research on a sermon series I am planning on the subject of praise. I first heard about the book on the Chris Tomlin tour when Darren Whitehead presented his message on the topic. I must say it was really intriguing. Just as there are four words that translate to “love” in the Bible, there are seven that translate to “praise.” The book looks at and defines each of these words while talking about the application of each concept to worship. Chris Tomlin then adds a musical application to each chapter. There are plenty of Scripture references to see the application more clearly and a study guide with each chapter. This book just mite change the way you look at worship and I recommend it highly.

I know my title probably sounds a little off, but work with me. If you are a fan of an artist, you need to support them. You need to buy their work, support their offers, participate in their projects and promote them. No this is not a personal plea, just something I’ve been wrestling with as I close out the year, probably somewhat influenced by having just read Jeff Goins’ Real Artists Don’t Starve.

You see there are people who have this idea that artist have to suffer and struggle for their art. This simply isn’t the case, but it perpetuates the starving artist myth and many people, including artists for some ungodly reason, buy into. Here’s the thing, everything in the world has a cost, so the best way to insure that your favorite artists will continue to create is to support their work. Let me illustrate this with a personal example.

I published the above eight adult coloring books last year. Do you know how many I published this year? ZERO. Why the dramatic drop off? Did it stop being fun? No! I really enjoyed making them. The illustrations were really fun to do and I thoroughly enjoyed the process. The thing is everything has a cost. In this case, the cost was time. Now for the most part I drew these while doing other things like watching TV, etc., but there is a serious time investment even so and all the time I spend creating these was time I could not devote to something else. The reception these received made me question the wisdom of continuing. These books were not advancing my life mission in any way, so this year I devoted my time to other things. Now had the books sold, they would have financed more ministry and I probably would have continued. I didn’t publish these books just so I could say, “Hey I published 8 books!” I published them for the purpose of advancing my work and mission.

You might look at the above statements and conclude that I am only in it for the money. I can assure you that is not the case. To paraphrase Jeff Goins, the purpose of making art is to be able to keep making art. That is why we need to be good patrons. If we want our favorite creatives to be able to continue creating, we need to support their current efforts, both with our resources and our participation.

Likewise, my fellow creatives, your work has value and if you want to keep being able to make it, there has got to be some benefit from it. Do not undervalue your work. Remember everything has a cost, it might be money, it might be time, it might be opportunity, but everything has a cost. The workman is worth his hire.

One of the best books I have read on this topic (it was one of my favorite topics) If there was problem with it, it was over too quickly. Starting with the example of Michelangelo (his example carries throughout) and looking at the stories of successful artists, of all disciplines, well-known and lesser known, the book thoroughly examines the title. Real Artists Don’t Starve. This book is amazingly encouraging and Goins succeeds in dismantling almost every belief that perpetuates the “Starving Artist Myth.” This is vitally important in the life of every creative. If you have any creative impulse in your life, you MUST read this book.

This is going to sound like a sports story, but hang in there, this is more about glory than sports. I used to be a pretty big fan of the Philadelphia Eagles. This was in the days of the Gang Green defense, featuring guys like Jerome Brown, and my all-time favorite, Reggie White. I was pretty young in my faith walk, and Reggie was called the Minister of Defense and I was just amazed by him on the field and off. I became really disgruntled with the Eagles when Reggie ended up going to the Packers and my fandom went with him. I have rooted for the Packers ever since.

Then a little time ago, the Eagles picked up another of my favorite people, Tim Tebow, and I was thinking I’d be back to having two teams in green. Then they cut Tebow and I decided having one team was fine, (okay more like the Eagles were “dead to me,” but I believe in grace and forgiveness more than football, so I just moved on.)

But I started hearing things about this guy Carson Wentz. I started hearing about players being baptized and Bible studies led by this young quarterback, and I started getting excited. Then it got better, they started to win. They started to dominate and a narrative began to form in my mind. This team is going to roll over everyone and win the Super Bowl to the glory of God and it will be epic.

That all changed this past weekend. Wentz took a shot to the knees, torn ACL, out for the season, and a collective “Nooooo” was heard all over Philadelphia fandom. But wait, it’s not over. They have a backup in Nick Foles (also a believer) and that would make another great story, but there’s more. See I was allowing myself to have wrong head thinking. I was doing something I encourage every creative to guard against. I was thinking that God can only be glorified in human success and that is not the point. A discussion in Bible study last night (believe it or not, it was related to the topic at hand) brought clarity. You see the following day, Carson Went took to social media and changed the narrative. See for yourself.

In the midst of a disappointing day to be sure, Wentz still took the time to give glory to God and acknowledge a sovereign will that is bigger than football. Went was showing us that God is good in the good times and the bad times, in joy and sorrow. At the end of the day that is the real point of all of this. It’s easy to glorify God when everything is going our way. What this young man showed us is God is good all the time. There are a lot of things in our lives that can go wrong. The question is will we trust God and move forward in faith regardless?

Carson Went could have stayed on the pocket, and he could have played it safe, but he went for it. He gave his all and paid the price. Will we do the same in our pursuits? Oh we may not take a shot from a defensive player, but there are risks nonetheless. We can play it safe, but glory is found outside the “pocket.” sometimes you have to take the risk and play the game, knowing you’ll give glory to God regardless of the outcome. We can’t always control what happens, but we can always control our reaction. Carson Went showed us that. May we do the same.

Mr. Wentz, I’m praying your recovery is insanely quick and complete. I’m praying that you soar to even greater heights, and I thank you for challenging me by your actions to a new and better point of view.

I’m reading Jeff Goins’ great new book Real Artists Don’t Starve. I’m less than 20% in and I am already wondering how he managed jam so much great information and inspiration into one little book. I have a short quote today that just resonated with me so much today. This deals with when to start being an artist.

“If you’re waiting for your moment, don’t. Start now. If you’re wondering if you had to be born to paint or sing or dance, you don’t. You just have to choose to become someone else, if the role you’re playing is not the one you wanted. You don’t become an artist by moving to New York without a penny to your name. You become an artist because you decide that’s what you’re going to be and then you do the work.”

Those last three words are especially the key. The decision to become what you want to become is huge, but lots of people want to be rock stars, but a relative few learn to play guitar. Wanting it is not to be overlooked, but you have to want it bad enough to do the work. You can be an artist, and/or a creative, the key though is starting and then doing the work. This book is already one of the best I have ever read on living the creative life. I can’t wait to read more. Check it out.

I’m hoping this is not read as insensitive because I don’t mean it to be. I heard the story recently of some folks in a community arts organization who thought it a bad idea to do a production of a show that is usually predominantly cast with African American actors, because the group has few African American actors trying out. The opponents of doing the show cited “cultural appropriation.” This is not one of those shows where the plot demands that the characters have to be one race or another, as some shows are written, for example, Hairspray. It’s just an awesome show that’s a lot of fun that I have seen community groups do very well. My hope would be that doing a show like this would open doors to greater diversity, etc.

I guess I just don’t want to build walls around art. My belief is a primary strength of the arts is the ability to cross all of our manmade borders and bring us together. The arts allow us to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes and create bridges to understanding. While certain genres have at times been attributed to certain cultures and ethnicities, great art is great art. Why not let it do what it was designed to do? We have enough walls, let’s open a few doors.

I got this book as a review copy from the publisher because I thought it looked interesting. When I first started reading it, I thought I made a mistake, because I thought it was for women. I read a little further and thought it was for me, but slowly I came to the point of realizing it just might be for me.

This book is about men who disconnect relationally from others, especially from their spouses. The reason for my early confusion is because Turner sort of jumps back and forth between writing to the disconnected man and then writing to the women who love them. To be perfectly honest, I thought I was doing well in most of the areas this book explores but after reading them, I can see that a. I have come a long way, and b. I have a long way to go. This may be one of the most helpful books I have ever read. I truly believe every man should probably read this book, because Turner delves deep into the blindspots many of us carry.

This is not some over your head, psychological self-help book. This is a book written by someone whose been there. It is full of the author’s personal examples and battle scars. The book manages to walk the line between extremely challenging and extremely rewarding. I can’t say I enjoyed this book. That would be like saying I enjoyed surgery. What I will say instead is this is an important book that I am glad I read. Men, read this book. Women, if you find yourself having a hard time with your relationship, don’t separate, read this book.