Archive for January, 2018

Confession time: I have no idea why I ended up creating this image, except that I saw it in a dream, and it was so real that when I woke up, I knew I had to actually create it. Now in the dream, I was sculpting it in clay because I was going for a rough hewn look, but I have no idea why on that front either. When something is that real in a dream, I usually try to record it. I mean I have my suspicions. This is very much how I used to feel—square peg in a round hole. In gym class in elementary and middle school, I was usually the last one picked. (By the way, if you’re a gym teacher, this way of picking teams stinks and y’all ought to get creative and think of something better.) In high school, I had a growth spurt and I got a lot faster, but by that time my lack of popularity usually covered over my newfound speed and I was still near the back in a lot of things. As I got older, in the working world, I didn’t often feel like I was ever good enough, nor would I ever be, and while I kept trying and trying hard, I kind of gave up inside. Yes there were a lot of times where I felt like the last in line.

The reason I’m not sure why I created this now, is because, for the first time in my life, I don’t feel like this. I feel like I’ve found my place and my zone. I’m feeling better, and I’m happier than I have ever been. The things I’m doing now really matter and maybe that’s the point of this exercise. I’m not the last one picked anymore, but I sense it’s more. You see one of the things that always helped me through my problems was helping other people and maybe that’s what this is about. I can tell you at times this life has been a painful journey, but I will also say this, it gets better, so hold on and keep trying. I just recently wrote a book that talks about God and the fine art of measuring up and this is key. In this life, where you get your identity matters. For years I started to identify myself as the “last one picked” and it became a self fulfilling prophecy, but you know what? It wasn’t true. I have a wonderful wife, and she picked me and together we had two wonderful kids. More than that, I have a Savior who loves me so much He laid down His life and died on a cross for me. He loves you too. You can have Him too, and while He didn’t make all my struggles go away, He gave me someone to trust through them. I got through because of His love and the love of some very special people around me.

You might feel like you’re the last one picked, but you’re not. Before you were ever even born, God knew you. He loves you and He has a plan for you. He picked you. The painful trials and struggles of today make up a story that will one day look like victory, and when you get there, they will help you help many. Trust Him now and ask Him to help you. You’re not the last one picked and I have a feeling that’s why I had to make this image.

Author’s note: Sometimes these posts are really a stream of consciousness as I work my way through a thought. This post, which had its start in a dream is one such post. Where often I will edit this out and work from the conclusion, I decided to leave this one as is, in hopes that seeing me come to the conclusion will bless someone.

As we consider the imaginative church, and the creativity associate with it, one of the first thing we might need to do is ask a question:

Is it important?

We might also follow that with the questions, “Is it necessary?” followed close behind by “Is it allowed?”

Let’s start with the last one. The answer is absolutely yes. I do understand the objection. I have seen far too many people in this day and age getting a little too creative with the Scriptures, specifically with interpretation. There are a lot of people out there, even in the church who are (whether intentionally or unintentionally) trying to make the Bible mean what it does not mean. This is not what I mean when I speak of the imaginative church. So let’s be clear. We are talking about taking the unchanging message of the Gospel to an ever changing world, and in that aspect, creativity and imagination is not only allowed, not only necessary but of the utmost importance and, dare I say, essential.

Let’s face it, people in our world are bombarded by thousands and thousands of messages every day. Consider all the media, the billboards, email, texts, ads, books, television, movies, and on and on and on. We are absolutely bombarded. Have you ever been to Times Square? The media saturation in that place is beyond belief. People are confronted on all sides by a relentless barrage of messages. Now consider this, one of these messages is the one Christ’s church has been entrusted with. We believers know it’s the most important one, the only one with eternal significance, but to the rest of the world, the ones we are called to reach, it’s just one of the thousands. Now before I go further, I acknowledge that the Gospel is empowered by the Spirit, and I am not taking that lightly, not by a long shot. I will also acknowledge that there is a reason that God gifted us with creativity, and I believe that it is attached to the great commission. God made us creative (like Him) on purpose, and at least part of that purpose is to take the Gospel to “Jerusalem, and Judea, and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Creativity is a gift, given by God. As in the parable of the talents, the master has invested some of His wealth, “talents” of great value in His servants for the purpose of investing them for the good of His kingdom. The choice that is before us is simple. Will we obediently invest what the master has given or will we bury His investment? Our gifts and our talents are His investment in us. If this is the case, and it is, then, if you have creativity, and everyone does, obedience dictates that we get creative for the Kingdom.

Creativity in the church is not just important, or necessary, or allowed, it’s mandatory.

How will you invest what you have been given? Let’s get creative.

Did you ever find yourself wondering what might have been? You know “How different would life have been If I had done this… or if I haven’t done that?” “What would have changed if I would have taken the job or didn’t get fired, if I went on that date, or skipped that class?” I think we all do it at one point or another and here’s what you need to know about it…

It’s a complete waste of time…

For one thing, your past, at least in part, made you who you are, and that’s probably not too bad. We are the sum of our gifts, talents and experiences. The roads taken and not taken, the opportunities used and the opportunities squandered all contribute to what we do and who we become. Looking at what might have been can lead us to places of ingratitude for the work that God has done in our lives, and that is never a good place to be. Instead what if we looked back in gratitude and forward in hope? Would that attitude change your path? In most cases, I believe the answer is yes. But, for the sake of argument, let’s suppose that your past is such a mess and hope is hard to find. What can you do?

Look time travel is great for SciFi, but in the real world it is impossible. The past is gone and there’s no going back, but there’s good news. You see they say, hindsight is always 20/20, but the problem with hindsight is it gets you looking in the wrong direction. when looking back and thinking “if only” the very best you can see is an idealized image of something that never happened. Yes, it might have been good, but you have no way of knowing that. It may just as soon have been an even bigger mess and again the point is moot, even if it turned out, ideal, there is no going back. The only direction we can ever really head, at least with respect to time, is forward.

The good news starts here. The past is gone except for the memories that remain and considered properly they can be a free (even if they were very costly) education. We can learn from the past and point ourselves to a different future. Wish you had never taken your first drink? Let that point you to sobriety. Will it be hard? Yes but what in life that’s good is easy. Wish you had taken a different career path? Start working toward what you need to do that? Wish you had been a better parent, spouse or parent? Start today and do what you can to make things right. At the end of the day, the past is gone but we can work toward a better future.

This is especially important to us as creatives. Some people will tell us we’re ahead of our time. It’s simply not true, because the only time you have is this one. We need to make the creative ideas we have and move forward with them. We may be powerless over things past, but, with God’s help, we can create a better future, so we’ll know that what might have been cannot hold a candle to what is still to be.

In case you need a musical reminder… Here’s one.

This post may not be what you think, but then again you might not be what you think you are either. What do I mean by that? Well this is a quest every creative will have to pursue at some point or another, but especially those whose talents are summoned to Christ. I’ll give you a personal example.

For most of my life, I had figured and hoped that I would be a professional artist. Put simply, I was going to earn my living by selling my creations. This manifested in a multitude of ways, everything from decorative crafts, to trying to create and my own comic book. I also pursued a lot of jobs in various aspects of graphic design. Most of it was unsuccessful and what wasn’t unsuccessful, often felt unfulfilling, which left me in some pretty dark places. My solution to this was to work with a workaholic drive trying to improve my lot in life, which usually just led to fatigue and frustration. I now know why this was. I was outside my creative design.

You see I wasn’t meant for that life. Oh I had talents for art, but I made the crucial mistake of thinking that meant I had to be a professional artist and when i came to faith I was pretty convinced that that was how I was going to glorify God. What eventually became apparent was art for art sake was not my calling. Looking back over my experiences from childhood, I could have picked up the clues. Yes, I always loved to make art, but there was more. From the time I was little I used art and my creativity to tell stories and communicate. Now I had some problems in childhood, largely because I was a human target in school and so I buried much of the external parts of the gift. They were still there, it was part of my creative design, that is the design my designer put upon me. Slowly God began to show me that art was not the be all end all for me. It was a tool for something that was, for me at least, greater. Art was going to be a tool I would use to communicate the greatest story ever told, the Gospel, and when I came upon my creative design, I found a big part of the meaning of life.

Now this begs a question, was all the stuff that led up to this point wasted? No! My graphic design work made me fast and helped me to become a better writer, which led me having skills useful to me both as an author and a speed painter, further, all the art I did was incredibly good practice for me. In the process of my pursuit of an art/design career, I learned to build websites, built my art skills, taught me communication skills and one other thing that should not be overlooked. It allowed me to pay the bills on my way to where I am. Today, I live in my “sweet spot.” At times I’ve wished I would have found this when I was younger, but the truth of the matter is everything happened right on time.

What’s your creative design? Seek the Lord and ask Him to show you.

There’s a joke me and some of my ministry friends would get out whenever we heard someone say something that was biblically questionable, or just plain out there. We’d say, “That must be in the book of Paul, somewhere near the back.” The reason is simple, there is no book of Paul. However there are many books written by Paul, or more correctly, letters or even more correctly letters, and those letters lay out much of the theology of the New Testament. While there is no book of Paul, there is definitely a “Gospel According to Paul” that can be discerned from his letters. In The Gospel According to Paul, John MacArthur lays out Pauline theology masterfully.

John MacArthur is one of the great thinkers in the church today and this book is a wonderful, thought provoking dissertation on some of the great theological points of the Apostle Paul. MacArthur starts off with the bad news behind the Good News, which is the sinful condition of all humanity. From there, MacArthur explores through Paul’s Eyes (and of course from Gospel truth), how to be right with God, Salvation by faith alone and many other truths that everyone needs to know. MacArthur is brilliant. I found myself disagreeing on one or two points, but even in this, he provoked me to thought and to really explore what I believe and more importantly, why I believe it. This is a must read for anyone who wants a deeper understanding of their faith. Not to be missed are the Appendixes at the end, especially the Spurgeon Sermon on Paul’s Glorious Gospel. Five Stars!

In my new book, Enough., one of the things I dealt with is the subject of having enough. For today’s post I thought I would build on that. This is not an excerpt, it’s an expansion.This is a frequent struggle for creatives, especially. We get ideas or feel a calling or maybe even a commission and we feel the need to pass because we feel we don’t have enough, whether it be resources, talent or whatever. I confess I have struggled here too, but I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s pointless for us to do that to ourselves. I mean sure there is a time to count the cost, but for the most part that’s not what we’re doing. Rather, we’re selling ourselves short. So whenever I hear someone lamenting whether or not they have enough, I will usually ask a follow up question.

What do you have right now?

The reason I ask this is simple. If we focus on what we don’t have, we’ll never start and we’ll forget to be grateful for what we already have. Forget for a second having all you need to finish something. What do you need to start? Starting builds momentum and momentum keeps things moving. This is especially true in the realm of talent. People will make the fatal flaw of comparing their abilities with others. Do you know how that person who you think is better than you got to that place? The started and kept going. some people are naturally gifted, but no one starts off great. Rather they did what you need to do. Start where you are, with what you have and build on it. Every great creation started as raw material. The ones who do the work are the ones who get the finished product, so I’ll ask again.

What do you have right now?

Start with that.

Hi All,
Just wanted to let you know, my new book “Enough.” Is now available on Amazon in both the print and Kindle Formats. The Print version is available for $12 and the Kindle version is just $2.99. I can’t wait for you all to read it and I look forward to your input.

Basically this book is for anyone who has ever questioned if they have what it takes, if they measure up or if they just plain wonder “Am I Enough?”

Well I am now in the midst of writing my next book, The Imaginative Church. Let me tell you I have a truckload of ideas of things to write on and share, but I really want this to be an effective tool, so I need your help. What are your questions on the topic of creative ministry? I am emphasizing three aspects of ministry, Worship, Teaching and Evangelism, or as I like to call it “preaching, teaching and reaching.” Let me know them as soon as you can. I’m working on a quick turnaround, my seminars start in April.

I had to take a little hiatus from my web comic, Creacher, but it’s a new year and I am going to take another run at it. To see more, click the ‘toon.

Back in the day, when I was trying to be a full time freelance, there was someone I saw as the bane of my existence. His name was Bob Ross. Don’t get me wrong, I love his show, and I learned a lot from him, but clients and potential clients would see him whip out these masterpieces in a half hour and wonder why I would charge for many more hours. The truth was simple. What they wanted took more time than what Bob Ross was creating. Fast forward, I now earn part of my living s a speed painter, knocking out painting in far less time then Bob Ross did. I can’t imagine what I would have thought of what I do now, back in the day.

But here’s the thing, yes I can do a painting in six minutes and there are certain ones I can do in even less time, but if you were to ask me how long it takes me to paint a painting like the ones I do in my ministry, I’m liable to say six minutes and fifty years, because that’s the truth of the matter. I can do a painting in six minutes because I’ve been making art for fifty years. I’ve learned how to break it down, I set the parameters of time and figured out how to create something in the time allotted. It’s similar with Ross. He learned the techniques and figured out a way to break it down into a piece he could do in a half hour TV program while demonstrating the techniques so the home audience could do it as well. Those were the parameters, and it worked.

Now here’s the mistake we make. You’re not working by the hour and never allow yourself to fall into that trap. Just because I can do a painting in six minutes does not mean I should do that painting for a tenth of an hour’s wage. Your skill and experience allows you to do whatever it is that you do and that skill and work and experience has value. Don’t let someone shame you by acting as if you’re in it for the money. I’m not talking about being in it for the money, I’m talking about sustainable ministry. We may decide to do certain things for free, but please understand, everything has a cost. Materials are the most obvious, but there are other things that cost money and the less thought of, but equally important, time. It all has value and it all has a cost and if you want to be able to continue doing what you do, if you want your work, and yes, even ministry, to be sustainable for the long haul, it has to at least come close to covering the costs.

For the record, this is no reflection on anyone for whom I have ministered. This is for my readers who are trying to balance wanting to create great art and do great ministry with the struggle of finance and ministry.