Archive for May, 2018

There was that Sunday School song we had when we were kids. Be careful little eyes what you see… and remember that one verse that said be careful little mouth what you say? Well a lot of people need to work on that one and now that we can broadcast our thoughts to the world on a whim, it is more important than ever.

Case in point, Roseanne Barr. Her show was rebooted and seemed to be going very well. There were a few things a lot of my readers would find objectionable, but over all, it had some pretty funny moments and it looked like it might be in for another long run. Then she tweeted. One tweet and it’s over. The show is cancelled, just like that. Unemployment in 144 characters. Cast and crew find themselves out of work and some of those folks haven’t worked since the last time the show was on the air. In my opinion, the network was right to do what they did, Barr’s comments were pretty unconscionable, but I do feel for the cast and crew. Pay attention, there is a lesson to be learned here.

Before I say what I am about to say, remember, I think Ms. Barr’s comments were reprehensible, but in our day, people’s offense meters have hair triggers. When we make a statement, we better prepare for quick and harsh consequences. Gone are the days of meeting each other half way and having constructive dialog, now we just shout each other down on our way to shutting each other down. Again this is not in defense of Ms. Barr or her comments it is simply a statement to be careful what you say. Offend someone, anyone, and the gloves might just be off, and the price might be high. Are you prepared to own the fall out of your words?

Does that mean we should shy away from being offensive. I don’t really see how you could do that in this day and age, but the Apostle Paul did give us some wonderful advice. Speak the truth in love. Say what you have to say in the most loving, kind-hearted way you can, and before you speak, or tweet, ask yourself a question. “Am I speaking this out of love and concern or do I just want to fight?” Maybe even ask a couple of follow up questions, like: “Am I right or just self-righteous?” “Will anyone be helped, edified or blessed by me making this statement?” “Will the person I am directing this comment toward be helped, edified or blessed by what I am about to say?” and the one we should ask first, “Is this statement even true?” Remember, once you hit send, it’s out there forever. Look, there are times to stand your ground, and there are hills you should probably die on, but a political argument usually should not be one of those. If you decide you have to speak, or tweet, are you willing to live with the fall out? More importantly are all the people who will be effected by what you do willing? All this should be considered before we open our mouths or put fingers to keys as the case may be.

Before you speak maybe you should heed the words of James 3:5 ‘Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” Sometimes when you start a verbal fire, a lot of people get burned.

Use wisdom.

I posted my top ten albums on Facebook and my wife challenged me that I posted no Christian albums. Well she wasn’t following close enough because I did in fact post two of the ten, to be truthful there were many others I could have listed but those two were my absolute favorites. I am posting my ten favorites here, along with a video from each. Again it’s really hard to do this, but this is an overview of some of my favorites.
1. DC Talk-Jesus Freak

2. Newsboys-Take Me to Your Leader

So many great songs on this one so I went with the title track.
3. Chris Tomlin-How Great Is Our God

Chris Tomlin is one of the great songwriters of the church. but in this case he outdid himself. He was commissioned to reimagine Amazing Grace. It might already be the greatest song of all time. Chris made it better.
4. Audio Adrenaline-Underdog

5. Skillet-Awake

6. Third Day-Offerings A Worship Album

7. David Crowder Band-Church Music

I love Crowder. As it was with Chris Tomlin, there are so many great songs to choose from. I ended up going with this one because it has one of the coolest videos ever made.
8. Stryper-To Hell With the Devil

9. Mercy Me-I Can Only Imagine

One of the best songs of all time, period.
10. Casting Crowns-Casting Crowns

When I first heard this song, I actually wept, a lot. This song is prophetic and a wake up call to the entire body of Christ.

Okay I know I said ten but there is one more I need to add (okay there’s a lot to add but I need to get other things done. Mark Schultz is among the best musical storytellers of our time. See if you don’t agree.
11. Mark Schultz-Mark Schultz

A friend challenged me to share my top ten albums of all time on Facebook. It was kind of fun to reminisce but ten was a tough pick, because there are literally hundreds of albums that could have made the cut, both from my younger years with all that great classic rock that I loved so much, and all those Christian artists I’ve really come to enjoy. For a guy with no real musical skill, I sure do love music. The thing was, each of the albums had a story, a way that the artist touched my life through their music.

Sometimes as I was thinking about it, I let my mind wander. What would it be like to meet some of those artists? Would I like them? Would they like me? Would I end up being a goofball fanboy stammering and unable to put the words together, or could I see myself as a fellow artist and have the kind of talk I’d really want to have. Of course this led to another thought…

You see, there was a time in my life when I went to a lot of rock concerts. Would you believe 70 to 80 in a five year period. This was back in the classic rock period, and do you know how many of those musicians I actually got to meet? Zero—not a one! But then something happened. I met Jesus. No this is not going to one of those hokey Christian posts where I talk about how Jesus is greater than all the celebrities in the world. I know that is true, but it would be so predictable. No, instead I want to say I gave my life to Jesus and when we do that it means our whole lives. When I became a Christian, I had a lot of things to work through, and I had to separate myself from some of the things from the prior years. (I was also trying to get sober at the time.) One of those thing was my rock and roll habit. You see some of the lyrical content was just not what I needed to be ingesting in that period. Fortunately I discovered the world of Christian rock which helped me to adjust.

As I progressed in my faith, I felt the call to ministry and began to work with youth, God did something pretty cool. My students were really into rock music too and before long I was taking kids to rock concerts (albeit Christian rock concerts) and people actually respected me for doing it. Then I discovered a youth ministry resource called Interlinc that used the themes for Christian rock songs as the jumping off point for Bible lessons. I submitted and became one of their writers. Now all of the sudden I was meeting all these amazing musicians and I began to realize that God was blessing me once again.

Fast forward a few years and I’m about to get to meet another of my creative heroes, a comedian named Brad Stine. I saw him years ago at a huge event (and several times since) and became a big fan. Now, in a few weeks, my church will be hosting him as he brings his “The God Experience” tour to my town. I am so looking forward to this. Why do I share this? Because there is nothing God can’t do, and nothing from your life that He cannot use to His glory and along the way, He will often find ways to bless you in ways that no one else can. Trust Him, give Him everything and see what He will do with it.

Here’s a little clip of Brad Stine in action.

I got this book as a review copy from the publisher, in exchange for a review on my blog, They are now requiring that I add the hashtag #ad to my reviews, and while I fundamentally disagree with this policy, because I don’t review these books to advertise them, I look for books that might be useful to my audience and share them as potential resources. That being said I will honor their policy.

I spent most of this book wondering how I would review it, because at times I really didn’t like what was said very much. That being said, there were many times when I had to stop and realize I was being judgmental and not putting myself in the author’s shoes. I chose to review this book because it dealt with business and this is an area my audience needs to at least consider, i.e. ministry in the marketplace. It’s the story of Dollar General Stores and the men who founded them. It’s the story of a company that goes from a small town family store to become a billion dollar company and it is downright fascinating most of the time. Interestingly as the company grows and changes from family company to publicly traded business is where it lost most of it’s luster for me. I think the reason for this is simple, all of the sudden the author has to do things like fire family members, etc. There was part of me that understood the responsibility to stockholders that required theses kinds of things to happen, and part of me that felt it was cold and heartless. At first I really wanted to lash out at the author, but then I realized the problem may have been with me, judging someone whose shoes I have never had to walk in.

Over all this is an interesting book. I am glad I read it as much for learning things I do not want to do as things I do. Turner challenged me at times and at times even made me angry. Like the time where he got grief for opening his stores on Sunday from a pastor, and turned it around on the pastor that clearly he wasn’t teaching his people well enough to get them to stop shopping on Sunday. I am a pastor, and while I can’t condemn someone for shopping on Sunday, I thought it was an extremely short sighted statement from someone who at one point felt the call to ministry. Of course about the time I was starting to get really incensed, Turner talks about how bad he felt about making such a statement. Ultimately, I think this book was a little too far removed from my life experience for me to relate to, and yet it exposed me to a different world and for that I am grateful. There’s a certain fascinating irony to the fact that people can become very wealthy, by deliberately creating stores designed to serve the less fortunate to bringing them necessities at low prices.

In the final chapter, Turner tells us his hope for the book and it was here that he really helped me to solidify this review. He writes, “My motive in this book has been to examine my father’s business and make sense of it in a way that might invite you to do the same—so that you make help others do the same in turn. It’s part of loving others as ourselves.” If that was his goal, I believe Cal Turner Jr. achieved his goal.

It’s been said we have nothing to fear but fear itself. It’s absolutely true, especially as a creative. If we’re afraid, we keep our work to ourselves, we don’t share it with the world and if we don’t care it, our fear will have accomplished it’s goal: to keep our work from doing the good it ought to do. Fear in this case is diabolical.

Think about it, your talents are a gift from God. That gift is given not just to enrich your bank account, but more importantly to bless someone and give God glory. When we withhold that work out of fear, no one is blessed and God gets no glory. What a shame!

What are we really afraid of? That some people won’t like it. Sorry but that’s a given. Not everyone will like your work, so you might as well not be afraid of it. The people who don’t like your work, as I’ve said here many times, are not your audience. Ignore them and that fear is nullified.

If not that, what are you afraid of? Maybe you’re not good enough? Have you brought your best work to the table? Then trust God to use that effort to His glory. Your work is not perfect and it will not be, you just have to bring your best to the table. Again nothing to fear.

The truth is over and over again, fear, at least of this type, does nothing but keep you from being everything God has for you to be and doing what He has for you to do.

Don’t let fear keep you from all God has for you.

I see these stickers on vehicles everywhere that say variations of “Keep Calm and Carry On.” I think it’s been overdone, but there is something there that we need to consider. As much as we love what we do in this life of art and ministry, as great a blessing as we know we have, it can get frustrating. We all have those times where it feels like our work is getting nowhere. We all have times where the doors seem to be closed or our skills just aren’t where we want them to be. We all have the times where we’re passed over. We all see people pass us by. We have the times when we get rejected. We hear, “You’re just not right for what we do” or “we’re going in a different direction” or worst of all, you hear nothing. It can all get very aggravating and in our weakest moments, there can be a great temptation to quit.

Please don’t. Remember no one promised this journey was going to be easy. If it was we would reach the top with a malformed character that could be disastrous. The Bible tells us don’t become weary of well doing and don’t despise small beginnings. Sometimes we need to remember our call. There is a reason for everything, and the reason you have your gift is so that in some way, you might give God glory. Last night in our church’s Bible study I was reminded of this again. We are near the end of a study on the book of Acts. Paul is headed for Rome. He was told by God he was go there, it was the next place he wanted to go, but I’d have to believe Paul thought he would end up there free to roam the streets and do what he was created to do. Instead he ends up there in chains. God’s plan is looking very different than I am sure Paul imagined, but please note this, Paul still ended up exactly where God said He would be. Further, in this way, Paul would be able to preach to some of the most powerful in his world at the time. In spite of the problems God’s will was done. I asked the question if God’s will being done in our lives every looked different from our plans. There was audible laughter around the room. We all knew it to be true, and I thought about my own journey.

For most of my life, I thought I would make art for a living. I felt like that was God’s call on my life, and in part it was. When I started working for a licensee of the Ninja Turtles, they were making billions in licensing and my client was telling me he could do the same for me. I worked harder than I had worked in my life to that point, and God left me fail. No matter what I did, I did not succeed and I was angry with God. As I looked around my congregation, I realized once again the great thing God did for me. If I had succeeded in the path that I was on, it would have destroyed me. I knew making art was going to be part of my life, and it is. I just couldn’t see the better path He had for me. One dream had to die, and I had to carry on. I had to keep honing my skills and learning new ones. I had work on my faith and experience a new calling, a call to ministry, and then I had to learn how to meld the two together.

I don’t know where you’re at today. I hope you’re happy and fulfilled and in the very center of God’s will, but if you’re not, get together with God. Don’t be mad at Him. He loves you. Carry on in your calling, stop doing the things that take you out of His will, follow His lead and let Him do what He needs to do in you. Trust Him and…

Carry on.

I saw a video last night for something I usually do, being done by another arts ministry. I am going to confess something here that may make you think less of me. I got a little jealous. I’ve been doing this stuff for over 20 years and it’s hard not to. The person on the video hasn’t been doing this as long as I have and I know last year, he got a “gig” I’ve been dying to do for the entire length of my career. Seeing him do this thing too was a little tough on the old ego, I’ll just admit it. It’s easy to feel surpassed and overlooked at times like this.  You might see this as a character flaw, I see it as human nature.

So why do I share this? Well the truth is, this kind of stuff happens all the time in the creative world and we need to have a little bit of a thicker skin sometimes. The other thing to remember is this is no time to start comparing. Instead, I need to do two things. First I need to be glad that someone else is working at this type of ministry. Secondly I need to be glad that doors are opening for this guy. It means more people are open to the type of ministry I do. That is a good thing. Thirdly, I need to look at me. Am I doing all I can do? Am I growing in my skills? Am I promoting the way I need to promote? Do I need to create a better web site or better promotional materials? Do I just need to do a better job of reminding people I am out here?

Jealousy is wasted. This is ministry. The other guy is not my competition, he’s my brother is Christ and I need to be glad for him, pray for him, etc. you need to do the same and one other thing, I need to be grateful for what I have and so do you. Praise God for all the doors He opens for you and bring your best to every opportunity. I feel like I do that, but maybe I could do it better.

Jealousy does not look good on us and it doesn’t glorify God. Instead bring your best to everything you do and glorify God. He’s got great things for us all and there is plenty of work to go around.

I’ve written several posts over the years about how deadlines are our friends. I believe that is true with all my heart, but is there ever a time not to work with deadlines. The answer is yes.

Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, tells us not to swear and part of that is this idea of letting your “yes be yes and your no be no” and we need take this to heart. As creatives, when we commit to doing something, we are often doing something the person commissioning us cannot to for themselves. They are depending on us to finish what we start and they need it by a certain time. God is not glorified if we prove to be undependable. To glorify God for the creative is to deliver what you promised, the best that you can do it and on time. Anything less can bring dishonor to His name. It is for this reason that we have to be careful about deadlines.

I made a personal rule a couple years ago that when it comes to taking on side work, I don’t take anything with a tight deadline. I broke that rule last week and I’m wishingI would have set things up differently. Now you might think, “Dave, you’re a creative, deadlines are a fact of life. How can you say you don’t take deadlines? What are you? A prima donna?” No, I guarantee you that’s not the case.

The fact of the matter is I already have more than a few deadlines. These are hard deadlines–things I must complete every week. The most obvious one is weekly. Every Sunday morning at 10:00, I must go to the front of my church and I better have a sermon ready when I get there. People joke, at least I hope they’re joking, that pastors only work one day a week, but the truth is, there is a lot to be done each week, but the thing that gets the most attention, and takes the most creative energy is the sermon. That’s a firm deadline. I also lead our church’s weekly adult Bible Study and for the last year and a half, I have been writing the curriculum. That means I have to be ready to go every Wednesday at 7:00. Next are the speaking engagements. 30-50 times a year, I speak at other churches and different events, and all those things have to be prepared. In addition, I am working on my masters. Now fortunately I found a school that is very flexible, or I would have had to drop that. I am also a husband, father and grandfather, and the last thing I would want to do is mess up those relationships. That’s why I don’t take deadlines.

I still want to serve others with my gift and I still can, but I must make sure that the people understand that I can’t do tight deadlines. This means I have to be secure enough to understand if people have to go with someone else for a project. The truth is, there are only so many hours in a day and we all have to invest them well. My recommendation. Only take deadlines if you know you can deliver and deliver well. We all need a little margin and some rest in our lives, otherwise this gift starts to feel more like a curse. It’s okay to say no sometimes, especially if saying yes would mean not keeping your word.

I saw this today, and I know it’s for someone here today. It was for me, but things are much better. You have the tools to do what God created you to do. Be who God made you to be. Do what you were created to do.

The following are some photos from my Imaginative Church Workshop.

It was a great day of creative, imaginative fun and more importantly learning as we looked at new ways to take the unchanging message of the Gospel to an ever changing world.
Here’s an outline of the day.

  • Registration
  • Demonstration piece on imagination
    • This includes the story of how my ministry is at least in part the result of a pastor who empowered me early in my faith walk.
  • Teaching session 1 “But I’m not creative” Overcoming the fear of creativity
    • Short hands on exercise
  • Teaching session 2 “Creative Worship” Stepping out of the boat
    • Hands on project creatively expressing Matthew 14:21-33
  • Lunch
  • Teaching session 3 “Sometimes It’s All About Who You Know” Identifying and empowering the creatives in your congregation
    • Short Hands On Exercise
  • Teaching session 4 Teaching In Story Exploring the Parables
    • Hands on project teaching a Parable
  • Teaching session 5 Going Beyond the Walls Exploring Creative Outreach
    • Hands On Exercise Brainstorming Creative Outreach

Contact me if you would like to know more about partnering with me to bring this to your area.