Archive for December, 2018

At my church this year for advent, I wanted to address something that worries me, that, on the surface, sounds like it shouldn’t. I sometimes worry that we know the Christmas story too well. I know, right? You might be thinking, “Cry me a river, pastor. You think people might know a text too well.” Not exactly. What concerns me is that people know the story so well that they take it for granted, and cease to be blown away by how amazing the story actually is. I mean, this is the incarnation, God becomes a man and comes to earth, born a baby, to experience all of life as we do, set a perfect example, prepare the way for us to receive eternal life, teach us all that the Lord wants us to know and dying to secure the way to God for all who will believe. It’s a beautiful, nearly scandalous story that I never want to see people miss because they think they know it. So how to present this powerful story in a way that makes people really take it to heart? Well I got creative.

I started reading through the text, selected four people intimately involved in the story and really studied all that the Scripture says about them. This led to a series I called “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord.” In the series I looked at four “men” (one of them was an angel, hence the quotes) and told the story as best I could, from their perspective as if I were them, dramatically. It was one of the most commented upon series I have ever done, but aside from that, it blessed me. I had to really delve into the story. I had to dig deep and I had to really put myself in their shoes, because I was going to quite literally put myself in their shoes. I had to think things like, “How would they have experienced this moment?” and “Would he really say that?” It was one of the most rewarding study experiences I have ever had.

The other thing was, I had no desire and felt no leading for costumes, but his would I get the people to forget it was me and imagine the person in question was speaking to them. I ended up doing what I do best, i.e., making art. I did a portrait of each of the people I was portraying and put them in the front of the sanctuary. Rather than speed painting these “live” since advent series’ tend to be very full, I took my time and painted them in my studio. This also ended up being a blessing, because I could really push myself artistically. I had a great time with this series, but that’s not why I share this. I share it to encourage you to take the familiar passages and find a different way to present them—a way that will be faithful to the text and yet creative enough to get people to see something they already know with fresh eyes. I believe God gave us our creative gifts for this very reason. How can you help people to really see God’s truth?

Here are the portraits. They are Gabriel, a shepherd (who I named Itzhak), John the Baptist (because if you’re going to talk about preparing the way for Jesus, he can’t be left out) and finally Joseph.

Let’s start at the beginning. I love Andy Andrews’ writing. I consider him to be a brilliant storyteller and motivator. That being said I wanted to ding him a little bit on this one. The reason is simple. The Traveler’s Summit is a repackaging of his book The Final Summit, with some new writing added. I wanted to ding him, but I can’t. This book is great, fantastic, even. It is truly a follow up to The Traveler’s Gift. It looks at the future of humanity and what it will take to turn around. The main character meets with more great people from history but this time they must come together to find a solution to getting humanity back on track. Like a modern day parable, this book speaks to life today. I was on vacation and I read this book in about two days. It’s a great read, and highly worthwhile. My recommendation, if you’ve read The Final Summit, but it’s been a few years, get this book and read it. If you’ve never read The Final Summit, you don’t have to. This one is all of that and more. If you’ve never read The Traveler’s Gift, read that one first. These fictional books give real world suggestions and solutions for all that is going on today. This is one you don’t want to miss.

I have a young cousin named Sara. She is 12 years old and she is quite the gifted artist, but it’s more than a gift. She plugs away at it. She is demonstrating over and over again that she is willing to do the work. In my opinion that’s the number one indicator of success in the arts. She takes a sketch book everywhere she goes and she is storing up her ideas and developing them. She’s really starting to come up with some impressive stuff. The last time we were together she showed me a comic character she is developing and I have to say he really shows potential. The truth is, this character looks like he would fit in really well with my CREACHER comic, and so I had a thought. I decided to do a little bit of fan art based on her character. Here he is.

Why did I make this? Mainly because I love this kid and I love what she is doing. I wanted to show her how much I think of her work and her effort, by creating a version of it. I want to encourage her to keep at it and keep growing. That’s part of what we need to do as creatives. We need to seek out those younger folks who are working and developing what they have and we need to encourage them. I think it’s our duty to build into the ones who will pick up where we left off and surpass us. Let’s face it, every creative has faced the struggles and the rejection that sometimes happen in this creative life. How much better would it have been if we had people who were willing to keep cheering us on through it? Sarah has great parents and a great support structure, but as I’m sure you’ll agree, we need all the support we can get.

If you read this Sara, keep at it. You’re doing well and I am proud of you. If you’re any one of my other readers, look for someone you can bless and encourage and do it. Invest in the next generation, you never know where it will lead.

I need to mention, I got this book for free in exchange for a review on my blog and various other sites. That being said, I promise only to ever give an honest review. That being said, this is a good one.

I’ll say this, Jerry B. Jenkins can tell a story and in this book he tells two. One a modern day whodunnit, featuring a Messianic Jewish father and daughter being investigated for attacking the mother/wife they both love. The other is the fictionalized tale of the birth of Abraham to his devout mother and his idol making father. Both stories are page turners and I thoroughly enjoyed both of them. I sometimes wish a half star option was available, because I would like ding this great book, just a little bit in that it spends it’s entirety setting up the sequel. I should not be surprised by this. Jenkins is half of the team that created one of the best selling book series of all time, but I got to the end of the book and was still wondering what these two great, well written stories have to do with each other. I’m sure it will be masterfully shown in the coming sequel(s), but I would have liked a little insight in this volume. Please don’t get me wrong, I still highly recommend this book, and you will find it thoroughly entertaining, and I am really excited to read book two, I just wish he had given me a little more to tie the two stories together. Still a great book. Get it.

Finding your gift

I spend a lot of time traveling to churches, talking to congregations about serving God with their gifts. It’s a passion of mine, mostly because I am where I am today because someone showed me how to use my gift of art to serve the Lord. This ministry generates a recurring question:

How can I find my gift?

The question comes from the hearts of genuinely loving people who really want to serve the Lord, but who struggle with how to best serve the Lord. The good news is, there is an answer to their question. Actually there are two. The first is pray and ask God to reveal His gifts to you. There are also some ways to help you discern. I find that our gifts are usually found at the intersection of three things:

What do you do well/best? It would make sense that if God is going to be glorified in our gifts, then the majority of our gifts are probably going to be things God has given us a talent or a natural ability to do. Comparison is not helpful at this stage. Don’t look for something you do better than others, ask yourself “What is the best thing I do?” Chances are the things you do best are areas of gifting for you.

What do you love to do? It would further make sense that if God wants you to use a gift to His glory, it would be something you love to do. Now this is not always the case, but for the most part, your gifts tend to be things you love to do. The reason for this is simple—natural talent only takes you so far. The things we will excel at are generally the things we love to do enough to work and, develop and perfect.

What are your opportunities and experiences? Sometimes our gifts are more about opportunities than about abilities. Sometimes the things we experience uniquely qualify us to serve. For example, I was a bullied kid, and while I would not wish that experience on anyone, it was so helpful when I started working with youth. Romans 8:28 works!

Here’s my path in a nutshell. My art ability is natural, I was born with it. That being said, I have worked tirelessly at it and the reason I can do that is because I love it. Being a speaker/preacher was a much different path. When I was a small child, I loved to perform for family and friends, but the aforementioned bullying drove that desire into deep hiding. But the time I walked into the church I was terrified to speak in public. Art opened the door. My pastor asked me to pant a backdrop for vacation Bible school. That led to being in a skit in VBS, which led to other skits, which led to teaching, which led to preaching and speaking. That gift came about based on another opportunity and an experience.

Here’s what I know for sure: Everybody has at least one gift from God that can be used to his glory. I don’t believe He has left anyone empty-handed including you. First pray and ask God the question, then ask yourself the above questions and you should be well on your way to finding your gifts. Then, once you find them, put them to work and to God be the glory.

Pray and answer the above questions. When you have finished your list, look for places where they intersect. These will be clues to your gifts.

Book Review: Get Weird by C.J. Casciotta

Posted: December 11, 2018 in books

Before I begin this review, I am required to mention that I received this book for free in exchange for review on my blog and other channels like this one. Now that that is out of the way, let me tell you why I loved this book. First and foremost, that title just grabbed my attention. Get weird! But this is not just about weird for weird’s sake. There is, in my not-so humble opinion, too much of that going on in the arts. Rather the author speaks of the “Sacred Weird” and embracing the ways that we are created unique and different, rather than settling for the conformity of what the author labels “Same.” Casciotta gives real world examples from his life as well as stories from the lives of some of our most creative innovators in a variety of areas of life. People from Martin Luther, through Martin Luther King.

I read a lot of books in a year, and I often share them with others. I may buy another copy to share, but this one is staying close to home as I am planning refer to it often. Casciotta sums up the story in this line from near the end of the book. “imagine a world where we all loved what made us different, instead of succumbing to a constant barrage of comparison and conformity.” Amen to that.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It is a book that will inspire creatives for years to come and ignite or reignite the creative spark in us all.

Sometimes a project doesn’t end up the way you planned it. A while ago I had an idea. I was going to create a bunch of three by five cards to distribute around the community, linked to a web page that would tell people more about Jesus. I even was in the process of creating a price for the winner. Unfortunately some things in my ministry changed and I was never able to quite pull it off. The resulting video sat in limbo for quite some time. Recently I rediscovered it and thought, that might be useful to a kids ministry somewhere, so I “dusted it off” revamped a few things and published it.

It’s based on the parable of the lost sheep. I think I am going to end up redoing this piece, and the associated outreach, for my current church, but in the mean time, I thought I would at least share clip in case someone can use it. Sometimes things fall through and have to be discarded. Most of the time, though I think our timing is off, and we just need to wait for the right time. Store your ideas, even the ones that appear to be failing. Sometimes they can be resurrected later. After all, our Lord is in the resurrection business.

I know that title could be taken in a very negative way, but that’s not how I mean it. No instead I want to know what you would like to see on this site. How can I help you? What kinds of services should I be offering? What do you want to know about? The nice thing about this site is the field of creativity and the church is very wide with lot of possibilities. The struggle of this site is the same. What I want more than anything else is to glorify God. What I want almost as much is to help all of us creatives to do the same.

So for the coming year, what do you want from me? How can I serve and bless you? How can I help you to thrive as you use your gift to serve the Lord?

Because that is what I really want to do!

I want to start off by saying, for the umpteenth time, I love what I do. Being a pastor is great, arts ministry is great, and as a whole all of my other creating pursuits are a real blast too. Lately I’ve been creating some new graphics. like this guy…

it’s mainly just for fun and to improve my skills. I enjoy that too. I’m writing a novel, that I really feel is coming together nicely for a first effort. I feel led to this stuff, well maybe not the just for fun art, but everything else. Lately, though I have been wondering, “What am I doing?”

Here’s my struggle, I see so many things going on in our world and it’s hard. I’m especially having a hard time with the things that are happening within the church as I see a great many teachings being perpetrated on the church from within. This is happening largely as people try to mold the Scriptures to fit the culture. That’s not how it works. We don’t change the Scripture, the Scripture is supposed to change us. I see all this stuff happening and I wonder am I doing enough about this stuff. Am I taking enough of a stand? I know I am going out and sharing the Gospel. I know I am building up my congregation, or at least I am putting forth my best efforts, but when it comes to he forces that come against the church and the culture, am I fighting? Am I supposed to be fighting? Is drawing silly pictures a waste of time, or is there a way that it can all come together to speak God’s truth in love to the culture and to the church?

My creative brothers and sisters, we have been entrusted with taking the unchanging message of the Gospel to the world. To find new and exciting ways to communicate that unchanging message is our calling and changing that message is heresy. Let’s be faithful to God’s truth and take that good news to the world. Jesus saves and He is Lord. Our job is to point people to Him. He can and will handle the rest.

A lot of people, including some new friends have asked me about gifts, talents and calling. I am thinking through a more extensive post or project on the topic, but I decided to crystallize some basic thoughts over at my web-comic CREACHER. These are just the basics, more to come.