Archive for April, 2019

A few days ago I posted a beautiful video for your inspiration by an artist named Jack Whitney. Well he mentioned the story behind it in the post, but did not elaborate. A few of us asked that he share the story and he obliged. The story makes the piece even more powerful. It’s a poignant reminder that God is with us even in the hardest times. I share it here with his permission.

A few of you here have encouraged me to share the story of the art’s conception and execution. It’s a bit challenging to be so transparent. But because it’s a very obvious God story and an example of how He can move through our art when we surrender to Him, here it is-

Lisa, my wife of 27 years passed from this life after a second valiant battle with cancer in Feb. 2013. The monster reared its ugly head in her body once before in 2009. She was a very tough boot camp style fitness instructor and very fit. With her conditioning, and most obviously God’s intervention, she recuperated from a complete hysterectomy and 30 days of chemo tougher than ever. The monster returned in the fall of 2012, and when the doctor recommended another wave of chemo she very quietly declined and asked if I’d support her decision to take a radical natural and supernatural defense with diet, prayer, and praise.

As she put it, “I don’t want more poison in me to fight the poison already there”. That’s just how she was and I was well aware of it. This is the same woman that insisted the nurses stop giving her morphine after the hysterectomy saying she’d rather be in physical pain than endure the hallucinations. A few days after our visit with the doctor, she and I were at a meeting where three gentlemen from India were sharing their hearts for bringing the gospel to the lost in America. They followed with an invitation for prayer specific to the topic. She and I went up along with several others. At the time only six people were aware of this new battle we were facing. As one of the gentlemen was praying for her without knowledge of the intruder, he interrupted his prayer and began repeatedly shouting “you shall not die but live to declare the works of the Lord!” This is a direct reference to Psalm 118:17. One of the six people aware of our circumstances pulled the gentleman aside after the meeting and asked him what compelled him to shout that and asked what he saw. The gentleman answered “I saw life”. When our friend told us this, my wife and I took this as a confirmation to our battle plan.

I’d been doing some contract work for Boeing at the time and the contract ended very suddenly for our team a couple weeks after we learned about the cancer. God is so very good as this allowed me to stay at her side through the entire battle. He also gathered a large company of believers to stand with us. Though we chose to hold on to what we believed, we saw her gradually weaken and a week before Christmas she was rushed to the hospital for an emergency procedure. Because it was unsuccessful, we were sent home with hospice care. Knowing God is faithful and cannot lie and knowing Jesus heals, we still held on to the words of Psalm 118 for her. We got her a hospital bed and put it in the den because she wanted to be in the thick of all household activities.

One day in January as she was sleeping in the bed, I was fighting through discouragement and exhaustion. I can’t imagine what she was enduring. I sat at the computer with my graphics tablet doodling in a painting program. Feeling somewhat betrayed, I was asking God a number of questions about the current situation. In my spirit He told me to paint His Son on the cross. This is a subject I’ve deliberately avoided as an artist. I prefer to show Him as He is in Revelation 19:11, on a white horse with the words “faithful and true” on His thigh. With no fight in me, I submitted and allowed Him to take me on a journey through the painting. As I painted in the bright red lashes on His body, I kept thinking “that’s enough,” but I knew I couldn’t stop until instructed. When I painted the face of death, I was going to give him sharp teeth and a serpent tongue, but I realized he didn’t deserve a bite or a voice.

And there you have it. The software has a feature that allows the user to record each stroke made so the animation is a time lapse recording of the journey. I presented it without sound to a couple groups and told the story. Then last year a few people in my church community added some fantastic audio.

After a couple years of getting my footing back and wrestling with it all, I believe the gentleman was correct; that Lisa would live to declare the works of the Lord. I don’t have an answer for why she died, at least not one I’m completely satisfied with. I don’t expect to get one until I stand before Jesus. But I know that her time here lives on as it is a declaration of the faithfulness and goodness of God.

Over on the Thriving Christian Artists Facebook page, an artist named Jack Whitney posted this beautiful animated video on Christ that ended up being used at his church’s Easter program. I think it’s something everyone should see. This is top of the line art. Now I don’t know if you can pull off this level of art, and Jack has already done this, but here’s the point. There is something you can do that will touch hearts and minds and draw people closer to Christ.
Let this inspire you. Great work Jack.

Today’s encouragement takes a decidedly different turn. This is for those of you who feel like you’re swimming upstream. Like everyone else is going in one direction and you’re going in the other. You feel like you’re trying to do the right thing and everyone else is going a different way. I felt this way just yesterday. I was listening to what was for he most part a really good message, but somewhere along the way, it began to feel like the person was condemning so much of what I stand for. It was really disheartening, but it led me to a thought. I hear so many people talking about how the world is getting worse and worse and worse, and yet for some strange reason so may people feel compelled to follow along with the whims of the very things that are taking us in that direction. Why is that?
One of the things we are going to have to accept is that the conventional wisdom today is neither, and doing everything right will probably have consequences. To live in this world encouraged is to know who you are, and do what’s right even when it feels like you’re standing alone. Know this. You’re not alone.

There’s a verse in the Bible that says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2 The pattern of the world is what is taking the world in the direction it’s going, so don’t conform, be transformed.

When it comes to controversial stuff online, I have decided to adopt the attitude of the biblical hero Nehemiah. He was engaged in a great project, rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem after 70 years of exile had left it destroyed. In the mean time he faced all kinds of struggles and opposition. In one particular plot, the idea was to lure him away from the work. This was his response.
Likewise, there are times in all of our lives when we will face opposition and detractors. There are also times when we will face distractors, that is people who post controversial things that will either accidentally or by design take us off task. I’ve decided to take the same attitude. I don’t have time for needless controversies. Rather I need to stay on mission and do what I’m called to do. Maybe that’s what you need to do to do. You have your calling, you’re on your mission. You are carrying on a great project, don’t let other people bring you “down.”

Listening to a message by Brene Brown, she brought out this quote by Teddy Roosevelt and it is brilliant.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Need encouragement? Dare Greatly!

I think at one point or another, most of us feel like we just don’t have what it takes. Here’s the thing, you do. Check out these words from Van Gogh.

“If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.”

It really is true. You will not create your best piece every time you step up to the easel (or whatever you use to make art). You make your best work by continually making your art. Create, create and create some more. Acknowledge the fact that some of your work will not be what you would like it to be. You might even consider some of it to be a failure. That’s okay, failure is not fatal, unless you fail to keep going and quit.

Bring your best to every attempt, find the people who love it, and bless them.

Seems like we need a little clarification. There are probably a billion sites out there where you can vent your political opinions, play theological games, etc. This is not one of them. This site is devoted to helping people to use their creative gifts to serve the Lord and to help churches to empower the creative people in their midst. Theologically, I come at things from a somewhat conservative/evangelical point of view. You don’t have to agree with my point of view, and we can be friends and get along. To be clear however, the last thing I want to do is add to the political/theological noise. For this reason all political and controversial comments will be immediately removed. This is neither the time or the place.

That is the policy of this site. We are here to help the church be more creative as we take the unchanging message of the Gospel to an ever changing world.

That title may sound a little heretical, but think about it. Imagine telling Peter, James, John or any of the rest of the disciples that we call this day Good Friday. Not now, when they can see the ramifications of all that happened, but on that Friday so long ago, while most of them are in hiding, fearing for their lives, as their friend, teacher and Lord is hanging on a hard wooden cross. The sky had gone dark, it looks like the end of the world and then they hear we call this day Good Friday. What do you think they would think?

It had to seem like the end of their world. It was just days ago that they were jockeying for position in Jesus’ Kingdom, James and John wanting to be by His side, one on the right the other on the left, but at that moment I am sure they were really glad those positions were occupied by others. Would they be next? I’m pretty sure that day, to them seemed anything but good.

So why do we call it good? Because we have the luxury of knowing the rest of the story. Yes Jesus died. Yes it was torturous. Yes it was unspeakable but it was part of the plan. You see sin requires death and justice requires that that debt be paid. If you’ve ever sinned, even once, that penalty was yours. This Friday is good because on it, Jesus, the innocent Son of God stepped in and said, “(fill in your name here) sinned and I love (him/her) so I’ll pay (his/her) price. I’ll pay a price they could not pay and give them a reward they could not earn. Eternal life in paradise.” That’s what’s so good about Good Friday. You are loved so much that the Lord of all creation, sacrificed Himself in your place and died on the cross. Place your faith in Him and you will receive eternal life in a place far beyond your greatest dreams.

Now a lot of you reading this, already know the story. It’s our job to share it. How would you express what’s so good about Good Friday? Someone needs to hear the story today. Share it.

It’s funny where inspiration comes from sometimes. My youngest son teaches at a pre-school. Today I noticed he has a box sitting here filled with his children’s books for the winter. One of them is a treasury of Christmas Stories by author illustrator Jan Brett. Ms. Brett is one of my favorite illustrators. Her work is extravagantly beautiful. It’s meticulously detailed and probably takes tens to hundreds of hours per illustration. The art is breathtaking.

Now there’s something you need to know. I know nothing of her personal story or how she got where she is today, but looking at this wonderful book triggered a thought that I hope will be inspirational. Today she is an established artist/writer but undoubtedly there was a time where this was not the case—a time when she was a newbie trying to get discovered and that is where the risk comes in. She most likely faced a choice all of us with a creative bent had to face-namely she had to do the work. She had to make the choice to put her whole self into a project, taking the risk of no reward. She had to do all this amazingly beautiful work on that chance that something good would come of all that work with no guarantee. She had to give her very best to a project, not knowing whether or not anyone would ever see it or ever care. It’s the same way with us.

With every project we have a choice. We can put our best into it, trusting that something good will come of it or we can hold back and put out something mediocre, that will not take as much effort, but also may never get the attention of the audience we desire or are called to. Great art was never created based on a cost-benefit analysis. Great art is an act of love. Don’t hold back. Give your best and trust.

Earlier, I shared a video that I sent to a group of young people on the other side of the world. I was honored beyond words to be asked to do that and I am told it was well received. That was not the intent of the project. I saw an online art challenge and thought, “That looks like fun.” I decided to create a series of pieces with no thought of it being any more than good practice and a good time, but I put a fair amount of work into it and the result was an opportunity to share my heart and a little of my faith with some folks I never would have had the opportunity to meet otherwise. The point is, we never know completely what God is up to, but if we will put our best out there, it’s worth the risk.

I know I’ve been on this whole track of encouragement, but there is a painful truth all creatives need to consider. In any given pursuit here will always be someone better than you. Sorry, but it’s a fact of life and that leaves us with a choice. There are essentially three things we can do when we see someone better than us. The first two are not helpful.

You can get discouraged. Given enough time, the end result of this will most likely be giving up, or beating yourself up, neither of which is what God wants for us.

You can also lash out. Acting as if some great injustice has occurred. Given enough time this will have you looking at this other person as a competitor or even an enemy. You’ll start to think things like, “Of course he’s better than me, he has this advantage…” or “She’s not so great…” or worse. This could make you feel like a victim or just plain bitter. Again, this is not beneficial.

But what if instead of these things, we chose to see the person as an inspiration, someone who makes us want to be better and grow in our skills. Rather than feeling competitive, we cheer them on, we’re glad when they get ahead and realize that they are being used in great ways. This is clearly a much better way to live.

At the end of the day, the only thing you are really responsible for is being the best you you can be, faithfully making the most of what you’ve been given. The choice is yours, but this is clearly the best one.