Archive for August, 2019

No, not when he said there’s a sucker born every minute. That was just him being mean. No he said something once that is much more to the heart of the matter for this blog.

He said “The noblest art is that of making people happy.”

I think he was 100 per cent correct. When we who are called to create art, in any form, do work that brings people true, pure joy, I think we are entering into the noblest of pursuits. After all, the joy of the Lord is our strength.

How are you bringing joy to the world?

It’s a question worth considering…

and that’s no Humbug!

Back in my teen years, I dreamed of being a rock star, touring night after night in town after town. Lack of musical talent pretty much put an end to that idea and that’s okay. Nonetheless here I am decades later, and I find myself in a very real sense “touring,” though in a very different way. I’ve been privileged to spend most of the last month traveling from place to place, painting and preaching and it’s been really good, at least in some ways. This year started off slow on the speaking schedule, but for some reason most people wanted me from July to October. As I write this, I’m doing the final packing for a three day trip to the Jersey shore ministering at a chapel on the boardwalk, from there I come home, do some church work, before heading to Maryland to speak at a family camp, if the Lord wills.

Like I said, it’s been really nice, for the most part, but I’ve learned a few lessons. First, it’s really important to have a system. A place for everything and everything in it’s place. This does not come easily for me, because I am usually organizationally challenged, but when you’re hundreds of miles from home base, it’s hard to get back home to get what you need.

Secondly, be prepared and flexible. Each venue is different. I’m not to the point of having contracts and riders to make the venue provide everything I need and I’m not sure I want to be that guy anyway. Last thing a minister of the Gospel should be is demanding. That being said, this means if I have something I need to do my best presentation, I need to make sure I take it with me or that I know a way to do without it. Further, even if I’ve done a presentation a hundred times, it is important that I go over it so that I can present well. This is the Gospel I’m sharing, and God and the “audience” deserve my best.

Thirdly, things tend to happen when I’m away. I need to be “prayed up” and to be bathing my family, my church, etc. in prayer.

Fourth, I need to be mindful of my health and well being. It’s really easy to gain weight on the road and to be honest, I often do. If I’m going to be in this for the long haul, I need to take care of myself on the road. I also need to make sure that I am staying strong and wise, making good choices and avoiding anything that even looks like impropriety.

In my teen years, I got the idea that touring was glamorous. It’s not. It’s a whole lot of driving, mostly alone, followed by a lot of set up and tear down, and there are no roadies on this tour, mostly it’s just me and the wonderful people who stay after to help. Bottom line, the road is a lot of work. Oh but the time and privilege of presenting God’s word makes it all worthwhile. Also I have made a lot of friends I would have never met were it not for me being out on the road. I’ve experienced a wide sampling of the body of Christ, and have seen God move in many ways that have bolstered my faith. “Touring” can be really great, but being away from my family is hard, and there’s no place like home.

If you are called to this kind of ministry, you need wisdom, a work ethic, flexibility and a good dose of humility. God is faithful to provide all we need.

Well maybe momentous is a strong word, but it was definitely a day to marvel at the goodness of God. You see in March of 2013, I bought a brand new dark blue Dodge Grand Caravan. It was the first new vehicle I had ever purchased to drive for myself. I was 49 years old and to be honest I was more than a little scared. I was working a job that was no longer working out, I was told I would be downsized before long, and the idea of taking on a new car payment was pretty terrifying. The church I planted with my wife and some friends a decade before had closed the previous year, and my dreams of pastoral ministry kind of died with it.

I bought the van because I was starting to get to travel doing art ministry and I needed something reliable to haul my equipment from place to place. That van was a leap of faith at a time when my faith could have been A LOT stronger, nonetheless the van and I were off to the races and for this to work God was going to have to really come through. Well He did.

Oh it was a bumpy road at times. Two years after I signed on the dotted line, the job really did get outsourced. 51 years old, no degree, lapsed skills and two months from becoming a grandfather. What would I do? I was speaking a few times a year, but not making enough to make a living. What would I do? I was panicked. I felt I failed as a pastor, my computer skills were lagging behind what I needed to get another design job. I was lost.

When my church closed I became a member of a dear friend’s church, where I got sometime to heal. The Sunday after I lost my job was the last Sunday I attended the church. Miraculously, God opened doors for me to speak nearly every week. About the time the schedule started to slow, I got a call from our district office asking if I would consider serving as an interim pastor at a nice little country church for three months. I thought, “I can do anything for three months.” so I took a shot at it. I should have known something was up. The weekend after I accepted the interim, I ministered at a church where the pastor told me he was an interim. I asked how long he was there, and he said, “11 years.” Well it’s been four years for me, and I couldn’t be happier.

About now you might be getting impatient. “What’s so momentous about today?” Well today, on my way to church, I rolled up 150,000 miles on my van. Six times around the world in that front seat. About 3,000 hours, most of them in one form of ministry or another. And as I think about it, I praise God. He has changed my life in those years, in ways that were nothing short of momentous. I now have a bachelor’s degree in creative ministry, much of which was learned in those travels, and I’m nearing my Masters. I’ve preached and painting in hundreds of venues, met thousands of wonderful people, made life long friends, discovered a passion for a new kind of ministry (special needs ministry), became a grandfather, celebrated my 25th and 30th wedding anniversary, seems some of the most beautiful parts of God’s creation as I preached God’s Word in at least 18 states, and so much more. Most importantly, I’ve found, with God’s help, I can still be a pastor, even while wracking up thousands of miles in a dark blue minivan.
Friend, I don’t know where you are at in your journey today, but can I tell you, God is faithful.

Trust Him, take a leap of faith if He leads and see where He will take you. Something tells me, it will be momentous for you too.

I remember the day pretty well. I had a letter to take home from school. I was probably 10 to 12 years old. Usually a letter from school was a bad thing in those days, but this one had me beaming with pride. I had been selected to be in an elective program for gifted students. I had all kinds of ideas, but in truth, I ended up doing nothing with it. It was kind of a combination between childish dreams, being a human target in school and the fact that all I really wanted to do even then was be an artist/creative, which really didn’t fit the mold of being academically gifted, at least by my school’s definition.

Fast forward a couple decades though and I was struck with a revelation. Everybody’s gifted. Everybody, every single person, is gifted. The problem is our definition of gifted is too limited. Gifted is not always about the way you write a paper or solve an equation or the grades you get on a test. Gifted implies a gift. Something you come by naturally, something in your DNA, or, dare I say, your design. There is truly something that every person, every single person, has, that can help to make the world a better place. Everyone has something to offer. EVERYONE!

Now I know what you might be thinking, this is another manifestation of the “everybody gets a trophy” mindset. Nothing could be further from the truth. Or maybe you’re thinking labeling everyone gifted somehow cheapens the designation. Not at all. I maintain that we have defined “gifted” too narrowly. Gifted is more than a grade on a standardized test, and besides, since when has any human being been “standard.” There is a uniqueness to every human being. Everyone has something to offer. Everyone has the potential to do something great. Everybody’s gifted. EVERYBODY!

Case in point, I just spent a week at one of my favorite places, a camp for adults with special needs, and by the way we all have “special needs” we need a better term here. A lot of these folks would have trouble with a standardized test, and not many would move that needle to gifted. Pity because each of them is a gift. I see in them an authenticity most of the world is lacking. Last night was our last night of camp for the year, and as such several of the campers were emotional. In most of the world, everyone would just stand around awkwardly, embarrassed at an emotional display. Not my campers, they embraced their crying friend until the tears dissipated. Friend that is a gift, and not a small one. This idea of everybody being gifted has been floating around in my mind for a while. Last night brought it into focus. I don’t know what this thing will become, I just know it’s time.

Everybody’s gifted. And yes, that includes you!

My dad has a saying, “If you can’t dazzle ’em with brilliance, baffle them with [a compound word starting with “bull”]. While I don’t necessarily concur with all of that, I have heard many speakers who seemed to be trying to dazzle the audience with their brilliance and have left me feeling like Dad might be right. At the very least, I had no idea what they were saying and as such, by my judgment, they failed. The purpose of communication is to be understood, period.

Take my experience this week. I’m ministering to adults with developmental disabilities. This is a tough balance to strike. They aren’t kids, they are adults, so making it “kiddy” will not work. These folks are worthy of my respect and of my very best. The key is to present the information in a way they understand. After all, I am bringing them the most important message of all, the Gospel. These folks don’t need to know how smart I am. They don’t need to be dazzled, they need to hear the truth, the simple truth, in a way that they can understand, a way that honors God and them. I owe them that. I owe God that.

You owe your audience the same thing. An audience is a privilege. Not everybody gets one. Make sure you honor yours by giving them what God has given you in a way that they understand. That usually means it’s best to lead with the simple truth.

After all that’s what everyone needs to know and understand.