Archive for June, 2022

The Emperor Is Naked…

Posted: June 27, 2022 in Uncategorized

(Author’s note: The emperor in question is not a specific world leader. It’s a world system and a world view.)

I feel like I am living somewhere in the middle of a twisted version of the old tale, The Emperor’s New Clothes. You remember it. A couple of con-men come into the empire and convince everyone that they can make amazing clothes that can only be seen by the best and the brightest. They then set about to collect a fortune to make clothes that don’t exist. The story culminates in a grand parade where the emperor parades down the street buck naked and everyone oohs and aahs over the amazing clothes because no one wants to admit that they can’t see them. To do so would be to admit that they are not among he best and the brightest. The day is saved by a little boy who dares to scream, “The emperor is naked!” at which point all the people including the emperor see the error of their ways, and, thanks to the little boy, they all lived happily ever after, well except for the con men. If only…

In this new version of the story, it all happens pretty much the same, except the story is not a fairy tale. It’s happening in reality. The emperor likes being naked and wants everyone to see. The little boy makes his stand and is, stripped, beaten and locked away in a reeducation camp until he can “see the clothes” and the only ones who live happily ever after are the con men perpetrating the lie. Up is down, down is up, right is wrong and wrong is right and heaven help you if you see it any other way. Everyone has their own “truth” and conflicts between those “truths,” which makes at least one of the “truths” categorically false, are completely ignored. It reminds me of the time of the Judges, “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.” Judges 21:25

Well here’s the things folks. The emperor is an idiot. He’s running around naked, and everyone can see it. They’re just all afraid to admit it for fear of what the rest of the people who are afraid to acknowledge the truth will think, while the con-men perpetrating the lie laugh all the way to the bank.

The emperor is naked. His system is broken. The good news is there is a King. His name is Jesus. Follow Him into all truth.

You Belong Here

Posted: June 21, 2022 in Uncategorized

I remember it like it was yesterday. I lost the job I had held for 16 years. Downsized they called it. It was okay, looking back I think I had outlived my usefulness, and it ended up being the right call for everyone. At the moment though, I was pretty scared. I had started to do some traveling ministry on the weekends and decided now that my schedule had opened up, I would try to make a go of being a full time speaker. Since Summer was approaching, one of the things that I did was contact every camp I could find in a five state radius. Several of them got back to me, including Delta Lake Bible Conference in Rome, New York. They had a senior adult program coming up and they gave me a shot.

Before I started the program, I was talking to the director. He was telling me about a wonderful program called Haven Camp for adults with developmental disabilities. I thought that sounded like it could be fun. I wasn’t sure I could do it, but I said I would like to give it a try. They tried me out on one of their weekend camps. It changed my life. Oh I can’t say it was smooth sailing. The first night one of the campers said “The end” two minutes into my presentation and about every two minutes thereafter. I thought I was bombing but it turns out that is just something that guy does when he’s tired. I’ve ministered at Haven Camp at least one week every year (except 2020, Thanks COVID) since. It’s one of the most fulfilling things I do all year. I have grown to love these people and consider them my friends. I love spending time with them and I miss them when I’m not there.

This year they started a slogan. It’s very simple, but it says so much. “You belong here.” I love that. These campers are different from the rest of the world in some ways, and I’m sure a lot of people make them feel that way. The thing is for the most part, they’re really not all that different from you and me. They want to be accepted. They want to be loved. They want to belong. They find all of that at Haven Camp. I do too. I may be different from the campers, but they accept me. I belong there and I hope I will for many years to come. I love Haven Camp.

One more thing before I end this post. This camp is so successful (they’re been running it over 50 years) because of a wonderful staff. The directors do a fantastic job meeting every need and making the campers feel welcome and loved. They also have some of the most incredible young people working as counselors. Many of them are high school and college age, and I have to tell you, every time I am around them, they restore my faith in humanity. Caring for my friends can be hard work and they do it with a smile and with a tenderness and caring that is rare in our world. If you know someone who could benefit from being a camper, try to arrange to bring them to Haven Camp. I think they will find they belong here.

I know I do.

I Finally Saw Hamilton

Posted: June 19, 2022 in Uncategorized

I’m trying to picture the pitch meeting to the investors, because I’m relatively sure there was one. “Okay, I’m writing a musical about one of the founding fathers at the time of the American Revolution.” “Washington?” “No.” “Jefferson?” “No.” “Franklin?” “Nope.” “Then who?” “Alexander Hamilton.” “The guy on the ten dollar bill?” “Yes.” “But all most people know about him is that he died in a duel.” “I know, that’s why I’m telling his story.” “I don’t know. That’s going to be a whole lot of white male actors, not a very diverse cast.” “Oh, all the founding fathers are going to be played by non-white actors. Only the British will be played by white people.” “How will that work?” “It’ll work…” (The investors murmur among themselves.) “Okay, we trust you… what kind of music will you be using?” “It will be very contemporary music and a large portion of it will be rap.” “Sure, how many zeros should we put on our checks?”

Now of course that was all speculation, but on paper Hamilton doesn’t look like it should work. It does! It’s brilliant! Of course it doesn’t hurt that the man behind the musical is Lin Manuel Miranda. The guy is a creative genius. The music works. The cast is great. The story is obscure enough that one feels like they learned something and compelling enough to keep you really engaged. I loved this show, even though at times I found myself shaking my head and wondering how the founding fathers could have done such stupid things. These characters are fleshed out and real, the portrayals at times quite raw. This is definitely not a patriotic puff piece, but neither is it a hit piece—instead it shows the founders as real people with real flaws. I’ve long thought that musical theater is a great way to tell a story because it touches the emotions and connects with the heart, and on that front, this show does not disappoint.

To be clear, I wasn’t watching this in a Broadway theater. I watched it on TV in the comfort of my own home. I was glad I saw it this way, because we had the captioning on. At times, I became convinced that I would have missed things in the plot as some of the lines come in the form of pretty high speed, yet well delivered rap music. The writing on this piece is brilliant, some even coming from actual historical documents. The performers were amazingly talented and their performances were mesmerizing. I loved this show.

Probably the most compelling line was one that was delivered by George Washington. He tells the young Hamilton, “You Have No Control/ Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story.” Indeed this is a predominant theme of the show and it is true. In this life, we have very little control over much of what happens, but one day, to a large or small degree, someone will tell your story. It likely won’t be told as a Broadway show, but someone will tell the world about you when you have left this world. What do you want them to say? Now is the time to live that story. Now is the time to make that difference, and for Christians, we also tell Jesus’ story, not just with out words, but with our lives. None of us have done it flawlessly. That’s okay because His story is all about redemption.

Your life is a story. Make it a good one and make it one that honors God.

More to come…

The Weight of the World

Posted: June 16, 2022 in Uncategorized

One of the dangers of this life of serving the Lord in ministry is the burdens. You care for people so deeply that the effects of their choices weigh heavily on you. When you minister to people who have been mistreated and or taken advantage of, you just want to protect and defend them. The thing is most of the time that is easier said than done. It can lead to you feeling like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. I have been there. Have you?

The thing we need to be careful of is that the weight of the world will crush us every time, and that burden is not for us to bear, at least not alone. Should we continue to care? Yes we should. Should we be willing to protect and defend? Yes we should, but the weight of the world is not ours to bear. The weight of the world can only be borne by the One who created the world. Trying to take that on apart from Him is not just foolish, it’s idolatry. Jesus said “Come to me you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” We are in this world to care for it. We are admonished to care especially for the “least of these” to the point where Jesus essentially said, “What you do for them, you do for me.”

If you feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders, step aside into the smaller side of the yoke. Jesus has got this, and He will pull by your side taking most of the load. Trust Him.

What Am I Doing?

Posted: June 15, 2022 in Uncategorized

Sometimes we all need a little perspective. I am sitting in a nice little cottage at a camp in NY as I write this. This is a place that usually brings perspective for me. I am serving for the week as the speaker at a camp for adults with developmental disabilities and I can truly say I love this place and these people, but as I sit here contemplating the day, I wonder, “What am I doing?” You see, I spend a lot of time distracted and dabbling. After trying to give the church I serve as good of service as I possibly can, I spend a lot of my off hours in creative pursuits. Cartooning, illustrating, and on and on. Please don’t get me wrong. I love that stuff too, and I do feel that it helps me to build on my gift. It’s clearly not a complete waste of time, and yet as I look at this world, I realize I need to focus. Further, and this is a waste of time, I can get caught up in spending some of those precious hours surfing social media and accomplishing nothing but frustration, aggravation all the while knowing there is precious little anything I do on there can accomplish.

Our world’s not getting better. As much as I want to place blame at so many feet (politicians, the media, even certain sectors of the “church” etc.), the bottom line is, this world needs Jesus, and that is at least in part my job.

I feel called to creative ministry and I know my vision is too big to be a one-man “show.” This needs to be a movement. I need to be about the business of doing two things, showing the church the Kingdom impact that the arts can have on the church and the world beyond by ministering with my gift in churches and camps like this one, but also to replicate the effort by finding ways to equip the creative saints among us to use their gifts to the glory of God. This isn’t art for art’s sake. For me that ship has sailed. It’s about creating work that is faithful to our God and His Word. Like the church of the Middle Ages creating art that would help an illiterate culture to see the light, we too stand in a period of biblical illiteracy and we need to illustrate and illuminate to help people see the light of God’s truth. I want to create tools to be used to open doors to Gospel conversations in the church and in the world.

The prince of the power of the air is having a field day right now and his efforts are spilling over and effecting so many especially among the most vulnerable in our world. One way or another we creative Christians need to make a stand. The arts are being used masterfully by the enemy to change things for the worst. We who have been gifted by God to create need to rise up and reclaim. These creative gifts are given to us by the ultimate Creator and it is high time we put them to work so that society at large will see the light. I am reminded of James 1:17, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” It’s high time this movement got rolling, so if you have ever looked at how you spend your time and wondered, “What am I doing?” maybe it’s time you come and help me start this movement. I’d love to see creative Christians running roughshod over the evils in our society. I’d love to see what happens when the creatives in the Kingdom of God Run A.M.O.K. Who is with me?

Am I a Renaissance Man?

Posted: June 3, 2022 in Uncategorized

My good friend Dr. Matt Pandel has been doing a fantastic video channel called Shrink’s Log where he takes a humorous look at all sorts of things and issues. He’s both hilarious and thought provoking. Well this week he interviewed me on the topic of creativity for his new feature of his channel called Renaissance Men. I had a blast with Matt. Check it out.