Archive for the ‘Arts an Activism’ Category

In the previous two days, my wife Dawn and I spent 16 hours in a car. It was an almost annual trip for us. You see she and I both love to create and Country Living Magazine does this fair a few times every year. It’s sort of a craft and antique fair with workshops and other events thrown in. We really enjoy it. We both have really active schedules, especially at this time of year and we go more for togetherness and inspiration than to actually buy stuff.

If you guys knew Dawn you would love her. She is one of the most unselfish people you ever wanted to meet. She is generous and I really have to talk her into buying anything for herself. Well yesterday she broke down and bought a purse. But it was so much more than a purse. We went to this one booth that had all these really interesting looking purses. As we approached the booth there was someone there to just briefly introduce us to the story. It was a booth from a non-profit called Unshattered.

They had really quality products that were pretty original, but that’s not why Dawn bought the purse. The purse Dawn bought was made from a piece of a backdrop from a Broadway show. It’s vibrant and textured with the many layers of paint that are used on such a drop and while that is cool, it’s not why she bought it either. No, she bought this purse because of the story. You see Unshattered is a 501c3 company that is all about helping people rebuild lives. Here is their belief statement:

“Providing a path toward a better life is a key part of the addiction recovery process. Relapses happen most often to those who do not have a safe community to return to and/or the ability to establish economic independence. If these factors are in place, however, lifetime recovery rates are significantly higher.

By using their God-given abilities, our women create meaningful products that act as tangible representations of their value and self-worth. We believe that this healing leads to transformation and ultimately gives our women the opportunity to find their calling and live an addiction-free life.”

Their mission statement says “Unshattered is a 501c3 nonprofit social enterprise whose mission is to provide pathways toward sustained sobriety and economic independence for women who are winning their fight against addiction.

We are committed to demonstrating that the cycle of addiction can be broken and are proud to be a facilitator of lasting, positive change.”


They told us the story of the woman who lovingly made the purse Dawn bought and it was sold. Here’s why this is important. We didn’t just buy a purse. We bought a story. We bought into someone’s vision. We saw someone trying to help people and make a difference and we bought in.

Why do I share this? Two reasons. First of all, I’m hoping you’ll go check out their website and help them out with a purchase or two or five, but secondly, this is the kind of thing I’ve been talking about for all the years of this site’s existence. Creative ministry isn’t just done inside of churches. It’s done any time we see a need and find a creative way to meet it. Unshattered is not just making purses. Like the art form of Kintsugi (an art form that makes broken pottery whole by fusing the pieces together with gold) that inspires their work, they are helping make broken lives whole.

See a need and meet it creatively. Remember 1 Peter 4:10, “Each one should use whatever gifts he has received to serve others…” How can you make a difference today?

So every day when I go on social media (anti-social media of late) I see all these people posting all these passionate memes about causes that just seem to keep these people awake at night. I’m sure I’ve been guilty of this too at times, and the irony that I made this post in the form of a meme is not lost on me, but here’s the thing. Anyone with a computer, or other web enabled device, and it’s even easier to repost someone else’s meme, but what does that accomplish.

I’m increasingly aware of the fact that we live in a generation that lives under the mistaken impression that talking about something is the same as doing something. It’s NOT. Posting something is easy, and maybe it will generate a little awareness, but more than often it just adds to the ugliness, but what if we took our passion and actually did something that would help someone else? Wouldn’t that be better? I think it would.

You might be asking what I am doing? Well the answer is probably not enough (I always feel like I could do more) and yet I am doing some things. I am not going to list them here that would sound like boasting and that’s not what I’m supposed to be about. Suffice it to say I am putting feet to my faith in the ways that present themselves and you should too. Everybody talks about how someone should do something. I’ve been in this world long enough to realize that someone is usually me and you. Maybe we need a few less memes and a little more me… You know, like in “”Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

You’ve probably been hearing about this a lot lately, the idea of fake news. I have to tell you the truth today, fake news is for real. Is it true, of course not, but, and this is something anyone who wants to communicate any message needs to learn, to the vast majority of the public, perception is reality. Think about how many people believe all manner of things after having seen nothing more than a social media meme. Can I tell you the truth? I can generate about four memes an hour, more if I use other people’s images and content and if I didn’t care about truth, I think I could make most people believe anything I put out there. That’s the power if imagery and media and many people are dong just that and deceiving the masses.

Now to be clear I do care about truth, but you have no idea the temptation I have been under to roll out a fake story, just to watch it get legs and then tell people, “I made it all up.” It would be a great way to make this point. Why haven’t I done it? Because like I said before, I care about truth. I’d never want to be responsible for perpetuating a lie, even to prove a point. Also I value the people who come to this site to read and learn and I would never want to lose credibility. I value your trust. Of course all of this pales in comparison to the fact that I’m a minister of the Gospel and as such I represent the personification of truth, Jesus Christ.

Guys there is tremendous power in a story. We can do great good in the form of telling stories. We can also generate tremendous harm and it is important that we are careful with what we share. Do you know this thing to be true? Can you prove it? Will sharing it do more harm than good? All of these questions should help us to decide what to (and what not to) share. Getting caught up in a lie, even unintentionally will destroy (or at least damage) your credibility. Perpetuating a lie on purpose is downright diabolical.

Brothers and sisters, we who claim the name of Christ, have got to get our stories straight. We are called to speak the truth in love, and in this mission, both elements are essential. Love without truth is a lie (and ceases to be love) and truth without love is usually just plain mean (and probably won’t be heard.) All these fake news stories leave us in a place of being less and less sure what we can believe. That can be a benefit if it makes us do our homework, but for the most part, not being able to take anything at face value erodes trust to the point where most people have no idea what to believe. We need to tell a better story. Thank God we have the greatest story ever told in our arsenal. We Christians always need to lead with truth wrapped in love. It will not always be popular, but it will always be right.

A famous man once said, “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.” This is precisely the aim of fake news, and it cannot be denied because fake news is nothing but a lie that contains enough of a ring of truth that when repeated becomes believable. That famous man was Adolph Hitler, a man responsible for the death of probably upwards of 11 million people, mostly as the result of believable lies. We can and must do better.

Get the facts before you spread information. Tell a better story, and speak the truth in love. Put an end to the fake news. After all it is the truth that sets us free.

imagineabetterworldI recently had someone say something to me that at the offset didn’t make sense. He was sharing with me something about my ministry. He started talking about me all these years of doing a lot of little things and that he felt they would culminate in something big. I hadn’t really thought about it like that. I always kind of do these things because I feel led to do them and release them to the world, but the more I thought about it the more I could see it. I do a lot of stuff and I post a lot of stuff and I speak at a lot of places and paint a lot of pictures, but what is it ultimately all about. It’s actually pretty simple.

I imagine a better world.

I think its from the heart of God and though I know that things get worse until Jesus returns I also know with every fiber of my being that the number one thing we believers need to do is to be found faithful when He returns. We need to be working toward making the world a better place. I can see it.

So you might ask, what does this better world look like? I can’t see it all, but here’s what I know. My life, while still imperfect, saw a marked improvement when I gave my heart to Jesus. I started to care about something bigger than myself. I started to use my gifts to serve Him (mostly by serving others) and there was a radical transformation. Now imagine that more and more people would grab ahold of that. Imagine people of every skill set bringing their best to the table for the good of others. Imagine a world full of people trying to follow the teachings of Jesus and using the gifts and talents that God has invested in them to make things better and draw people to Jesus. It won’t be perfect, it won’t be Panacea but wouldn’t it be better? Imagine people loving like Jesus and serving like Jesus and helping others to find Jesus and replicating (Jesus called that making disciples). It won’t be paradise and surely not everyone will be on board, but it will be better. Many lives will be changed, transformed, renewed. It’s the soul of the Great Commission. I believe this is why the church exists. I believe this is why I exist.

This is not me being grandiose. This is not me thinking more of myself than I ought to. To me this is what a life submitted to Christ looks like. If God will use me to change one life, the world get’s a little better. If the Lord works through me to transform many lives, the world gets a lot better. This is the ultimate goal. This is what, with God’s help, I will pursue. I imagine a better world and I will work with everything Christ put in me to make it so. When my master returns, with God’s help, I will be found faithful.

Will you join me? Let’s imagine a better world, use the gifts God has invested in us, and work to make it so.

Question of the day: What do you see when you imagine a better world?

worldchangerThere comes a time in most people’s lives where they think they can change the world. It’s usually attributed to youthful naivety and most people think you’ll outgrow it. In my mind, that’s sad but you know we do it. We hear someone talk about changing the world and we shake our heads and think, “One day you’ll understand.” as we wallow in acceptance of how things are. Well get ready to shake your head because I refuse to give up. I hope you’re with me.

See when I was young, I wanted to change the world. Then I got older and I started to get focused on making a living and getting mine and after a while I was fixated on getting by. Having a family to support and bills to pay will do that to you, but I always kind of knew I had taken my eyes off the prize. Brothers and sisters we need to get back on mission.

I look at my little grandson and I look at the world he will grow up in and I begin to think, “NO way! Not on my watch.” This world is not good enough for him or the millions of other little ones who will inherit it. I want better for him and if that means we have to change the world then it’s time to hitch up my big boy pants and do something, so be it! But it’s not just my grandson, it’s someone much bigger. It’s God.

Let us never forget, we are here on mission. The Lord has a plan and a purpose for us being here and it’s bigger than just getting our own. There’s a story to be told, a Gospel to be shared. There are millions of people in our world on a downward trajectory because they don’t know the truth that will set them free and there are a millions of people called the church of Jesus Christ who are in this world to change that. Brothers and sisters, the Gospel changes lives and changed lives change things, maybe even the world. We must never lose track of the fact that we are here for a bigger purpose that our personal comfort. We are here to help and bless and yes to change things.

People we are created in the image of our Creator and if you’re reading this you are probably at least beginning to consider the idea that you were created to be creative. Creativity is not just about art, it’s about solving problems. The world is full of problems so pray and pick one. Then get to work. Forget about world change for the moment, that is beyond the scope of our comprehension. Instead work to be the change you want to see. Start where you are, do what you can, and let the God who is the master of the chain reaction use you to set something great in motion.

Remember, “He who began a good work in you will carry it through to completion in the day of Christ Jesus.” So start something, or better yet, let Him start something in you. Be the spark. One thing is clear the world needs changing.

I don’t know if you’ll change the world, but I do know nothing changes if you do nothing.

I am taking an art ministry class with and this week’s lesson was about embracing artists across disciplines. It was a very thought provoking session. The question was posted about loving artists across disciplines and how we connect with the body of Christ. This was my response.
I find this so exciting and yet extremely challenging, not so much for me but for the people I work with. The stated mission of AMOKArts is to help creatives in the church and help churches to be more creative. I find that it’s not so much that churches are not open to the arts, but that they don’t know what to do with artists, except musicians, but even in that case, the musicians usually are limited to a specific genre. So a great dal of what I do come down to educating people and helping them to see new possibilities. I feel this is extremely imperative for the church. If we don’t do this, what we are left with is a church that uses very few people in the worship experience. The rest of the people are relegated to an “audience” role, for lack of a better word. This is a really bad situation, because if most of your people are audience members, they will leave you for a better “show.” This weakens the church and it is, at least to some degree, our fault.

We have a scriptural mandate in 1 Peter 4:10 and several other places to use our “whatever gifts” to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. What this means is that the Lord has endowed His people with gifts and talents, that are to be used to draw people into receiving God’s grace. People are intended to be instruments of grace. Were we to do this, people would find more than just something to do, they would find what they were created to do and in essence a big part of the meaning of their lives. This fires my imagination and Spirit for what the church could be. This is a big part of why I believe I am here. My dream is of the church becoming a creative hub in the community where all people, not just the artists, but all the people to see how God might use them to be instruments of grace and that as they live that life, the church becomes magnetic, the love of Christ is revealed, communities are transformed, people are saved and the world is changed.

As far as loving artists and pastors, I have the unique position of being both and I believe God has done this so I can speak into both worlds, helping pastors relate to artists and artists relate to churches. It’s about a lot more than making art. It’s about helping people to receive artists, it’s about helping artists come under the biblical authority of the local church. It’s about helping artists realize the position the artist is in and the incredible responsibility they have to their congregations and the incredible trust required to put someone before their congregation. It’s about breaking down stereotypes churches seem to have about artists and helping artists not to reinforce them. If there is a truly loving relationship between pastor and artist, trust will be built on both sides and the pastor will become the artists greatest advocate and vice versa. Ultimately it would be awesome for the church to be sending artist ambassadors into the arts communities and getting churches to create venues available to artists. It’s about turning the church into a place where artists can thrive and a safe place for them to fail, since all creativity requires failure and the guts to try again. ​

One of the biggest disappointments to me is all the closed doors and walls there are between artists and the church. I never cease to be amazed by how many churches won’t even give my ministry a shot because for one reason or another they don’t think it will work with their congregation. I face these barriers even though I am an ordained minister and church pastor, whose ministered in hundreds of venues. It shows me there is still a long way to go and a lot of work to be done. It also makes me appreciate every opportunity and makes me work very hard to bring every person who trusts me enough to bring me in the best possible ministry I can give, I think the arts could be taken a lot more seriously in the church. If the church can’t see the power of the tool the arts can be, their eyes are closed, because the rest of the world has mastered them and uses them quite effectively to bring a multitude of other messages to the forefront. God can do what we can not. We need to keep being faithful and make the most of every opportunity.

I made this a little while back to remind my congregation of what’s really important this election year. It’s a tongue in cheek approach to a serious topic. For the record, I omitted Kasich because there was talk that he was going to drop out before the PA Primary and these things take a while to do. He’s not my candidate either.

This is a way to use humor to communicate. How can you use your gift to share a message?

My friend Jason Leith is the creative arts director at Saddleback Church. A few years ago, he did a really unique project called Sacred Streets where he created portraits of people he met on the streets of Skid Row, largely on found objects and turned them into iconic images. This project is right on so many levels. What a great way to use your gifts to serve the Lord.

For years now, I have been expressing the idea that God is redeeming the arts and is about ready to do a major work through the arts to His glory. Many other people have been feeling it too, and I don’t believe it’s just because we’re artists, not do I believe it is because I have sensed this calling over my life for nearly two decades. I’ve always believed it, and the more visual our society becomes, the more our society is bombarded my more and more messages, the more I am convinced that I am right.

There have been a lot of discouraging times in this journey though and many of them revolve around the fact that I also run into people almost daily who believe they have no talent and no creativity. I refuse to believe either of those things. I believe we are all creative as children and sooner or later life beats it out of most of us and well meaning loved ones (and mean spirited discouragers) tell us to pursue something “more practical.” Here’s the truth, as long as our world needs more truth and beauty, the world will need more artists.

This is why I love two trends I have been seeing lately. Adult coloring and Bible Art Journaling. What an awesome thing. You might say. “Coloring is not really creative. It’s just filling in the blanks and coloring inside the lines.” I think you’re wrong. First of all I have seen some people doing some amazing work as colorists. Secondly, it can be be very healing and very relaxing and most importantly, it opens the door to more creative pursuits. This blesses my heart and I believe God’s heart as well. After all, if we’re born creative, (and we are) who do you think put that creativity in there. Thank God for coloring. As author Hugh Macleod once said, “Everyone is born creative; everyone is given a box of crayons in kindergarten. Then when you hit puberty they take the crayons away and replace them with dry, uninspiring books on algebra, history, etc. Being suddenly hit years later with the ‘creative bug’ is just a wee voice telling you, ‘I’d like my crayons back, please.” Take back your crayons and color.

Secondly, Bible art journaling excites me because it may be the most natural way for a person to connect his or her creativity with his or her faith. Reading the Word of God and allowing to inspire us to create, feels like it comes straight from the heart of the ultimate Creator. After all what could be better, than seeking God for inspiration?

I am stoked about coloring and art journaling. I believe it just might be another step in a great move of God. Get out your tools and get started.

Get stoked and create!

Twas the day after Black Friday and all through the web are videos of people who have clearly missed the point. Fist fights breaking out over stuff, stuff that will be broken in days or weeks. Some of these people will wind up in prison for their behavior, more of them probably should and for what? To show love for their families, and friends??? Hardly. “Where’s daddy?” I have to go bail him out of jail. “What was he doing?” Christmas shopping. “My daddy sure does love me…” I think not. Somewhere, we’ve missed the point. When people are willing to lie, cheat, fight, steal and occasionally even kill to get stuff to give on the day when we celebrate the One who came to free us from stuff like,lying, cheating, fighting, stealing and killing, we have lost the story. This stuff looks nothing like what Jesus came to give us and everything like the work of the one who came to steal, kill and destroy.

It’s not surprising. Christmas has been coopted a long time ago. It’s stopped being about Jesus and started being about stuff. Stuff is how we show love now. Haven’t you heard? The story has been lost. It is a season of giving… there’s nothing wrong with gifts… but in the gifts we need to remember the Gift and the fact that so much of society has lost the narrative is a call to action, both for the Church as a whole and especially for those of us in the church who have been blessed with the communicative, creative gifts, the storytelling gifts. It’s November 28. We have 27 days ’til Christmas. Not 27 shopping days, but 27 creating days. Just under four weeks to get the story out.

I call upon all creatives to do at least one thing creative thing over the next 27 days, to bring the story back to the forefront. Write a story, make a piece of public art, make a creative gift for a hurting person. Serve someone, bless someone, create a way that shows the world or at least one person in that world what Christmas really means.

This is one of those times when it is probably best to let the world know what you’re doing. I’m not talking about boasting about yourself. You don’t have to identify yourself, but spread the word and be an inspiration. Here’s a Thanksgiving example. Magician Murray Sawchuck helps a homeless man on Thanksgiving.

That’s how he used his gift. Please notice he put it out there to inspire others. Our savior deserves much better than Black Friday mayhem. How can we use our gifts to draw people back to the true meaning of Christmas?

Time to get creative.