Archive for the ‘Storytelling’ Category


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.

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I just saw a Huffington Post piece that said the holiday classic Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer is problematic. My first response was “Well, duh, what took you so long?” They point out that the reindeer was bullied and mistreated, and I thought “Man, you folks at the Huffington Post are so woke.” (See what I did there, I used the wrong tense of the term awakened to seem “hip” and “trendy” and “cool.”) The movie came out in 1964, when I was just over 1 year old, (you do the math) and I have been watching it literally my entire life and if it took the writers at Huffington Post this long to figure out the problems with Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, I feel genuinely sorry for them. As a bullied kid, I figured it out pretty quickly. Now please do us a favor, don’t launch a campaign to protect us from it. Strange as it seems, the problems with the movie are a big part of what makes it a classic. See there was a time when villains were bad and good guys were good and it was pretty remarkably easy to tell the difference. Of course the antagonists are bigoted, that’s kind of the point. Bigotry is bad and overcoming it is good.

One tweet shown into clip said “Yearly reminder that #Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a parable on racism & homophobia w/ Santa as a bigoted exploitative prick.” Okay first off, I can see a allusion to racism, well maybe, though I would argue all the reindeer are of the same species and the difference is more about a difference in ability than race, and the film shows that difference does not have to be a liability. And “homophobia” I missed the part where Rudolph was gay. I’m sure Clarice would be surprised. Someone needs to learn that misused outrage cheapens your position. As far as Santa goes. I’ve never been a fan, so the idea that he’s imperfect is good with me. Maybe seeing him with some flaws, will direct our hearts and minds away from the imperfect to the perfect one this holiday is actually all about.

At the end of the day, if it took you 54 years to understand there are problems with the way the other characters treat Rudolph, you’ve lived a charmed life. Rudolph overcomes the garbage people threw at him, showed his difference to be a very useful asset and saves the day. That make him a hero, someone who overcomes the bullies and the bigots, maybe even changing their beliefs in the process.

As a child and even through my teens, I was bullied, sometimes horribly so. The story of Rudolph in my early years, helped me to see it just might get better, and it did. Don’t deprive kids of this silly little kids story that actually shows one can overcome all kinds of adversity and gives some hope.

This politically correct nonsense has got to be stopped.


Last night I revisited the church that brought me to this part of Ohio four years ago, Bristolville Church of the Brethren, in Bristolville, OH. It was really nice to reconnect with old friends. It was the last evening of their spiritual renewal services, and I had a great time.

This was my second time presenting the Love Like Jesus presentation I started doing in August. I have to say I am really starting to love this presentation. The impetus for it was really simple. A camp I was invited to speak at had the theme Love Like Jesus and they asked me to do a presentation on that topic. Well needless to say I was excited about the theme but I quickly ran into a problem. How does Jesus love? Oh it’s not that I was having a hard time coming up with ideas. No the problem was I had too many for any kind of a clear and concise message. How do you describe the greatest love there has ever been in an hour or less? I decided I needed to go back to the tried and true three point sermon format, because sometimes you need to put boundaries on your message. Part of what helped was listening to the radio in the preparation process and hearing Cory Asbury’s song Reckless Love. I’ll put a video of it at the end of the post. It really does a great job of describing God’s love, overwhelming, never ending and in a way reckless.

Then I read a post where someone took issue with the idea of God’s love being reckless. After all, God is all knowing and all powerful, is anything reckless for him. Of course, for Him, though it may appear to us that it is, it isn’t, but if we look at loving like Jesus, I think it’s safe to assume that for us, it will definitely appear reckless if we choose to try to love as He loves.

I also looked at His love being unconditional and sacrificial. While we may not be able to pull off unconditional in perfection, we can certainly strive to love and choose to love in spite of circumstances that might lead us to do otherwise. As far as sacrificial love goes, of course we cannot reach the level that Jesus did, but because of what He did, we don’t have to. He is the once and for, all supreme sacrifice. What we can do is sacrifice our plans, our time, even our rights for the sake of loving on other people. Wouldn’t our world be a lot better if we loved in these three ways?

I think it would.

Here is the painting I did. I call it You Can’t Kill Love.

And here is that wonderful song by Cory Asbury.


I went looking for something yesterday. I had mentioned the other day about it having been 20 years since the start of my ministry at the Creation Festival, well yesterday, I took the day and went back. It had been a few years since I was there–I’m guessing about five, but for some reason I was feeling strongly led to go back. I was having a good time, many things were the same, some were really different, but I was starting to feel like maybe I missed something. It was nice, even fun, but I was looking for more—a “bolt-from-the-blue” moment, that seemed to be eluding me. “Oh well, just enjoy the day,” I thought.

The evening portion of the day didn’t go quite as planned. I was going to have to cut my day short. My original plan was to stay through the final performances of the evening, catch a few hours sleep in my van and then make the drive home this morning. That was the plan but we were expecting a delivery, and I had to be home for it. The company decided to call me at the festival and schedule the delivery during a four hour window (who gets a four hour window for anything these days?) that started far too early for me to make the trip this morning, so I had to cut my day short and drove home last night. Now I really thought I missed it.

I went down to the stage for what would be my last band for the night. North Point Inside Out and something started to happen in my Spirit. There’s something about music… Then as I returned to my seat, there would be a worship music set, then the speaker and then I had to drive home. The worship leader started us off by singing Awesome God. Now what you need to know is when I first went to Creation in 98 there were two things I knew for sure. Half the bands would sing Shout to the Lord and every worship “set” would include Awesome God. As I started to sing, it came to me. I was drawn back to another time on that same mountain.

On that particular day I was there by myself, early in the morning, not another person around for “miles” (probably more like hundreds of yards but it felt like miles). I was alone and I was distraught. My ministry was struggling, I was hurting and I was ready to throw in the towel. I wanted something from God. A spiritual gift that would have probably changed my trajectory in life. I was literally begging, and in my spirit, I felt a gentle “No.” Instead I felt the call to “bring the Gospel simply, in a way everybody can understand.” This combination of words and pictures that I’ve been blessed to live out has been the result and yesterday I felt that purpose renewed and maybe reinvigorated. It was another reminder and a gentle nudge. I needed that.

I made this little cartoon as a reminder to me. The words oddly enough are from a song—not a hymn or a worship song, but an 80s rock song repurposed. The song is by Triumph. It’s called Hold on and it was written in praise of music. On that day on the mountaintop stopped being about music for me though and started to be about mission. While I continue to learn and study, I’ve chosen to accept that I may have to leave the “genius-ing” to the geniuses and focus on what I am called to do.

—bring the simple truth to the people and bring people to the simple truth.


I’ve written about this before, but today is sort of a momentous day for me. The first thing I ever did in ministry was take a group of students to the Creation Festival. That was in 1998 and the 2018 festival starts today. That’s right, for all intents and purposes this is the 20th anniversary of the starts of my ministry. Now I don’t know the exact starting date of that festival back in 98, but fittingly Creation is where it all began. It’s been 20 years since I first sat on that beautiful hillside and saw God demonstrate his faithfulness in what would be my ministry. It was a day of turmoil and stress, a day where I thought I heard God completely wrong. It was a day when I wondered who I was to think someone like me could ever be in ministry and it was a day where I saw the light of God shine through. It was the first time God reminded me that the only thing that really depends on me is that I would be faithful and that he would do everything else. I’ve needed that lesson almost daily ever since, but God has continually been faithful.

So many things have happened since that day. I became a youth leader, God showed me how to use art in ministry, I started to train for ordination, I got ordained, started a church, closed a church, started a web site to share the creative ministry ideas I was getting, started getting invitations to speak around the country, and today I pastor a church and continue to do and teach art ministry every chance I get. I’ve been blessed to write books and a ton of Bible lessons, make a ton of art and meet thousands of wonderful people and those are just the external blessings. One year during the festival I had the privilege of baptizing my son Christ at Creation. I had the privilege of marrying quite a few of those girls to their husbands and one of the girls from that youth group married my son, became my only “daughter” (so far) and blessed me with my grandson David John. Through it all my loving wife Dawn has been by my side. Her organizational skills made that first trip possible and her love has helped me over and through every bump in this journey since. I am a blessed man and it’s been an interesting 20 years.

I’ll share with you what I believe God said in my spirit on that first night 20 years ago. “I never said it would be easy, but if you will be faithful, I will be with you and use you.” Take that to heart because it wasn’t just for me.

Thank you Jesus!


So I was spending the night at my church last night. Due to my somewhat unusual commute, I have a parsonage I stay at a couple nights a week. Because I don’t live there full time, I don’t have TV or WiFi there, and most times that’s okay. I can spend my time reading, studying, creating, etc. but occasionally I am a little tired and can’t really do anything that requires too much brain power, so I will download a few videos to my Kindle Fire and watch them. That was what I had in mind for last night. I had seen that an actress I really liked from a show I enjoyed that was cancelled, has gotten a new show and I was curious, so I downloaded an episode to check it out. Well in the first few moments of the movie, said actress was being beaten, tortured and apparently murdered. Cut to the courtroom in time to see her killer (I’m assuming) being convicted and a reporter talking about the brutal signature this killer put on his crimes… and delete. I just couldn’t go there. Please keep in mind this was no more that five minutes into the first episode, the pilot, and probably more like two.

Am I intrigued? Yes. How do you kill off the character whose face is the ad for your show in the first minutes of the first episode. Surely there are a multitude of interesting plot twists available and a lot of interesting directions to go, but can I be honest? I can’t see any of them that will leave me feeling uplifted and positive. I think this is an example of what I often say, “you can have imagination without hope.” Thing is there is enough hopelessness in the real world. I don’t need it in my entertainment, and that, Christian creative is why we need you.

I do say “You can have imagination without hope.” but I also say “You can’t have hope without imagination.” To hope is to imagine something better and while I can often see hopelessness in the real world, especially on the news, I am also faith-filled enough to remember that where there is Jesus, there is hope. Friends we need hope-filled people out there telling us hope-filled stories. Stories where the good guys win. Stories that will trigger hope in our hearts and remind us that no matter how dark things look, there is always hope. We need positive stories and positive images. We need positive, uplifting songs and movies and plays. We need to be reminded that there is good in this world and that we have the ultimate hope. We need people who will utilize their God given creativity to show us glimpses of hope and reminders of victory. It doesn’t have to be all sunshine and lollipops, there can be conflict and loss and a whole bunch of other “real world” things, but give us reminders of hope.

This world is not hopeless because God is and always will be. Let our creative work spur people on to love and good deeds. Let us create work that speaks to people and uplifts their souls. Let’s create art that does more than just entertain. It takes our imaginations into the light and inspires us to the endless possibilities available to those who trust in the One for whom all things are possible. Jesus calls us the light of the world, and this is a way to shine in the darkness.