Archive for the ‘Thoughts on art ministry and life’ Category

This is going to sound like a sports story, but hang in there, this is more about glory than sports. I used to be a pretty big fan of the Philadelphia Eagles. This was in the days of the Gang Green defense, featuring guys like Jerome Brown, and my all-time favorite, Reggie White. I was pretty young in my faith walk, and Reggie was called the Minister of Defense and I was just amazed by him on the field and off. I became really disgruntled with the Eagles when Reggie ended up going to the Packers and my fandom went with him. I have rooted for the Packers ever since.

Then a little time ago, the Eagles picked up another of my favorite people, Tim Tebow, and I was thinking I’d be back to having two teams in green. Then they cut Tebow and I decided having one team was fine, (okay more like the Eagles were “dead to me,” but I believe in grace and forgiveness more than football, so I just moved on.)

But I started hearing things about this guy Carson Wentz. I started hearing about players being baptized and Bible studies led by this young quarterback, and I started getting excited. Then it got better, they started to win. They started to dominate and a narrative began to form in my mind. This team is going to roll over everyone and win the Super Bowl to the glory of God and it will be epic.

That all changed this past weekend. Wentz took a shot to the knees, torn ACL, out for the season, and a collective “Nooooo” was heard all over Philadelphia fandom. But wait, it’s not over. They have a backup in Nick Foles (also a believer) and that would make another great story, but there’s more. See I was allowing myself to have wrong head thinking. I was doing something I encourage every creative to guard against. I was thinking that God can only be glorified in human success and that is not the point. A discussion in Bible study last night (believe it or not, it was related to the topic at hand) brought clarity. You see the following day, Carson Went took to social media and changed the narrative. See for yourself.

In the midst of a disappointing day to be sure, Wentz still took the time to give glory to God and acknowledge a sovereign will that is bigger than football. Went was showing us that God is good in the good times and the bad times, in joy and sorrow. At the end of the day that is the real point of all of this. It’s easy to glorify God when everything is going our way. What this young man showed us is God is good all the time. There are a lot of things in our lives that can go wrong. The question is will we trust God and move forward in faith regardless?

Carson Went could have stayed on the pocket, and he could have played it safe, but he went for it. He gave his all and paid the price. Will we do the same in our pursuits? Oh we may not take a shot from a defensive player, but there are risks nonetheless. We can play it safe, but glory is found outside the “pocket.” sometimes you have to take the risk and play the game, knowing you’ll give glory to God regardless of the outcome. We can’t always control what happens, but we can always control our reaction. Carson Went showed us that. May we do the same.

Mr. Wentz, I’m praying your recovery is insanely quick and complete. I’m praying that you soar to even greater heights, and I thank you for challenging me by your actions to a new and better point of view.


I’m reading Jeff Goins’ great new book Real Artists Don’t Starve. I’m less than 20% in and I am already wondering how he managed jam so much great information and inspiration into one little book. I have a short quote today that just resonated with me so much today. This deals with when to start being an artist.

“If you’re waiting for your moment, don’t. Start now. If you’re wondering if you had to be born to paint or sing or dance, you don’t. You just have to choose to become someone else, if the role you’re playing is not the one you wanted. You don’t become an artist by moving to New York without a penny to your name. You become an artist because you decide that’s what you’re going to be and then you do the work.”

Those last three words are especially the key. The decision to become what you want to become is huge, but lots of people want to be rock stars, but a relative few learn to play guitar. Wanting it is not to be overlooked, but you have to want it bad enough to do the work. You can be an artist, and/or a creative, the key though is starting and then doing the work. This book is already one of the best I have ever read on living the creative life. I can’t wait to read more. Check it out.

I’m hoping this is not read as insensitive because I don’t mean it to be. I heard the story recently of some folks in a community arts organization who thought it a bad idea to do a production of a show that is usually predominantly cast with African American actors, because the group has few African American actors trying out. The opponents of doing the show cited “cultural appropriation.” This is not one of those shows where the plot demands that the characters have to be one race or another, as some shows are written, for example, Hairspray. It’s just an awesome show that’s a lot of fun that I have seen community groups do very well. My hope would be that doing a show like this would open doors to greater diversity, etc.

I guess I just don’t want to build walls around art. My belief is a primary strength of the arts is the ability to cross all of our manmade borders and bring us together. The arts allow us to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes and create bridges to understanding. While certain genres have at times been attributed to certain cultures and ethnicities, great art is great art. Why not let it do what it was designed to do? We have enough walls, let’s open a few doors.

Most people would say there are two Christmas Stories in the Bible. The most famous is Luke’s and the second most famous in Matthew’s. I maintain there are four. One is found in Revelation 12. Like most of Revelation it is very deep and symbolic. It deals with  a pregnant woman with stars around her head and a giant red dragon waiting to eat her baby but we don’t have time to unpack that one right now. I just finished speaking and painting and I’m really tired. But there is a fourth that some would find debatable, largely because it is usually overlooked. It comes from the book of John and it’s usually overlooked because it’s only one verse. “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14. It’s short an sweet, but its exactly what happened. God became man and lived with us. John 1 is the passage I’ve been exploring for my Advent preaching this year and so far it’s spawned three paintings.

The first was for my church, Springfield Church of the Brethren and it deals with the Intertestamental  Period (the 400 years between Malachi and Matthew). The next two deal with The Word, and the Light.
Here is a little infographic I did for the first message.

Next we have the two paintings I did for the word and the Light. I did these at Camp Eder for their Christmas Tree festival and the messages will be combined for Springfield next week. Again please keep in mind these are speed paintings done in 8 and 6 minutes respectively. Both were very well received and I pray God was glorified.

I always have a great time doing these things, but what I love most about it, is it give another way to draw people into the message. I pray you all have a blessed Christmas season and my His Word make your life shine.

This morning I am heading out for what should be my last ministry road trip of the year. I’ll be going to Camp Eder to speak at their Christmas Tree Festival. This will be my third year speaking and painting at this event and I got a pleasant surprise, I’ll be painting indoors this year. In previous years I painted in a pavilion outdoors and it was, pardon the pun, pretty cool. My first year was one of those unseasonably warm December evenings and I got lulled into a false sense of security. Last year it was frigid, so cold that my paint was doing unusual things, and a little hard to work with, but it was still fun.

This is a great event, that I’d love to do every year. It’s at a beautiful Christian camp near Gettysburg, PA. They cover the camp with lights and displays. Indoors they have Christmas trees decorated by the churches in their region, all trying to “out-creative” each other to win the tree decorating contest.  I always look forward to seeing what they come up with, cause you know how I feel about churches being creative, right? There is also all kinds of delicious food and musical performances each night. It is a lot of fun, but more than that, it’s a creative way to raise funds for a very important ministry. I am so looking forward to this event. If you’re in the area, I’d love to see you. I’ll be there tonight and tomorrow night, ministering around 7:00.

Camp Eder, 914 Mt Hope Rd, Fairfield, PA 17320

I was driving down the road this afternoon, making my way back to my office when I saw it. A big old bumper sticker, almost stereotypically on a Prius, that said “Jesus is a Liberal.” I almost lost it. He most definitely is not.

To my liberal friends, don’t worry, He’s not a conservative either, and this is not a political post.

Please understand, attaching Jesus to a political ideology is akin to creating Him in our image, which is, to my mind, the most dangerous form of idolatry. Further, it’s about the same as all the people who wanted to crucify Him because He didn’t come to overthrow the Romans. As soon as He didn’t do what they wanted, in their minds it proved He wasn’t the Messiah and so He had to go.

Jesus is not created in our image, we are created in His. Liberal and Conservative (and every political stripe in between) are human constructs that we try to use as litmus tests to see which of our neighbors we have to love and who is on our team. Jesus us above all of that. The standard for our lives is not Liberal or Conservative. The standard for our lives is Jesus. Measuring ourselves by anything less gives us a false sense of security and attaching our faith to our politics will do nothing but alienate the very people Jesus came and died to save. We see this nearly every day on the news. We support people who do reprehensible things because we say they fit our ideology, or we condemn people for past sins even though they’ve repented and fought their way back because they are from the other side of the political aisle. We can and must do better.

To be clear, there were two political parties who tied their faith to their politics in Jesus day, too. The were the Sadducees and the Pharisees. They were political opponents who badgered each other constantly and fought each other bitterly. What finally brought them together was their hatred of Jesus. We can and we must do better than that too.

Jesus is above your politics. If He’s not, you have an idolatry problem. If we would submit to Him, and fall under the authority of His Word, a lot of this political turmoil would go away. Human leaders are all flawed, and so are the rest of us. The only One who will never lead us astray is the risen Lord. He’s not liberal or conservative, He is the ideal man, the perfect leader, and the only One completely worthy of our allegiance.

I’m usually a pretty kind-hearted, live and let live kind of guy, but I have to admit I am starting to get fed up, so at the risk of sounding like a creative curmudgeon I have to speak up. I was watching some DVRed episodes of Robert Kirkman’s Secret History of Comics. I am to put it mildly a comic fan. I probably haven’t gone so far as to have hit geek status, but I like comics a lot. The show which can be seen on AMC is quite good and over all I really enjoy it, but this morning I was watching the background story on Wonder Woman. Great character, interesting stories, etc. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I heard it was excellent. That wasn’t what bothered me. The background on the creation of the character was a little weird to put it mildly, but that’s history and it is what it is. What bothered me was how so many of the people speaking about the story, saluted it as being a wonderful thing.

The character was created by a psychologist named William Marston. He was also a college professor and inventor of an early version of the lie detector. So far sounds like an interesting character. Well he was happily married, and started having an affair with one of his students/proteges and the plot thickens. His mistress is also his dominatrix. He tells his wife about the affair and they decide the mistress should move in. He has children by both of them as they all live together in the same house. All of this was occurring in the 1930s. I find all that very problematic, but again it is history, it’s what happened, and again its in the past. It appears that throughout the course of the early comics, Marston’s “peculiarities” weave their way into the stories, but by today’s standards, it’s pretty subtle. Now here’s what I don’t get. The modern day commentators were, for the most, part acting like Marston’s arrangement was a beautiful love story and wanted to laud everything he was doing as wonderful? I’m still scratching my head here. I get that he created a character that was very empowering to women and that’s a good thing. I just can’t conceive that people could look at his personal life and not have a few red flags go off.

Like can you be a feminist icon and treat women like he treated his wife? I can’t see how.  How did we fall to the place where people can look at this story and see it as anything other than a mess? How can this guy be held up as any kind of example, other than the example of what not to do? I just plain don’t get it. Isaiah 5:20 says “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” Seems to me we have to do a better job finding examples. Marston may have created a good character, and he did, but we have to be careful.  Too often creatives get a pass because they’re talented, but talent is not enough to make someone an example to be followed. Creating a good character does not make up for bad character on the part of the artist and so ends my rant.