Posts Tagged ‘art’

Last night I preached and painted at a wonderful ministry here in Northeast Ohio at the Liberty Barn, an intimate worship experience hosted by my friends, Bill and Brenda Weiss. I spoke on the topic of choosing love over offense and, of course, I painted. As I thought about the topic, I sort of hit a brick wall. “How do you paint that?” Well, I decided to approach the painting differently. I decided to ask five people to come up and make a brush stroke on my board before I painted. I then incorporate their brush strokes into a final piece. Here’s what came out.

One person made a squiggle, one made a heart, one made a straight line, one made a wave and one made a large arc across the board. Then I prayed and began to see this image coming to life and that’s appropriate to me this is a painting of life. It’s not so much about the subject, but rather about the process. You see, usually when I do creative arts ministry, I have carefully planned, practiced some and I pretty much have the image down before I paint it live. With this image, that is not the case. I simply have to figure out a way to deal with what has been thrust at me. That’s how life is.

Friend, your life is a story, and in your life, there is only one thing you control—your actions and by extension your reactions to the things that happen. Your life story is kind of like those books some of us had in middle school. You remember them. You read a number of pages and then the story comes to a crossroad and you have a choice to make. Choosing one option takes you to continue the story on one page. Choosing the other takes you to a different page. The direction of the story is made based on your choices and so it is with life. The direction of our lives is determined, at least in part, based on the choices we make. In our world, there seems to be an epidemic of offense. Everyone is offended by something, but what we need to know, is offense is a choice. If we choose offense enough times, it becomes a root of bitterness that is exceedingly difficult to overcome. What if instead we chose to love? That’s what Jesus did and His action changed the course of history for all eternity. The world lives in a pattern of offense. We have been instructed not to be conformed to the world’s pattern, but rather to be be transformed. Jesus is our pattern and He chose to love and even sacrifice Himself for His offenders.

The choice is is yours and that choice will effect the direction of the rest of your life, so choose wisely.

Choose love over offense.


Sometimes I need to create just for fun. I’ve long been a fan of the old school car artists like Big Daddy Roth, so in my free time I decided to do my own characters in a similar style. Musicians jam and visual artists can do the same. Think of an artist you admire and do your take on their work. You never know what might come of it.

You can get these on T-shirts in my Zazzle store.

Sometimes I feel like we live in an American Idol world. I guess I better break that down. American Idol was a show I really enjoyed for a while. I loved seeing all these talented people trying their luck before the judges, with the hopes of making their dreams come true. I enjoyed it because there were some really talented people, and indeed the show did produce a few superstars, but something didn’t sit right with me.

It seemed like everyone was sitting around waiting for their golden ticket. Waiting for someone to hear them, accept them and bestow on them the life of their dreams. Contrast this with my friend Morgan. One day last week she posted this video of her heading to New York City to perform with her band. She got to the club in time to play her set, and when it was over she shot a little video of herself getting home at 5:30 a.m. I saw another video from Boston this week. Now she ends up playing a fair amount of bars and clubs and given my history with alcohol, well that’s not my thing, but here’s the point. She’s not sitting around waiting for someone to make her dreams come true. She’s not sitting in her house waiting for someone to see her and how talented she is. She’s doing the work.

Her video reminded me of a clip from my all-time favorite band Rush. Just before they retired, they put out a documentary called Time Stand Still. I remember watching them live when I was in high and thinking about how cool their lives must be as they traveled all over playing music. The documentary gave a taste of their reality. Traveling from city to city in a station wagon, bartering with each other for the privilege of crawling in the back and sleeping on the equipment, and then graduating to a Dodge Fun Craft van with an actual bunk. Now of course today their lives are very different and they are quite wealthy and very famous but the reason they got there was because they didn’t sit around waiting for fame, they jumped in the “Fun Craft” and did the work.

That’s life in the arts. Natural talent is a great blessing from God, but the ones who succeed are the ones who will take that talent and roll up their sleeves and do the work. I see people all the time that seem to think they will go to school, get a degree in some art form and think that will guarantee them success. It won’t. I’m not belittling education, but the ones who succeed are the ones who go out and do the work. They practice. They perform. They write. They paint. They hustle. They realize they aren’t to big or important to take the small role or the small show. They get all the real world experience they can get. Don’t wait for the “cushy gig.” Find the opportunities and make the most of them. There’s no substitute for doing things the right way.

No matter what you want to do. You’ve got to do the work.

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?

The Bible says the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. I’ve always wrestled with this verse and what it means. On one hand we need to stand in awe of our awesome God, and there should be a certain amount of fear involved in running afoul of His ways. We should fear living in such a way as to defy the God of the universe.

I’ve seen this illustrated in the life of someone I love very dearly who just stepped in to his first year as a full-time public school teacher. When he corrects a student, they will say things like “Make me.” When I was in school, that would have been followed by a swift and painful response, which of course has been taken off the table. We think we have evolved so much as a society, but truth be known, we’re not doing these kids any favors. Sooner or later they will come up against someone who is not bound by the rules of polite society who will in fact “make them” or their out and out rejection of authority will make society “make them” with incarceration or other penalties. Kids would do far better learning this at a young age from people who have their best interests at heart, you know like parents, and if not parents, teachers, but this will not happen and our society is already beginning to reflect our failure. A healthy fear of authority is truly wisdom and we fail to teach this at our peril. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Oh that we would embrace wisdom again, rather than the foolishness of “conventional wisdom” which in our day is neither.

But there is another side of this verse. A negative side whereby people regard the Lord with terror. They see the power of the Lord but do not see His benevolent love. I had a great illustration of this last night. I was returning to my parsonage from Bible Study. I pulled into the garage to discover a Katydid sitting on the windshield wiper. I don’t really like bugs, but this guy was doing no harm, so I decided to catch him and release him back into the great outdoors. Well of course he saw me coming at him and he flew. I couldn’t catch him because he was afraid.

Now don’t get me wrong, I get it. I probably outweigh him by thousands of times, and tower over him, and if I saw something of similar proportions coming at me, no doubt I would run and hide, too, but here’s the thing. My intention was entirely benevolent. Had I captured him, he would have been in my hand for five seconds, and this morning he would be out doing all the things Katydids do, probably eating grass. Instead he is hidden somewhere in my garage, and before long he will starve. Had his fear not overcome him, he would be in a much better state than he is this morning. As I was thinking of this, I wondered is this another side to the idea of the fear of the Lord. Not so much fearing the Lord, but fear that is from the Lord. After all, there are times where fear is good and right and justified, but there are other times where something we fear is actually meant for our good and is a great blessing—overcome a little fear and receive a great blessing in return.

So what do you fear today. Is it justified or are you running from something that is meant for your good?

I remember it so clearly. I was in my office in an old converted barn in Hamburg, PA when I got the call. My wife told me a plane had just flown into the World Trade Center. My mind immediately went to the idea of some poor pilot losing control of his single engine plane. A tragic accident, but easily reparable. My mind could not conceive of the evil that was taking place. I could not imagine a world where someone would use a plane full of people as a cruise missile. It would happen three more times that day and the days that followed were some of the most uncertain I can remember in my 54 years. It was horrible. 17 years later, the memories are still difficult.

Today there will be messages everywhere and they will say “never forget.” This much is clear, I won’t. But yesterday, I saw another meme. A meme of a large gathering of Muslims praying here in the states with a caption saying “never forget.” I don’t think that’s the message we want to send either. Here’s the thing, nothing angers me more than when some high profile Christian has a lapse in judgment, like a moral failure for example, and people want to lump us all into the same category and I’d like to extend the same grace to people of the Muslim faith. The vast majority are not jihadists, and they were no doubt as horrified by the events of 9/11 as the rest of us, maybe even more so, considering the unfair backlash that followed.

I will never forget that day. I couldn’t if I tried and we should remember those who lost their lives that day but rather than anger at the perpetrators, we should honor the memory of the victims by doing something positive. Never forget Jesus commanded us to love our neighbors and even our enemies. Hatred will never be beaten by hatred. Only love can beat hatred. As creative Christians, we need to stay on mission. Our mission is ultimately to spread the Gospel. To spur one another on to love and good deeds. We must take seriously the biblical admonition: Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:21) We should never forget, but this is the best way to remember.

Do something good today. Honor the memories of those who lost their lives that day. More than that, honor and glorify God today. Use your gifts to spread the Gospel today.

Lately, I’ve been missing too many days of posting. I’ve been busy, but everyone is busy. Days fly by and before I know it, I am heading for bed and another day is done. That happens to a lot of people. I could say I haven’t been inspired to post, but you know how I feel about waiting for inspiration. If you don’t, I’m not a fan of it. I think inspiration is something to be sought, hunted down and exploited for all it’s worth. I think it’s time to reorganize my thoughts here a little bit.

My passion for creative ministry has not wained. I’m actually doing a lot of it these days, I’m just not taking the time to write about it, and that has to change. So here is my plan, I am going to share about all the things I am doing out in the field. Like Saturday night. On Saturday night I did Pictures of Jesus. This is a program I have done all over the country, but there was one place I have never done it. My home church. We had a small turnout, but the response was pretty overwhelming. I mainly did this as an outreach. That was my idea, my hope being to attract some folks from the surrounding community. I think God had something else in mind.

You see my church has been wonderfully supportive of my speaking ministry. I am a three quarter time pastor and the other quarter of my time is spent on my traveling AMOKArts ministry. Now truth be known, I always say I don’t have two ministries, I have one, but what I do at my church is quite different from what I do on the road. Preaching a different message every week allows me to be very creative, but it’s a different kind of creative. I don’t always paint at my church. Probably only about four times a year and when I paint, I have a good twenty minutes before I get to preach. which allows a lot of time to really work the paintings. In the traveling ministry, I often do multiple pieces very quickly with stories I have developed and often memorized. Showing my church Pictures of Jesus, which is an hour and a half long containing five paintings, drama, videos more, allowed them to see what I do on the road, and it seems to have really blessed the folks who were able to be there. I really think this will help people to have an even better understanding of what I do when I can’t be with them which will help already very supportive people to be even more supportive. That can’t help but help.

Don’t forget to share your gifts with the folks closest to you.