Posts Tagged ‘art’

It’s been said we have nothing to fear but fear itself. It’s absolutely true, especially as a creative. If we’re afraid, we keep our work to ourselves, we don’t share it with the world and if we don’t care it, our fear will have accomplished it’s goal: to keep our work from doing the good it ought to do. Fear in this case is diabolical.

Think about it, your talents are a gift from God. That gift is given not just to enrich your bank account, but more importantly to bless someone and give God glory. When we withhold that work out of fear, no one is blessed and God gets no glory. What a shame!

What are we really afraid of? That some people won’t like it. Sorry but that’s a given. Not everyone will like your work, so you might as well not be afraid of it. The people who don’t like your work, as I’ve said here many times, are not your audience. Ignore them and that fear is nullified.

If not that, what are you afraid of? Maybe you’re not good enough? Have you brought your best work to the table? Then trust God to use that effort to His glory. Your work is not perfect and it will not be, you just have to bring your best to the table. Again nothing to fear.

The truth is over and over again, fear, at least of this type, does nothing but keep you from being everything God has for you to be and doing what He has for you to do.

Don’t let fear keep you from all God has for you.


I see these stickers on vehicles everywhere that say variations of “Keep Calm and Carry On.” I think it’s been overdone, but there is something there that we need to consider. As much as we love what we do in this life of art and ministry, as great a blessing as we know we have, it can get frustrating. We all have those times where it feels like our work is getting nowhere. We all have times where the doors seem to be closed or our skills just aren’t where we want them to be. We all have the times where we’re passed over. We all see people pass us by. We have the times when we get rejected. We hear, “You’re just not right for what we do” or “we’re going in a different direction” or worst of all, you hear nothing. It can all get very aggravating and in our weakest moments, there can be a great temptation to quit.

Please don’t. Remember no one promised this journey was going to be easy. If it was we would reach the top with a malformed character that could be disastrous. The Bible tells us don’t become weary of well doing and don’t despise small beginnings. Sometimes we need to remember our call. There is a reason for everything, and the reason you have your gift is so that in some way, you might give God glory. Last night in our church’s Bible study I was reminded of this again. We are near the end of a study on the book of Acts. Paul is headed for Rome. He was told by God he was go there, it was the next place he wanted to go, but I’d have to believe Paul thought he would end up there free to roam the streets and do what he was created to do. Instead he ends up there in chains. God’s plan is looking very different than I am sure Paul imagined, but please note this, Paul still ended up exactly where God said He would be. Further, in this way, Paul would be able to preach to some of the most powerful in his world at the time. In spite of the problems God’s will was done. I asked the question if God’s will being done in our lives every looked different from our plans. There was audible laughter around the room. We all knew it to be true, and I thought about my own journey.

For most of my life, I thought I would make art for a living. I felt like that was God’s call on my life, and in part it was. When I started working for a licensee of the Ninja Turtles, they were making billions in licensing and my client was telling me he could do the same for me. I worked harder than I had worked in my life to that point, and God left me fail. No matter what I did, I did not succeed and I was angry with God. As I looked around my congregation, I realized once again the great thing God did for me. If I had succeeded in the path that I was on, it would have destroyed me. I knew making art was going to be part of my life, and it is. I just couldn’t see the better path He had for me. One dream had to die, and I had to carry on. I had to keep honing my skills and learning new ones. I had work on my faith and experience a new calling, a call to ministry, and then I had to learn how to meld the two together.

I don’t know where you’re at today. I hope you’re happy and fulfilled and in the very center of God’s will, but if you’re not, get together with God. Don’t be mad at Him. He loves you. Carry on in your calling, stop doing the things that take you out of His will, follow His lead and let Him do what He needs to do in you. Trust Him and…

Carry on.

I saw a video last night for something I usually do, being done by another arts ministry. I am going to confess something here that may make you think less of me. I got a little jealous. I’ve been doing this stuff for over 20 years and it’s hard not to. The person on the video hasn’t been doing this as long as I have and I know last year, he got a “gig” I’ve been dying to do for the entire length of my career. Seeing him do this thing too was a little tough on the old ego, I’ll just admit it. It’s easy to feel surpassed and overlooked at times like this.  You might see this as a character flaw, I see it as human nature.

So why do I share this? Well the truth is, this kind of stuff happens all the time in the creative world and we need to have a little bit of a thicker skin sometimes. The other thing to remember is this is no time to start comparing. Instead, I need to do two things. First I need to be glad that someone else is working at this type of ministry. Secondly I need to be glad that doors are opening for this guy. It means more people are open to the type of ministry I do. That is a good thing. Thirdly, I need to look at me. Am I doing all I can do? Am I growing in my skills? Am I promoting the way I need to promote? Do I need to create a better web site or better promotional materials? Do I just need to do a better job of reminding people I am out here?

Jealousy is wasted. This is ministry. The other guy is not my competition, he’s my brother is Christ and I need to be glad for him, pray for him, etc. you need to do the same and one other thing, I need to be grateful for what I have and so do you. Praise God for all the doors He opens for you and bring your best to every opportunity. I feel like I do that, but maybe I could do it better.

Jealousy does not look good on us and it doesn’t glorify God. Instead bring your best to everything you do and glorify God. He’s got great things for us all and there is plenty of work to go around.

I’ve written several posts over the years about how deadlines are our friends. I believe that is true with all my heart, but is there ever a time not to work with deadlines. The answer is yes.

Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, tells us not to swear and part of that is this idea of letting your “yes be yes and your no be no” and we need take this to heart. As creatives, when we commit to doing something, we are often doing something the person commissioning us cannot to for themselves. They are depending on us to finish what we start and they need it by a certain time. God is not glorified if we prove to be undependable. To glorify God for the creative is to deliver what you promised, the best that you can do it and on time. Anything less can bring dishonor to His name. It is for this reason that we have to be careful about deadlines.

I made a personal rule a couple years ago that when it comes to taking on side work, I don’t take anything with a tight deadline. I broke that rule last week and I’m wishingI would have set things up differently. Now you might think, “Dave, you’re a creative, deadlines are a fact of life. How can you say you don’t take deadlines? What are you? A prima donna?” No, I guarantee you that’s not the case.

The fact of the matter is I already have more than a few deadlines. These are hard deadlines–things I must complete every week. The most obvious one is weekly. Every Sunday morning at 10:00, I must go to the front of my church and I better have a sermon ready when I get there. People joke, at least I hope they’re joking, that pastors only work one day a week, but the truth is, there is a lot to be done each week, but the thing that gets the most attention, and takes the most creative energy is the sermon. That’s a firm deadline. I also lead our church’s weekly adult Bible Study and for the last year and a half, I have been writing the curriculum. That means I have to be ready to go every Wednesday at 7:00. Next are the speaking engagements. 30-50 times a year, I speak at other churches and different events, and all those things have to be prepared. In addition, I am working on my masters. Now fortunately I found a school that is very flexible, or I would have had to drop that. I am also a husband, father and grandfather, and the last thing I would want to do is mess up those relationships. That’s why I don’t take deadlines.

I still want to serve others with my gift and I still can, but I must make sure that the people understand that I can’t do tight deadlines. This means I have to be secure enough to understand if people have to go with someone else for a project. The truth is, there are only so many hours in a day and we all have to invest them well. My recommendation. Only take deadlines if you know you can deliver and deliver well. We all need a little margin and some rest in our lives, otherwise this gift starts to feel more like a curse. It’s okay to say no sometimes, especially if saying yes would mean not keeping your word.

The following are some photos from my Imaginative Church Workshop.

It was a great day of creative, imaginative fun and more importantly learning as we looked at new ways to take the unchanging message of the Gospel to an ever changing world.
Here’s an outline of the day.

  • Registration
  • Demonstration piece on imagination
    • This includes the story of how my ministry is at least in part the result of a pastor who empowered me early in my faith walk.
  • Teaching session 1 “But I’m not creative” Overcoming the fear of creativity
    • Short hands on exercise
  • Teaching session 2 “Creative Worship” Stepping out of the boat
    • Hands on project creatively expressing Matthew 14:21-33
  • Lunch
  • Teaching session 3 “Sometimes It’s All About Who You Know” Identifying and empowering the creatives in your congregation
    • Short Hands On Exercise
  • Teaching session 4 Teaching In Story Exploring the Parables
    • Hands on project teaching a Parable
  • Teaching session 5 Going Beyond the Walls Exploring Creative Outreach
    • Hands On Exercise Brainstorming Creative Outreach

Contact me if you would like to know more about partnering with me to bring this to your area.

So last night I was watching Shark Tank on CNBC. After it ended there was this show called American Greed. The first episode was kind of interesting, but the second episode was about a rap promoter who it turns out was defrauding artists and investors alike to prop up his own lavish lifestyle. The guy was beyond a doubt immoral and unethical, but I don’t want to talk about him. I want to talk about the artists who allowed themselves to be victimized by him and more than that, I want to talk about us.

The promoter in question basically promised he could make anyone a star. The thing is, he can’t. There are only so many people who are the right combination of talented/lucky/blessed/driven enough to become “stars.” If everyone could do it, most everyone would. This guy was promising these people something they should have known was not possible. Here’s the thing, in the arts, there is no easy way and there is no substitute for a little thing called doing the work.

I used to watch American Idol with great interest, but there was always something that bothered me. Did that show produce some bankable stars? Yes absolutely, but it sure felt like skipping a lot of steps. What happened to slogging it out in the little venues, paying your dues and learning to be a performer? These shows seemed to circumvent the process, but they did something that was equally alarming. They seem to have convinced a whole generation that this path is the only way, waiting to be discovered and put on TV. No can I tell you there are a lot of ways to be an artist, that don’t involve making the cut on a TV show and it all comes down to what I preach here. You make the work you love to make and find the people who love it. You get up every day and you do the work. If it doesn’t pay the bills, you find something that does while you keep doing the work. There is no easy way, there is no magic bullet, and be very skeptical of anyone who tells you there is.

I remember the early days of MTV when bands were jettisoning talented people because they didn’t look good on camera. Ask yourself, how far would have Bob Dylan gotten on The Voice? I’m guessing not very far, but he made the music he loved and found a world full of people who loved it. I know one young lady who has auditioned for The Voice a couple of times, She didn’t get through. She is talented beyond belief and if I had the connections, I would sign her in a New York minute. The thing is she doesn’t need me and she doesn’t need The Voice. She’s gotten herself a gig singing in a working band and she is out there night after night singing her heart out and paying her dues. She will get there and she will appreciate it when she does, because she has done the work.

When it all comes down to it, no matter what kind of artist you are, there is no substitute for doing the work.

There is no easy way. Don’t wait to be picked. Hone your craft. Put your work out there. Find your tribe. Do the work!

Well it was a retro kind of morning this morning on my way home from the gym, so I popped in one of my favorite CDs, a compilation CD of classic songs by one of my favorite bands, Styx. Styx was one of those bands that rose to popularity during my formative years and I loved them. Still do. In particular this morning I heard the song Blue Collar Man. What a great song, and it set in motion this whole train of thought. What we really need today, especially in the church, are blue collar artists. What do I mean? Work with me for a moment.

For a large percentage of the population, the word artist is a synonym for weird. They expect us to be eccentric, odd or maybe just plain nutty. A lot of people will excuse us because they come to like our work, but I’m not sure they like us. At best they tolerate our quirks, laugh off our tardiness, doubt themselves when they don’t understand our latest weirdness, etc. but I have to imagine we can be frustrating. I’ve never wanted to be that way. I’ve often felt I’m a little too blue collar for my own good in this field, but I have no desire to change. Some artists seem to revel in being misunderstood. I’ve always seen art as a communication medium, and I want to be understood. Many artists expect their real value will come after they die. When I die, I’m going to a place far beyond my wildest dreams where I suspect I will do my greatest work ever, so I want what I do (not to mention who I am) to make a difference right here, right now, to the glory of God.

Maybe it’s because I was raised by a union steelworker, but I’ve always valued showing up on time, doing a good job and delivering what people expect, at the bare minimum. I know that’s very blue collar, but I’m okay with that. I just want the work to be worth the effort. Maybe that’s why I resonate with this song so much. In my day, the music artists who made it and lasted for the long haul, had a couple things in common. They were true to who they were, and they created things that their fans loved. They didn’t go after the people who didn’t like them. They knew the people who paid the bills (their fan base) and they over delivered, and then after they made their art, they went to work. They hopped on the buses and toured hundreds of nights a year. In other words they did the work. That’s what blue collar artists do. This is still the formula for success. Do your best work. Find the people who love it and over-deliver. It’s great to have dreams, but what really matters is doing the work.

We need less weirdness, and more blue-collar artists.