Posts Tagged ‘boundaries’

I have a guilty pleasure. I really like to watch some of these holiday cooking shows on the Food Network. No, not the ones where the people make sumptuous recipes. That stuff is beyond me. What I love are the shows where the people compete to make cakes and other things that are decorative. Last night, for example I was watching a show where the contestants made gingerbread creations. They had a relatively short period of time to complete their creations, they had to be at least three feet tall, etc. These pieces were huge and amazing, they were true works of art, but I noticed something.

There was one guy who actually included robotics to create an animated show in the midst of his creation. It was brilliant but he didn’t win and there is a lesson we can learn from this. The person who won did an immaculate presentation. There were fewer bells and whistles, at least of the “animated” kind, instead every part of her piece was flawless, the attention to detail was phenomenal, her piece was a thing of beauty. By way of contrast, the guy with the bells and whistles spent so much time on the bells and whistles that there wasn’t time for him to make his creation beautiful.

The lesson to be learned is this. When you have a time limit, you have to focus on what is most important. Bells and whistles are great when you have time for them, but the first step is to get the basics right. The guy with the technology had a really cool and creative idea, and I have no doubt given more time to execute his idea, could have created something pretty amazing but the person who did flawless work and managed her time properly won the day. There were several boundaries in place here, chief of which were a time limit and a theme. Boundaries are our friends. It doesn’t matter what you could do with unlimited time, if there is a time limit, you have to work within the time limit.

Boundaries let us know our limitations. Working within the boundaries requires us to be even more creative and show us the path to success. We need to learn to create within given parameters, deliver what is asked of us, over deliver as much as we can, and deliver on time.

Today a friend of mine posted an article about a pastor in Zimbabwe who was arrested for selling his parishioners tickets to heaven for $500 each. Evidently the tickets allowed the holders to bypass judgment and assured them a place in heaven. Needless to say there is so much wrong with this story that it would be laughable if it wasn’t so wrong. My friend posted this article with one word of comment. “Creativity…” I cringed.

My response was “I’m a fan of creativity… It’s the first thing we learn about God… This is not creativity.” I may have been hasty. There is certainly an element of creativity here. If the assignment is “Find a way to fleece people who trust you, in a way that will make them never trust God again.” then I suppose this was a creative solution, but, of course, this is a massive misuse of creativity.

That’s when it hit me. Creativity, especially Christian creativity, needs boundaries. Now I know as a creative you might want to kick against this. We artistic types often do not like boundaries. I have a post upcoming soon that talks about enjoying creating creatures because the possibilities are endless and there is truth to that, but when it comes to creativity in the church there are boundaries, and those boundaries are for our good. The primary boundary is the Word of God. In my opening example, the Scripture would have reigned that in very quickly, as the Scripture teaches over and over again that the gifts of God are not for sale and that no one misses out on judgment, though admittedly that judgment is for different reasons. Further, wealth is not often seen as a blessing in Scripture. Remember the camel passing through the eye of a needle and that we cannot serve both God and money, the rich young ruler and on and on. As a matter of fact money is such a difficult thing for people to handle properly that Jesus talks more about it than He does about things like heaven or hell. But it’s not just money.

Scripture sets boundaries on subject matter, content, morality, and on and on and on. Basically it comes down to these questions: will God be glorified by what I’m about to do and will He be praised? These boundaries will keep us, not just on the right side of God, which is primary, but will allow us to live with a clear conscience before our fellow man. If we are going o glorify God, how the people around us, those we are glorifying Him to, need to see us living above reproach. Boundaries allow this to happen.

So I was on a Facebook forum this morning about one of my favorite entertainers, and a question was asked. ”We always talk about what we like about ___ is there anything you don’t like?” My first thought was, “That’s a weird question.” and my second was ”Am I really entitled to an opinion on that.” I read a few of the responses before remembering I have a busy day to get to, but of course it spurred a thought. A few of the posts were from someone who allegedly worked with said entertainer for 20 years. Now of course anyone can say anything on the internet, but let’s give the guy the benefit of the doubt. It’s the different between 2D and 3D.

The entertainer in question is widely renowned musician among the best in the world and the greatest of all time. His reputation is also pretty good, but there is one thing that seems to bother a lot of people. He seems to be a pretty profound introvert. Personally that never really bothered me, but my relationship with him is 2D. I’ve seen him on screen most of the time, I’ve seen him perform live several times, but there is of course an invisible wall between him and I, so it’s really still 2D, like looking at a really big photo or watching on a huge screen. That’s as far as our relationship has progressed. He can be an introvert if he wants. It’s how he’s wired, he owes me nothing I just really appreciate his contribution to the world as he’s shared his gift. I’ve received what he has given and received it gratefully. Would I love to meet him? Sure, but I’m okay with things as they are.

So why am I sharing this? Well this isn’t just for big-time people with big careers. It’s for everyone with a platform–everyone who creates something and shares it with the world. In other words, it’s for you and me. I look at it like this. I love going out to speak and paint at other churches and venues. I feel like I really get to sow into people and I do everything I can to be a blessing, but I also understand that the relationship is different than my local church. The people don’t really get to know me well in the one to two hours I share with them before I pack my things and head for home or the next venue. I mean people can connect with me beyond that on social media, the web and I like that, (I’m an extrovert.) but the relationship with most is 2D. They see what I do, hopefully they like it, God works through it and it blesses them. I’m not their pastor, but hopefully their pastor can help them navigate any changes God has made, while I’m out on the road repeating the process.

The church I pastor is different.These relationships can very quickly become 3D because we do life together. We get to really know each other. They know my strengths and my weaknesses. I eat with them, I visit with them and we build stronger relationships. I’ve discovered I need to have both kinds of relationships and I’m guessing so do you. When I was traveling exclusively I made some lifelong friends, but I really missed the relational things you don’t get going from place to place. Conversely I could not give everyone I meet the attention I can give my church folks without sacrificing, family and friends, not to mention having the time to do the creative work that made the initial connection, the thing they know me for, the primary gift I can give them.

As creatives people often come to know us through our work. From there the relationship varies and we kind of get to decide how much we give to others. The artist I was referencing at the beginning is seen by some as a recluse. I’m sure that’s not the case. He just is a person who has set up boundaries that work for him. We all will need to do the same. Give of yourself and give generously, but also remember if we try to please everyone, we end up pleasing no one. Trust God and ask Him to help you see the boundaries. Even Jesus got away from the crowds and rested.

I shot this with the web cam on my computer and it didn’t get great but this is the project I just completed for our Advent series at church. It’s a painting of a Christmas tree. I kept it pretty basic because in addition to our Advent series, the month has an overriding theme of the Spiritual discipline of simplicity.

Sometimes boundaries on out art can force us into trying new things and working in new ways. These paintings are a prime example. Maintaining simplicity in imagery is actually forcing me to rethink the usual way I work. I tend toward busyness in my subject matter and I need to strip that away. On the other hand, working in this style is also moving me toward a more realistic approach. So while the subject is simple, the simplicity is somewhat deceptive, as the realism is stretching my technique to new levels. We often tell artists to push their boundaries, but sometimes it’s okay to let boundaries push you.

I’m loving doing this project and I hope the pieces bless you as well. Challenge: Boundaries Challenge: Boundaries

Boundaries are a good thing, just make sure you don’t close too many good things out.