Posts Tagged ‘creative arts ministry’

Let’s start at the beginning. If anyone from my church reads this review, no I am not thinking of quitting. I received a copy of this book from the publisher as a review copy, and I am really glad I did. This book is wall to wall encouragement and is great for anyone who has ever found themselves in a “dip” a tough spot that make you want to give up. Combining personal examples with many stories from the Bible, (including many of my favorites) Nepstad makes a compelling argument for keeping on keeping on. While I am not thinking of quitting my ministry, I have to admit to having received this book right after something pretty discouraging happened in my life and I have to admit the encouragement in this book, made me realize I could not just survive but thrive. I will not quit in the dip. You shouldn’t either. If you find yourself in need of encouragement, read this book. 

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.

Okay at the end of the day, that’s what this blog is all about, but some might ask “Do we really need it?” and “Can it be dangerous?”

Let’s answer the last question first. Of course it can be dangerous. Creativity is a wonderful thing, but when you are dealing with a world where absolute truth is reality, what we get creative with matters. So long as we kept creativity to the methods of delivery and never, ever get creative with the truth itself, there is no danger. The danger comes when we attempt to manipulate truth for the sake of creativity. We have the Word of God. It says what it means and means what it says. It’s perfect as it is and we have no need to alter it to fit any context or any whim of culture. Truth is truth and God’s Word is the truth that sets men free. Don’t mess with the truth.

Now to answer the question that will most likely be expressed as we attempt to bring our creativity into the church. Do we really need it? The answer to that question is a resounding yes. We live in a world of rapid change. We live in a world that is bombarded with messages and images on every side. The amount of messages people are confronted with on a daily basis is staggering and one of those messages is the Gospel. Now admittedly the message of the Gospel is empowered by God and therefore it has a huge advantage and yet I a convinced that a big part of the reason God has anointed some of us with creativity is that we might be used as tools to take that message forth and put it front and center in our world. What does it take to do that? God, the Holy Spirit’s anointing, literally God triggering our imaginations, inspiring us, and Him helping us to do the work required to bring it forth. This can manifest in a multitude of ways, but here’s what we need to do. Seek the Lord and do what He says. It’s nothing new but it works.

Go to God and get to work. All creation waits in eager expectation for the sons and daughters of God to be revealed.

Okay let mer be the first to admit, I’m lousy at sports and almost as bad at sports analogies, but there is something about being almost done. You’re running the bases, coming up on this base and you have a decision to make. Do you stop at third and play it safe or do you go for it? You know the fielder has picked up the ball and the throw is coming. Can you beat it? Can you make it all the way home? Do you have what it takes? Ah, there’s the real question and so I round a corner of my own right into the real topic of this post—finishing well.

If you’ve been a creative for any length of time, sooner or later you have had a project that was almost done. A few more words, a few more lines and it will be ready to ship it—that is to share it with the world. It’s at this point that the self doubts come in. Is it good enough? Are you good enough? Now there’s nothing wrong with editing, as a matter of fact, editing is crucial to the process, but there comes a point in every project where we have to call it done and send it out. Sometimes though, it feels like it is easier and safer to play it safe. To keep tweaking it and massaging it and putting off the inevitable, because that’s easier than the possibility of rejection.

Let’s go back to baseball. Hitting a triple is a wonderful thing. It’s not easy and a lot of factors have to fall into place to make it all the way to third, but if you’re still on third when that third out happens, your effort is completely and utterly useless. No one scored, in other words there’s no point. It would have been better to risk it. It would have been better to have tried to reach the goal (okay, the plate, I told you I was bad at sports analogies) than to have stood there safe at third. While sports strategists may be able to tell me differently about baseball, no one can tell me any different about creating. Sooner or later you have to ship your creation and share it with the world.

I love the end of a project. I’m usually a little bored with it by the time I reach that point and I get this sudden adrenaline rush to get it done and get it out for the world to see. It’s great to have some people around you to help you edit, but don’t tweak it together. If you’re a believer, you know there is only One who can make a perfect creation. The rest of us do the best we can and share it with the world.

Are you rounding third? The time is now. Finish that thing and share it with the world. It may not be perfect, but hopefully it’s better than the last one, and the next one will be better still.

Anything is better than being stranded on third.

It’s been a crazy busy week and I have been going pretty non-stop. As a result, I have not been posting as often as I would have liked to. No excuses, once in a while we all get behind, but here’s the thing, I have committed to posting daily and I missed three days. Time to catch up. Why is this so important? We don’t have New York Times numbers here. We usually have about 20-50 readers a day. Most people wouldn’t lose sleep over that. Most people are wrong. Here’s why:

First of all my readers are important to me. I love that you come and check out what I have to say. I believe that the work I am doing here is helping people to do something I am passionate about, i.e. using their gifts, especially their creative gifts to serve the Lord. I also don’t want to just give you fluff, I want to give you something that will actually help you to move forward in your calling. I take this very seriously and I pray that it blesses you.

As I write this, I believe there is something to be learned from everything, and this apology post is no exception. You see it’s not just an apology, it’s a realization. There will be times when you cannot reach your goal. In my case, there is much work to be done and I have just a few days between road trips with several new programs to finish in the next two days as well as a good bit of activity in my pastoral ministry. Blogging got pushed out by a few things that are actually more pressing. I hate to see that happen, but the reality is there are only 24 hours in anyone’s day. Sometimes the important will get pushed aside by the very important. At that point we have a choice. We can either just let it go and move on or we can look for those open moments and catch up. This is what I choose.

The reason for this choice is pretty simple. Someone out there needs encouragement. Someone out there needs inspiration, someone out there needs to know that getting behind is a fact of life, but missing your goals does not have to be.

Where are you trying to get? What are you trying to accomplish? You’re not going to get there by giving up. Press on.

It’s far better the catch up, than it is to give up.

Last night I got a call to be a part of a city-wide revival in the capitol city of my home state. I am excited to be a part of it but as I was thinking about the invitation I realized the chain of events that led to the invitation. It’s pretty cool.

About four years ago, in the middle of winter, I was sitting in the Newark NJ airport waiting to board a flight for sunny FL to see an old friend and minister at four or five churches. I was excited to be able to get out of the cold for a few days and to have the opportunity to share God’s Word. I was sitting there, “minding my own business” (which I guess is not really the case as we shall soon see.) when I heard the group of people behind me saying things like “Mexico” and “mission trip.” My curiosity was piqued so I left minding my own business behind and started to chat with them. It turns out they were from a church about an hour from my home and they had a pretty thriving art ministry. From there the conversation expanded to the point where I was sketching for them and they anointed me for my ministry trip. It may be the best time I have ever had in an airport.

Well, of course, as soon as I got back from Florida, I made contact with them and they put me in touch with the director of their art ministry, who has since become a great friend of mine. We’ve done a few things together here and there, but it hadn’t worked out for me to be able to work with their team, until now. Four years later, all the pieces have fallen into place to do something really cool together and I can’t wait to see what comes of it.

Why do I share this story? When it comes to the Kingdom of God, “minding your own business” is really overrated. Better to pray for and look for opportunities to meet other believers, share your gifts and see where God is leading. A big part of this is being mindful of those who are around you. This is how you see the people who might need your help and sometimes the people who can help you. God is always at work and you never know what He will do, so you need to…

Be Mindful!

I’m just finishing up a tour to Florida. I was gone for 10 days and I learned a few things that I thought might be helpful to you all.

1. The best laid plans don’t always work.
I tried to work out quite a few more presentations than the six I ended up doing. It looked like these things were going to come through but for one reason or another they fell through.
One thing I learned from this is when your ministry is dependent on churches, the week before Easter is not always the best time. A few of the places said they simply had too much going.

2. Sometimes your plans aren’t the best.
The truth is after four presentations in two days and two ten hour days of driving, I would not have been anywhere near my best, so perhaps having a few less presentations was better.

3. Touring the way I do it is difficult.
In previous years, when I would travel this long, I would fly, limiting my painting to small canvasses on a small portable easel. This time I felt like I wanted to do my larger presentations. This meant I had to drive a van load of equipment with me. Financially fuel is less expensive than flying but the time more than balances the costs. In the ideal world, having someone with me to help with all the work and maybe even collaborate on the presentations would be really great. Which brings us to…

4. Traveling alone is tough.
I was really grateful for the friends I had to spend time with at my various stops and really valued the conversations we had along the way. The volume of alone time I had on this trip showed me even more clearly that I am a pretty “social animal.”

5. Bringing me in is an act of faith.
The people who give us the opportunity to present our work are taking a risk. Their credibility is at least partially on the line and so we need to bring our best every time.

6. Character is revealed in the strangest ways.
I must confess, toward the end of both of my ten hour driving days, I ended up in major traffic jams. The combination of stress and exhaustion showed me that there are still some areas of my character that still need work.

7. I no longer value all forms of creativity.
One thing I noticed in the traffic mayhem was some people begin to drive “creatively.” It turns out having been cooped up in traffic too long gets people to try things no person should try. I saw several people trying to make radical moves that almost caused accidents, which would have made things so much worse. Also, I must confess there was a great temptation to ram all the people that tried to make a fourth lane by driving past all the people who were waiting in line, but that goes to number 4.

8. Loving what you do is not as good as being with who you love.
I really love what I do. It is truly my call and it was really exciting, but about two days in, I was already missing my family and Sunday night when I knew my family was together with my grandson, it made it really difficult. I love my work, but I love my family more. We have to keep balance and keep our priorities straight.

This day happens only once every four years and it’s a huge marvel when you think about it. Long before the advent of computers, satellites, etc., back as far as the 1500s, someone figured out that it takes 365 and a quarter days for the earth to travel around the sun. To some that quarter day, six measly hours, wouldn’t make a difference. In fact the difference it makes is huge. Every four years, we’d lose a day and eventually seasons would get all mixed up, summer would be winter and vice versa. It would create a plethora of problems. Leap day was the solution. Once every four years, February gains a day and the problem is solved.

So happy leap day. Now let’s take it a little further. A once in four years day deserves something special. So today the challenge is to create something worthy of a day that happens only once in four years. Maybe something odd, or unique, or just plain cool. What will you create for leap day?

I’d love to see it. Share a link in the comments.

Here’s what I want you to do. Today is the day to pull out all the stops. Today is the day to throw away the negativity and every negative “what if?” Today is the day to let your imagination soar. Today I want you to imagine a better world. Better yet, today I want you to imagine our part in making a better world. Think about that thing that makes you say “someone should do something about that…” Now imagine you’re that someone. What would you do? What is the change you would like see? Imagine a world where that change has been made. What does it look like? What would you do? Imagine every limitation between you and that dream has bee torn down. It’s gone, nothing stands in your way. What would you be doing today?

You see this is imagination properly used. Imagination allows us to see a brighter future and say, “Why not?” God gave you the ability to imagine for a reason, and I believe this is it. To see the solution and to be a part of it, to do good in our world. This is a big part of why we were created. Ephesians 2:10 tells us this, “For we are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do.” This is our purpose and while there will still be obstacles, some of the greatest obstacles are the misused imaginations that keep us from ever getting started. Imagining those obstacles gone will give you a clearer view of what will happen if you power through them, in Christ, to the goal. God makes the impossible possible and imagination helps us to make those things only we can see, the invisible, visible.

I can’t promise the actual obstacles will be removed. I can’t promise you success but here’s what God promised. He who began a good work in you, will carry it through to completion in the day of Christ Jesus. Sometimes I believe God begins those works in our imagination. So what do you imagine, in your deepest, most consecrated imagination. When you open your heart to God and your mind to what He is doing, what do you imagine?

Now pray and then take the first step in making it reality. This is imagination properly used.

Imagine a better world and work toward it.

So one day after I post about posting every day, I miss a few days in a row. It happens, but like I said, I catch them up sooner or later. Through the marvels of modern technology, I can “travel back in time” and drop this into the right order, even if it’s three days late. Robert Burns wrote a poem Which stated, “the best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry,” and I can attest that this is true. Things don’t always turn out the way you plan them, but there are often things we can do to make it up.

Again faithfulness is huge. I write this three days late at 2:31 a.m. Unable to sleep because of a minor health annoyance, I got up and needed a diversion until the need for sleep returns me to bed. Thoughts took over and the kernel of an idea was formed. “The best laid schemes…” from there, I began to write. Somewhere along the line I came up with the ida to post every day. The commitment is as much to myself as it is to you. It keeps me accountable. It keeps me thinking. It keeps me on task. It’s not an obligation. No one dies if I miss a day. The world keeps turning. Life goes on. People will still create. I am under no delusion of my own importance. I just know how I work. Miss a day and I will miss two, or three and after a while, I start to wonder if it matters. From there the slope gets steep and slippery.

The fact is, I believe it matters. I believe creative ministry is my call from God and I believe that because of that, I need to bring my best to it. My best requires discipline. Discipline is a side effect of faithfulness. Those things we do daily become habits. Sowing the best I have into the world at any given moment in the hopes of helping and encouraging someone else is one of the best things I can do with my limited time on this planet. I’m sure sometimes I will miss the mark, but tomorrow is another day and on that day I will once again give my best for that day. Sooner or later, I will hit the mark.

My prayer is that these things will hit home with someone, that for at least one person I will write something they needed to read. Something that will bless them. Something that will spur them on to love and good deeds. If that happens, it’s a success. If not, tomorrow is another day—another chance to make an impact and as long as God allows, I will make the effort.

Some days you just have to accept that life is unpredictable. But to every day, bring your best.

The best laid schemes should always be focused on doing good.