Posts Tagged ‘perseverance’

Today on my way out the door, I put on my Wallace the Lucky Rabbit T-shirt. I got it on deep discount at the Disney Store clearance rack. It was probably on clearance because a lot of people don’t know Wallace, which is a shame, because he paved the way for what might be the most famous cartoon character of all time. You see a long time ago a young animator got his big break. One of the largest animation studios around contracted him to begin making shorts of his original character, Wallace the Lucky Rabbit. I never believed in luck and the young animator shouldn’t have either. The studio made a shady deal with the young animator, and basically stole his beloved creation out from under him. Wallace turned out to be not so lucky after all. Legend has it the young animator pretty much decided at that point he would not work for anyone else ever again and set out to create another character. That character starred in a short called Steamboat Willie, but his real name was Mickey Mouse. The young animator of course was the legendary Walt Disney.

Why do I share this story? To show you that no one is truly an overnight success and the road to creative glory is usually littered with many bitter disappointments. The ones who succeed are the ones who jump right back in, maybe a little wiser, and keep going.

No one promised that the roads of creativity or faith would be easy. The race goes to the ones who persevere. Learn from your mistakes and your disappointments and keep going. Your next creation might be the one that opens the door, or it might not, but you’ll never know if you don’t create it.

There’s no such thing as luck. Keep working! (The above piece of art, is just a little fan art digital sketch I did, in case you’ve never seen Wallace.)

This year, I am going to post creative challenges from God’s Word, the idea is simple, read the passage and create something based on it.

Let’s continue on with perseverance

Romans 5:2-5

This passage talks about how struggles build perseverance, perseverance builds character and character builds hope. How would you express this passage to someone who is struggling? How could you express it as a reminder to you in your current struggle or next struggle.

One of the things that concerns me most in the church today, especially with regard to using our gifts in creative pursuits is the concept of God’s blessing. It is crucial that we get this point. I have heard many people over the years say something to the effect of “I tried that and God wasn’t in it.” or “God’s blessing wasn’t on it.” At times, I’ve felt the need to press in and find out why they thought this was the case and almost every time the response is some variation of, it wasn’t easy.

Oh that God would make everything that He wants us to do easy, but that is often not the case. More often the things He calls us to are anything but easy, and to see ease as a sign of God’s blessing, is to disregard the example of virtually every important person in Scripture, including Paul and especially Jesus.

Consider these words from Hebrews 12:1 and 2 (NIV) “…And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” Here we see Jesus, realizing there would be joy in the accomplishment of His goals, for Himself, for the Father and for us as well, and because He could see the joy that would come, He would endure the cross—perhaps the greatest difficulty faced by anyone, ever. Was crucifixion easy? Absolutely not! Was God’s blessing all over that situation? Beyond a doubt and so it is with us.

The writer of Hebrews relates this Christian life to a race. Races are likewise the antithesis of easy and so we are urged to perseverance. In other words, God is saying, He knows it’s hard, but we need to keep going, because the goal is worth pursuing.

I want to close this passage with a reminder from one of the most persevering people in all of Scripture. Paul wrote in Romans 5:2-5 (NIV) “…And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Struggle is part of this life in Christ, probably by design, because of what the struggle produces in the life of the believer. Perseverance and character are so urgently needed in our world today, and notice they bring a wonderful side effect, hope.

What God has called you to will most likely not be easy. Do it anyway. Persevere. Let God use the struggle to build you. As Churchill once said, “Never give up and never surrender.” Well maybe it’s better stated this way, “Surrender to God and never give up.”

Assignment: Look back over your life. Was there anything you gave up on because it was hard? What were the effects of your giving up? Any regrets? Now look at you current goal. What will be gained if you succeed. What will be lost if you quit.

Here and there, I have been posting about this massive art project I’m working on. The one that should take me at least a year to complete—the one that is forcing this speed painter, whose spent most of his career having to work fast, to slow down and work very methodically. Well, by my calculations (and calculations don’t always go well with me), I’m about a 16th of the way through the process. Here’s the truth, I’m not sure I like it. I’m not sure it’s working and there’s part of me that wonders if I should do the other 15/16 or if it’s time to give up, salvage the canvas and do something else. Yes folks my piece has hit the awkward phase.

Most projects (*especially if you’re trying something you’ve never done before) hit an awkward phase. To some degree even God is not immune. Consider His greatest work, humanity, you hit an awkward phase, *unless you’re one of those disgusting people who was beautiful all the way through adolescence. Most of us hit that phase, our body parts grew at different paces, we get sort of gangly and awkward. Here’s the thing, we also know God knows exactly what He’s doing and even what we see as the awkward phase is really just a natural part of his omniscient design. We go through that phase to get to where we are supposed to be. What we see as awkward is actually an essential part of our development. We have to pass through it. Maybe your work is the same way.

Now of course you’re not God, and there is always the possibility that you are botching your project. Consider for a moment though that your creation isn’t damaged. Maybe it’s just going through a phase. Don’t give up on it. It may well be a natural part of it’s development. Keep going and see it through. Finish what you started. Maybe it’s just the awkward phase. Beauty is happening. It might just take a little while.

I have a confession today. If you want to belittle me or make me feel like less of a man, all you need to do is put a weed trimmer in my hand. You know, a string trimmer, weed whacker, etc. It would not be to strong of a word to say I hate them. I mean passionately. I had one for years that took forever to start and was giving out, so I finally broke down to get a new one. I thought this would overcome my problem. I was wrong. Three pulls and it started and I was happy. I followed all the instructions and it worked, for about ten minutes. Then it started stalling out. As soon as this happens I just feel worthless, like less of a man. Like a real man could make this work. And then of course, anger kicks in, which makes me question my qualifications to do things like ministry. I don’t like myself when I am using one of these devices, not even a little bit. To make matters worse when I thought maybe I finally had my issues (or at least the machine’s issues) somewhat worked out, I was trimming around a tree, focusing on the task at hand and I walked head first into a tree branch, and not at all gently. Blood was running down my face. I was semi proud of myself because I didn’t throw the trimmer across the yard, or throw it down and begin smashing it, but believe me when I tell you neither of those options were off the table of my mind. Every time this thing leaves the shed, I end up feeling like a useless human being.

So why do I share this story of bad behavior? Well for a couple of reasons. The first of which is there is no rational reason to feel the way I feel when these struggles happen. I need to get to the source of these feelings and with God’s help overcome them. Having trouble with a very temperamental machine is not a sign that I am less of a man, it’s a sign that I need to learn how to make it work or get it repaired. I didn’t learn these skills as a kid and that is a bummer, but I am smart enough to learn them now if I can stay rational and not give up (or give the thing the smashing it sometimes feels like it so richly deserves). There are things that we all feel we should be able to do by certain stages in our lives, and the things that come hard for us can really mess with our self esteem. At the end of the day part of all this is to remember who we are in Christ and overcome it. I’m not less of a man because I have not mastered this skill. I’m still God’s child and that doesn’t change because I get angry and frustrated. Bringing this into the creative world, you’re not less of an artist because a medium or a project drives you to distraction. These things may reveal flaws in your character that need to be overcome. God is faithful and He can help us overcome and make us better.

The other side of this is the impulse to just quit. I can’t do it. Now if you’re in a position to be able to pay someone else to do the things you hate to do, that may be an option, but I’m not there and besides, quitting this will not help me to overcome something in my life that still needs to be overcome. Also i don’t really feel like it would be fair to ask my family to do something I have this much trouble with and it still needs to be done. I need to tough it out, do the work and trust God to make me a better person through it. At the end of the day, sometimes that’s why struggles enter our live’s. So don’t give up. Trust God to bring you through, remember who you are and…

Do it anyway!

There are times when this question is asked in anguish. This isn’t one of those times. This time it just comes out of a mild frustration. Yesterday I shared about the struggles with creating a painting for the context of a paint party. I shared this to deal with the importance of the context of our creativity, i.e. why are we creating and for whom? But there’s something else that really gets my goat and makes me ask, “Why, God, Why?”

Here it is. The painting that became the black canvas was beautiful in my mind. It would have been one anyone, at least anyone who likes that genre of art, would have loved to hang on their walls. I could see it clearly, the issue was, I could not make my hands create it. Somewhere in the 40 inches between my brain and my right hand (approximately) something got lost in the translation. It’s the great frustration for me in art. I can’t always seem to make something look as beautiful as it is in my head. “Why, God, Why?”

There’s only one conclusion that I can come to and I share this to hopefully alleviate your frustration. Here it is, are you ready? Nobody’s perfect. We’re not yet perfect. We will be in heaven, but we;re not in heaven yet. Here on earth, things get lost in translation, but maybe that’s okay. The fact that I can’t always capture what I see in my mind will name one of a couple things happen:

First it might make me give up on the piece. I’m not a fan of giving up, but let’s face facts. We creatives get a lot of ideas, but they’re not all good ones. Sometimes a failure is a way of showing us it’s time to let it go in for of an idea that will be more successful and work better. Don’t let a failure make you give up all creating, but sometimes it’s okay “paint the canvas black” and start over.

Look for the lesson. In this case, a failed painting inspired not one, but two blog posts that will go out to a world wide audience and hopefully help a few people to realize they’re not the only one who has these struggles.

It might make you press on. Sometimes the idea is really inspired and the frustration of not being able to actually make it happen forces us to try harder–to practice more—to develop out gifts until we can make what we see in our heads into reality.

The point once again is that failure is not fatal. We can always learn from our mistakes and move forward. The answer to the question, “Why, God, Why?” is not always apparent, but, especially in the case of our creative endeavors, there is a reason and it is a good reason because God is always good. In the case of my failed painting, I wasn’t that attached to the idea so when it crashed and burned, I was more than willing to let it go. It’s not a paint party idea, at least for now. I may try to render it as a drawing, or a piece of digital art, maybe even a coloring page where it can be more successful, but for the moment, I’ll doodle a little sketch to come back to it later and I’ll move on to what’s next.

Speaking of what’s next, I’d imagine my paint is dry enough to finish the piece and see if this one makes it or if I’m back to the drawing board. Creating is not always easy, but God is always good. Remember that and create something great today.

Well it finally happened. We had our first substantial snow of the year. In Pennsylvania that this took until nearly mid-February is pretty unusual, but as someone who is not a fan of the white stuff, I’ll take it. I know God has a reason for snow, and I know some love it, but for me the reason escapes me. I much prefer Spring, Summer and Fall, but I digress.

My church urged me to work from home yesterday and my wife and son who both work in education had snow days so we were all together, and that was kind of nice, but today it leaves all of us playing a bit of catch up. I did get some things done, but I also had to shovel the driveway, clear the cars and a couple other snow related duties. Snow all brings me to another unique place. Every year as I shovel our very long driveway I begin to realize that it is not an activity that will last forever. I keep telling my wife I don’t want to finish out my life in this climate, she keeps suggesting we get a snowblower. That’s not what I had in mind.

I am really torn. I love the church I serve and I hope for many good years there. I’ve already floated the idea of being a snow bird church, but they too would rather I get a snowblower. My grandson and my parents and most of the people I love live here and that would also make migration difficult. So I guess I am here for a while, Lord willing, and I will make the best of it.

Of course this also brought me to a point. In this creative life of ours, not everything will be a joy and we were never promised that it would be. When faced with a bad situation, or even just something we would not prefer to deal with, we need to remember this too shall pass and make the most of the cards we’re dealt. We need to look at the blessings of where we’re at right now and praise God for them.

God controls all of this and He has a good reason for everything, even snow. Trust Him in everything and keep being faithful to do all that you’ve been called to do.

The other day I shared about the song 2112 and the way it inspired me during a tough time early in my creative development. My friend and fellow creative Kindra, had not experienced the song and went to explore it. She looked up the lyrics and found them to be touching and inspirational until the end. You see 2112 does not have a happy ending. The young man finds himself hopeless in a cave. His guitar and his dream destroyed. His final words in the song are “my spirits are low in the depths of despair, my life blood spills over.” It sounds like he quit in the most permanent of ways and that is a tragedy.

First of all, if you ever get to that point, and I have been on that edge, please, please, please get help. Your life has incredible value and meaning and you are worth a lot more than the sum of your creations and dreams and you are loved. They say suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem and I will attest to the fact that that is true. I almost cut my life short in 1986 but the Lord intervened. About two weeks later, I met the woman who would become my wife, the next day I started my first job as an artist. My wife introduced me to Jesus and this amazing journey began. I think that’s my point. I almost gave up just before my breakthrough. Don’t do it.

It doesn’t have to be as drastic as giving up on life. It can be as simple as giving up on your dream. Quitting. I’ve often wondered how many people gave up on their dreams just before it would have come to be. That in itself is tragedy and it brings me to my point. How many great things have never been created because people gave up too soon? As Winston Churchill said in the midst of the biggest battle of his life, a literal world war…

Never give up… Never Surrender.

There is hope. Your dream can happen. You may need to shift your expectations. You may need to make adjustments but your life is not a no-win situation. You can win, and the only way to really lose is to quit. Keep going, persevere, press on and win.

I gave you the last words of the young man in the song 2112. These however are not the last words of the song. Before I go there, I should back up and give you the first words of the song as my first reminder. They are, “And the meek shall inherit the earth.” Sound familiar? They should, Jesus said them and He was, of course, right. It’s not always about power and might. Often it is about someone who is small in the eyes of the world who slogs it out and builds and grows and perseveres until he or she emerges victorious, which may be monumental success or it may be just moving the dream or cause forward for the next person to build on. We don’t get to pick that role, we jet to remain faithful and do what we do, The meek really do inherit the earth because the meek keep going and they trust in the One who called them.

The final words of the song, just after the young man’s life blood spills over, are “Attention all planets of the solar federation, we have assumed control. We have assumed control, We have assumed control.” The meaning of this is a little open ended, but here’s what I take it to mean. Seconds after the young man gives up, his oppressors are overthrown. The door would have been open for his victory. And I think that is the point. If you’re going to “shed your blood” (sweat and tears) in the name of a dream, a vision, a cause, a mission, especially the cause of Christ, don’t waste them by giving up too soon. Instead fight the food fight and finish the race. Paul said that. Live for all you’re worth in the name of our Lord and the vision He has placed in your heart, and keep going.

Never give up… Never surrender. (except to Jesus, surrender to Jesus!)

Okay, time for another confession. I would love to win the Powerball. I mean they regularly rack up prizes in the hundreds of millions of dollars and I could really use that kind of money. I could help a lot of people with a hundred million dollars. I also could make all my creative dreams come true. Yessiree I would love to hit the Powerball, but there’s a problem.

I don’t believe in gambling. I don’t play the lottery as a matter of conscience and faith. You can disagree if you want and I won’t hold it against you, but for me this is a line I won’t cross. Now of course, I know what some of you might be thinking…

You can’t win if you don’t play.

And if you’re thinking that, you’re absolutely right and this principle can be applied to your creative dreams as well. So many people want to do great creative things. They dream of writing the great American novel, hanging a painting in the Louvre, winning a Grammy, an Oscar, a Tony, of having a hit single or any of the other ways creatives measure success. Unfortunately dreaming is all they do and that will never get it done.

We have to give legs to our dreams. We need to do the hard work of bringing our dreams to reality. We have to create and we have to share those creations with the world. We have to make our best work, put it out there and keep improving. We have to do create every day. We have to perfect our craft and we have to let people know about it. What is an artist? Someone who makes art! What are you making? What are you doing? Are you sharing what you do? Are you putting it out there? If not, how do you expect people to find you.

You might think, “Well I’m not good enough yet.” How do you know if you haven’t tried. I’ve put out multiple books this year and a lot of work went into them and so far, no raging successes. So I’ve decided to give up… WRONG! I’m working on another book. I’m taking a different approach. I know who I am, I know my goals and my mission and so I keep working at it. I don’t know if I’ll ever have a NY Times best seller but then again that’s not my primary goal. My mission in life is to help people embrace their creativity and come to know love and follow Jesus and use their gifts to serve Him. Who knows maybe this book will be the one to take my career over the top, help me reach the masses, and add fuel to the creative ministry movement. Will it? I don’t know. In this creative life there are no guarantees. Oh wait, there is one…

You can’t win if you don’t play!

At the end of the day, a lot of this creative life comes down to determination. There are lots of talented people out there, some of them much better than you and me. We just have to deal with that. Comparison to them will likely frustrate you and make you want to quit, this is the exact opposite of what we should be doing. Instead, admire them, let them inspire you or ignore them, but keep doing what you do, with determination.

Look, only one person will ever be the best in the world at any one time and it’s not likely to be you, especially in something as subjective as the arts. There is however one thing at which you are automatically the best in the world, because you’re the only one in the world. Simply stated that is being you. The best thing you can be is the best you you can be. So find your path, your dream, your goal and work hard at it. Don’t worry about what anyone else is doing. They can’t be you. Instead apply all your best drive and despite toward learning and growing and improving. Be determined to improve every day, put aside the distractions and share your best work and your best self with the world. You won’t please everyone, but that’s not your goal. Your goal is to find the ones who love what you do and please them and of course all this is superseded by pleasing your Creator.

Be determined to give your best and be your best.