Posts Tagged ‘storytelling’


One of my Christmas gifts this year was a collection of eight books by C.S. Lewis. So far I have read four. They are amazing. These are not the Narnia books, but rather his philosophical books. I have to admit that while I am enjoying them, they are definitely at the top end of my reading level, and I’m not getting it all. No worries I can always reread them at a later date and even at this point I am learning a lot.

The book I’m reading now is different. This book is the Lewis I really love. The allegorical kind, where Lewis teaches great truths in the guise of stories. The book is called The Great Divorce, and no, it has nothing to do with marriage. It’s about heaven and hell and Salvation. In this allegorical story, Lewis imagines a bus trip from hell to heaven where the passengers are allowed to stay if they want. I know this is nowhere near correct theological but again remember, it’s an allegory. The stories relate to people now alive and their attitudes toward life, faith and the afterlife. One particular account features the protagonist (who seems to represent the author himself) is speaking to his “guide.” He at first is wondering why “the solid people” (the residents of heaven) don’t go down to hell to rescue those who are there. His question then goes to what about the people who never board the bus for heaven, who he calls “poor souls.” His guide, who he calls George MacDonald (a man who was a strong influence on Lewis in real life). This is his response.

Everyone who wishes it does. Never fear. There are only two kinds of people in the end; Those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says “Thy will be done.” All that are in hell choose it. Without that self choice, there would be no hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock, it is opened.

Again this is allegorical language, not necessarily theological and yet there is a lot of truth here. The point is very simple. Salvation is offered to everyone who will believe, and everyone who believes will receive. So many people want to overthink it, or look for the loophole, or try to outsmart the Lord. So many are caught up in their own plans and contrivances and beliefs that are not scriptural. The simple truth of the matter is Jesus is the way the truth and the life. He is the only way. He sets the terms and if we enter, we enter through Him alone.

Lewis is a powerful storyteller, who brings the point home masterfully. Those of us with creative gifts were given those gifts to share the Gospel truth. How would you tell His story?


So last night I was painting. I had create the piece for my next paint party at church. I got something I’m really happy with, by the way. I also did an experimental sketch portrait of Jesus. I got this sort of out there idea for a series of paintings and a big presentation, but first, I needed to do this sketch. I also saw some art that inspired me to try some new techniques and color ideas, so I was experimenting. I decided while I was painting I would listen to some movies on my Kindle fire. The first was Walt Before Mickey, the story of Walt Disney’s early years, and no surprises here, I loved it. I’ve long been an admirer of Mr. Disney’s work and this was a great story. Really inspirational. I wish I’d watched it last.

Instead I watched Founder, which is the story of Ray A Kroc, “founder” of McDonald’s. I’m trying to lost some weight and abstain from fast food, and this movie will help. If even a tenth of what this movie said was true, it could keep me out of McDonald’s for a very long time. The guy basically stole everything from two guys he met in California who were the true founders of McDonald’s. Every innovation, every idea, everything right down to their name. I mean the McDonald brothers basically invented fast food, and he took it all from them basically with no qualms at all. Again I have to keep in mind, Hollywood never lets the facts get in the way of a good story, and I should probably give Kroc the benefit of the doubt, but this thing really hit me and it led me to a pretty obvious conclusion. The way we live matters. The story our lives tell matters. Oh, Kroc became a very wealthy man, and his company has done some real good in the world, but at what cost. Someone very wise said something about winning the world and long your soul. I won’t speak the condition of Kroc’s actual soul, that’s up to his Maker, but he (at least as this movie portrays him) surely lost touch with his moral soul.

And that brings me to the other thing I’ve been dealing with lately. I saw this video of a young “comedian” (to be a comedian, you should actually be funny, hence the quotes) that’s making it’s way around the “inter-webs.” She was speaking at the White House Correspondent’s dinner. Now I know that thing is a roast, and I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt, but it was just an awful, profanity laced diatribe, crude and vulgar and oh yes, not at all funny. Today I saw one of these hysterical memes saying the Republicans want her to be punished. I’ve learned a long time ago that if you want to gin up controversy where there is none, all you have to do is make a preposterous meme and post it to Facebook. About three quarters of the world will fall for it hook line and sinker. I for the record do not agree that she should be punished. The First Amendment is a two edged sword, step on someone else’s free speech and sooner or later they’ll come for yours. I don’t think she should be punished, or censored or anything of the kind. Instead, I will simply remember, public figures live and die on attention, and so I will do the one thing that always works. I will turn her off.

See the thing is, if I don’t like your story, there are a million other stories I can plug into and if enough people take that tactic, you have a choice, change your story or fade into oblivion. The story we live, for better or worse, matters. Live a better story.


Another of my Christmas gifts this year was a DVD copy of one of my favorite movies, Jurassic World. While unfortunately this one probably has the least influence of Jurassic Park creator, the late Michael Crichton, I really think it is the best movie of the series. One of the things that makes it so endearing to me is because it picks up on Crichton’s original theme, Just because you can do something, doesn’t necessarily mean you should. This has ramifications far beyond cloning dinosaurs, and I think that’s the point.

In this film, we see once again that human beings are slow learners when it comes to cause and effect. Three movies worth of failed attempts at harnessing dinosaurs for fun and profit should have showed us this just doesn’t work, but no. In Jurassic World, the people think they finally have it figured out. They have created a great amusement park, but the people want more. Corporate greed says give it to them, so they begin to make designer dinosaurs, because the real deal is not terrifying or dangerous enough. Of course the results are disastrous. Playing God always is and again this has ramifications far beyond cloning dinosaurs. Are you catching a theme?

Of course there are also other villains, like short sighted human beings who think that they can control “nature” and turn it into a weapon for profit. Everybody wants to rule the world, I guess and while this all may be seeming a bit far-fetched and yet what makes these movies and the books they are based on work is the fact that the reader can imagine people actually doing all of this. The ramifications are far beyond cloning dinosaurs.

So what can we learn from this? A couple things.
First off, only God is God and we forget that to our peril. There’s a reason dinosaurs and humans do not coexist (at least not since the flood for my New Earth readers) and there is a reason for everything God does. There are things that His permissive will, will allow us to do, that are not to our benefit, but rather a consequence of free will. This is summed up in the them of the book. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. We need to ask that question before making the choice to do anything. Just because God does not stop you from doing something doesn’t mean He wants you to do it.
Instead we should ask, “Does this choice, this action, line up with what I know about God as He reveals Himself in Scripture?” If not, we should not do it. Anything else is playing God and you’re not Him.

Secondly greed and pride will mess you up, every time. We’re not just talking making dinosaurs here. Our lives are supposed to be lived to the glory of God. If He can’t be glorified in our actions we should not take them. Scripture says you can’t serve two masters (God and money). Pride is the sin that made the devil fall, and if it made him fall, you can’t beat it at least not without God’s help. God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Which one are you?

The reason all of this is so important is simple. As a creative, you can do what a lot of people cannot. As a result, you will be presented with many opportunities to do a lot of things. Not all of them are good. We need to guard our hearts, seek God and make good choices, because the thing is…

Just ’cause you CAN do something, doesn’t mean you SHOULD.


lightndarknessI wrote this for an advent reading for Christmas Eve at my church and thought it might be good to share here. If you’re from my church, you might want skip this one.

Imagine this room was totally dark. You couldn’t see a thing, but then someone lit a match, a candle, even a small spark. It might be small but in total darkness it’s the only then you would see and it would completely draw your attention. That’s the power of light. It makes darkness disappear. Even a tiny light overcomes the darkness.

Think about our world. Now imagine it in total darkness. In some ways it’s not terribly hard. War and terror and disease and pain and a whole bunch of other things that could make our lives and our world feel very dark. There are times when we might be tempted to look at God and ask “How could you let this happen?” What we need to remember is this is not the world as God intended. As a matter of fact the first words of God recorded in Scripture are “Let there be light.”

Having said this on the first day, He didn’t make our sources of light, the sun the moon and stars until the fourth day. Before that, He was the light. He is the light. 1 John 1:5 reminds us, “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.”

The darkness in the world is the result not of God’s will, but of the fall of man. If the world is dark, It’s our fault. Still God’s desire for us is not that we would walk in darkness, but that we would live in the light of His love, not just in this world, but forever, and so He set a plan in place to make it so. Isaiah 9 foretold it. The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. 700 years before the birth of Christ, God proclaimed it, the light is coming. 2,000 years after that first Christmas night, the light is here. Can you see it? Can you see Him?

Jesus came to be so many things, Lord, Savior, King, Teacher, Perfect Example and yes Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and the Prince of Peace. He is all those things and many more, but one of the big ones is found in John 8: When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” He came to be our light, to light our path through this life to eternity. No believer can deny that and yet we might ask “If that is the case, why is our world so dark.” Then you might read John 9:5 “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

So does that mean Jesus is no longer with us? No, remember the angel told us He would be Immanuel, God with us.” And He is with us. And maybe, just maybe that’s why in the Sermon on the mount, He pointed to us, His followers and said “You are the light of the world. “ The light has come and He gave His life and He lives in us, and we are called to shine with His light. The people walking in darkness have seen a great light and that light still shines. The question for us is will we shine? He is the light. Let Him shine through you!


You’ve probably been hearing about this a lot lately, the idea of fake news. I have to tell you the truth today, fake news is for real. Is it true, of course not, but, and this is something anyone who wants to communicate any message needs to learn, to the vast majority of the public, perception is reality. Think about how many people believe all manner of things after having seen nothing more than a social media meme. Can I tell you the truth? I can generate about four memes an hour, more if I use other people’s images and content and if I didn’t care about truth, I think I could make most people believe anything I put out there. That’s the power if imagery and media and many people are dong just that and deceiving the masses.

Now to be clear I do care about truth, but you have no idea the temptation I have been under to roll out a fake story, just to watch it get legs and then tell people, “I made it all up.” It would be a great way to make this point. Why haven’t I done it? Because like I said before, I care about truth. I’d never want to be responsible for perpetuating a lie, even to prove a point. Also I value the people who come to this site to read and learn and I would never want to lose credibility. I value your trust. Of course all of this pales in comparison to the fact that I’m a minister of the Gospel and as such I represent the personification of truth, Jesus Christ.

Guys there is tremendous power in a story. We can do great good in the form of telling stories. We can also generate tremendous harm and it is important that we are careful with what we share. Do you know this thing to be true? Can you prove it? Will sharing it do more harm than good? All of these questions should help us to decide what to (and what not to) share. Getting caught up in a lie, even unintentionally will destroy (or at least damage) your credibility. Perpetuating a lie on purpose is downright diabolical.

Brothers and sisters, we who claim the name of Christ, have got to get our stories straight. We are called to speak the truth in love, and in this mission, both elements are essential. Love without truth is a lie (and ceases to be love) and truth without love is usually just plain mean (and probably won’t be heard.) All these fake news stories leave us in a place of being less and less sure what we can believe. That can be a benefit if it makes us do our homework, but for the most part, not being able to take anything at face value erodes trust to the point where most people have no idea what to believe. We need to tell a better story. Thank God we have the greatest story ever told in our arsenal. We Christians always need to lead with truth wrapped in love. It will not always be popular, but it will always be right.

A famous man once said, “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.” This is precisely the aim of fake news, and it cannot be denied because fake news is nothing but a lie that contains enough of a ring of truth that when repeated becomes believable. That famous man was Adolph Hitler, a man responsible for the death of probably upwards of 11 million people, mostly as the result of believable lies. We can and must do better.

Get the facts before you spread information. Tell a better story, and speak the truth in love. Put an end to the fake news. After all it is the truth that sets us free.


I have had a wonderful week ministering to the folks at Greenmount Church of the Brethren in Harrisonburg, VA this week and this morning I am hitting the road for home which is always great, because as much as I love my ministry I do miss my family and the folks at home. The result is a short post this morning. I happened to jump over to Facebook quick before I pack the computer for the journey home. I’m FB friends with Steve Wiggins, the lead singer of the band Big Tent Revival. He posted a picture that someone had wrote him in on an absentee ballot for president. When I saw it, I thought about what is probably my favorite song from them. It’s called Two Sets of Joneses. This is the epitome of telling a better story, and a real reminder for all of us. Jesus needs to be the center of our lives. If He is, we will be able to tell (and live) a better story.


Scott Erickson is one of the most innovative, thought provoking artists out there. Check out this awesome film he just made and see if it doesn’t touch your heart. This is telling a better story at its finest.