Posts Tagged ‘TMNT’

Okay, I know what you’re thinking, so let me state it. First and foremost believe in God. Place your faith in Jesus, trust Him for salvation, and everything else. Nowhere in here am I calling for idolatry or anything like that. Instead I am asking you to overcome the naysayers and act on the ideas that come to you, when others don’t quite get it. If you don’t believe in your idea no one else will. You have to believe.

What reminded me of this was today when I was at the bank. My bank has this closes circuit TV thing that plays little news flashes in sort of a slide show format. I was closing up my transaction when I saw it. They had a little blurb about one of my favorite things—Star Wars, specifically the new movie that comes out soon. I know there is a huge buzz around this movie and I am really looking forward to seeing it. When I think of all the billions of dollars that property had made, it boggles the imagination, but you know what’s even more mind boggling? Several studios passed on it. It was a weird idea, Sci Fi was seen as a dead genre and seen as a huge risk, George Lucas had to believe in it, run past the nay sayers, and get it done. When I think about it, there is a realization. I am 56 years old. The first film came out when I was in seventh grade and they’re still relevant. Creative ideas have a way of taking on a life of their own.

Then a few days ago I was watching a cool show called The Toys That Made Us. The first episode of this season was on another of my all time favorites. Two guys who wanted to be comic book artists, got together one night and started to sketch. They were goofing around and started off trying to crack each other up, when one of them drew a turtle with a pair of nunchucks. This was the birth of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Needless to say, at first a lot of people didn’t get it and Eastman and Laird decided to self publish. Before anyone else would believe in it, Eastman and Laird had to.

These are just two of many ideas that people didn’t get that ended up really making a mark, not to mention making their creators very wealthy. I’m not saying money should be a primary motivation, rather I’m saying create something that means something to you and then believe in it enough to do the work. Now you might wonder what this has to do with the spiritual component of this blog. Well I’ll tell you, and it might be a bit of a stretch, but I don’t think so. Consider our heavenly Father, the ultimate creator. His love and care for us an all He has done for us, culminating in the gift of Christ. Consider the parable of the talents where the master invests talents in his servants and one thing becomes clear: God believes in His creation. Maybe it’s time we believe in ours.

Now again our faith in Christ has to supersede everything else, but we need to believe in what we do enough to do the work and put it out there, because you never know what will happen if you do it, but you know nothing will happen if you do nothing.

Now look, some ideas truly have no merit, but don’t be too quick to write your idea off as crazy. Pray and do the work if the Lord leads. After all you never know. I’m not saying Star Wars or TMNT are godly creations, but, again, creative ideas have a way of taking on a life of their own. After all someone green-lighted a movie about sharks in tornados… Six times!

One day I had a great idea. It was a gag for a cartoon and it was funny. “If vegetarians eat only vegetables, should we be afraid of humanitarians.” I drew a head hunter standing in front of a huge boiling pot, ala the Tarzan movies and posted it, waiting for people to start complimenting my comedic genius. That’s not what happened. Instead I got a very kind note from an artist friend. Now my friend is African American, and he started off so kindly and patiently and said something to the effect of, “Today, a lot of people see images like the one you just posted as racist. I know your heart, and I know that’s not want you meant, but I thought you should know.” Now I’ll confess part of me wanted to get mad. I really liked the cartoon. It was funny andThe drawing came together really well, but my friend spoke the truth in love to me, and I respected him enough to take the comic down. That’s the other part of the reason I draw creatures.

You see my creatures are unique and different and they don’t look like anyone, and because they don’t look like anyone, they can represent everyone and that’s huge. The truth is, I don’t do these things, especially my cartoons for my health. I do them to communicate, and I want to cast a wide net. I want people to mull over the messages and maybe, just maybe apply them or at least consider what I’m saying. The messages do sometimes have an edge to them and I don’t shy away from controversy, but I want to be heard. The creatures are less offensive and so they don’t create a barrier. It’s another reason I use the creatures. Offense builds walls where I want windows.

I share this message for two reasons. First of all I wanted to use my friend as an example. He cared enough to share what could have been a very hard truth. We artists tend to take our work pretty personally. Add to that the fact that he saw a meaning I never thought of, intended, or even considered and it could have been touchy. He was looking out for me and he validated me while showing me an unintended, potentially hurtful consequence and I received it, largely because of the heart with which he shared it.

Lastly, I am fully aware that we live in a world that, at times, seems way too touchy. Those of us who sometimes deal in humor, have to be especially aware of this. At the end of the day though, if we are going to be communicators, we have to be willing to look for barriers to the message in our work and tear down as many walls as we can. This is not to say we shy away from truth, but rather that we speak the truth in love. In my case, the image was well done, and the gag was funny, but a funny gag and a well drawn picture is not worth as much as my credibility, when I’m saying something that’s important. Now to be clear, you will never avoid offending everyone. I’m sure even my creatures offend some, but to maximize our effectiveness, we should work hard to minimize offense. My rule of thumb is the gospel will offend, but it’s message is still the truth that sets us free. It’s the hill I’d die on, everything else is negotiable.

That’s why I draw creatures. Why do you do what you do? Investigating that and knowing the answer is important.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles BackdropsFor the longest time, I treated my art and my faith separately, Christian was who I was and art was what I did. When I discovered that Jesus needed to be lord over my entire life, I thought the creature thing was done. After all how could God use someone who creates creatures in His Kingdom? (Yes, I am aware of how obvious that is now. I wasn’t then.) I ended up freelancing for a licensee of the Ninja Turtles, and while the work was a blast, it was taking me down a pretty bad road. My client had me convinced he was going to bring me the kind of fame and fortune turtle creators Eastman and Laird were experiencing and I was hooked. I really fell hard into idolatry to my career and I was ruining my life. Fortunately God intervened and I laid art down for a season. During this time I got my call to ministry, and I figured being a professional artist was behind me. Well that lasted about six months. You see when I laid art down, I told God I would never pick it up again unless I was using it for him. I figured that meant a church project here and there and nothing more. God had other plans and eventually God showed me how I could use art in ministry and that’s when this ministry and my speaking ministry was born. 

But what about the creatures, after all there’s no room for creatures in the Kingdom. Well one day I was preparing to preach at my friend’s church. One of the verses that has resonated with me since the start of my faith journey was 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, He is a new creation, the old has gone and the new has come.” The event I was preaching at was a youth event, and so I decided to preach on being a new creation in Christ and the transformative power of God. Now I knew my friend was a King James guy, and he asked that all preachers at his church preach from the KJV, but I knew the Old English language of the text would make it hard for me to construct the message, so I decided to cheat, just a little. I would write my message from the NIV (my translation of choice at the time) and then, after I was done, I would just cut and paste the King James text into my message. How different could it be?

Well it was different. Where the NIV said “new creation” the KJV said “new creature.” How could I use that? How would people, especially kids respond to being called “creatures?” But then other thoughts came into play, “New Creature, hey wait, I draw creatures, or at least I used to. I wonder could I somehow use creatures to communicate the Gospel?” That was the beginning of my web comic and countless works of art where I do just that.

The moral of this story is simple. God can use virtually anything that we will submit to Him. Your tests become your testimony. Your life story, yes, the good, the bad and even the ugly can show His goodness to a world that desperately needs it, and your gifts and talents, even the unusual ones, can be used to His glory. Look at all you have, and ask God how He would use it. Then step out in faith. Remember 1 Peter 4:10, each one should use whatever gifts he has received to serve others. Any gift submitted to God can be used to glorify Him.

What have you given to God and what are you holding back? Remember when God says whatever gifts, He means it.

This week at the Foundry the pastor is doing a series on our “Super Powers” Spiritual gifts and talents. I speed painted these Ninja Turtles one in each of the services. Why the turtles in a worship service? I went in a little different direction to start my message. For those who don’t know, for a brief period of time, I made a small part of my living working for a licensee of the Ninja Turtles (this was during the Turtle Mania period of the late 80s and early 90s). My client sold me a pipe dream of wealth and fame and I fell for it. I was obsessed with becoming a famous artist and in the process I misused my gift. I almost lost everything.

I shared this story as a lead in to how to properly use our gifts and why that is important. It ended up being a well received and challenging message. I look back on my TMNT period fondly for two reasons: 1. I got to do some pretty interesting stuff and 2. It was a time in my life when God withheld what I thought I wanted to give me what I really needed. I am alive, healthy and in ministry today because God loved me enough to say no to a dream, and when I gave it over to Him, He gave me a better one.

Today I get to paint pictures and yes even the Ninja Turtles to the glory of God.

Cowabunga, God is awesome.