Posts Tagged ‘whatever gifts’

There was a time in my career when I freelanced for a licensee of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It was one of those Charles Dickens/Tale of Two Cities/Best of Times/Worst of Times scenarios. The business end of working with this particular licensee was at times extremely difficult, but I was working on the hottest property in the world at that time, and even now decades later, when I tell people I did that, they will usually say, “Wow, that’s really cool!” But I’m not namedropping here. There is a point to this.

I was thrilled with the Turtles, from the time I first heard of them. “Why?” Because the idea was so delightfully weird. Two buddies, who were comic fans, started drawing this goofy idea that was sort of a parody of everything in the genre. It could have faded before it ever made it to the public, but instead, they kept at it. They took their weird idea and they ran with it and as a result, reaped benefits that had to have exceeded their wildest dreams. That’s the answer, you know.

Ideas are incredibly valuable, and not just the good ones, or the safe ones, or the popular ones.

Ideas can reap benefits that are huge, but only if they connect with people. I don’t know how many times I have looked at a product and said, “I had that idea 20 years ago.” and I’ve known many other creatives with the same lamentation. But do you know the difference between my idea and the person who cashed in. I had an idea and I kept it to myself. They took their idea and shared it with the world. More than that, they took the idea and did the work to make it reality. Yes I could have beaten quite a few people to the punch, but I had a dream, they did the work. The ones who win are always the ones that have the courage to claim their idea before the world and do the work. My goal is to never lament another idea that found completion at the hands of someone else.

Your ideas are valuable and there has never been an easier time to get your ideas before people to find an audience. You just have to do it. Think about the Ninja Turtles one more time. A lot of people, I’m sure, thought it was a stupid idea, it might even be a stupid idea, but I’m also relatively sure that Eastman and Laird, couldn’t care a lick about the people who think it’s stupid. Why? Because they put their work out there and found legions of fans who thought it was the best thing ever.

Don’t create idea that you think everyone will like. Things that everyone likes are usually painfully boring. Instead look for the unusual, the remarkable, the unique, and then do the work and put it out there for the world to see.

Your ideas are valuable, but only if other people know about them.

Assignment: Look back over your life and think of as many of your ideas as you can remember. Look for one you can get behind and create a list of things you can do, right now, to make it a reality.



Up to this point in this stream of consciousness, I’ve devoted a fair amount of time talking about offering your best, and I think I may need to unpack that a bit. You see I hear a lot about “excellence” in the church, especially pertaining to creative ministry, and that’s great, but I have a question. What does it mean?

You see in some places, I think we almost idolize talent, to the point where the talented can get away with just about anything, because they’re gifted. In the world, that may be the case, but in the church, it should never be. Honestly, it can even be disastrous in the world, but that’s not the realm I’m exploring. Ask me which is more important, character or talent, and I’ll take character every time. We do ourselves a disservice in the Kingdom of God if we accept any less.

On the other hand, sometimes people minimize the importance of work done in and for the church. You know, “Well it’s not the best, but it’s god enough for church.” Perish the thought. All you need to do is go back to the Old Testament and the requirements for sacrifices to see that the Lord expects our best, and rightfully so, because He gave His best.

I hope you caught those two words in that last sentence, because they are crucial. The words, in case you missed them, were “our best.” This is the key to everything. When churches look for excellence, what they are often really looking for is people who are successful by the world’s standards. I find that a little tragic, because if we are looking for excellence by the world’s standards, the novice, the person developing their talents need not apply. The result is sometimes very glitzy and polished, but sometimes lacking heart and soul. But what if excellence was the best you can do today? What if we just expected people to work in their area of gifting, bringing the best they have today? To my mind this is key.

Look, the arts are subjective and so is excellence. Were this not the case, there would be a massive cleansing of museums tomorrow. Who’s to say what’s good or great or excellent? And in the church, who’s to say what will touch a heart or mind? What if excellence was defined as bringing our very bet to the table? What if we were genuinely seeking our calling, and gave our best at each and every opportunity? Truth is, if we did this, everyone would be learning and growing, and we’d have a lot more participants and a whole lot less spectators in the church.

Isn’t that what we want?

Assignment: Find something you did some time ago and compare it to what you’re doing now. Do you see growth? If not, how could you work toward growth?

Okay now that we’ve looked at seeking opportunities, we should probably take few moments to look at what to do if you get one. There’s a passage in the Bible that handles just such an eventuality. It’s Ephesians 5:15,16 “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” Now in the broader sense, this passage deals with righteous living, but please notice it tells us to make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Talking about the evil days could be a whole book but for the sake of our discussion, let’s just day that the further the people slip from the Lord, the more glorifying Him is important, hence making the most of every opportunity to glorify Him we get.

So does this mean we have to say yes to every opportunity? No. We need to use discernment, but it probably means we should pray before saying no to anything (or for that matter, yes), at least anything good and righteous and godly. Sometimes as creative people we can pigeonhole ourselves when God wants to expand us, and, frankly sometimes we can get a little prideful and think we are too good do something “humble.” Neither of these is beneficial.

For this conversation, let’s assume that you get an opportunity and everything works and you believe you have God’s “green light.”. What does it mean to make the most of the opportunity?

First, it means bringing your best to the task. Do the best you can do. We should always serve as if we were serving God, because if you are serving, you are serving God, and the One who gave His only Son for you deserves your best.

Second, do what you’ve been asked to do. Make sure whatever you do fits the parameters of the assignment. I’ve seen creatives who think they know best, giving something different than what as asked for. That’s not what we need to do. We need to fulfill the assignment to the best of our abilities.

Third, be responsible. Some folks think being creative is an excuse to be less than dependable, or even weird, and much of society accepts it as part of the “artists’ temperament.” Frankly, that’s a crock. God is not honored by a lack of dependability and honoring God is our ultimate goal. Deliver your best, on time, with as little stress as possible.

Finally, come under authority. This is important everywhere but it’s essential if your venue is the church. When a pastor puts you before his or her congregation, they are giving you an endorsement and they are taking a risk. Do what they ask, and make them look good. They have put tremendous trust in you. They are giving you the opportunity to stand before people they have sworn before God to serve, care for and protect. That is huge responsibility and one no Christian should ever take lightly. Romans 13:7 says “Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.” A pastor putting you before his congregation is showing you an honor, be sure to return honor with honor.

Assignment: Look at any current opportunities that are before you and write down ways that you can make the most of them. Also look to see if there were times in the past where you did not handle opportunities well. How might you have handled them differently?

Finding your gift

I spend a lot of time traveling to churches, talking to congregations about serving God with their gifts. It’s a passion of mine, mostly because I am where I am today because someone showed me how to use my gift of art to serve the Lord. This ministry generates a recurring question:

How can I find my gift?

The question comes from the hearts of genuinely loving people who really want to serve the Lord, but who struggle with how to best serve the Lord. The good news is, there is an answer to their question. Actually there are two. The first is pray and ask God to reveal His gifts to you. There are also some ways to help you discern. I find that our gifts are usually found at the intersection of three things:

What do you do well/best? It would make sense that if God is going to be glorified in our gifts, then the majority of our gifts are probably going to be things God has given us a talent or a natural ability to do. Comparison is not helpful at this stage. Don’t look for something you do better than others, ask yourself “What is the best thing I do?” Chances are the things you do best are areas of gifting for you.

What do you love to do? It would further make sense that if God wants you to use a gift to His glory, it would be something you love to do. Now this is not always the case, but for the most part, your gifts tend to be things you love to do. The reason for this is simple—natural talent only takes you so far. The things we will excel at are generally the things we love to do enough to work and, develop and perfect.

What are your opportunities and experiences? Sometimes our gifts are more about opportunities than about abilities. Sometimes the things we experience uniquely qualify us to serve. For example, I was a bullied kid, and while I would not wish that experience on anyone, it was so helpful when I started working with youth. Romans 8:28 works!

Here’s my path in a nutshell. My art ability is natural, I was born with it. That being said, I have worked tirelessly at it and the reason I can do that is because I love it. Being a speaker/preacher was a much different path. When I was a small child, I loved to perform for family and friends, but the aforementioned bullying drove that desire into deep hiding. But the time I walked into the church I was terrified to speak in public. Art opened the door. My pastor asked me to pant a backdrop for vacation Bible school. That led to being in a skit in VBS, which led to other skits, which led to teaching, which led to preaching and speaking. That gift came about based on another opportunity and an experience.

Here’s what I know for sure: Everybody has at least one gift from God that can be used to his glory. I don’t believe He has left anyone empty-handed including you. First pray and ask God the question, then ask yourself the above questions and you should be well on your way to finding your gifts. Then, once you find them, put them to work and to God be the glory.

Pray and answer the above questions. When you have finished your list, look for places where they intersect. These will be clues to your gifts.

This past weekend, I preached revivals at a wonderful church in central Pennsylvania and great stuff was happening. Not all of it happened in the church though. My friend Roger and I went to one of the local restaurants for dinner before the last service. He was telling our server about the fast art that I do and before long I was asked to draw something. I said sure, cause I love to do stuff like that. She gave me the names of her children and a couple paper placemats and I started to draw, just some simple puppies and kittens with her children’s names underneath in bubble letters. It was simple and I had fun doing it. Another server gave me her children’s names, two girls and a boy. I drew a lion and two lionesses with their names underneath. It was amazing. People came over to see what I was doing and Roger told them about my ministry at the church. I only had time to do the two pictures, but it was great fun and the two servers were really appreciative. Something really simple made their day. I love what I get to do…

Why do I share this? It doesn’t take a huge effort or a lot of money to be a blessing. It just takes a little availability. Simple gestures mean a lot.

How could you be a blessing today?