What Separates Us?

Opposable thumbs– it’s not the only thing that separates us. The ability to think individually from one another, to come up with our own ideas and act on them. We are not herd nor pack animals. We don’t live via instincts or will of the wind. We are individuals, designed by God, in the image of God. The ability to think for ourselves, come up with our own personal ideas, and act on those ideas is what separates us from the animal kingdom. It is this freedom, this right, that we have been fighting for throughout history. We fight for it as a burgeoning young adult – the freedom to make our own choices. We fight for it in our laws– free choice, free religion, democracy. And yet, we don’t fight for it in our own church.

The church is the most important place to demonstrate our individuality and creativity. The act of worship is the act of sharing with God a part of ourselves as a way of loving Him and demonstrating our adoration. The one thing that is truly uniquely ours is our own mind and imagination, and thus the things we create from our own ideas.

Yet, we go to church on most Sunday mornings and sing songs birthed from someone else’s ideas. Many of these songs are from someone that lived and wrote hundreds of years ago, and we pass this off as our own worship. We admire art that someone else created, even paying extensive prices to have copies of other people’s work in our churches and homes. We watch other people dance across the stage, admire their fancy footwork and adore the dancers, yet refuse to sway to a beat.

God designed us In His Image. God designed us to create. Why is the unchurched world the foremost in this arena when we, as followers of Christ, are the ones who claim to be pursuing the Heart Of God? Why is the Christian Church the last in line in the race to create the Next Big Thing?

Let’s bring change to the world by creating something spectacular!

Why are Questions Important?

“The only stupid question is the one you don’t ask!”

I have repeated this over and over again to my students. This means there ARE NO stupid questions. It is actually SMART to ask a question. It is an indicator of intelligence and purpose when you ask questions!

In contrast, I will admit that there are SILLY questions, such as my wife asking me, “Do you want a donut?” Of COURSE I want a donut, what a silly question!

But I digress. Questions are SO important. A question implies desire, a hunger on the part of the questioner. The person receiving the question is then challenged in their assumptions, properly tested on their knowledge in a way that causes the receiver to grow in their own way. The answer hopefully causes the asker to grow in their way, as well.

Artistic maturity CONSCIOUSLY asks questions about everything, and the path of exploring the questions and answers is revealed in one’s art.  It is the artist in us, questing for identity, that interrogates the system, the status quo, looking for answers to the purpose of the thing.

“Do you want a donut?” Of COURSE I want a donut, what a silly question!

It is Greek tradition that models for us a lecture-and-classroom approach to teaching. But Jesus used question and story as the primary tools He used to bring forth His Word to the earth. Hebraiac models of education imply a teacher who is doing life and answering question. In fact, question-asking is very Jewish in Hebraic culture and mindset.

Questions build relationship between the two parties, as the heart of both parties are revealed by the question and the answer. It illuminates vulnerability in the person asking and builds trust for the person answering. It is at once a mental and a spiritual transaction, and usually freely received and given.

I would submit that not asking questions could take the form of pride, of stagnation, or even a lack of care and love.

So I urge you to make asking questions into a lifestyle, a permanent attitude. Ask away! You will never have all the answers, but asking questions will bring life and growth to you. Be blessed.

What Was I Created For?

I believe that each of us is an artist; that we were created to create.

I also believe that most of us don’t really believe that. Our creative capacity is hard to see when we pile on the expectations of society, the huge distractions of modern technology and entertainment, and the pervading idea that some people “have it” and some people “do not have it.” Doing “something productive” usually means something less than artistic. The arts themselves seem like an indulgence at best and a waste of time at worst.

Being an artist is not so much about what you do or what talents you have. It has much more to do with how you live, and how you do what you do. Living life “artistically” means to look at all aspects of life as an opportunity to create something, to express oneself, or to communicate to others.

Some would protest: “I’m not creative,” or “I don’t have time,” or even “My art is bad.” Yet, I would say that each of us is called, anointed, and purposed to spend our lives co-creating with the Holy Spirit, fulfilling the commands of God on our lives.

Biblical Calls to Creativity

In Genesis 8, God tells Noah to “be fruitful and multiply.” Seen through a creative lens, God is not only saying to reproduce (which is a procreative act), but he is also demanding fruitfulness, which is a product of maturity, growth, and artistry.

Next, we see Jesus in Matthew 28 instructing the disciples to “go and make disciples of all the nations.” The key word here is make, a creative word by any standard. In this case, Jesus is showing us that in this command, our “canvas” is the world. People of all nations are the seeds and the source material, and disciples are the final product.

It has much more to do with how you live, and how you do what you do.

In hearing God tell Noah to procreate and be fruitful, we usually leave out the idea of how important creativity is to procreation, and how a priority of intimacy breeds healthy families. When Jesus gives the Great Commission, we focus on the “GO” part and less on the “make disciples” part. Missions without creativity or artistry make little progress.

Artistry exists inside relationship. Procreation happens through relationship. Missions happen through relationship.

A painter never paints inside a vacuum, void of outside influence. On the contrary, the painting is always a snapshot of the artist’s relationship to previous artists, to previous teachers, to current input, to current students, to the state of their world at that moment.

Each of us is an artist, in every area of life. Beginner artists express, while mature artists communicate. That communication exists inside of a relationship with everything that the artist comes into contact with.

A painter never paints inside a vacuum, void of outside influence.

Seek out relationship. Seek out new input. Ask questions and intentionally grow in your creativity and artistry. It’s what you were made for.

How do I create something new?

Have you ever thought: “Everything I want to do has already been done, so there is nothing left for me to create,”? This way of thinking gets many artists stuck. The solution is this concept:

Everything is a remix. Literally everything.

Everything is a remix. Literally everything.

Ecclesiastes tells us “there is nothing new under the sun”. After God set everything in motion, all things that have been created have been remixes of previously created elements.

This is true of music and dance, of sermons and beverages, of hair styles and ideologies. Even this very blog post is a remix of multiple things that I did not create: the Internet and a web site, the letters that make up the English language, the font used, even the very idea- the very PHRASE that “everything is a remix” is not unique to me, but borrowed, assimilated, and reformed into a new idea. It has resulted in this very blog post!

when the source is cut off, any body of water will eventually drain out and cease to flow.

It makes sense for each of us to intentionally dip into as wide of a pool as possible for the seeds that will go into our own creations. All of us are artists, and everything is a remix, so the balance between in-flow and out-flow is very important!

Consider the two bodies of water in Israel, joined by the Jordan River, are the Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee. The Dead Sea exactly that: dead. Nothing grows in it, it is full of salt and there is no life. It receives water from the Jordan River, but has no outlet and thus only loses water through evaporation.

Similarly, when the source is cut off, any body of water will eventually drain out and cease to flow. But the Sea of Galilee is surrounded by a rich ecosystem of fish, animals, trees and crops that grow, all because the Sea of Galilee is regularly replenished AND flows out to feed the Jordan.

Thus, the artist within us MUST balance in-flow (learning new things, expanding vocabulary, taking ground) with out-flow (expression, communication, teaching and pouring out). It is ESSENTIAL for the health of the art and the artist to seek to find a balance here.

Incidentally, in my opinion, there are two things you must have to stave off burnout: 1) Growth/learning/new things, and 2) Expression/outlet/artistic productivity. Leaders should take heed; these elements MUST be in place to keep those called to your leadership from burnout.

Bottom line: Reinvent yourself. Try new things. Make an effort to get out of the pool of input you normally draw from and intentionally make yourself uncomfortable in another pool in order to widen the source of your seeds.

Then: pour out yourself. Teach others. Make new things. Create new techniques and new businesses. Make beauty for beauty’s sake alone. Then make something more practical.

Bottom Line: Reinvent yourself.

When you are doing what you are purposed to do, in the way you are purposed to do them, these elements will be in place, and you won’t burnout.

Everything is a remix! But your unique combination of experience and God’s DNA in you allows only you to create something with your Voice. You have the power to create a combination we haven’t seen before – the world is waiting.