Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

The perfectly good and acceptable life of abundance and temptation.

 Matthew 4:1-11 says, "The Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness, and there he was tempted by the Devil. (This was right after he was Baptized and heard God's voice say, "This is my beloved son,  in whom I am well pleased).

(
 (Duccio di Buoninsegna  (c.1255 - c.1319)
The Temptation of Christ on the Mountain, 1308-1311)

We only see three recorded temptations in that Matthew passage, but the Bible says that Jesus was tempted in every way (Hebrews 4:15). So that includes lust, greed, shame, judgement, sex, money...you name it, EVERY WAY.

Satan even tempted Jesus with suicide by throwing himself off the temple.

Wow.
That's eye opening for me.
I'm both comforted and frustrated.

I'm comforted because I'm not alone. Neither are the millions of people who have heard the lying whispers (or shouts) that their life is worthless, or to throw their body off a bridge, or in front of a car, or worse.

Jesus was not only tempted to kill himself, but to betray his Father and deny his identity. (That is probably the biggest daily human battle. To believe our identity as loved ones of God).

I'm frustrated because I'm no different, but I expect to be.

I expect that because I'm promised a full abundant life (John 10:10), it should go with out saying that temptation, pain, conflict, depression, and confusion (to name a few) would not be included.  I thought the "blessed" life would be easier.

The scriptures teach otherwise.

Somehow it is perfectly acceptable to God to allow Satan's pitiful suggestions to make it to our ears.
This past weekend at our All Church Retreat I confessed some lies I believe.  I realized I often let the words, "You are a screw-up," enter my mind. A few people approached me after, in shock. How could you believe that about yourself?

 I'm human, Satan hates me, and unfortunately I fall short by believing lies.
 I wish it wasn't true.

 God allows us to make bad choices, label ourselves negatively, and to endure the hurtful actions of others.  We don't like to hear that, but he does. Instead we demand God enclose us in an impenetrable bubble where we could never experience pain. But the Bible says, God will go so far as to lead us to places in which those things might occur (he did for Jesus and many others in the Bible).

What? Why?

 Because he's powerless? No. Because He's sadistic? No.

In God's divine wisdom he grows our trust in Him through/despite pain.  He can raise us up to places where we can help others with what we've gone through.

Some of the most godly servants and leaders are those who've gone through gnarly trials and endured much conflict and death, living to "testifiy" to God's faithfulness amidst it.

God uses what the devil intended for evil. He shapes our character which can result experiencing life abundantly. He doesn't remove us from the trials, temptations, and pain the world inflicts because in enduring them we become more like Jesus.

Does God want to hurt us? NO!

God values us. And he values His choice to give us free will. He uses all things for our good. He helps us in our weakness learn, and grow strong in his love for us. (But I'd also say it breaks His heart to see us in pain, that's why he promised someday, he would make ALL THINGS NEW, in Heaven).

But please know:

He gave us his Spirit and his word's promises to shape us, and to guide us to live good lives.
He also gave us each other. He gave us people to care, to pray, to hold us, to affirm us,  and to love us at all times. We are meant to be family. But when this doesn't happen (and it will because humans hurt others), we must know God is always constant and present with us.


I've come to learn the most secure people in the world are the ones who understand their insecurities AND confess them, replace them with truth, and invite others in to uphold them in encouragement.

That's why we have the Holy Spirit, the word of God, and His people (the Church)... to help us.  

Living in that love and truth is what makes the abundant life.

May we all get better at that.

 See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. 14 We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.

Hebrews 3: 12-14

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The complexities of the "A" Word

Sometimes when I use the word, I look around to see who will scoff, wag their finger, or roll their eyes. Sometimes...just sometimes I imagine getting tarred and feathered for using it. It's a dangerous and coveted word that can conjure up many emotions, opinions, and nasty comments.



Here are some simple definition of the "A" word I speak of:
1-A person who produces works in any of the arts that are primarily subject to aesthetic criteria.

2-A person who practices one of the fine arts, especially a painter or sculptor.
3-A person whose trade or profession requires a knowledge of design, drawing, painting, etc.
4-A person who works in one of the performing arts, as an actor, musician,  singer; or performer.
5-A person whose work exhibits exceptional skill.

So why do I have complicated relationship with this "A" word?  
Because of definition number 5:
 "A person whose work exhibits exceptional skill."

I feel pretty safe about definitions 1-4.  I produce a lot "aesthetics" in my job. I make a lot of media/branding to tell stories and illustrate truths. My job description includes spacial design, and I spend lots of time writing, acting and performing in numerous ways both for my full time job and for fun and my hobbies/passions (because I love to, and occasionally get paid to, as well). 

BUT the complications come from one question.

Who gets to declare that a person has exceptional skill? 

Simon Cowell can eat his heart out because I am my own worst critic. First of all I can feel a bit presumptuous even declaring myself an "artist," because I don't feel worthy of calling myself that at times.  But even more how weird is it to  self-identify as an "exceptional artist." That being said, I  lean on labels from others in this area, finding my identity in how others see me. But when you're telling stories, speaking, making art, and filmmaking you automatically become the object of people's opinions. And no one enjoys being judged critically and no one wants to be called a shoddy artist. If I'm labeled an artist who does crappy work, I'd rather not be called an artist at all. BUT so much of making art is being Ok with creating some "non-exceptional" stuff once in a while. It's imperative simply because 1-you must, 2-you want to, 3-you have ideas and 4- you need to practice! As creators/artists we simple must practice making our art! If for no other reason but to express ourselves, (and find ways to deal with the negative critique that might come after).
 
This is the complexity of being an ARTIST for me.
 
My first role in a community theater was Prince Hal in Shakespeare's Henry the IV part 1. I came alive. I gave two months of my life, five nights a week to perfecting my accent, sword fighting training, and rehearsing like crazy. Then came opening night! It was like being born again... only to die the next morning. That role got me a word whipping by the local newspaper critic. Over the next two years I starred in many principal and supporting roles at that theater, and never once did that critic give me a good review.  The first few times it really threw me off. I remember irrationally thinking I could devise a plan to buy up as many papers as I could to lessen the chance people could read them. All I could think about was my name being smeared in those negative words and the whole city reading them. He really had it out for me. (No joke,  in one Agatha Christie play, I literally had a small "walk-on" role with no more than a page of dialogue, and this critic gave me a paragraph lashing in his column). That was almost twenty years ago, and in some way those words still haunt me, but now I'm finding strength in them. 

I attribute this growth over the years to a great/supportive wife, loving friends, encouraging community of artists (so thankful for CREATIVE CREW RWC), and ultimately a bit of just having to "grow-up." I thank God that I've been able develop a thicker skin to recognize my life and work don't need to rely the approval of others. I've been challenged to create despite and because of criticism. Don't get me wrong, I want to better my art, and I seek and welcome feedback. But I've learned, and am still trying to apply, that I don't have to allow the power of negative words to attach to my identity.

This week I was reading this great book by Austin Kleon, "Show Your Work" who confirmed some practical tools in being an "A" word. (The whole book is fun, quick, and filled with great nuggets of wisdom).



In his 8th chapter he says artists need to learn to "Take a punch."
 "Don't feed the trolls. The first step in evaluating feedback is sizing up who it came from. You want feedback from people who care about you and what you do. Be extra wary of feedback from anybody who falls outside of that circle. A troll is a person  isn't interested in improving your work, only provoking you with hateful, aggressive, or upsetting talk. You will gain nothing by engaging with these people. Don't feed them, and they'll usually go away."

What if we didn't focus so much on end product or the "grade" of our "art/work?" What if  we allowed and elevated the  process of creating art to the same level as our end result? What if we simply enjoyed what we did, and sought out healthy, constructive feedback from people who had our good in mind? (And yes, yes, I know some of us want people to like our work, so they'll support it, and invest in it, and keep being our audience.  I want that, too, and  agree. But we must keep the negative, judgmental, and value based critiques in their place.


These thoughts are present for me right now because I spent my week preparing, collaborating, and installing a project that I had been working on since January based on EASTER. These thoughts have flooded my mind because just five short months ago I was doing the same thing, only it was Christmas, and I had an interesting critique come my way.

 I wanted to tell a story. I wanted to take the age old, simple story that took place in Bethlehem, and plop it down in our current city. Two thousand years ago there was a sign in the sky, a star. And today we have very different signs. What if those signs we'd see in 7-11's or flashing in bars, pointed us to the true north of Christmas? I was so excited about the idea, and a bunch of others were, too, as they flocked out to work together as a team and see this concept come to life.


We worked on the idea for about three months, collaborated with over thirty stage designers/carpenters/creators and "A-words." The installation took three days to complete and we were all shining with pride over the whole process.



But then one handwritten, anonymous comment crept in,  attempting to blow out our little light. 
"Would Jesus approve of neon lights? It feels wrong. Remove the cultural obscenity."

I read those words over and over. I scratched my head. I shrugged my shoulders. I was confused. It's not like a bedazzled a manger, or made a neon crucifix (although, that's art, too).
Did I commit heresy? I mean, this person called our work, "obscene."

Wow.

I was deflated...for a few hours... and then I got over it.

 It didn't knock me out, I didn't lose any sleep or appetite, or try to devise any plans to keep the comment from others.

See, I had this perspective:

It was Christmas. I wanted to tell and illustrate a story. I wanted to take the two thousand year old traditional story that took place in Bethlehem, and plop it down in our current city. I wanted people to see the relevance of Christmas in our city, today. And we did get LOTS of positive feedback, but the most important fact for me, was that our team created and collaborated on something beautiful. We worked hard, and we accomplished what we intended.

So now, I'm reminding myself of this, as we head into this next season of SHOWING WORK for the Easter season. I'm attempting to take Austin Kleon's advice. Here's some of the projects brewing:
  • I casted vision for both a print and video branding illustrating HEAVEN!
(with the awesome design from my friend Mr. Jeremy Milford).


  • I wrote and directed an interactive story-telling experience for Good Friday. Please come experience the amazing words, music, and interaction created by a talented and passionate group of people centered around Jesus' crucifixion. (Friday 4/18/14, 7pm, PCC).
  • I worked on the ethos of our community's worship space to enhance our imagination of the season. It starts THIS SUNDAY as we RE-FRAME our perspectives on eternity.
  • I collaborated on and helped produce a video story celebrating the changed lives of six people getting baptized debuting  Easter Sunday April 20th. (8am, 9:30am, and 11:15am).

So, don't worry if you're expert or not, it doesn't matter. Practice, try, create, fail, and start again. It's OK! Enjoy who you are, and enjoy the process of creating. That's how we learn, and... THAT IS HOW we become an exceptionally skilled artist! (Lots and lots of practice).

If you're like me and you're an A-soul, or you have an A-soul in your life-- an Artist's soul that is, then be encouraged with these reminders...And go out there and CREATE!

 “You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life.”
Winston Churchill

“To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.”
Aristotle

“I pay no attention whatever to anybody's praise or blame. I simply follow my own feelings.”
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart




Monday, March 31, 2014

He got off the ark, got drunk, got naked, and started over.

It was 10pm last night when about twenty of us crowded in the coffee shop, with only 30 minutes until closing time. I still had the aftertaste of popcorn in my mouth. We were about to dive into what millions of movie-goers were talking about this weekend.

We had just seen THAT movie.
 Y'know, the one about the guy, the boat, and the animals?


Gosh, is it just me, or did this movie just seem to set people off?

To be honest, I didn't read one critic's review, media professional's article, or amateur film fan's blog (like mine).

Now, post-flood, I'm still not sure how much I want to read all the stuff going around because with the few status updates I saw, I had enough to convince myself I needed to avoid the hailstorm of controversial naysayers and make my own opinion.

Even before I saw the film last night,  I reminded myself, "It. Is. A. Movie."
This movie was made by an artist. Someone attempting to tell a story. Albeit a very famous, and "sacred cow" of a Biblical story, it is still an "attempt" to tell a story, which in the artist's words was "loosely based," on the original story.

And with that, I'd recommend you do the same. 
REMIND YOURSELF:
It's a movie, made by an artist, attempting to tell a good story.
(And I think he succeeded amazingly well).

Take it in... and see what you can take-away, see what you can learn.

If you go expecting something to line up with what you were taught in Sunday School, you'll be disappointed. (I wonder how many will see it that have no preconceived notions? People who don't know anything about Noah. Do they exist? It'd like to talk with them!).

This film is dark, violent, and not the happy, shiny story we see in cartoons and flannel graphs. But who wants that anyway??

 I like stories that look more like real life, that look more life MY life, which is the exact opposite of a perfect, got-it-all together fairy-tale.


Besides have you actually read the Bible? It is full of dark, crazily imperfect people who make tons of mistakes. (Murderers, prostitutes, and swindlers were all chosen and used by God).

For instance, most Sunday School lessons leave out the little part about Noah getting so wasted that his kids found him flat faced and naked (It's in this movie), right after he saved the world.  THIS IS IN THE BIBLE! Ya, oops, that's God's chosen one. "Cover him up quickly," his kids said in the text, and us Bible teachers, sorta did the same thing. Just leave that part out and talk about the dovey, dovey, abovey, abovye.



But that real, human experience is what I loved about this movie. It was full of pain, toil, jealousy, doubt, love, sacrifice, mercy, hope, death, and life. It's all there if you're wiling to find it and wrestle with it. (That's why I'd suggest going with some people you can pull it apart with over a meal/coffee).
 
Are there things that seem similar to movies like Transformers or the Never Ending Story?
 Ya, and even though I wasn't expecting it, I like it.

Are there things that might just seem a bit far-fetched, and supernatural?
Ya! But why not? Have you read this part of the Bible before? Genesis 6:4.
There are some things that truly deserve a "WTF?" (For all you people who might get offended by that, I mean, "What the FRICK.").

Are there things in the Noah movie you'd label ridiculous?
Duh? Yes. But, that makes for good conversation!
 
Did Russell Crowe have to sing in this movie?
YES! Did he not learn anything from Les Miserables??
 
If you get mad about anything, get mad about that. He sings again.
Just kidding.

The song he sang in Noah was actually really cool. (Your father is the healer, in the wind, something like that).

Sorry, I digress.

Noah's story complies about four chapters in the first book of the Bible, Genesis. It's an account of the world being flooded and every species of animal on the earth coming along for the ride. That's a little far-fetched in my opinion,  even though I believe it's true, I still don't get how it happen! That's the beauty of it. We get to use our imagination!  Disagree, ya, but don't write off the film because one guy attempts to tell the story. He had to give us something to watch for two hours! Big deal if he claims to be an atheist. (Which really surprises me).  He does an amazing job illustrating the human condition, and our human desire to know our life's purpose and to converse with our creator.

I'd say, God is and will use this film to "talk to" many people.

And God tends to use anyone he wants, even donkeys, to teach people truths.  

So there we were, gripping our espresso drinks, chiming in how the film affected us. Some were heated and felt it sorely represented Christianity. Others were open to the creative license and found the nuances exciting and even debating the mythical nature of Genesis.

For me, I saw myself in Noah. 

How often do I doubt and forget God's mission for my life?

How often to I feel lost in the midst of desperately trying to obey and honor God?

How often do I trample over those I love trying to do the work of God?

How often am I reminded of God's grace and call from the unexpected (a child) in my life? 

The answer is ALL THE TIME.

So, Darren Aronfsky, thanks for making this movie.
Thanks for giving the world something to talk about for a few weeks.
Thanks for causing us to open up our Bibles to read and wrestle with truth.
Thanks for reminding us, that God's stories have been passed down from century to century just like this: sitting around fires, or coffee shops. We are story tellers and receivers, retelling over and over again, what the great creator has called us to, redeemed us from, and brought new life through.

and..SPOILER ALERT...

Thanks for showing us Russell Crowe's butt because we all have the opportunity to start again.

That's right.

 God allows us to start again, even when we fail, or think we've failed,  or gotten pissed drunk, or almost killed our (grand) children, or misinterpreted the Bible, or intentionally fabricated some truth.

It just so happens that there's something amazing called grace, and sometimes there is a rainbow waiting in the sky for us that confirms it.





Friday, February 28, 2014

(Re) Making something NEW

How many versions of Godzilla have been made? According to my "research," (on the Internet), around THIRTY-ish. That's a lot of sequels since the original.
But will that stop me, or millions of other people,  from going to see the new one? Heck no! (Especially because it stars Bryan Cranston).


King Solomon said, there was NOTHING NEW UNDER THE SUN.

Some preachers use that as an excuse to steal other people's stories and put them in the first person. Some artists use that excuse to do bad work, and still others roll their eyes at that statement and feel stuck, bored, and uninspired.

But others hear that, and hear an opportunity. They hear a challenge, an adventure, an outright MANDATE to CREATE, to TURN THINGS AROUND....and to find something new.


Making NEW stuff energizes me, and sometimes it exhausts me. It takes time. It takes work. Sometimes I am going constantly, non-stop with no breathing room to rest. There's always a deadline, another series, story, or branding to create. And there are some cheap and easy solutions. There are tons of "stock images" available to use for branding, canned videos, photos that other churches have used for their stuff, etc. (And yes, occasionally we have to use them, and not just because of time, but because they are good!).  I'm not bagging on using other people's stuff, because truly I hope other people use the stuff I create, just like musicians hope we sing the songs they write (and we do).

But when I'm tasked with casting vision for teams/events/gatherings etc, most times, I feel the need to make something new, that tells my story, OUR story, a NEW STORY, and with our people collaborating to do it.

It's a blast, and not only encourages me, but I see how all involved in making and consuming it get something out of it.

So, for me,  this next season if full of creating, or RE-Creating. Good Friday and Easter will hold some great new experiences for our faith community. Our  CREATIVE CREW,  an artistic community of Redwood City, will be trying some new projects together, too.

And THIS SUNDAY, 3/2/14,  we'll be debuting a brand new song written on the inspiration of Biblical wisdom, by David Cowart & Caleb Ibanez. An offering, if you will, of music and story.

Our church is studying the Biblical book of PROVERBS, we call it, THE GOOD LIFE, because it is full of truth to guide our life. I commissioned two creative musicians to tell a new story, finding something fresh to say with their musical abilities. I'm excited to share it (free), with our community.

I'll link the song to this blog, and we'll put it out on our social media handles, too. So you can download it for FREE!
So, until then...




Thursday, January 30, 2014

Ragamuffin Film showing this Friday Night

 
 
 
For those of you who want to now, or need to have an answer for those who ask that question-here is what I am saying:

The film is independently made, and not a studio produced film or released in theaters yet, so there is no official MPAA rating for THIS Friday's (1/31) screening of RAGAMUFFIN-The Rich Mullins' Story. 

It's probably more of a PG-13 rated film-simply for some of the mature themes (alcoholism/smoking/depression/death by car accident) depicted in the film. I'm told by the producer there is NO nudity, no drug use, and just mild language.
I told a few people 1-I am not bringing my kids for that reason, and it's too late for them anyway, and 2-we do not offer childcare.
I hope we can see  the heart of this great story of God's redemption and use of one man's broken life, and see ourselves, and those we need to love, in it as well! So far it's getting a great response from churches that it has screened with.

Plenty of reviews online-Here's one.
http://www.crosswalk.com/culture/features/i-ragamuffin-i-movie-making-a-strong-debut.html

So- this week---WHAT CAN YOU DO?
1-Hope you'll join us, and invite/ bring a friend.
(Engage in some great discussions around God's love and grace after viewing the movie).

2-Buy a ticket online--We've sold about 100 tickets online so far..PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD.

BUT TICKETS HERE: https://www.itickets.com/register/new/321683
OR at the door-cash only. PCC does not make any $$ of this event.

4-RSVP and and share THE FB EVENT: https://www.facebook.com/events/688080817908950/


5-F YOU WANT TO CUT & PASTE THIS INTO YOUR FACEBOOK STATUS OR email out to your friends/ministry partners:

***My church is screening the premiere of a film called, RAGAMUFFIN, the true story of musician Rich Mullins. Come to 3560 Farm Hill Blvd. on Friday January 31st. Doors open at 6:30pm and the film starts at 7pm. The director and producer will be there after for some Q&A. $10. ***
or
Cash only at the door.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Pen, Ink, Simple, Truth, Good, Life

I was 17 when journaling became an addiction for me. I had to have colored pencils, sharpies, and every different colored ultra fine point pen I could find.




I loved writing, drawing, and bringing life to my prayers and thoughts to my blank (unlined) paper. Having three children has challenged my three hour coffee and writing sessions and have turned into  cat naps and nacho addictions..but when I was thinking of  THE GOOD LIFE and our church's focus on LIVING THROUGH THE WISDOM OF PROVERBS, I thought of these simple and yet profound times I had with God.

I thought about how Solomon, the writer of Proverbs, would have been reflecting on his life, in the same way. Through his proverbs, he reflected on  his words, his relationships,  his multiple marriages, his friendships, his finances, his family, and his sex life (yep, it's in there). He took up his sharpie (or one of his scribes took up a quill) to paint a picture for his children and grandchildren (and us) on how to have the best of everything.


This was obviously before Facebook, and Youtube--a throwback time when we had face to face interaction and letter writing.  This is the idea that sparked the branding around our GOOD LIFE series. I wanted to share something "handwritten," if you will. Something...



And our designer, IAN WALLACE (a friend and PCC'er) HAND WROTE all 14 proverbs we'll be studying. I love how people use their gifts and talents for others. Thanks IAN! You sharpened me!




If you're a part of PCC on Sundays, you'll see them eventually posted very LARGE all around the worship center. Our hope is to have a simple season of focusing on God's truth and finding his wisdom for our life.

You'll  also see a green chair on the stage (and in our bumper video eventuaally ) this Sunday--inviting you, inviting us to come sit, reflect, share, and live through God's wisdom.



Perhaps YOU want to SHARE at some point the wisdom you are finding as you seek God for direction in all areas of your life. May be you'd consider journaling this year? If so, check this challenge out:.GOOD LIFE WISDOM CHALLENGE


ALSO-Check out these orange Boards.  They will be outside the Worship Center on Sundays to act as a "water cooler" gathering spot. Every Sunday the boards will be filled with a handwritten Proverb for people to take home, use as a book mark, put on their fridge, pass to someone else (kind of like the "ID" post-in note if you were a part of our PCC community during Oct-Nov). You may even see them posted up places when you're checking your emails or as you use the "facilities." These orange boards will be on the patios on Sundays.


Ok--that's all for now. Going to be blogging more this season. It's time to share more stories about what God is doing! Hope you have a great start to the year.