Words are good for the heart

Words. Words are super important at times, and empty, meaningless distractions at other times. (Ecc 6:11, if you are so inclined…)

Many times a concept comes forth and a “buzzword” results. Everybody’s talking about it, and we all feel a bit hipper because we do.

But today, I realize much of the reason I’m not in the organizational structure of a church or ministry, is that the classic definition of the words “pastor” or even “leader” has never quite gelled with my inner stance. Sometimes, “spiritual father” fits, but not in every situation, for sure.

But lately, this buzzword “influencer” is going around. And that feels right. For the first time, it feels right.

I want to be an influencer. I want to bring good things to others, but I don’t need you to “follow” me; I want you to follow Christ.

I want to help folks see different points of view, help them grow and mature, as I do the same in my own life.

I want to give freedom and permission for folks to take off and fly into the fullness of who they were meant to be; NOT to be like me, but to become the fullness of who THEY are, in Christ.

I’ve been called a Christian leader, a pastor, an apostle, a prophet. Some see me as a mentor or spiritual father, others see me as a jazz piano player or other type of eccentric musician whom they have no use for in their rock ‘n’ roll bands.

But this word influencer? I like it. Not sure if it goes on the business card, but maybe clarifies for me a few things.

It’s a season to discard fear and try new things. It’s time to step forward, knowing that a toe stubbing is possible, but the pain of standing still will be worse. It’s a time to find out WHY you believe what you believe, why those who told you what you believe came by their beliefs, to strengthen your foundation.

It’s the season to ask “Why?” and “What if?”. It’s the season for the artist in each of you to poke it’s head out and ask “how about now? why not now?”…… “so, now?”….

You be you… With Me.

In the Christian faith, we all start out as children, and without ever losing our child-likeness, we should grow into maturity. We all start as servants, and without ever losing our servanthood heart, we are designed to grow into Sons and Daughters.

In today’s typical corporate worship settings, we see a microcosm of the church (and western society, for that matter) as a whole, specifically the aspect that certain people have the special “gift” and the rest of us are to consume and support them. So, a few artists create, are encouraged to write new songs and are handsomely rewarded for it. Then, the rest of us are strongly encouraged to copy them in order to serve the service.

Unfortunately, this breeds a value towards artistic immaturity and success is equated with one’s skill at imitation, rather than innovation. When the entire culture embraces this, well… most of us see that we can totally worship with modern worship songs in church, but it is, by and large, artistically stale. We are reaping what has been sown.

An aspect of good musicianship in fulfilling a role, is an aspect of servanthood, specifically a tradesman, exercising his skill in service to those in authority. On top of this we should be aiming for MATURE ARTISTRY. This not only finds a way to fully express its voice within the parameters of the service or gig, but also grows as the artist’s Voice develops, into co-creating with the Holy Spirit.

I serve the service and the gig all the time; nothing wrong it and everything right with it. But until a revelation comes to the government of the church of how to father and nurture the artists within her and grow them into maturity, we will mostly be fulfilling the directive “Be like this…” – and not really growing.
I maintain that a higher level of walking with Him is answering His call: “You be you…. with me.” – and growing within it…

Lifestyle of Questions

 

“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.

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 to bring forth His Word to the earth. Hebraic models of education imply a teacher who is doing life with his students and answering questions throughout the process of living. In fact, question-asking is very Jewish in Hebraic culture and mindset.

Questions build relationship between 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 fear or pride, of stagnation, or even a lack of care and love.

So I encourage you to make asking questions into a lifestyle, a permanent attitude. Ask away! You may not always get an answer, you will never have all the answers, but asking questions will bring new life and growth to you. Be blessed.

Destined to Create

Many of us live as though we are created to SURVIVE. Survival is important, and we must learn self-defense skills and the ability to provide for our daily needs. Even a drive to accumulate wealth or power can be a mechanism to ensure survival. And yet, our very bodies are designed to decay and eventually die. All of our bodies will die, at some point.

Another variation of this is living as though we are created to CONSUME. It is easy in the modern world to watch movies, buy clothes, and discuss the latest and greatest of things without ever intentionally pursuing the act of creating something of our own.

Yet, the act of creation, the practice of creativity, gives us a way to express love, a vehicle through which we can worship. The drive to build and produce, a desire to grow and mature are parts of the artistic identity within us. It is WHY we must survive: to take what is inside of us and bring something out of the depth ourselves, up to the surface, and out to the world.

I believe that each of us have been given unique skills, talents, and abilities. We are each of us a genius at SOMETHING. We are ALL artists. The purpose of our unique inner skills, talents and capabilities is so that the output of our lives, our ART, is created with our own distinctive Voice.

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.

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.

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