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Epic Theology

Finding God through the lens of an artist

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My thoughts of the day

Whom Do You Serve?

Hello readers,

A couple weeks ago, I had the pleasure of joining with 50-60 Calgary artists to discuss issues facing the arts community in our city. One such question, “Who or what do we serve?” has sparked a lot of thought for me and I want to hear some of your thoughts.

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I believe the question of service is really a question of purpose: Why do we create? What is the end goal? In the end, I came to the conclusion that we serve four different people/things with every creative act: ourselves, the art, our community, and God.

It may sound selfish, but creating art is something that is initially done for oneself. I believe that artists create because they must. There is something within that must be expressed. Like breathing or blinking, creation is an inherent process for the artist. I know that when I can’t create something physical or write, I will create worlds and stories in my head. If we ever discover a way to read minds, I don’t envy the person who gets the first peek into my head. It’s a mess. Creating is a way to move those worlds out of my head and into the real world. In this way, I believe we serve ourselves when we create.

In addition, for professional artists, we have a career to maintain. We create to make money, to build a brand/voice/style, to further our careers. We grow as we create, serving our need for progress and direction. We create because it’s how we navigate the realities of the world. In a world where our social identity is so caught up in what we do for a living, artists must create to stay alive and part of their community.

Next, when we create, we serve our art. When we work to become masters of our media, we ensure that those very media continue to exist. When we push the boundaries of what’s been done, we ensure that the art form grows. If people stopped practicing painting, then the art (and the world, in my opinion) would suffer. So, please, continue to take classes, to sketch and stretch, to try new things. The art will be better for your contribution.

Many believe they create to serve humanity, but we have to ask: to what extent are we serving our community when we create? When you sit down to write, or get into the studio to dance, or take up a brush to paint, do you have others in mind? If we really want to serve others, we have to ask who we’re creating for and how we can best serve them. When I write plays for my church, I have a very specific group of people in mind that I’m serving. I don’t push them very far outside their comfort zone on Christmas Eve, and I don’t inundate them with theology on Easter. Knowing who I’m trying to serve allows me to cut out things that don’t serve the mission of the piece and ensures that every step, from conception to rehearsal to performance, makes it easy for my audience to join me in the story.

Finally, as human beings, whatever we do should be in service of God. This isn’t particular to artists, but to humanity as a whole. Whether you are a doctor or a teacher or a web developer or a steampunk maker, everything should be for the one who created you. God has placed the desire and need to create into artists, and our first job in serving God is to do just that: create. Yet, whenever we are faced with choices, we should be asking which option best serves God. The answer may not be obvious, and all options may equally glorify God, but we have to ask.

So, today, I ask you: Who or What are you serving? 

Blessings

Embracing the Weird

Hello everyone,

I sat in a new staff orientation yesterday, reading over the shiny, new employees’ handbook as my lead pastor and executive pastor gave a deep explanation of what it means to work at the church. We covered history, identity, mission, and expectations. While I was happy to learn more about the body that I’ve been serving for years, there was a moment during the outline of expectations that made me laugh.

“Please don’t make me have to explain you.”

Now, in context, it made sense. We all, as Christians, are representatives of Christ and His Church. As staff members, we are representatives of RockPointe. We have a responsibility to represent our God and His Church well. Especially today, in a world that doesn’t particularly like the Church. My pastor was simply asking that we conduct ourselves in a way that does not draw negative attention to the church.

Yet, in a way, I think we’re going to be explaining me for a long time.

Because you see, what I do is weird. 

I create art for the church. I help to bring beauty and wonder and passion into an institution that is not well known for these virtues anymore. I tell stories of redemption and hope. I push some envelopes, and leave others alone. I aim to bring people to a place of awe before their Creator and Redeemer.

And, quite frankly, there aren’t many who are able to devote a lot of time to this sort of thing.

But that’s not the only way I’m weird. I often feel quite stuck when it comes to politics. I lean to the left when I analyze most social policies. I believe Jesus told us to look after the poor and the downtrodden and I believe a welfare state chases after that command. Yet, I am morally conservative. I believe that there is a right and a wrong and that we can discern what they are through the Scripture. At the church, I’m the crazy liberal artist. At Community Natural Foods (my other part time work), I am the token conservative Christian. I don’t feel like I’m quite like anyone in either camp.

And then, one day at Community, a particularly wise coworker told me: “Maybe you don’t need camps.”

We like labels. They help us self-identify. They help us find a place to belong and a people to belong to. But there are times when they are going to fail you, and those are powerful times.

Whether you are a Christian artist who isn’t quite a home at church or in the art scene, or a teenager struggling with self-identity against family-identity, or a stay-at-home mom trying to find her identity when the world defines you by your job, I believe we all go through periods in our lives where we feel like we’re weird. And I argue that these periods can be incredibly fruitful in our spiritual walk.odd_one_out-690x355

Because when we are confronted by our inability to fit into the moulds that the world (even the church world) tries to get us to fit into, we come to realize how fearfully and wonderfully we are made. Though there are more that 7.5 BILLION people in the world right now and many who are probably much like me, I am the only me that God has placed right here, right now. And you are the only you that God has placed where you are. No one can do what God has called you to do.

What the world calls weird is simply the messy specificity that God used to create you. 

There are places I can go because I have ties to the arts community that a normal pastor either wouldn’t or couldn’t go. There are beautiful things I can do in the church that an outside artist doesn’t have the relationships to accomplish. I was made weird because God has a plan and we don’t always get to see that plan until after it’s all over. And you…yes, you…are also weird in your own special way and for your own special purpose.

So today, as you go about your business, try to remember that you are weird. And that being weird is a good thing. Not because of millennial snowflakism or your own inherent specialness, but because God has given you a certain set of passions and experiences that make you ideally suited to a certain mission in the world.

Go, be weird on mission.

Blessings

Happy Mother’s Day

A quick shout out to all the mothers out there. Becoming a parent has been one if the hardest, yet fulfilling thing I’ve done with my life. I have associated closest to God as Creator for a while now, but becoming a dad has really made the Fatherhood of God a much bigger theme in my life.

However, my parental duties are nothing compared to those of my wife. Motherhood, especially stay-at-home motherhood, is such a blessing in our home.

I think many people take their moms for granted. I know I did for a long time. But seeing the work and sacrifice that goes into being a mother makes it obvious why God chose to be compared to a mother hen protecting her chicks. Nothing I’ve ever done has demanded more than motherhood, and I sometimes forget that.

So, to my wife and my mother, Happy Mother’s Day. To all our readers who are moms, remember that your calling is so important. You are true artists, creating life and sculpting it over decades into a masterpiece. The masters would be proud.

I love you, Mum. I love you, Bri. 

Blessings

First Week Done

Hey folks,

Another late update. My first week as Art and Story Director was very full. So far, I’ve caught a couple online classes on filmmaking, rearranged my office, met with one of my mentors, met with the youth ministry to see how we can help them, shot a post-mission interview, spent much of Friday with the Sharpen Tech Conference’s keynote speaker, hosted/attended the conference itself on Saturday, and dressed up as the disciple John to tell some stories in our Children’s Ministry.

I spent all day Saturday learning about how Bethel Media approaches storytelling and followed them through pre-production, principal production, and post-production. God’s timing on all of this has just been amazing. The week I’m hired to look after storytelling at RockPointe, Bethel (a church in California) sends us their Executive Producer to teach on story. Such an amazing way to start. I’m very inspired to put everything I’ve learned to good use in the weeks to come.

Looking forward, I’ll be spending a lot of this week sitting in more meetings with ministry leads. As we figure out what each ministry is looking to accomplish with story, we’ll be able to create a plan and dive right into projects. That’s perhaps the thing I’m most excited about: getting into actually creating art and telling stories for the church.

I should be back on schedule next week with more of my regular articles. Thanks for tracking along with me over the past few weeks. It’s been an exciting, and exhausting, adventure.

Blessings

Comic-Con Update

Hey all. I’m currently in line for a panel on writing comics and wanted to post a quick update.

The panel went really well on Friday. Around 90 people or so came to hear about hope and purpose in post-apocalyptic fiction. We had great conversation after, and I had someone find me afterwards to talk further. I did a short questionnaire on people’s views of the apocalypse, which I will go over next week.

I’ve also had the great pleasure to run into some friends I haven’t seen since college. It’s always awesome to reconnect and I’m looking forward to building into some old friendships.

Now, my back is a little sore, my brain is fried from over stimulation, and I’ve dropped more money on parking than I have in a long time, but it’s been great. I can’t wait to hopefully become even more involved next year. 

Finally, if you came to my panel and didn’t fill out an evaluation for on your way out, please download the app and rate the panel. You get entered for free passes for next year, and if I’m well reviewed, I have a better chance of being invited back.

Thanks!

Blessings

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