Archive for the ‘Artists’ Corner’ Category

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Here is the basic message Jake and I taught at Resonate 2012. Enjoy!

As people, we know that we are created in the image of God. One of the essential characteristics of the nature of God is that he is infinitely creative.

That means that within each person he has placed the capacity to be creative.

As kids we all create things confidently, we innately know we were made to create. Then as time goes by, we lose our confidence in creating. We begin labeling ourselves as “not very creative.”

We tend to limit our view of creativity to the realm of the arts, not realizing that creativity can be expressed in a unlimited number of ways: through business, in medicine and government, through child rearing, even in sports.

To tap into creativity is to tap into the heart of God for your life. Even our life of worship is guided by our nature to create.

God is calling for a new breed of artists. We want to be on the lookout for artists God has set apart and gifted for his purposes. You may or may not be on stage in front of thousands. Your art may bring hundreds to their knees or it could be for God’s eyes alone.

1. You are appointed as a worshipper of God and a herald of hope to the world.

I want to show you a little story. This story is about a man named Jehoshaphat. This man was king of Judah, and a devout follower of God. He came to power and followed the ways of David. He worshipped God and God alone.

He made some mistakes yes but God was with him and had delivered him out of war between king Ahab and Gilead. Here in chapter 20, he was being attacked by three different armies.

Notice Jehoshaphat’s response to calamity…

I’m going to start in 2 Chronicles 20, verse 2:

Some people came and told Jehoshaphat, “A vast army is coming against you from Edom, from the other side of the Dead Sea. It is already in Hazezon Tamar” (that is, En Gedi). Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. The people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him.

Now here is where Jehoshaphat shows his heart leading the people in worship. It says this in verse 6:

“Lord, the God of our ancestors, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you. Our God, did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? They have lived in it and have built in it a sanctuary for your Name, saying, ‘If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us.’

Now I’m going to skip on down to the second part of verse 12:

“For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”

This is so cool how Jehoshaphat worships The Lord for his great power over all and confesses before all his people that he and none of them had any power or any idea what to do.

This is a man who is accustomed to humbling himself before his people and his God. This is a worshipper of God.

Then a special man arises. Let’s see who they are in verses 13-14.

All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the Lord. Then the Spirit of the Lord came on Jahaziel son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, a Levite and descendant of Asaph, as he stood in the assembly.

Here is where the artist arises. How do I know Jahaziel is an artist? It says he was the grandson or great grandson of Asaph. Asaph was the Chief musician appointed by King David to minister before the Lord to put the psalms to music. He was put in charge of all the of artists that David had appointed to minister before the Lord day and night. In those days, people were assigned jobs based on their families. The sons of Asaph became also became musicians, who were the worshippers, whose job it was to worship the Lord through music.

Here we have all the people waiting to hear the voice of God for something to put hope in. And Jahaziel, an artist, rises up as the voice of a prophet among them. Among all the people God entrusts the message to his worshipping artist.

And what is the message God delivers through Jahaziel? Let’s read on in verse 15:

He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. Tomorrow march down against them. They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel. You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.'”

Stand firm take your positions and see the salvation of your God.

Doesn’t it kind of remind you of a verse in the New Testament? Ephesians 6:13 says this:

“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then….”

You see, when Jehoshaphat admitted that they had no power within them to save themselves, he was right. God was about to show them just how much he wanted them to rely on Him. So this artist speaks by the spirit of The Lord. He encourages them to be strong and stand, to take their battle positions. But instead of fighting, they were merely to stand.

You see, we as artist are called to the battlefield, but we are called to fight an entirely new way. Instead of throwing punches, we are called to stand. We are called to stand in our confidence of the word of The Lord.

He said, “Take up your positions.”

You were called to sound the war cry to the troops in the army of The Lord. You were called to bring them hope. Without your voice, the church is weakened. Without your voice, the message will not reach those who are lost.

You are appointed and anointed to take up your position on the battlefield, whatever position that may be. The presence of The Lord is enough for us. We will not be afraid. We will stand.

Let’s keep reading. Take a look at verse 18.

Jehoshaphat bowed down with his face to the ground, and all the people of Judah and Jerusalem fell down in worship before the Lord. Then some Levites from the Kohathites and Korahites stood up and praised the Lord, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice.

Now we can see that the one voice of Jahaziel calls out to many more voices of artists. All the people fall down in worship but the Spirit falls on some of the singers, and more of them begin to arise.

Can you imagine the sound of those who had been appointed by the Lord to sing and praise him for the nation of Israel? They stood up and began to belt out their praises empowered to do so by the spirit of the Lord. Have you ever thought about how understated scripture can be? It says they praised the Lord with a very loud voice. If the Bible said it was loud, it was loud. If it says very loud, it must have been almost deafening. All you sound engineers, if our congregations would have heard it, it would have probably sent half of the people back to the sound board with complaints. Of course, there was no amplification needed here.

It says that those from the tribes who were appointed (the tribes of the Levites) rose up. It was as though the Spirit of the Lord came upon them and united them as one voice. Each of them simultaneously had a revelation of the fact that they were indeed appointed and that this was their time to rise up. Will you get a revelation of who you are appointed to be as an artist?

2. You must release your expression boldly.

As artists, I want to tell you that now is the time to raise your voices, let out your expressions in a bold way. Some of you have been sitting on your hands, afraid of what people may think of you and your expression. All of us deal with these fears. No matter what your skill level or perception of yourself, you may have a prophetic utterance, something you need to proclaim through your unique expression. You are uniquely designed to proclaim it in your own way.

We went to a conference by Dan McCollam which was put on by Northgate Alaska church. It was fascinating to learn that each person has a unique part of their DNA which can actually be translated into notes and made into a song. Musicians can decode this information and actually play you a copy of your DNA song. Everyone has a song, even animals. It is amazing to see…look it up on YouTube. You can actually hear the song of a swan or a dolphin. And it sounds exactly like what you think it would sound like. I heard one human song and it sounded like a dramatic movie score.

The point is that God has created this song within us. The song can be expressed even in visual ways. When God spoke his audible voice, light came into being, and all the spectrum of color with it. You realize that music is wavelengths, the spectrum of light and color are also wavelengths of a different size. So whether you do something that is related to sound or something visual, it is all within the realm of creativity.

In the temple of God, the Spirit moved upon the craftsmen to create the beautiful images the Lord commanded them to create. He moved upon the musicians to create music that elevated the name of the Lord.

You see, the arts are not an afterthought to God. They are essential just as worship is essential. For the earth to resound with the glory of God, the artists need to release their expressions without shame or fear. Now is the time. You don’t need a platform. You just need the spirit of God to give you the boldness to express what he has appointed you to do.

The next part of this scripture gave me a realization that totally rocked my world. It’s easy to miss, but let me show you starting in verse 20.

Early in the morning they left for the Desert of Tekoa. As they set out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful.” After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: “Give thanks to the Lord,for his love endures forever.”

I want you to notice something here that seems subtle. But before when I read this, I assumed that the Lord told Jehoshaphat to send his singers out first, but right here it says nothing of the sort. You see, all the Lord said was this back in verse 17 was this:

You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.'”

So the next morning, after mulling over the promises of God, they set off to obey the word of the Lord. But something occurs to Jehoshaphat. He is not satisfied with simply doing the bare minimum of what the Lord asked. He didn’t say, “Oh, man, this’ll be a cinch. All we have to do is stand there guys. God will do the rest.” Instead, he has a burning desire to do more. After consulting with his people, he decides that it would be a great idea to send his singers out first.

Here we are, singers, right there on the front lines. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that any commander in his right mind would have thought it was a good idea to put the singers on the front lines, do you? People on the front lines are supposed to look intimidating. You’d at least think that he’d give them an intimidating song to sing. Something like, “Run away, run away. We’re gonna blast the pants off you!” or if it’s gonna be a worship song let it be, “I went to the enemy’s camp and I took back what he stole from me.” Instead, they sing, “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good. His love endures forever.”

They decided it would be a great idea to go out on the front lines of a battle and sing a love song to The Lord. It was a crazy idea. But it was was an idea that arose from the heart of worshipping people and God thought it was great!

You see, Jehoshaphat displayed something I like to call creative obedience.

3. You must be free to exercise creative obedience.

Some of you may naturally think that God would chastise the king for adding to the Lord’s command. We think he’s gonna say something like this, “Did I tell you to sing? No! How dare you sing? You didn’t even ask me if it was okay if you sing. And I didn’t even tell you what song to sing, you had the audacity to pick your own song! How dare you be so presumptuous!” In our own churches we say, “Hey man, it better be all God and none of you.”

Jesus was 100 percent God, but he was also 100 percent man. God does not despise human input as some of us may assume.

We have this idea that God is a dictator who literally dictates to us everything we are supposed to say and do and then we get the word from on high and do it. And God does do that once in a while. He has written on a wall with his own finger on one occasion, and gave very detailed instructions for building the ark and the temple.

But there are times when God is itching for some collaboration. There are times when God puts a burning inside us to be creative and he actually wants us to respond to that desire, to give into it, to express it. When we are creative, we resemble the character and nature of God. So often it is God that put that desire there within us.

You who are parents may know what it’s like to create with your children. You know you could do it better by yourself, but you love to watch your children create. Once my son made an instrument out of a stapler. He played it and sang the stapler song he made up. It was goofy, it was feeble, and I loved it. It brought joy to my heart to watch my son create. You know why I loved it? Because it was genuine, it was fun, and because he is my son.

It’s not that God is so dumb that he doesn’t have enough good ideas on his own. But by drawing us out, even in our humanness, he seeks to touch us more deeply. You see, God could write his own worship songs. God could preach his own sermons and paint his own artwork. But 9 times out of 10, he wants us to do it. It gives pleasure to his heart because we are his kids and he enjoys us.

The key for them was that their eyes were focused on God. Remember at the beginning of the story when Jehoshaphat said, “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” They didn’t have all their ducks in a row. They were not a perfect people, but at that moment in time, their eyes were upon him. That’s all it takes to be qualified to create before the Lord. If our eyes are on him we qualify. God can use our expressions to do mighty exploits in the spiritual realm.

Bill Johnson reports that when his church began to release people into greater levels of creativity, they began to notice an increase in the number of creative miracles that begin to occur. You know, a creative miracle, like when God forms something out of nothing, flesh and ligaments and body parts growing back from nothing? I don’t know about you, but I’ll take some of that!

Now, Jeoshaphat was a leader, he was not an artist per se. But God stirred creativity within him and he made a way for it to happen. Some of you here are more leaders than you are artists. I’d say I fall into that category. Like Jehoshaphat, you are a worshiper and you are noticing the rumblings of the creativity of God around you. You are hearing the sounds of the artists and you are compelled to express your obedience to God in a more extravagant way. I believe God is calling more and more leaders to consult with more and more artists, to find out what they are thinking and feeling. Look around you and see if there are those you need to release. Command them to arise, not to shrink back, but to put forth their best efforts for the King of Kings. There are leaders that are coming to realize that there is a prophetic release that only the artists can bring.

I am more and more convinced every day that if the hearts of leaders and artists in a city have their eyes upon the Lord, that God will usher in an awakening like never before.

Others of you consider yourself an artist, but there is also a leadership call upon your life. Do not shove this aside, but listen to the Lord and step up to the plate. You can be an artist and a leader. Your leadership skills can help your artistic endeavors and your creativity can influence the way that you lead. Others may need you to help propel them to the destiny God has in mind for them.

4. You must not shrink back from your calling to the front lines.

As an artist you are called to lead the way in this spiritual battle! You cannot sit in dark corners and hide behind other people, or your own fears anymore. You have been given gifts and talents to be used. Why? Because God wants to touch specific people through you.

So these artists went out before the army under the direction of the King. As they sang powerfully, the Lord sent ambushes against their enemies and the enemy crumbled before their eyes. These guys were skilled. They were ready.

He wants to bring you into a place of greater blessing and anointing. After the battle was won, they were able to go in and enjoy all the plunder of three nations. There is a poverty spirit over some of you. You never think you will have enough. You are not willing to invest in what you do. You are always complaining about no one appreciating you. I believe that God wants to unlock unprecedented provision to the church through his artists. But he can’t do it unless we are willing to go to the front lines.

Those who are called to the front lines have a spirit of excellence. Excellence shows something in you. It means you had to discipline yourself to study and become that way. If you have become that way it means that you on some level have proven yourself trustworthy. We cannot sit back and hope that things come to us or that maybe one day we will wake up magically amazing at our craft. No we must work at it we must study it! Artistic expression through a medium is powerful and must be stewarded.

You must learn how to use the gifts talents and abilities that God has gifted you with to their fullest potential. Only then will you be able to fully be able to lead with the power that God has intended.

Will you be gutsy enough to go to the front lines?

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Dreamers, innovators, those of you who are full to the brim with ideas… You there. Yes, I am talking to you. I know how it feels. When I was 9 years old, I was ready to change the world. I was going to write a book by the time I was in sixth grade. I was going to have at least three different careers when I grew up. I was going to make a difference.

How many times have you had a great idea and it seemed to die and you don’t know what went wrong? I want to submit to you that so much of it is timing. There are different reasons that our ideas work or don’t work and so little of it has to do with the merit of the idea itself. Some ideas float and others sink like rocks.

Other than the fact that your idea may just stink, here are some reasons your idea may fail:

1. The idea is not as fully developed as it could be.

Einstein once said that he was not necessarily smarter than other people, it was just that he stuck with problems longer. We so often miss this key to success. You may have to sit on your idea and rework it for 20 years before anything happens. Maybe you will meet someone down the road who has the missing piece to your idea, the piece that will solve everything.

2. The venue or people with whom you’re trying the idea just don’t fit.

I have had this happen many times. I have had a vision for something that I thought would be really cool and no one really got it no matter how hard I tried to communicate it. Then I would see something similar happening with different people in a different venue. I was encouraged to find that my idea did work somewhere, it just did not work in the location where I was. If you are coming up against a brick wall, you may find that waiting for the right place, the right people, and the right time, will accelerate everything.

3. You don’t have the power or skills to make it happen.

If you are part of a church, business, or organization in which you are not the leader, you may find that your idea is too big for your level of influence. While some leaders are insightful enough to use great ideas that are not theirs, many will not have such wisdom. If the leader of the organization does not see the value of your idea like you do, your idea may be doomed before it ever takes flight. Some ideas are too big to try without the authority to back them up. Someday you may have this authority. Someday it may actually work.

My mother taught me to write everything down. Thanks for that, Mom. I have ideas that have been locked away for years. Who knows if they will ever take flight? But pieces of them are all valuable to me and I would not be a good steward of them if I forgot them or tossed them away. There may be a day when I need that idea, or a piece of that idea for something I am doing. It will be fully developed, in the right venue, and I will have the power to make it happen. Until then, don’t stop dreaming! Your ideas are precious. They hold more power than you might dare to think.

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I just finished watching an inspiring documentary called “Still Bill” on one of the greatest songwriters of our day, Mr. Bill Withers. If you’re young and somewhat ignorant like me and the name Bill Withers does not ring any bells, maybe the names of these songs will: Ain’t No Sunshine, Lean on Me, Just the Two of Us… Now is it ringing any bells? Are you singing yet?

Funny thing is I actually met Bill years ago at his home in California as I was about 13 years old, not having the slightest idea who he was, other than the fact that he was someone famous and important. My mom was hired to help them with a party and I was hanging around trying to help, trying not to get in the way. Bill just kept telling me to relax while his wife kept giving me things to do. They were genuine. They were real. They loved people. It was apparent that they enjoyed life and that they had a kind of wise perspective on life that few knew.

I believe that Bill is someone who has “gained the whole world” but has not “forfeited his soul.” As I watched this documentary of his life, it became clear to me why he had not lost his soul in his meteoric rise from obscurity to stardom. He was rooted and grounded in faith by his mother and grandmother. He was taught the value of work by his father. He fought the hurt inflicted by the loss of his father at 13 and a speech impediment in his childhood. The people he encountered who refused to believe he’d accomplish anything noteworthy at all. At the age of thirty three he was a mechanic who installed toilets on airplanes. He had a few songs that he thought may be worth something, so he let some people hear them. His songs hit the charts and he flushed his toilet job for life as a full time musician.

However, after meeting his wife and starting a family, the fame he found was just not worth it to him anymore. Rather, he was content to raise a family and make music in the privacy of his home. People wonder why he stopped “chasing the dream.” He had gone there and back and found it lacking.

If you’ve read my earlier posts, you’ll know that I’m all for a healthy dose of ambition and drive. It is intolerable to me when people celebrate mediocrity by throwing away their own gifts and not using what God gave them all in the name of modesty. However, in the pursuit of our dreams, we need to ask ourselves, what are we really after in this life? Is it money, security, notoriety, validation from others? Are we seeking something for ourselves, or are we spending ourselves for the benefit of others? Bill is convinced that as we get older, we turn our attention more and more to the concerns of others. That is an optimistic outlook… I sure hope we do.

I hope it doesn’t take all of us worldwide fame and riches to get a clue that such things will not answer the desperation of our souls. Maybe regular folks like us can find our satisfaction before we “get there” maybe on the way. By the time we “get there,” maybe the satisfaction of the goal will just be icing on the cake, the byproduct of an already fully satisfied life. Some of us may, for an unforeseen reason, be stopped just short of “getting there.” Life happens.

For us believers, we will have an eternity to create, to accomplish, to be all that we were created to be. If God wants you to live a life of accomplishment and fame, so be it. If “it” happens, you won’t find that you’ve suddenly turned into some kind of demigod. If it happens to me, I’ll still be me. If it happens to you, you’ll still be you, just like Bill Withers is “Still Bill.” You’ll still have the same annoying quirks, you’ll still need to have your socks and underwear washed just like everyone else. It’s not the big deal we make it. There is so much more waiting for us we cannot even imagine. It’s not what we have in this life, it’s what we do with what we have that will count. Don’t take my word for it; just wait and see. In the meantime, how about you be you and I’ll be me?

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I find it kind of ironic that I am so interested in the concept of boredom. As a kid I wasn’t really allowed to be bored. I’m not sure where I first heard it, but if I ever dared admit that I was bored, I would hear, “If you’re bored, you’re not being creative enough.” I have since used this line on numerous complaining kids as a schoolteacher and children’s minister. Such a response usually takes kids by surprise.

My first ever blog post was one on fascination– that it is something that we all desire, whether we feel that we are creative or not. In another post, I made the case that we are all creative and need to get over the mindset that some people just lack creativity. Some people just value creativity less than others, some prefer stuffing their creative impulses. Some use their creativity in ways that may not seem artsy, but they are just as creative and just as valid. Yet others still fear the creative power that they may harness.

In this post, my thesis is this: If we truly learned to direct our creative energies, the faculties of our imaginations, that perhaps we would truly become more sanctified and devoted worshippers of God.

Go with me for a minute here. The first commandment is that we shall have no other gods before us and the second is similar, that we shall not make any gods of stone or any other material to worship. In essence, God knows that the temptation is there to create our own gods. Because creativity is so central to who we are and so central to the image of God, when we refuse to worship God, we are compelled to use our creativity for evil. We cannot help but to be creative. So the ten commandments are a list of DO NOTs. Now in the New Testament era, Jesus decrees a much shorter list of TO DOs. We are now commanded to 1. Love the Lord with all that we are… And 2. Love our neighbors as ourselves. Love is a lot more open ended of a command than to “not make any graven image.” Open ended commands demand something of us. This is a open book essay test. Such tests demand creativity!

How many of us have lost touch with the Lord from time to time, simply because we got bored? How many of us have found other things more captivating from time to time, giving the Lord a back seat? The way we divorce our creative tendencies from our relationship with our Maker is just wrong thinking, and it keeps us from Him. I have heard it said, from people who can see into the heavenly realm, that even our own guardian angels appear to be bored when we are idle, when we are not engaging in something of value. How do people look when they are engaged? They use their bodies, they show emotion, they pour out expression by speaking, writing, painting, even seeing and hearing things differently.

Sometimes we treat God with such so-called “reverence” that we do not let him engage us. We are afraid to initiate our engagement with him out of fear we may do something sacrilegious. We need to start finding open doors for God to captivate us again. One of the most effective ways I can do this is to begin to create. I can read a Psalm and rewrite it in my own words. I can read some Old Testament story and write it from some other perspective. I can start singing something that is on my heart toward the Lord. It doesn’t have to be something that is going to be played on the radio. What matters is that it is played before my Lord. In ancient Jewish culture, dance was a regular act of worship for men and women. If you have never tried using your body in this way, I suggest you give it a try! When you give your entire body over to God, you can encounter him in an entirely new way.

I tend to use activities I enjoy to worship God, but I also want to stretch myself. The visual arts are one avenue I’d like to explore further, to stretch beyond the boundaries of my comfort zone so that God can show me yet another aspect of himself. Even if it doesn’t seem like “proper” worship, it can be worship to you. You’d be surprised at the different things people were “anointed” to do in the Bible. Short of killing ten thousand people with a jawbone, I’d say the sky’s the limit. 🙂

We can create upward– toward God in worship, but we can also create outward– toward others in love. Baking cookies for your neighbor, giving a prophetic word in the form of a gift, helping someone with a strategy for their business or ministry. These can all be ways to engage in the second open-ended commandment, loving our neighbors as ourselves.

If we do not engage our whole selves toward God, we will engage ourselves toward something else. And when we do that, we engage in idolatry. I am convinced that if we were forcibly stripped of all our little idols, that we would be so compelled to worship the Living God that we could hardly stand to keep our distance. Worship and a lifestyle of obedience would become our food day and night. We were created to need him. It’s not that we would necessarily need to stand in a church singing praise choruses all day long. But in an idol-free atmosphere, every activity would be infused with the awareness and new understanding of who God is. This is kind of worship is what will keep us satisfied for eternity.

You don’t think of yourself as an artist, so what? You are a creator nonetheless, made in the image of an amazingly creative God. Even the least creative people in the world can become creative geniuses when the creativity of God blows upon them. The beautiful thing is that they can unlock that creativity anywhere: at home, at work, even in the car.

After being invigorated in such a way as we creatively engage with God, pornography loses its appeal, pride seems a little further from our minds, worries and fears subside, and our relationships seem to come into clearer perspective. Do not allow yourself for one minute to get bored in your relationship with God. As we do in our natural romantic relationships, we have to fan the flame of our true First Love. Creativity can be a surprisingly delightful path to the intimacy you’ve been craving.

For more on creating with God I recommend Theresa Dedmon’s “Born to Create: Stepping into your Supernatural Destiny.”

So, how do you engage creatively with God?

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“When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are, anything your heart desires will come to you.” Sound familiar? Powerful words. How clever of Walt Disney to realize and capitalize on the power of our wishes and desires! Perhaps he knew the power of our dreams firsthand, I think he had a few of his own… Soon enough we grow up and realize that it is not enough to simply wish on a star, that our actions help determine our future, our actions mixed with a little bit of faith, luck, providence, whatever term you prefer, is what we believe will fulfill the desires of our hearts.

If you can confidently say that you can see where you want to go and you are moving toward the dream that is in your heart, then you know that you are a dream pursuer. However, if you are like most of the world, there is something you want that you don’t yet have. Not only do you not yet have it, but you seem to be far from the road to getting there. You may not even know what that something is, but it is gnawing inside of you when you wake up and when you lie down. The greater visibility and significance of your dream, the more likely you are to feel this way, because you feel so far from where you feel you are meant to be. This is the plight of the dream sick.

People who are dream sick lead often perpetuate their own state and lead others down a similar path. You see, it is very hard to see possibilities in others when you doubt that there is anything worthwhile in yourself. When you are in a constant search for validation from others, you tend not to see and make room for others in their own search. Your greatest hope of getting out of this state is that your frustrations will cause you to be willing to take a risk, to get a strategy, and to make a change.

There is a secret that many successful people have realized. The path to their own happiness is found in the relentless search to make many other people happy. Now don’t stop reading here. The second part is equally important. They cannot make many other people happy unless they know who they are and can describe and pursue the greatest gift that they offer the world.

Knowing who we are and what we have to offer is no simple question to answer. It requires much soul searching, prayer, and even some divine intervention. It takes people along our paths to help get us there. When we realize that people are our path, we have to learn how to develop rapport with people, lots of people, in order to share who we are with them and so they can share who they are with us.

So often, we see people one dimensionally. When you see a person one dimensionally, you unconsciously say to yourself, “This person needs what I have,” without one thought that they may have something you need as well. On the other hand, you may see someone else in a one dimensional way by saying, “I need what this person has,” without the thought that you may also be able to contribute to the life of this person in some way. Relationship is, by definition, a process of give and take. Even if all you ever do is buy someone’s book, you are contributing to the life of an author in some way. A mutual give and take is the only healthy way to build a relationship, build a life, and build a dream. You may think that you give and take, but you may be grossly underestimating what you can take or what you can give, or maybe even both. Dream pursuers are learners, headed down the path of getting it right in this arena.

Part of my dream is helping others to realize their dreams, which is why I developed the Passion and Purpose Guide that you can find on this blog site. This guide helps people define who they are at this season of their life. However, defining who you are will mean nothing unless you can help others define who they are. Anything of value you bring to the world will help serve this purpose: whether it is creating your own line of handbags, selling ice cream, writing books, or parenting. When we interact with others we are helping them define what is important to them. Even the commercials you watch on TV are attempting to help you define who you are. By all means, get what you need to define who you are so that you can stop holding your gifts back from others. Then, when you are not holding back who you are, you’ll be less likely to hold someone else back from who they are.

I’d love to hear where you are on this journey!

To my email and blog subscribers, I just want to say thanks. Especially to those who have encouraged me… You keep me writing!

On my recent trip to California, I was talking with a friend, Byron Easterling, and something he said stuck with me. (By the way, check out his insightful book, “Dream Big, Dream Often.”) We were talking about artists and leaders and he commented about the possibility that there is a new breed of artists coming that are also called to be leaders. It got me thinking about how leadership and artistry always used to be portrayed at polar opposites. The values of the artist and the leader were on opposite ends of the spectrum. There seemed to be constant frustration between the two. But it seems that nowadays the kind of leadership that is being sought and rewarded is the type of leadership that is creative in nature, that is true artistry. Maybe we should replace the value laden term “artist” and use something like “designer.” Regardless of the terminology, it seems that there are more and more leaders seeking creative abilities and that there are more and more creators seeking leadership skills.

My husband and I are prime examples of this. Most of his life my husband, a missionary/pastor’s kid, has been expected to be a leader, particularly a leader in the church. Leadership skills were engrained in him so much that he often took them for granted. (On a side note, you ever noticed how many pastor’s kids end up becoming musicians?) I, on the other hand, a recording engineer/producer/musician’s daughter and valley girl from LA, have been expected to be an artist, a performer, a creator. I took the arts for granted, along with all the creative training I received. So naturally, my husband has sought out opportunities to be creative, and I have sought out opportunities to lead. After years of thinking that we are hopelessly confused, we are coming to realize we can have both– that we can be both leaders and artists in the same breath. We are designers. But we lead differently, not better or worse, just differently. We lead by design, even using our artistic expressions as a leadership tool. And I know that there are many others like us out there. You may be one too.

I believe that God is raising up more and more “designers” or “artist-leaders” in the church. I’ll refer to it as a Solomon anointing. I have heard Bill Johnson prophesy that in coming days we will see a rise in interest over the life of Solomon. Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived but, as Johnson points out, his wisdom was not a heady type of wisdom, void of passion and emotion. Rather, he expressed his wisdom through amazing arts and craftsmanship. He was uniquely equipped to guide and communicate effectively with other artists as well as with other leaders. He had an artistic vision and knew how to inspire and collaborate with others to make amazing things happen. So much so, that the Queen of Sheba was blown away by how he set the table!

Back to 2012, have you noticed that this is the greatest year of opportunity yet for artists? Current technology has allowed us greater and greater opportunities to express ourselves. The days when you can be an artist and avoid being an entrepreneur are coming to a close. These days, you’ve got to have great strategy and great business sense as well as amazing work. Because everyone now has more opportunity, there is just too much of a competitive edge for you to skimp on leadership skills. Conversely, in our pluralistic society, there is more and more of a need for leaders who understand culture, the arts, and how to speak the language of our arts-driven, opinionated, and technologically sophisticated society. Gone are the days when your message will get through without employing some amazingly creative tactics. Gone are the days when title and position is enough.

You may consider yourself an Artistic Leader, or you may be more of a Leading Artist. Together, we need the Solomon anointing of an unparalleled wisdom and understanding into many realms. We need to be skilled. We need to be inspiring. We need to recognize the treasure in others and to pull it out of them. Who knows where your following lies? Who knows the people who are searching for your leadership or your expression? You won’t know until after you step out to lead, to create. The wisdom you need is available now. All you need to do is ask. (James 1:5)

Brainstorming can be done alone or in groups, for fun or serious business, in any number of different environments. Merely talking about something creative is not necessarily brainstorming. Evaluating ideas is not brainstorming. Evaluation occurs later in the collaboration process. Brainstorming is the soil in which ideas are formed. If we put time and energy into valuing the initial brainstorming process, we will end up with much better ideas in the end.

Everything I have read on brainstorming concludes that brainstorming requires a “yes” mentality. In essence, it is optimism that makes for good brainstorming. It is not the quality of the ideas that count at first. We must understand that the sheer quantity of ideas eventually leads to quality. So, with each new idea that is presented, we know that it is only getting us closer to the idea that will stick. This is not a time to be practical. This is not the time to think about the limitations of finances or skill or manpower. Brainstorming can a lot of fun because it is a time to celebrate the exploration of pure imagination.

The only goal of brainstorming is creative movement. We want to get our ideas out of the normal pattern of thinking and start to see things in new ways. When you brainstorm in a group, it creates an advantage, because the ideas of others can springboard your own rigid or usual patterns of thinking to initiate that creative movement that you want. If you brainstorm alone, you have to make a conscious effort to take in input that is outside of yourself so that you can listen for other perspectives. In fact, the diversity of the input makes for greater levels of creativity. Listening to the perspective of children, of the elderly, of people with differing backgrounds, allows for you to open up your mind to other surprising and fun modes of thinking.

In group brainstorming sessions, no one should be stingy or lazy with ideas. Stingy means refusing to share everything you’ve got (got this concept @stephenbrewster.me). Lazy means refusing to try to think of anything other than your first idea. So, in a group brainstorming session, no one gets to stand by and simply evaluate other people’s ideas. Everyone participates in the process, with the possible exception of a facilitator who understands the process and whose role is to simply clarify and keep the conversation focused on brainstorming.

Therefore, when you enter into a group brainstorming session, expect to be stretched and challenged; to suspend your judgement for the time being and see in a new way. Suspending judgement takes discipline and focus, especially if your job requires you to make lots of judgement calls. In order to take in the ideas of others and add in your own to the mix, you have to let down your guard and just enjoy the ride.

Each brainstorming session can and should be followed up by collaboration sessions in order to select and execute the chosen idea. See my “collaboration guidelines” article for more on this subject. The cool thing about brainstorming is that no ideas need to be lost. Whatever notes are taken or ideas that spark in the minds of participants, can be used to create more movement for a later project. When you enter into this process, you can be tempted to think that it is not worth the time. But if you give it a chance, you will learn to enjoy it, get better at it, and appreciate the quality of the ideas that come from it.

How do you brainstorm?

I don’t quite know what to say when I hear people say, “I’m really not creative.” Usually, I have a little cognitive dissonance, ask a few more questions, shrug it off, and go about my way. But the more I ponder it, the harder it is for me to accept that any given human being is not creative.

Maybe it’s all in how we define the term “creative.” Renown thinking expert Edward de Bono felt that the word “creativity” is too loaded with different meanings for different people and that it is too value-laden. So he coined the term, “lateral thinking.” Lateral thinking is a skill of seeing things from a different perspective. It is like being able to jump trains from one track to another and make both abstract and concrete correlations along the way. As a skill it can be practiced, modeled, and taught to others.

The problem with thinking that creativity is something you either have or don’t have, is that it limits our ability to improve our skills. I believe that we were made in the image of God, a God who is Creativity itself. Creativity is not limited to the arts, but often extends into business, social relationships, mechanics, and even competitive sports. The people that realize they are creative are simply the ones that put value and energy into the creative process.

Merely labeling people creative or not creative is a little like praising a kid for being smart. Though telling a kid he is smart might be a statement of truth, it does little to cause that child to grow in skill. At the first sign of difficulty, the child may question his innate ability and may give up trying because he “just doesn’t have what it takes.” However, praising a child for his effort, telling him specifically what he did right, will cause that child to repeat the effort exerted and do a better job. When he comes up against difficulty, he will remember that it is effort that is the thing. He will push through any obstacle and do better than ever before.

Usually people who don’t see themselves as creative either have a narrow view of creativity or have “failed” at their attempts at creativity. Rather than try another creative endeavor or persist in their thinking, they give up, concluding that creativity must not be their thing. Most people underestimate the time it takes to develop creative muscles. In the midst of building those creative muscles, a creator may face a lot of perceived failure and rejection from people who just don’t understand the process they are going through. The ones who end up being labeled as creative are the ones who simply keep going when others would have given up.

I believe that the ability to create is a God-given pleasure that the Creator has endowed us with. That’s right, a pleasure. Some people are so judgmental of themselves when they are creating, that they miss the pleasure of it. We love to view other people’s creation on our TVs, computers, and smartphones. But I think more of us would be happier if we took time to create just for the sake of creating, to spend more time pondering and developing the ideas that float through our brains. The more creativity is allowed to flourish, the more fascinating and enlightening life will be.

Share some of the process you have gone through as you have chosen to label yourself either “creative” or “not creative.”

There once was a man, Bezalel (Exodus 31) who was so filled with the spirit of God that he was able to have the wisdom and insight necessary to work with precious metal and all kinds of materials, to bring out glorious pieces of art, all for the glory of Jehovah God. His excellence was unarguable and was rivaled by no one in the world at that time. He is recorded in scripture as the first to be described as, “filled with the Spirit of God.” It is obvious from the example of this man that God loves the arts and he loves artists. How then, did the relationship between the artists and the church become so strained?

In modern times, arts and the church have had a love-hate relationship. The church, in an effort to reach out to the culture, wants to draw normal people in. Artists are not typically what you would call “normal.” Normal people have emotions, while artists seem to have super-emotions. Other people think in concrete terms, while artists tend to be abstract. The church needs the artists. The power that travels through the music, through artwork, and now through multimedia messages is a power the church cannot ignore. Artists live on the edge of what is currently accepted. We tend to push the envelope on what our society accepts. We have a reputation for being moody and difficult to work with. In short, we are a little scary to many church leaders.

You may have heard of a man by the name of Vincent Van Gogh, you know, the guy who is famous for going over the edge and cutting off his own ear. If you watch the old movie, Lust for Life, you will find out that he had great intentions to become a missionary and dedicate his life the service of the Lord. However, when he visited the coal mines, he wanted to build rapport with the locals, so he lived just like they did in all their poverty and filth. The church, in it’s religiosity, considered it unacceptable for one of their ministers to live this way, so they took away his support and forbid him to continue unless he conform to their standards. Artistic expression was not an option for a member of the clergy at that time and in that place. Thank God, we’ve come a long way from that, though we know there is a ways left to go.

Church leaders love the passion and excitement we bring to the church. Church leaders often get training in exegesis, or how to extrapolate truth from the word of God, but they have not been schooled in how to interpret more abstract artistic messages. Many of them do not realize the risks we take and the work we spend in order to produce quality work. Likewise, artists do not always understand the pressures of being a church leader. We don’t know what it’s like to have to deal with angry letters from people who did not approve of that hip hop special or thought the music was loud and distasteful. We do not see firsthand the issues that the people are facing day to day. Truth be told, we need each other. Though artists can tend toward being reclusive and staying in our comfort zone, away from those who we fear may hurt us or dampen our expression, now is not the time. Now is the time to be brave, to risk failure and rejection. Now is the time to partner with the church to reach a new generation for Jesus Christ. Gone are the days when churches can ignore the artists. Gone are the days when God will allow his artists to shut themselves behind doors and not let the church in. We need each other because the harvest is too ripe to ignore.

There is a faulty idea we have in our culture and it is the ancient Greek idea of dualism. It basically asserts that our physical man, or our flesh, is bad and that our spirit is the only thing that can truly be good. The contrasting Eastern/Hebrew belief has always been that our minds, bodies, souls, and spirits are all interconnected and can be redeemed and sanctified as a whole. They did not separate the sacred and the secular, but saw life as an interconnected whole. For example, they would not typically attempt to worship God only in their heart but would involve their mouths and bodies in the act of worship. Whether they ate or drank or engaged in work, or spent time with their loved ones, everything they did mattered, mind, body, soul, and spirit.

The idea of the sacred and secular was brought in by this idea of dualism that says some things are “holy” and others are not. The Jews would look at an apple and say that it is good if it is received with thanksgiving. The Greek mindset would deem the apple good or bad depending on whether or not it was offered to a false God, whether it had been cursed, or whether it had been blessed.

Today we have similar ideas… Karma, separation of church and state, secular education, secular music or art vs. Christian music or art, etc. We subtly believe the lie that certain things are inherently good or evil, or even that we can be void of any spirituality (secularism). All of these ideas stem from this faulty belief. We think we can do what we want with our bodies because they don’t really affect our spirits, or we can soak our minds in perversion and be okay spiritually. On the other extreme, we think that if we struggle with sin we are contaminated forevermore and cannot create anything of value to God or anyone else. Nothing could be further from the heart of God.

Have you ever met someone who said, “I don’t need to actually do anything to worship God. I’m worshipping him in my mind, or in my heart.” Kinda like, “I’m laughing inside.” right? Sometimes we as artists can do our thing playing an instrument or painting or whatever and neglect our own hearts or we can go to the other extreme of rejecting all perceived structure because we don’t “feel” it.

How do we grapple with the issues of our heart when we come to God in worship? I heard this example in college and thought it was great. If you try to drink some orange juice which is good stuff, good for you and refreshing, so that’s the “stuff” or the “substance.” But have you ever tried drinking orange juice without a cup? It just doesn’t work. The cup is the “form” that is necessary to get the drink to our mouths.

The substance is the why. The form is the how. Let me show you how this works from a Biblical perspective. You see, for the Jews and their holistic thinking, they could not imagine substance without form. There was no such thing as faith without an action behind it. However, they did struggle with practicing a form without substance.

Form – Substance = Legalistic Religion

If you read the prophet Isaiah, you will find the Israelites practicing form without substance. They were doing their religious duties while lacking the substance of righteousness. Jesus also comes against the teachers of the law and Pharisees who were doing the same thing. Who wants to be a Pharisee? This was a real problem in Eastern religion.

However, I think that the western world struggles more with the other extreme of having substance without form. This is why James had to write to early Christians explaining to them that faith without deeds is dead. To the eastern mind, the idea of having faith without deeds would have been unthinkable.

Substance – Form = Powerlessness

The problem with us can be that we have the heart or substance of worship but our culture has limited the accepted forms it can take. We think that it doesn’t need to take form, that it can just remain as a posture of our hearts. Do you think that perhaps one of the reasons we lack manifestations of miraculous power in our society is that we have removed the form from the substance so that we cannot put the power we have to use? It remains potential energy within. The use of a form unleashes the motion of the kinetic energy of the Spirit.

In my personal walk with God, I saw people who expressed worship very freely or spoke about God with a lot of enthusiasm, but their actions did not line up with what they were doing or saying. I was so offended by this that I became obsessed with my own motivation and so worried that my outward expression would be shallow, that I avoided forms like too much movement, or enjoying music that might in my opinion “detract” from God, or I would stop singing when my mind wandered. I wanted to be sure that the substance was not missing. I am so glad I did not stay there. In the later years of high school and college I began to open myself up to all kinds of forms of worship. I started to let myself explore God through dance and prophetic song and I began to experience God in a way I’d never have done if my heart had not been open to the form. My intimacy with God was now not just caged in my mind, but it affected my body, my emotions, and even my will. It was like a breath of fresh air in my journey with God.

It’s like saying, okay now that you’ve been married for years, you can now actually touch one another. Do you know the Hebrew word for “to know”? It is Yadah: To know, as in “Adam knew Eve” and she conceived. Do you remember Michal, David’s wife, who despised his form of extravagant worship through dance? She despised him in her heart and was barren from that moment on. The body, the mind, the will, and the emotions must be involved. We experience God as a whole person, with all that we are. Therefore, using forms of many types increases our capacity for intimacy, which increases our access to the realm of power, causing us to reproduce.

Substance + Form = Power

(Colossians 2:6-12 NIV)
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord (substance), continue to live your lives in him (form), rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness (substance). See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world (form without substance), rather than on Christ (substance). For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity (substance) lives in bodily form (form), and in Christ you have been brought to fullness (form and substance). He is the head over every power and authority. In him you were also circumcised (old form) with a circumcision not performed by human hands. (new substance)Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ (substance), having been buried with him in baptism (form), in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God (substance), who raised him from the dead.

So you can see that we must look at the substance before we look for the form, or we are in danger of legalistic religion. We must allow our substance to take shape in various forms or we are void of power.

In earlier times, such as during the renaissance era, artists were highly valued in the church. The problem was not that the arts were evil, but that some artists, but mostly rich and influential people, used artists not for the glory of God, but for the glory of themselves. The best and the brightest artists were drawn to the church because the leaders invested in them, misguided though they were. This is why the greatest art in the world had religious subject matter. So the form (the art itself) was right, but the substance (or motivation) was often wrong. Thus, the church began to swing the pendulum away from the value of arts in an effort to purify themselves from the corruption that had gone on. They made the mistake of dualistic thinking that says, “that bathwater was pretty dirty. Might as well just throw the baby out too.” Who can blame them? Only until fairly recently has the tide shifted toward a widespread acceptance of the arts, especially in our churches. In the seventies, there were still many evangelical churches that thought it was scandalous to use the drums in corporate worship. We have come a long way. The church as a whole has taken baby steps to incorporating the arts and we, as artists, cannot get impatient and give up on the process, as painfully slow as it seems to be. Instead, we need to model right attitudes, communicate the best we can, give and take, love our leaders, and encourage one another in the process.

If you are an artist in the church today, let’s be committed substance in the following three areas:

1. Committed to Excellence for the sake of our Excellent God: A commitment to excellence takes humility to undergo a series of corrections and to try things that are just beyond your reach in order to improve. It costs us time and resources, but anything less does not do justice to representing our Excellent God.

2. Committed to Brotherly Love among other Artists: You may or may not appreciate another person’s form of art. Other artists are risking a bit of who they are every time they perform or create, just like you, they are vulnerable. Let’s respect that vulnerability in each other and not take any opportunity to reject one another. We need respect for one another if we are going to develop and grow, if we are going to reach the lost in our own unique ways. Sometimes brotherly love looks like encouragement (encourage the weak) sometimes it looks like correction (warn the proud). We can give others room to be who they are while we have room to be who we are. Thank God we are not all alike, but we are together learning to represent Christ to the world.

3. Committed to Reaching the Lost one expression at a time: Your talent was not created for you alone, or for your own glory. It is sad how many artists have exchanged the Glory of God for their own glory. If you draw crowds, use that opportunity to draw them to an encounter with Him. You can do this up front on stage or behind the scenes. Today you can even do it from your bedroom. I’ll tell you what draws them. Excellence. It’s okay to pursue significance if you are pursuing it for the fame of Jesus Christ. You are an evangelist with each piece you create. You don’t have to mention the name of Jesus or draw crosses in order to “preach.” It is the spirit by which you do your art that is released each time someone sees or hears what you have done. They interact with the spirit that is in you, and it brings people one step closer to Jesus.

One study of the biographies of 1004 eminent people found homosexual and bisexual people overrepresented (11 percent of the sample), especially among poets (24 percent), fiction writers (21 percent), and artists and musicians (15 percent) (Ludwig, 1995).

When I read this statistic, I was not surprised, but more impassioned than ever to my commitment to drawing and nurturing artists in the church. There is a small, but growing percentage of those who practice homosexuality in our society. It is easy to prove to Bible believing Christians that homosexuality is prohibited in scripture, but effecting our culture to curb the tide of homosexual practice is more complicated.

I remember when musician and worship songwriter, Dennis Jernigan, visited our college to share his testimony which included redemption from a perilous homosexual lifestyle. I can’t help but think his story is similar to many others who find themselves facing such temptations. Raised in a Christian home, his father was a very traditional masculine man who had very little understanding or appreciation for his son’s artistic bent and sensitive nature. Over time, unable to gain his father’s approval, as all children need from fathers, he rebelled from the very core of who his father was in an effort to find his identity. The bitterness was so great toward his father that he resented any heterosexual masculinity that remained in him, identifying with others who felt ostracized by society as he did: the homosexual culture. Thankfully, God has since freed him of this lifestyle to become a fully redeemed husband and father. I believe Dennis’ story is typical of many homosexual men. I have known a few Christian friends who have succumbed to the deception of homosexuality and their stories relay this similar kind of brokenness and confusion.

In “The Leadership of the Sexes,” Michael Gurian spells out the fascinating science behind real brain differences between men and women. Contrary to some popular belief, there are real brain differences between the sexes. There is no “third sex” of any kind in the ways our brains are wired. However, there are those who think and behave differently from the usual male or female ways of thinking and behaving. There are kids who feel that something must be wrong with them because they don’t quite fit in with the other girls or the other boys. Our sex-crazed society has been quick to teach children to question their sexuality by exploring sexual options. As Christians we know that God finds sex between a husband and wife as the only “sexual option.” Science backs up the Judeo-Christian view with the dangerous physical and psychological risks that are associated with people who deviate from God’s one option. What Michael Gurian has found is that there is a distinctly “male brain” a distinctly “female brain,” but that there is also a whole range along the spectrum between where we fall on the male/female brain grid. There is the “bridge brain” which is either a male who has some more middle of the road tendencies (between the male and female brain) in his brain or a female who also has more middle of the road tendencies in her brain. The scientists are not saying that males ever convert to think totally like females or vice versa, just that there are those women who think less like the typical woman and men who think less like the typical man.

I will venture to hypothesize that it is these “bridge brained” people who tend to question their sexuality the most, especially when hurt or confused. Many of these types of people are artists of all types. The individualistic and non-conformist artist lifestyle lends itself well to being a little outside the norm. For example, women tend to have a more highly developed corpus collosum, or brain connector that helps each side of the brain talk back and forth. This connector is stronger in musicians so that you find men who are musicians better able to perform tasks that women typically dominate. A man who has a bridge brain may feel the need to express emotion more readily, which triggers uncomfortable stress hormones in the typical male brain. The bridge brained woman may excel at leadership or advanced technical thinking, and may feel ostracized by women who do not understand. These bridged brained women and men are not created homosexual. If they were, the homosexual lifestyle would pose no special health risks. Rather, they are made by God with unique gifts, challenges, and advantages that differ from those of their peers. The lifestyle of the artist tends to provide a culturally acceptable way for those who need to express their unique identity.

So what does this mean for those of us in the church? We must be a safe haven for those who are different from the norm. In our families, we must be careful not to operate out of fear of our children becoming gay, that we force them into an artificial gender mold we have created for them. My daughter should have the freedom to be as girly or as sporty or as intelligent or as bold as God has created her to be. Likewise, my sons should be allowed to pretend to shoot things as well as to freely express and discuss their feelings as much as they like. I, as a parent, refuse to mold my kids into my narrow view of what they should or should not be. I provide a compass of moral value laid out in scripture, but I allow them the room to interpret God’s purpose for their lives.

In our churches, we must do the same. We must open our arms wide to those we do not understand, seeking to see from their perspective, and even identify with their pain. We must father and mother those who were never taught that there is room in God’s plan for many various individual expressions of masculinity and femininity. We must be intentional in drawing and cultivating artistic talent from outside and from within. If these bridge brained people have a place to shine within church culture, they will not need to look outside the church for validation, to the world that lies to them about who they are. Homosexuals also tend to be very gifted, intelligent, and wealthy people. This means that if we do not grapple with the intelligent questions they ask, providing them with only trite answers, we will lose our brightest minds. We will even be losing out on the the potential of healthy families and the wonderful children that may result. We will lose some of them tragically to AIDS. If we can’t find a place for their expressions in the church, we will lose their bodies, their souls, and their spirit.

We need those who are currently lost to homosexuality back in the church. We need a vision of seeing these people actively creating, communicating, and expressing the gospel to those who need it most. Business leaders of our day are capitalizing on them. The culture of the day is winning their hearts. If all we do is call their lifestyle wrong, we are only widening the rift between us. First, we need to value them as real individuals, as people. With a spirit of love we pray to God for the wisdom to help them find the truth about the identity and purpose God has for them. This issue is only going to intensify in the days ahead and the sooner we take the time to look at the complexities of the issue, the better prepared we will be to reap the harvest of these precious ones.

The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise. (Proverbs 11:30 NIV84)