Beyond the Fence: Create Again!

Create Vs. Copy BOOK REVIEW

“Creativity elevates us. It’s standing on our tiptoes
and looking over the backyard fence.”
  Ken Wytsma

Male Kid Peeking Over a Rustic Wooden Fence
I’m a fan of Ken Wytsma’s writing and so I was super excited to read his newest contribution on creativity and it doesn’t fail to fascinate. He does a great job in sharing how creativity is for all of us. We were created to be co-creators and our creativity is a response to God’s image and call to each of us. I often tell others that we were created to create – our purpose is to help bring hope, joy, peace, love and restoration to a broken world. Ken said it well when saying it’s about “being fully human”!

We are introduced to two kinds of people: those who create or copy. It’s not that learning from others is a bad thing, but when we allow ourselves to always copy instead of considering new ideas or relationships, we are selling ourselves and others short – our creative individualities and purposes fail. Creation brings with it many beautiful things: possibility, exploration, imagination, and intervention to name just a few.

“After dealing with the real world so long, we get stuck inside the parameters we encounter. We lose our ability to accept that crazy ideas and big dreams are possible. We become standardized and learn that wrong answers are bad. We stop dreaming and don’t try for fear of failure. Surprise and wonder become things of the past.”

We are reminded in the book that creating often requires change and risk. Although it might be uncomfortable at first (and we will have our critics), the experience is freeing both for the artist and the receiver. This is what Christianity, redemption and restoration is all about!

12513829_10153802946797649_1949842254889753932_oOne of my favorite reminders is that we should not allow a fear of failure stop us. Things “can be left unfinished.” “Not all creativity has to be perfected to be beautiful.” If we don’t challenge ourselves to create and just copy everything else around us – how will we truly see new and better results? This is what drove me to begin writing my own book on masculinity stereotypes. God wants us to take our story and learn how to creatively use what we learn along the way to make this world a more beautiful place!

And what would a book on creating be without some great and creative illustrations? Once again, Create Vs. Copy doesn’t fail to deliver. There’s even great suggestions for further study and helping our “creative juices” flow. A well-written book that I highly recommend, especially for those who feel stuck or needing a reminder that their story can make a difference in the lives of others. It’s time to get on your tippy-toes, look over the fences that are holding you back, and create once again!!




Mecca Church Blues

1f41f276bd055f32_landingmec·ca, noun
A place that attracts people of a particular group or with a particular interest.

Spent some time with family today and along the way we visited the beautiful Chicago Cultural Center. One of their current exhibits is called “Mecca Flat Blues.” The exhibition includes enlargements of historic photographs that convey a compelling story. The story of a building built at first for the first class white citizens and eventually the home of middle-class African-Americans and jazz artists who came to Chicago during the Great Migration.

One of the phrases that struck me most at the temporary art installation was: “Outsiders called it a slum. Insiders considered a shelter.” A building once housing the “elite” became a safe place for the immigrant, the poor, and those in need.

It all made me stop and think. Today’s larger church buildings – could they be used now or in the future for purposes more grandeur? The church should be a safe place for all, a room full of diverse stories, a place of peace, love, and hope. The church should not be a place that attracts only those of one particular group or interest. What are we and can we do about this? When we do not stop to evaluate our purposes or follow Jesus’ examples of restoration and inclusion, it may be time to sing the “Mecca Church Blues.”

Another gallery in the cultural center included Aleksandar Hemon’s “Reasons Why I Do Not Wish to Leave Chicago: An Incomplete, Random List.” Number 13 caught my attention: “Suburbanites patrolling Michigan Avenue, identifiable by their Hard Rock Café shirts, oblivious to the city beyond the shopping and entertainment areas.” Is it possible that some of our churches “patrol their buildings in their “Christian” attire, oblivious to those without hope in their communities beyond their Christian bookstores and modern worship bands?”


Exchanged His loving kindness for a gooey, romantic love? OR can they cohabitate?

A recent article was written about Phillips, Craig and Dean’s song “No Matter How Long”. You will find pieces of the article below. I am not a P, C & D fan, but found some of the arguments somewhat heart-breaking. Therefore, you will see that I have shared some of my opinions in BOLD.

I understand the heart of the author. He and others want to make sure that we don’t go overboard when speaking of God’s love and leaving out His justice and judgment. At the same time, let us not forget that “God is love.”

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” ~ 1 John 4:7-12

“A quick listen to most contemporary Christian preaching, writing or singing would lead you to believe that God is gaga about humans and just longs to spend time with us.  The latest dreck from Oneness Pentecostals (i.e., they believe in a heretical Jesus) Phillips, Craig and Dean, is a typical example.
“The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.” ~ Zep 3:17

No Matter How Long

I watched you as you stumbled out of bed,
 Rushed out the door, your coffee in your hand. 
And you looked so lost and lonely,
 I knew I had to find a way
 To make you understand, I wanna be your friend.  
So I painted a sunrise in the sky
 And I caused the birds to sing you lullabies, 
And I whispered sweet “I love you’s”. 
No matter how long it takes, somehow I’ll find a way 
Somehow My love will find a way, No matter how long it takes.
I watched you as you fell asleep last night,
And I trembled as I watched the tears you cried.
 So I splashed your face with moonlight, and I longed for your embrace.

Evangelicalism appears to have fallen into the pit of Godly romanticism. Evangelicals now present God as a love sick puppy who yearns to spend time with us.  We have exchanged His loving-kindness for a gooey, romantic love.

Speaking about Israel, “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably to her (to her heart). And I will give her her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope: and she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, and as in the day when she came from the land of Egypt. And it shall be at that day, saith the Lord, that you shall call me ISHI (My Husband!)”
~ Hosea 2:14-16

Have we forgotten the Song of Solomon? The Song was/is regarded by many either as a typological set of songs describing of the relationship of Christ and the Church or Israel OR as an allegory of the soul’s relationship to Christ and God.

What is wrong with this song?
While I suspect the author is alluding to Psalm 19 and II Peter 3, his repositioning of theology is staggering.  My comments are in parenthesis. REMEMBER, MINE ARE IN BOLD.

I watched you as you stumbled out of bed
 Rushed out the door, your coffee in your hand
 And you looked so lost and lonely (God does not desire to save us from loneliness, but from our sins)
Yes, He wants to save us from sin NOT our loneliness; however he does care about our loneliness:
“Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” ~ Deuteronomy 31:6
“For the LORD will not abandon His people on account of His great name, because the LORD has been pleased to make you a people for Himself.” ~ 1 Samuel 12:22
“For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the LORD will take me up.”
~ Psalms 27:10
“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” ~ John 14:18

I knew I had to find a way  (This makes God sound less than omniscient)
True, He actually is “the way”.

To make you understand, I wanna be your friend  (While the Bible says we can be friends with God, it means reconciled, not bosom buddies)
Sure, but He does want to be our friend and reconcile us to Himself.

So I painted a sunrise in the sky
 And I caused the birds to sing you lullabies  (God gives us creation to appreciate Him, not lull us to sleep)
God is the Creator and we are to appreciate Him but also enjoy, care for, and love His creativity and Creation. The Bible speaks that His creation is a reminder to us of His love. He saw that it WAS GOOD, why would he not want us to do the same? “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” ~ Genesis 2:15

And I whispered sweet “I love you’s” (Is God our boyfriend or the Sovereign Creator of the universe?)
OK, got it. The Sovereign Creator shouted I love you by giving us His son.

No matter how long it takes, somehow I’ll find a way. (God is not thwarted by anything, let alone us)        
Somehow My love will find a way, (Poor, pitiful God) No matter how long it takes. (“It is appointed unto man once to die, then judgment”)
“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” ~ 2 Peter 3:9

I watched you as you fell asleep last night
And I trembled as I watched the tears you cried.
(God trembles?)
Don’t know. He is moved with compassion and when I am moved, at times I tremble. We do know that Jesus wept (maybe trembling was involved.)

So I splashed your face with moonlight, and I longed for your embrace.  (This sounds more like a Harlequin novel than Scripture)
Again, have we forgotten or ignored the Song of Solomon and those Scripture where he shares the intensity of His love for us, His creation. I do also understand however that this eros love can be fleeting. His love for us IS and our love for Him SHOULD BE much more.

Redefining the Atonement
Not a single Bible verse can be found to support the idea that we are so loveable that God yearns for us.  Instead, God desires to restore children of wrath to a right relationship with Himself so that His loving-kindness can be displayed (Eph.2).
Did I misread the lyrics? I don’t believe the focus is on the fact that we are so loveable but rather that He cares for us even when lonely and we feel that no one else does.

God does not pursue us because he finds us so adorable that His heart will just break if He can’t find a way for us to fall in love with Him.  He desires to save the unlovable so that His mercy can be magnified.  The salvation that God offers is for His namesake, for His glory.
I agree. The song does not mention the why. But must every song we listen to or sing mention the whole gospel in its entirety?

Why have we so altered the doctrine of reconciliation?  I am convinced it is because we have abandoned expository preaching and the preaching of God’s Law.  The result?  We have relegated God’s sense of anger, wrath and justice to the Old Testament as if He were a different God than that “nice New Testament God”.

While we do not want to end up in the “God is only angry” ditch, (Thank you) we have to find our way out of our present moat.  My suggestion: we need to preach verse by verse to have a complete knowledge of the character and nature of God.  We need to preach the Law to understand that we are not lovable, but loved despite what we are. (Well said, maybe the author just chose the wrong venue to present a much needed conversation?)

That is my take.  What’s yours?
That is my take.  What’s yours?

Afraid of Tomorrow?

This is the last message from my January Series “REGRET-Less”
(excerpts from “In a Pit, with a Lion on a Snowy Day by Mark Batterson)

Last week we talked about the stories of risk in the Bible. God used real people and messed up people to do BIG things for God, mankind, and eternity.  Each of them took those small risks, the steps of faith, the leaps forward that were needed to move closer towards their destiny.

I’m so thankful that they were real people with imperfect lives and screwed up pasts and LIKE ME, many took their steps of faith and took their risks while still afraid.

Abraham in Hebrews 11:8  “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.”

I love what Jonathan said to his armor-bearer when persueing the Philistines.  He knew what had to be done and went forward but not in confidence.  He looked at his armor-bearer and said, “”Come, let’s go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised fellows. Perhaps the LORD will act in our behalf. Nothing can hinder the LORD from saving, whether by many or by few.”

Regardless your calling or relational status in life, I do know that you must take risks if you want to reach your God given potential and fulfill your God-given destiny. Sometimes we must run away from security and chase uncertainty, but that’s scary isn’t it?  I took a walk through that valley again this weekend. So, today’s sermon is more like a note . . . a letter to my congregation and the best way for me to bring our REGRET Less sermon series to a close.

“Hey, its your pastor. It’s Saturday morning and, well, I’m afraid.  I believe it s a good thing for a pastor to be transparent with his congregation, so here it is . . .

in all honesty, the last two years have been real tough. I’ve doubted more than ever before, I think I’ve cried more, I have lost more sleep, and I have had big fears about the future.

Right now I am experiencing some anxiety because its tax time. Ya, got my final W2s yesterday.  Was already fearful because my teaching job, well they don’t take out any taxes.  Then yesterday, I got my W2s from my other part time job . . . I knew for sure they were taking out Federal taxes, but I was wrong it was Social Security.  We needed every cent just to pay the bills, to put food on the table and now this?

Now, I’m not expecting a pitty party, although I do enjoy a good party BUT I just wanted to be straight with you . . . I told you the last few weeks that in order to REGRET Less, we ought to all take risks. We need to step out in faith and make those hard and risky choices. So, am I now saying OOPS! I take it all back because reality hit me again?

I’m thinking . . . God has been so good. I have been blessed in so many ways and He will take care of us! Would I rather go back to living the way I did before? With a little more certainty BUT a whole lot less faith, risk, dreaming, or God. No way!

So, once again. I find myself swallowing the lump in my throat and taking another step forward. I took the obsessive compulsive quiz offered on facebook. Not sure why I take those quizzes. I guess sometimes I just enjoy the silly results.  The other day, I took a quiz that was supposed to tell me what kind of gun best resembled me and my personality.  My result: it said I would prefer knives and daggers and if I ever murdered another person I’d want to do it up close and personal.  Wow! (By the way, I’m really a loving and caring person if you don’t know me well yet . . . so no need to fear.)

However, I did take one fb quiz last year. It was called, How obsessive compulsive are you?”  I knew it would be high for me but 100% – common!

I got to admit though, I do like my to-do list and accomplishing each step, I do strive for perfection on almost everything and sometimes to my demise, and (maybe like you), I like control.  I like knowing what lies ahead. I’m not much of an adventurer (unless the journey is completely mapped out).

We like to know where we’re headed and how we’re gonna get there, don’t we? I know it drives my kids crazy AND maybe that’s the reason I do it . . . but, have your children ever asked you “why do we have to get dressed?  Where are we going?” and we answer, “Just wait and see.” It’s miserable waiting and not knowing what lies ahead.

Faith involves a loss of control and a loss of control equals a loss of certainty. Faith is the willingness and readiness to embrace our uncertainties.

Our greatest moments in life are unscripted.  We would prefer life to have a clearly defined plot . . . a mapped out beginning, middle, and end.  Why? Because, it’s hard to take those forward steps of faith and let God have control.

When taking the giant leap forward in moving to Joliet, God gave me a verse. A verse that I can’t fully comprehend , but a verse that has allowed me to keep taking more steps forward.

Proverbs 20:24 tells us “The Lord directs our steps, so why try to understand everything along the way?”

Do we really believe God is ordering every step of the way?

The Bible encourages us to move forward not in certainty but in confidence . . . a confidence that is not contiNgent upon circumstances and certainty but move on with a confidence that relies on the character of God.

My dear friends of Istoria Church, we all have our regrets, but let me remind us once more . . . let’s regret less in 2010.  Let’s never give up dreaming or risking.  Each new day that God gives us, lets just take another step forward.

Keep dreaming. I love you, Pastor Steve

Relationships, Reiki, and Restoration

reikiThe last several months have been an inspiration.  I stepped out of my “country club church comfort zone” and entered the “real” world seeking to build authentic RELATIONSHIPS with those I came in contact with in my new home town and new work place.  God has given me some wonderful friends – they are all on different parts of their spiritual journey – some close to “enlightenment” and others not even on the right path BUT they are human and each of them have a story.

Some of their stories are tragic. The others are sad, unconventional, confused, challenging, and inspiring.  I love them all and thank God that I’m at this new place on my journey.  I talk to them at my work place, I listen to them on their blogs and facebooks and each one of them are a special creation of God.

Today is kind-of-a sad day because one of my new friends will no longer be working by my side.  He has been an inspiration and a blessing and will be missed at the workplace.  His lifestyle is one that those in religious circles would condemn and look down upon AND devalue him because of it.  BUT, he’s a real person and I am sad for him today.  He has a positive outlook but losing a job is hard!  I love him like a son and pray that maybe he’s seen at least a little bit of the “real” Jesus in my wife and I.

Not too long ago, he shared with us his practice of REIKI. This is a stress reduction and relaxation technique that also promotes healing. It is administered by “laying on hands” and is based on the idea that an unseen “life force energy” flows through us and is what causes us to be alive.  I believe that he has an energy and a personality and a love for mankind that should be seen in those who say they love and follow Christ.  The sad truth is that the modern day church and organized religion is better at sending forth negative energy and offer a journey that’s not so alive!!

And this is the reason that RESTORATION is taking place . . . within myself.  I believe that I’m slowly becoming a new person and hopefully more like Christ.  I am so excited to be a part of our new community.  Maybe God can do something BIG in Joliet, if we just continue to be willing to listen and learn from others’ stories.  By doing so, maybe they can find a new story that only He can offer!

The Turning Point

caligraphy_pen“God is in the business of redeeming people’s stories.”

The exciting thing is that God invites us to join Him in redeeming people’s stories!!

“Each of our lives is a story. Once upon a time, we saw the light of day for the first time, and our story began. Through the newborn fog we meet the cast of characters: first our parents and later our friends (and enemies). We discover the setting, whether it be Toledo or Timbuktu. And each of us starts on a quest, for happiness and for meaning. At times we travel along sunlit boulevards and sometimes we stumble into darkened back alleys. Along the journey (because the writing of our story is a process), we find out who we are, what we’re made of. We learn, hopefully, and we grow.”

I was curious, so I checked it out on Google last night . . . the plot of every story consists of 5 major parts. The first three include:

1) Exposition: a fancy word for the beginning of the story- where the author (our Creator) “sets the stage.”

2) Rising Action: the series of action, or complications, that sets up the conflict for the main character of the story- in this part of the story tension builds. And this is where the problem lies: Most everyone gets stuck in this part of the story. The complications, the hurt, the pain – the conflict. They never make it to the . . .

3) Climax: the high point in the story – the turning point where the conflict comes to a head – usually the most exciting point in the story. They never dream, they never really live, they get stuck, they don’t realize that their life is part of a greater story.

The Creator has never given up on his creation. He is in the business of rewriting our story. “Somehow we’ve managed to overlook an entire biblical vocabulary that makes this point clear. Redeem, Restore, Recover, Renew, Regenerate, Resurrect. . . . Each of these words begin with the re- prefix, suggesting a return to an original condition that was ruined or lost.”

God wants you and I to find our way and then join Him in the restoring, the renewing, the recovery, the resurrection, the re-writing of a story!!!!

Remember, “God is in the business of redeeming people’s stories.” The exciting thing is that God invites us to join Him in redeeming people’s stories!!