Before Finnden was born I knew I wanted to create something for his room. Something special. Something no other kid in the world would have. Something that, years from now, he could look back on and say, “My dad made that for me. He loved me before he knew me.”
For Finn I created two prints that hang in his room, geometric ABC’s and 123’s. Many nights before he goes to bed he insists on stopping at the framed ABC’s on his wall and hearing us sing the tune as he points to each letter. There’s nothing so gratifying in the world as that.
Since we’re expecting another little one in February, I wanted to create something equally as personal and special for her space as well.
(As a second child, I can attest to the fact that most second-born children generally get considerably less…um…excitement surrounding them. Now understand, I know it didn’t mean that I was less wanted or loved, but…well…the newness wears off. The second one isn’t the first. First birthdays. First steps. First teeth. It’s all been seen before. Snapshots alone are proof of that. For every one picture of me ages birth through about six there are fifteen of my older brother before the age of one, drooling, sleeping, and generally being a bump on a log. But it was all so new.)
All that to say, I wanted to create something for the new baby.
I’ve had a very cool, gnarled branch I’d happened upon (for free) that’s been sitting in my garage awaiting inspiration for a few months. Add to that the fact that Karen and I are a bit enamored with owls lately, and I had the impetus for a project.
(Yes, I know owls are trendy right now. I don’t care.)
I’m not the best at hand-sewing, but with a little patience and the determination not to quit, I came up with something I hope she will treasure for a long time. And something that will remind her that she was loved long before we laid eyes on her.
(Her arrival will be sometime this week. Pretty excited about that.)
As with any true collaboration, I can’t draw clear lines around who came up with what and when. I can’t pinpoint exactly how this idea came about, but the goal of our creative team was to tell the very traditional Christmas story in a distinctive way. What we stumbled upon—through the use of shadow puppetry, traditional puppetry and video—was a fusion of both old and new that made for an incredibly profound and fascinating experience.
From beginning to end, this was a labor of love for all of us involved. There were many points at which the project seemed impossible, but God proved to us again and again that He makes the impossible possible.
There are far too many people to thank for a collaboration like this one, but in brief: Thank you to TJ Hill for the beautiful music, Liz Hetzel for her talented direction, Frankie Franco III for his stunning artwork, Dannah Christensen for her tireless assistance, Dave Terrell for his leadership and construction prowess, David Higgins and Kayla Sanders for their artistry, Brandon Setter for his video animation, and the fantastic cast who made magic time and time again.
As a church, ROCKHARBOR just finished what we call Seek Week—a week of prayer, worship and fasting in pursuit of God as we step into new vision for the coming ministry year.
The Lord’s Prayer served as a backbone for the week as we learned about and offered up prayers through the various facets of the Matthew passage. I wrote this piece and performed it as part of worship on our last night of studying the prayer.
Here are the lyrics:
Our Father Who art in heaven Hallowed be thy name. That name, The name we cannot tame, And would not aim to try.
For your name’s above all names, Relentlessly shows its fame, And effortlessly holds its claim.
Your name it is holy. Your name is the only One that can Be known as the I Am. And so we stay In that presence,
And we pray Here in deference And we ask
May Thy kingdom come Thy will be done. It can be done; It will be done; The work’s begun On earth As it is in heaven
In you and me, Friends, can you see The we that we would be If he’d not set us free To be the we That he Can make us be?
Our lives are exchanged. Our hearts have been changed. Our passions rearranged.
And he has beseeched us, Unleashed us, Bequeathed us
The keys to his kingdom, The work that must be done. Here and now We can plant and plow He will show us how.
So don’t wait. Don’t hesitate. Don’t let it percolate, Or let time confiscate The power We have in this day and hour. We aren’t meant to cower, For he has empowered.
My brothers and sisters, We cannot resist this; It is our existence To become his assistants, To make exchange, To enact change, To rearrange, All in his name.
So that when we say, “Give us this day Our daily bread,” We mean instead:
Please, God, give un-to us The things that you have for us That will make us vic-tor-i-ous.
For our old lives are gone, And we sing a new song; Our hearts burn with fires That do turn our desires To you To do That which you Would have us do.
But first we must attend To the things we must amend, And the ways we still pretend To be something other Than the life you’ve uncovered.
So search our hearts and know us, And show us The brokenness in us.
Bring to mind our lapses, And forgive us our trespasses. Let the light of your face Erase My disgrace. Replace The trappings of this place By the power of your grace.
For it’s by you we live And give As we forgive. And choose not to pass judgments On those who affront us Who trespass against us.
Perfection forgave us And gives us The means for forgiveness Of others.
So that we might gain The claim to your name Remove all our stains, And precede us, And lead us not into temptation But towards your redemption And exemption By your preemption of death.
Father, please deliver us From evil that may hinder us.
For we find ourselves connected To the power that resurrected. That power It has seized us, It frees us, Sin flees us Because we have seen Jesus.
My mind cannot fathom The wonder that can come, That has come For thine is the kingdom, And the power, And the glory. Forever. And we will endeavor To praise you wherever For ever and ever Amen.
Several months ago I was inspired by the origami work of Sipho Mabona. At the time I was in a bit of a creative funk (read: self-pitying cesspool), and seeing his work was one of many things that slowly drew me out.
Karen and I moved into our place a little over a year and a half ago, but save fresh colored paint on the walls we had done very little to express ourselves in our new space. Here I was, being professionally-creative every day, but my home showed no flickers of that creative flame.
In order to force myself to get to work I stopped by Art Supply Warehouse and bought myself a canvas, paints, brushes and some beautiful origami papers.
Origami—especially the repetitive kind—has always had a bit of a calming effect on me, so for a few nights in a row I spent a thirty minutes or so folding origami koi fish following a pattern I’d found online.
Then, like so many projects, it fell by the wayside. The few fish I’d finished, perhaps fifteen or so, sat in a plastic Target bag in my garage for at least two months.
But unlike many of my past exploits, a few weeks ago, I went looking for my bag of paper koi and began folding again. I had recently been learning the art of discipline in my work, and somehow in my mind this project had become the symbol for my newfound lifestyle.
If I could finish the koi, I could finish anything.
And so I folded. And folded. And folded. And finally I ran out of paper. The finish line was in sight.
On Thursday and Friday Karen and I completely re-arranged our living room. Perhaps it was a nesting thing. (Did I mention we’re expecting in February?)
Since we were moving all the furniture and re-thinking our wall spaces and what might hang on them, I figured it was as good a time as any. I picked up some super glue and floral needles and began the second tedious phase of the project: gluing the needles into the paper fish.
With that finished I began to arrange them on the wall, pushing the tips of the needles into the drywall using a pair of needle-nosed pliers.
Figs are not my favorite fruit. Not by a long shot. So where did this project come from?
A few weeks ago we were nearing the end of our series in the book of Mark, and we were looking at Mark 11:12-26, which includes the story of Jesus cursing the fig tree.
I’m always looking at our teaching calendar wondering what creativity can spring up out of it, and I got to this one and almost passed it on by. Figs?
But something made me stop. I’ve often wondered about this passage. Why is Jesus so angry at a fig tree?
What I discovered was that if you have basic knowledge about the seasons of a fig tree and pair that knowledge with the fig tree’s pervasive symbolism throughout scripture, well, it’s pretty darn fascinating. Not only that, it also brings perspective and clarity to the scene of Jesus at the temple that appears in the midst of the passage. See, in Jesus’ cursing of the fig tree and his subsequent scene-making in the temple courts he is foreshadowing the demise of a broken system, one that presents a healthy exterior but is wholly dead on the inside.
But until I did the research I didn’t know any of that. And I assumed our church family wasn’t doing a lot of research on fig trees. I wanted to communicate what I’d learned in a concise and entertaining way thereby freeing up our teachers to dig deeper into the passage without having to lay out all of its foundations.
I brought the basic idea to a couple fantastically-talented guys on our team, and voila!
I have not written in almost three months, but I have not been silent.
A few months ago I started working out again. As usual, the impulse took me by surprise. One moment I was in a lazy/binging stupor, and the next I was resolute, passionate and disciplined. My mind makes that shift quickly, but my body…not as quickly.
As I threw myself into a rigorous routine of strength and cardio work my body cried out in protest. Each morning as I stood to get out of bed every muscle would seemingly tighten and cry out in complaint. I would hobble to the kitchen, bent over like an old man. There was pain on top of pain, and it seemed that I had discovered new places to hurt, new muscles that had never been called into action.
Lately, my creative life has been a mirror of my physical one. Writing is my comfort zone, the creative place to which I can escape. It is life-giving and is fulfilling, but it is…it is safe.
God has not been satisfied with safe.
He’s been pushing me. He’s been inspiring me. He’s been motivating me to stretch creative muscles that I don’t usually acknowledge. Thus I’m forced to rely on him and the wonderful community of artists of which I am a part. It’s been painful and wonderful.
This Easter our task was to capture the essence of freedom through creativity. We set out to express the childlike, rebellious, preposterous, joyful nature of the freedom we have in Christ. And in the midst of it I learned how freeing it is to surrender to the Creator and to the beauty of a creative community. Freedom in collaboration.