Saturday, October 24, 2009

Brewing a Revolution

When I make Chai, many benefit. Notice the progression from "I" to "many." I make, I drink, but because it is so good, I can't help but share what I have made with others.

When we create, others experience. There's the progression again, this time on a larger scale: "we" to "others."

I'm starting to realize that whatever I do, creatively or otherwise, is not to be simply for my own enjoyment, but for the benefit of another. Whether that "other" comprises of the Godhead---Father, Son, and Holy Spirit---or other human beings such as myself, the things that I initiate are supposed to propel movement somewhere else. Moving the heart of God, moving the heart of man, moving the city, the nation, the world to respond with a movement of their own.

This, in a very simple fashion, is how the complex work of culture-making takes place. It is a continual building upon what was already, to create something that was not, so that others can experience and build further upon or around it, whether good or bad.

What if we were to create a culture of Chai?

A Jewish friend told me some years ago that Chai is also a Hebrew word meaning "life." And Chai in my world is that most beloved substance, a tea latte with honey, milk, sugar, ginger, cinnamon, and an array of other spices (depending on who's making it). Chai awakens, it stimulates the senses, it tantalizes the taste buds and fills those who drink it. It is the perfect metaphor for Jesus since he does all of this and more.

What would it look like to create a culture of heavenly substance, a life-giving spicy brew for others to drink and tangibly experience what God is like? And since I am an artist, I ask the question, what would that look like for artists?

I was inspired one night about a month ago as I was reading my Bible, and the words of the Scriptures I had been reading began to make sense to me in a way that they hadn't before. They supported and further illuminated a previous vision I had for a series of artistic events called "Show and Tell," and they beckoned me to look further. Let me tell you what these would look like tangibly, in my world, for artists. Then I'll show you the verses themselves.

Imagine a group of artists coming together to share food and laughter, inspiring inspiration and provoking more creative thought. Imagine a place where artists could share a piece of their heart in the form of a piece they are working on or have finished, whether visual art, photography, poetry, graphics and animation, a scene or two from a play, a new song, a dance or vision for a new dance project, etc. And imagine that these artists somehow felt more human, more alive, for having shared and received such truth and beauty.

Now take it a step further. Imagine a group of artists who did all of the above and then put turbo jets on the wings of the creative visions shared. "Turbo jets? Wings? What?"

Let me explain.

Art is sometimes a very slow process. One of the greatest deterrents of art really progressing, is a lack of resources. Resources = a supportive community, people to share and help carry out the vision, the money to make it happen, the word of mouth to bring others outside to interact with the art, etc.

So back to the turbo jets. What if a group of artists were to pull together say once a month or once every two months (or however it worked out logistically) and said, "Okay, Artist A, this month we are going to support you in your project. Remember that thing you shared with us? We want to help you make it happen, to bring it into greater fruition. Tell us what you need. How many people? What kind of money? What else? We are going to work together to help you see your vision realized, and it's going to be so awesome that God is going to get the glory for it, not just in the finished product but throughout the process. And everyone will be in awe." And then that happens. Miracles take place. Art gets produced that would have never been produced before, or at least not on that level or in that time frame. Next time, Artist A and the others say, "Okay Artist B, now it's your turn. We've seen what a group of committed people can do when the wind of God is behind them. Which vision of yours do you want to see realized? What can we do to help? How can we pray? Let's make it happen!" And again, everyone is in awe.

The thing is, we artists are so individualistic. We think we can do everything by ourselves and that we're supposed to, entitled to, 'cause after all it's "my art" and "my vision." But individualism in the extreme is just a limb cut off from the tree. It wants to hang in the air, displaying its beautiful leaves for all to see, but it doesn't want to rely on the branches to hold it up. "Branches fall off sometimes, you know. And where does that leave you?" Same place you were when you said you didn't need the branches. On the ground. So why not take the risk?

This may sound like idealism....or some weird form of communism. But it is neither. It's the way things are meant to be, and can be. It's grounded because it has roots. Check it out:

"Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fuflill the law of Christ." -Galatians 6:2.

"If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others." -Phlippians 2:1-4

"They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." -Acts 3:42-47

Like I said, this idea has roots--deep roots--and the power is in the sap, the Holy Spirit who flows through those roots into all the branches.

So let's get rooted, let's get together, and with out leafy branches interconnected and supporting one another, let's reach for the sky. Or to go back to the original metaphor, let's brew some Chai.

Ready for a revolution?

Thursday, October 15, 2009


"I'll call you tomorrow."

"I'll meet you at 6:30."

"We'll go do______."



... ... ..................

Reliable. That's a word I'm not used to. I have been let down so many times by so many people in so many settings that it makes it hard to trust that people will really do what they say they will. Actually, that's not true. Typically I'll trust people to do what they say they are going to do, but when it comes to God, I tend to doubt him, a lot.

I don't know about you, but I consider myself an idealist in many ways. When somebody says they're going to do something, I believe they are going to do it. When somebody says something in sarcasm, it's sometimes difficult for me to discern right off whether they are joking or not. As you can see, I tend to take people seriously most of the time. So joke or no joke, when someone says they are going to do something, I usually take that word at face value.

And more often than not, I fall on my face.

This develops a pattern of distrust. How can anyone be reliable, much less a God who makes crazy claims about himself and what he wants to do in my life and in others' lives? If I can't trust people, who I can see, how can I trust in a God, a triune-God at that, who is somehow three persons yet one entity, and completely unseen?

Funny enough, my experience has been that this unseen God has proven himself more reliable to me than the ever-changing people in my line of sight. How can an intangible God be so tangible? How can Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Spirit, be so very close and real? And how can I trust them, him, God, more?

This is helping: Man is like God, but God is not always like man. Humans may reflect God, but we are just that...a reflection, and incomplete. So while we can learn a whole lot about our Creator through the characteristics he placed in us (as Genesis 1:27 says, we were made in his image), there's still so much we can't see. We tell the truth, and we lie. We say one thing, and do it, then we say the same thing again the next time, and fail to follow through.

If only man could reflect God completely. If only God would reflect man completely. What does he really look like? What are we supposed to look like? Can't someone just SHOW us?

He did. And he does. :-) Colossians 1:15 says of Jesus, God the Son, "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation."

Read that again. "He is the image of the invisible God the firstborn over all creation."

Jesus, the image. Imagination. Imagine if we could see God. Jesus is the result. Ah...But he's not the result of our imagination. Another part of the Bible tells us that Jesus was with God the Father from the very beginning of everything. Jesus shows us what God is like, and he also shows us the embodiment of God's imagination for us human beings. Imagine what humans might look like at their peak, flawless. Jesus shows us this. Somewhere in the Bible, we are told that Jesus was the second Adam, that this God the Son came to earth to re-do what the original human being messed up. He came to reclaim the image. And in reclaiming the image of human beings, he was reclaiming the image of God. Or, put another way, in restoring the image of God, showing us what God really looks like, he was and is reclaiming what we are to look like, since we were originally made in God's imaT

So, the word reliable, how does that figure into all of this? Jesus shows us the Father. The Holy Spirit shows us Jesus and the Father. Jesus is reliable because the Father is reliable. Some of the religious people of Jesus' day couldn't wrap their minds around this whole thing.

"Who are you?" they asked.
"Just what I have been claiming all along," Jesus replied. "I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is reliable, and what I have heard from him I tell the world." They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father.
(John 7:25-27)

The account of Jesus' physical life on earth show us that many of the people around him couldn't get what he was saying because they kept trying to put him on a human grid, making everything fit into their pre-conceived notions of what a God-sent man should look like and act like. I do that myself sometimes. But I'm learning that Jesus is the answer, Jesus is the grid, and he is the culmination of the Godhead's imagination for us. As we see him, we see God the Father, and in seeing and connecting to the Father, we can start to see and become our true selves, increasingly reliable.

"I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it." -Jesus, as recorded in John 14:12-14.