Excellence Opens Doors

randomlychad  —  December 12, 2013 — 2 Comments

'Excellence' photo (c) 2012, Iqbal Osman - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Yesterday, I posted about how we don’t need anymore “Christian” whatevers. In a similar vein, today I would like to talk specifically about art. If you read yesterday’s post, you would know that I’m off the mindset that what we need isn’t more Christian art, but rather more Christians who are artists. And of those, we need Christian artists who are committed to excellence in their art.

Gone are the days (if indeed they were ever here) where we can slap on a coat of Jesus varnish and expect the world to go “Ooh! Ah! Jesus!” No, mediocre art really only accomplishes two things:

1) It makes us look bad.
2) It makes Jesus look bad.

Excellence, however, opens doors. Excellence speaks for itself, and indeed invites conversation. It gets people talking, and provides organic opportunities for the artist to share his story. And make no mistake: that is what people today are looking for: to connect with someone’s story.

Yes, we’re supposed to share the Gospel. But more importantly, we’re supposed to live it. One of the ways to do so is to be excellent in all that we do. Because that is another thing excellence does: it elevates. It draws people into a shared transcendence.

But mediocrity does not. Mediocrity is boring, banal, and really not worthy of attention. And the thing is that, for those of us who would call ourselves Christian artists, our art isn’t ultimately for our fellow man–it is for us, and for God. And why would we, after he gave us Jesus, ever think that giving him less than our best is somehow okay?

PRO TIP: it’s not.

But excellence has a cost: it’s hard. Insanely so at times. Often we’re tempted to give in, throw in the towel, settle.

The world is full of frustrated artists who’ve settled.

But is that who you and I want to be? If so, let’s prepare to be ignored. If, however, you do not wish to be ignored, throw yourself into your art with abandon. Put your heart, soul, mind, guts into it.

Put your life on the line. Every time.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is what the watching world is waiting for.

So make excellence your everyday goal. If you’re a writer, beat your head against your desk until your forehead takes on an oaken sheen. If a painter, paint until your fingers bleed a rainbow of colors. If an actor, lose yourself in your roles.

If a plumber, plumb the depths until you reach China. You get what I mean.

Remember: the goal here is not to save oneself, but rather to lose oneself. And in the losing to find.

The great paradox of art, and life, is indeed that: in losing, we win. In giving up, we find. To borrow a phrase, excellence is one door away from heaven.

And by excellence we earn the right to be heard. We earn the platform.

Don’t settle for less.

“In all that you do, do it as unto the Lord.”

Much time, effort, money, what have you is invested in making Christian products. We have Christian clothing, music, movies… In short, we are a subculture. I suspect, however, when Jesus issued the dictum to “be in the world, but not of it” this is not quite what he meant.

In the world is still in the world. But not being of it is more about the attitude of our hearts than it is about having alternative products. I’m not necessarily opposed to Christian things, per se, but I don’t think the world is in need of more Christian things. No, it needs more Christians doing things.

We don’t need more Christian writers; instead, we need more Christians who write. Flannery O’Connor, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, Graham Greene, Dorothy Sayers, William Peter Blatty, and Dean Koontz (arguably the current bestselling Christian author in the world) had/have no problem writing for the mainstream.

I’ll take it a step further, and say that saying we need more Christian whatevers is akin to stating that we need more Christian plumbers. Do you care more about your plumber’s view of predestination, or that he can fix your problem? Is it important that the man articulate all the points of five-point Calvinism, or that he can, ahem, clear out your crap?

You see my point.

From where I sit, it seems to me that what the world needs isn’t more Christian whatevers, but rather more Christians who are:

Artists
Plumbers
Lawyers
Scientists
Accountants
Technicians
Teachers

We who hold Jesus in our hearts need to go out into the world like those guys who followed Jesus around all those years ago. What were they called? Oh, yeah–my bad: disciples. That’s us: disciples.

In short, what the world needs is more salt and light–more of us mixing it up in the marketplace of ideas. More of us rubbing shoulders with, gulp, sinners.

Just like Jesus. (Remember? The guy who was known as a friend of sinners? Yeah–him).

Fancy that.

In this age, the church age, we are no longer under law, but rather under grace. The curtain has been rent in twain. There is no longer a distinction between secular and sacred. All is calling, all is vocation. We carry Christ with wherever we go, sanctifying as we go.

But not if we keep living in our comfortable Christian ghettoes.

What do you think?

Speak on it:

Gimme Shelter is an upcoming motion picture from Roadside Attractions. Based on the true story of Kathy DiFiore, founder of Several Sources Shelters, it stars Vanessa Hudgens, Rosario Dawson, James Earl Jones, and Brendan Frasier.

Tomorrow, I will be interviewing the film’s director, Ron Krauss, and founder Kathy DiFiore. If you have any questions about crisis pregnancy shelters, about how this movie came to be made, about Several Sources Shelters, or for Mr. Krauss, or Ms. DiFiore, please share them in the comments below.

Thanks!

The other day, I shared My Jesus Story. While coming to Christ certainly solved my need for a Savior, it didn’t solve everything. Maybe it was expectations, maybe it was something else, but being saved hasn’t necessarily made this life better. I’m still who suffers from crushing self-doubt, nursing wounds that I thought were long since healed. And I have a terrible need to be noticed, to be reckoned with–and not ignored–that colors all my relationships. The latent Freudian in me thinks this stems from childhood neglect.

Believe me, I want to be passed all of that. I just didn’t know how.

And there are other things, darker things, burdens loved ones bear. I wonder why Jesus let these things happen? The Scriptures say he is sovereign, but that not everything is now under his feet. This is a terrible freedom with which the world is burdened. All manner of things happen… People are killed, die of overdoses, get raped, are abused, see things which cannot be unseen…

And the Scripture declare that although Christ died, all is not yet as it should be. All is not yet under his feet. Yet I’m somehow supposed to trust in his sovereignty? It’s a hard road to hoe. We have the freedom to not only mock God, but also abuse the very freedoms his son died to procure.

Evil with a capital “E” not only exists, it also walks among us. Is in us.

The world is a mess.

But then again so are you and I.

I wonder if the reason Jesus doesn’t step in and set things to rights is because he wants us to partner with him in doing something about the world’s ills? Perhaps instead of just decrying the evil we see, maybe we’re supposed to get in there, get our hands dirty, do something?

For the scripture which says that not everything is under his feet also says that “the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.”

Maybe Jesus doesn’t solve everything because he wants us to be a part of the solution?

It could be.

In any case, m
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My Jesus Story

randomlychad  —  December 4, 2013 — 12 Comments

My Jesus story began, like many others, I’m sure, with a girl. A beautiful girl. She got my attention. Up until that time, church–and by extension, Jesus–did not occupy my thoughts. Church was something we did to make grandma happy when we traveled back east to visit her. But other than that, there was no ecclesial experience during my formative years. (I’m told I was baptized as an infant in the Methodist church).

Having Catholic friends, Jewish classmates, etc., I once asked my mom what religion we were. Her answer? “Protestant.” If by this she meant we protested the attending of church altogether (not even Easter, or Christmas), then yes, we were Protestant.

I share this to make it clear that God was not a paradigm with which I was familiar. If you asked me as a teen what I believed I would have replied that I was an atheist. I simply did not believe there was a God, or a Jesus, with which I needed to contend. And if there were, and he was anything like my dad, I wanted nothing to with him. Why would I want to be ignored by a cosmic father, too?

I want to make it clear that from the outside it may have appeared that I lived a comfortable life: I had a home, food–the basics. But I was largely ignored, left–as most latchkey children are (my parents divorced)–to my own devices.

Because if my upbringing was marked by the absence of faith on the the one hand, it was also bathed through-and-through on the other with permissiveness. There were little or no boundaries. And without boundaries, there was no sense of security.

And thus no real feeling of being loved.

Then I met this girl, and she cared. She wanted to know how I was doing. She read my (bad) poetry. She cared. I felt real love for the first time.

She invited me to church; I went. We went to prom together. She hailed from a large, warm, loud family. This was so different from my cold, quiet one. There was food, and laughter, and talk of Jesus. The singing of hymns around a piano.

Her family felt so very alive.

God knows what He’s doing, friends. He used a beautiful girl to get my attention, and showed me a different life. I saw her family, I went to church (just to sit beside her), I heard the Gospel.

On a warm May evening in 1988, I prayed in my car: “God, if you’re there, I want you in my life. I can’t do this alone anymore. It’s too heavy, too lonely.”

For my family of origin, faith was the road never traveled, but it has made all the difference.

And the girl? The one who loved me enough to tell me of different life? The one who led me to Christ? Two-and-a-half years later we married, and for the last twenty-three years I’ve been proud to call her my wife.

That’s my Jesus story. What’s yours?

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