Define the (Creative) Relationship

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As creatives, we pour a little of our soul into everything we create. Over time, this will either develop us or destroy us.

Healthy creativity is a harmonious relationship that generates and multiples life through creatives and their creations. We invest life into our art, and it reflects life back to us with compounding returns, giving us a greater capacity to create over time. But if our relationship with creativity is unhealthy, our art can feed on us like a cancer, demanding more and more without ever giving back. We don’t realize it at first, because as creatives, we love to create – it’s what we were “born to do”. But it’s easy to lose focus and get pulled into destructive obsession. Unhealthy creativity breeds insecurity and mistrust that ultimately disconnects us from community. If we’re not careful, the thing that once gave us life and purpose, can become the enemy. Unbridled creativity will imprison our minds, crush our hearts, and exhaust our souls. So how can we protect ourselves against this negative spiral?

Creativity is like any relationship: it needs to be defined and continually evaluated through the lens of truth in order to thrive.

Our art reflects our story, but it does not define our identity. As creatives we must know our true identity. Who are we? Why do we create? Where does our creativity come from? What are our strengths, weaknesses, dreams and nightmares? The answers to these questions lay the foundation on which we build relationship with creativity. Without a solid foundation of truth, our relationship with creativity can be destroyed with the slightest bit of turbulent untruth:

  • “Your work doesn’t matter”
  • “You have no talent”
  • “You’re wasting your time”
  • “You’re a fake”
  • “You need to make it perfect”

These are some of the lies that creep into our minds if we allow our creations to “define the relationship”. Creation never defines its creator. As creatives, we must define our relationship with creativity on what we know is true. We all have baggage, but it doesn’t have to weigh us down. Identifying our wounds can strengthen our creativity because they serve as a map to guide exploration on our creative journey. These trigger points illuminate difficult terrain in our life so we can better prepare to navigate safely through them, while creating art that helps other people on similar journeys.  It’s not just about us. Our relationship with creativity impacts our relationships with people – to either draw us into encouraging community, or drive us hiding into isolation.

Healthy creativity enables us to evaluate and release our afflictions through a process that helps repair the broken pieces of life.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][mk_image src=”” image_width=”400″ image_height=”400″ crop=”false” hover=”true” target=”_self” align=”left” margin_bottom=”50″][mk_padding_divider size=”100″][mk_image src=”” image_width=”400″ image_height=”400″ crop=”false” hover=”true” target=”_self” align=”left” margin_bottom=”50″][mk_padding_divider size=”100″][mk_image src=”” image_width=”400″ image_height=”400″ crop=”false” hover=”true” target=”_self” align=”left” margin_bottom=”20″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][mk_fancy_title style=”simple” tag_name=”h3″ border_width=”5″ size=”14″ line_height=”24″ color=”#393836″ font_weight=”bold” letter_spacing=”0″ font_family=”none” margin_bottom=”10″ align=”left”]Here are some truths that lay the foundation for my relationship with creativity:[/mk_fancy_title][vc_column_text]

  • I am broken, I live in a broken world, and I cannot repair any of it on my own
  • My creativity comes from God the Creator as a gift that flows through me, not from me
  • I am valuable to my Creator and my life is a reflection of His greater story, despite my often inability to see the bigger picture
  • My Creator does not require or expect me to be perfect, but I often wrestle with perfectionism
  • I am a hard worker and often find it difficult to rest, so I need to “build it into my schedule”
  • I have freedom in my creativity to explore without fear of failure and rejection
  • I often have visions of creative projects that are larger than I can accomplish on my own and am called to trust others in the creative process
  • I am an introvert, but I need (and thrive in) community
  • I create to help me process my journey and help others process theirs
  • We are all at different points on our journey

[/vc_column_text][mk_fancy_title style=”simple” tag_name=”h3″ border_width=”5″ size=”14″ line_height=”24″ color=”#393836″ font_weight=”bold” letter_spacing=”0″ font_family=”none” margin_bottom=”10″ align=”left”]What about you? How is your relationship with creativity?[/mk_fancy_title][mk_fancy_text color=”#393836″ highlight_color=”#000″ highlight_opacity=”0.3″ size=”18″ line_height=”34″ font_weight=”inhert” margin_top=”0″ margin_bottom=”18″ font_family=”none” align=”left”]Share this[/mk_fancy_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Intentional Collisions

Seek the journey that seems impossible & out of reach. That is where you find true friends.

The last three weeks have been full and diverse. Actually, diverse is a nice way of saying stretched thin. We’ve had long days of meetings, researching, scouting, production, logging footage, editing … and more meetings. Toss in lack of sleep and heavy subject matter and you have the perfect scenario to brew a typhoon of emotions.

We are documenting a story that is uncontrolled – many times it seems as if it has no track at all, winding all over the place and crashing into anything in its path. Conflict makes for a great story, but the trouble is you have to capture it …. In the past three weeks, we have:

• Lost a theatrical director to a motorcycle accident
• Potentially lost a major character to the story who has been in rehab for over a year & wants to move out on his own but probably shouldn’t
• Received news that we were not selected for a grant we hoped to receive that would have greatly helped us finish this film
• Been told by several people that we cannot achieve what we have set out to do

But over the same period of time, we have:

• Secured Guatemalan television coverage and interviews for some of our events
• Witnessed NGOs, Governmental, Evangelical and Catholic organizations join together in cooperation to begin a united front in tackling the issue of street youth
• Partnered with another Guatemalan NGO that is helping to resource the live event
• Been blessed with an incredible new theatrical director for our live event
• Developed a relationship with an international TV media
• Sparked an interest from a marketing guru from Pepsi Guatemala
• Watched the youth grow together as they rehearse for the live event

Ultimately, the thing that matters the most in the list above is the last. That is what keeps us going at the end of the day. We aren’t merely telling a story about an issue, we are telling a very personal story about real people who are trying to break the bondage of their circumstances. When I see these kids faithfully show up every week for rehearsal, it breaks my heart and fills it up at the same time. I have seen them both high on solvent and straight as an arrow. I have seen them on the street, in rehab and back on the street. I have seen them cry out in prayer and laugh hysterically at funny moment. Most importantly, I have seen them … as real people … with dignity.

We have a very long way to go in production, and to be honest, I have no idea how this story will unfold. It is frightening, if not overwhelming to feel responsible for capturing all of this into a story that is as fragile and beautiful as the reality in which we currently drift. But I’m clinging to the hope that we are not merely drifting. Somehow these collisions are intentional in eternity.

A Buzzing Mosquito

When you lose your job it stings. It takes the wind out of you. The security that you once leaned upon is suddenly gone and you struggle to find a new sense of security. When your wife loses her job within a month of you losing your job, it sort of makes you question security in general. Today, chaos reared it’s ugly head to challenge our faith. It almost felt like a plot to a movie – unreal.

I lost my job a month ago. Although it stung my pride, I wasn’t extremely concerned. My wife had a solid job and her income could hold us over until we figured out how to move forward. That changed today when my wife lost her job too. Maybe I’m a conspiracy theorist, but when my wife and I both lose our jobs within a month – I have to ask what the heck is going on. I mean, seriously … both of us? I have to be honest. I didn’t see this coming.

We recently wrapped up a screening tour of our first film, ‘Reparando’ – a feature-length documentary that we produced after adopting our sons from Guatemala. We spent two and a half years working on the film on top of our day jobs because we couldn’t go on with ordinary life after seeing the what we saw in the country where our sons were born. We wanted to raise awareness for the situation in Guatemala and help direct resources towards a solution that would make a difference. I believe we were successful in our goal. In less that a year after releasing the film, it has inspired incredible response that is impacting the situation in Guatemala.

While we were in Guatemala last November to premiere ‘Reparando’, our hearts were again moved by another story. We spent time with kids who ran away from home and live on the street. These children live in a prison without walls. They have very little chance of lifting themselves out of a life of destitution. I came home to the US with a desire to share their story so we could help bring hope to the situation.

We’ve spent the last six months researching and planning a new film to tell their story. It’s been a crazy six months. In that six months, the hero of the story drowned. I lost my job. And now, Amelia lost her job. At some point, I have to ask the question, “Is this random, or is something more profound happening?” We were able to subsidize the production of ‘Reparando’ with our salaries from our day jobs. We never put a penny in our pockets from the film because we didn’t have to. But now, that has changed. We are forced into a new paradigm.

As difficult as our situation seems right now, I am reminded of these street youth and their lack of opportunity. I might lose my house and have to move, but I have options. I can get another job – somewhere. I can move in with family if I have to. Ultimately, I am not without hope. But, the street kids in Guatemala have nothing. Ironically, that is what is heavy on my heart today. Suddenly, I have an inkling of understanding what life is like for them … the fear of uncertainty … living without security of what I once considered secure. But my reality is just a small glimpse into their life. They don’t have the options I am blessed with.

Call me stubborn, but now I want to tell their story more than ever. I want to produce this documentary and partner with organizations on the ground in Guatemala to help these street kids leverage themselves out of their situations. We have an incredible story to tell – a story that will expose a problem, illuminate a solution and inspire response. All we need now are the financial resources to produce it.

I want to believe that the irony of Amelia and me losing our jobs at the same time is God providing a way to swoop in and Glorify Himself by providing for us when we have nothing else to lean on. At some level, it is more than a belief – it is an expectation. Amelia and I are like the Israelites walking into the water expecting God to part it. We’ll keep walking with that faith.

A great friend shared this verse with me tonight. It is the summary of my reality:

2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

In the midst of my personal uncertainty – my personal weakness, I am certain of God’s providence. My current situation is like a mosquito buzzing around my head, trying to distract me from experiencing a beautiful sunset. With God’s help, I’ll swat that bug and continue soaking in the beauty so I can share it with someone else.

Ringing Out of Control

I consider myself a strategic thinker. I like intentionality. On a practical level, that means I put a lot of thought into something before I pursue it. I count costs, develop a plan of attack, and then once there is a clear target … I dive in and invest my entire being into whatever it is I am pursuing. I don’t enjoy investing 50%. I am just not wired that way. There are probably many reasons for this characteristic in my life – not the least of which is my desire for control.

I am a story teller (communicator) by trade. So on one level, I want to have control over a message. I want to ensure that I tell stories with clarity and purpose –  simple stories with a rich depth. I prefer stories that connect with your heart immediately, but also reveal something new each time they are experienced. ‘Reparando’ is such a story.

Our goal was simple on paper: inspire viewers to respond. We set out to accomplish this goal using the metaphor of the repaired doll in the over-arching storyline. We wrestled through pre-production for over a year, weaving this metaphor through the story. Everything was intentional – from the “Michelangelo-esque” feel of the hand reaching down to pick up the doll in the title sequence, to the money exchanged as a ransom for doll parts, to the baptismal washing of the doll, to the white dress … I could go on and on … all of these things were intentionally included to reinforce the story of redemption.

During the editing process, I came across a statement by Shorty that inspired me as I scored music for the film. Shorty says “como campanas en mi meante” or in English, “like ringing bells in my mind” when he remembered the message of God’s love in his life. I loved this concept of ringing bells and employed them in the musical score from the very beginning of the film. Watch the film and listen carefully for bells. You will first hear them in the title sequence as the hand reaches down. Then, you’ll hear bells over and over again throughout the story. This was intentional bell ringing. I wanted to communicate that “God loved Shorty and was present from the beginning.”

OK, now fast forward to a few weeks ago when I was in Grand Rapids, Michigan for the final event of our spring screening tour. Oddly, I listened to something in ‘Reparando’ for the first time. I say listened, because I had heard it before, but not connected the dots.

If you own the DVD, fast forward to the final scene of the movie in the market and listen carefully. As the scene builds and eventually plays out, you will hear the sound of a bell ringing out of control. When I say it is ringing out of control, I mean it. Someone is ringing the heck out of a bell and we had no control over it. It was just the natural sound of the market and a vendor was ringing a bell to gain attention. Little did they (or I) know how profound their bell ringing would become. If you listen for the bell, it is clearly present in this scene. But it sat there unnoticed by me for almost two years as I focused on my own intentionality.

I don’t want to over spiritualize it. But these bells reminded me that no matter how much intentionality I put into something, I am not in control. This lesson could not have come at a more profound time. Case in point … immediately after returning home from the Michigan screening / bell epiphany, I learned that I am loosing my day job – the job that actually pays my bills. None of my intentionality or planning mattered at that point. I’m simply not in control.

To be honest, my heart is walking a tightrope between mourning and dancing. I am a critical thinker and a processor. It isn’t just loosing my job. It’s deeper than simply finding a way to replace my income. There is a certain sting that hurts your soul when you are told that your purpose and passion are not valuable – at least when you are wired like me. It cuts deep. However, I have learned a couple things through Shorty & Tita in the film ‘Reparando’ :

1. God was, is, and will be in control of Shorty and Tita’s life. And the same holds true for mine.

2. Because God is in control, I don’t need to be.

I cling to this truth as I walk forward in faith, hoping to pursue Athentikos full time. That is my dream and perhaps my calling. Only time will tell. But even if for some reason I cannot pursue this dream, I will joyfully dance to the sound of bells that continue ringing out of control.

Looking. Listening. Exploring life’s story.

If life is a stage, we are all characters in the same story. It’s not my story or your story, but our story. Sometimes we get in the way of the best plot because we want to play the leading role. I’m guilty of this for certain. The story isn’t about us, but we have a role to play. We’ve each been given something valuable. We can either horde it, or we can share it with others and watch it grow. Let’s engage the larger story and explore the stage together.

Looking. Listening. Exploring life’s story.