Bummer: What a Flat Tire Taught Me About the New Year

January 6th, 2017

On Christmas Eve, we were on our way back from my parents house after celebrating Christmas with my parents and my sister’s family. About halfway home, we noticed the tire indicator light in our Toyota Sienna minivan came on. We thought it was probably no big deal and continued on to the Christmas Eve service at church.

Of course, once we got home, I saw that the rear driver side tire was just about flat.

Oh great. This was not the way I wanted to spend Christmas.

Well, on Christmas Day, after the kids opened their presents, I went out to the garage to remove the tire and put the spare on.

The flat tire had a screw right smack in the middle of the tread. Maybe this can be fixed without too much trouble, I thought.

So far, so good, right? We will just have to get to Costco first thing in the morning before it gets crowded and get the tire fixed. We’ll be out maybe a hundred bucks or so.

That afternoon I went upstairs and discovered that the commode was backed up.

My first thought was:

You know how things happen in threes? Maybe number one was the flat tire. Number two is the commode being backed up (no pun intended). And what’s next for number three?
Pessimistic thinking, I know. Just waiting for the other shoe to drop.

So I get up the day after Christmas wondering what the third bad thing that will happen is going to be. We get loaded up in the car to celebrate Christmas with the in-laws.

Guess what?

The van won’t start.

The battery has been drained because a door was left open all night (the van was in the garage). So I was kind of bummed since it delayed us in getting to Costco as soon as it opened to get the tire fixed.

But here’s the thing.

With all of these situations I have been fully equipped to handle everything.

  • I know how to change a tire. The most challenging part was getting the spare out from under the van and I’ve done this before. (The worst was on a country road long after dark in July when it felt like the heat index was a thousand degrees.)
  • We have a plunger. So the backed-up commode was not the end of the world. Once you have a two-year-old stuff an entire roll of toilet paper in the commode, you keep a plunger on hand.
  • I have jumper cables. I was fortunate enough to have the other car in the driveway. I managed to get it close enough to the van to use the jumper cables.

 

You may not be spiritual, but…

The point of all this is I have a feeling that God is trying to tell me that in 2017 I will have challenges, but I am fully equipped to take them on.

I will have inconveniences and momentary setbacks. But I have everything I need to manage them. I have the tools. And it and if I don’t have those tools right now, I have the means to obtain them.

So I feel pretty good about 2017.

How about you?

(PS: Costco replaced the tire at no cost to us since it was still under warranty. Hooray!)

Photo Credit: Imthaz Ahamed

It’s a New Year. Are You Keeping Your Goals to Yourself?

January 5th, 2016

It’s the beginning of the new year.2016 = joie

Like a lot of people you’re probably looking back to see what you did and didn’t accomplish, and looking forward to ask yourself what you want to accomplish in the upcoming year. It’s only natural to do so with this kind of transition.

In the past around this time of year I have shared my words of the year, whether one, two, or three words. (Here’s where I did that for 2015, 2014, 2014, 2013…)

I don’t think I’m going to do that this year.

It’s not so much because of reports that when you do that you psychologically feel like you’ve already reached your goal.

I just have this gut feeling that sharing all my goals isn’t what I need to do this year.

But what I am doing is 5 Days to Your Best Year Ever from Michael Hyatt. (I don’t have an affiliate link though I probably should.) My wife and I did it last year and loved it. We are doing it again — we are about halfway through it at the moment. It’s a great way to get focus and clarity on what you want to accomplish in the upcoming year.

And share your goals selectively with people who will push you forward and not hate on all the goals you set. Let’s face it: there are people who do just that. Or if they don’t hate on all your goals, they, out of love, really, try to convince you why you shouldn’t try something or why it is unreasonable or too risky.

So share with those who will push you and encourage you. Tweet that.

share-goals-quote-fb

My wife and I didn’t accomplish all our goals from last year, but the ones we did accomplish we are really glad we did. The important thing is that we got clarity when things went sideways in July and August.

Whether you do Michael Hyatt’s 5 Days to your Best Year Ever or Jon Acuff’s 30 Days of Hustle, do yourself a favor and find a way to set reasonable, actionable goals and find people who will keep you accountable.

I’m pretty excited about 2016. I hope you are, too.

Photo: David Hermans

What is Art, Anyway? (Video from Art & Christianity Class Week 1)

February 17th, 2015

What Is Art Anyway?The past few weeks I have been teaching a Sunday School class at Donelson Church of Christ about Art & Christianity. We talk about what art and Christianity have to do with each other, if anything at all. (Spoiler: I think they overlap a great deal, and Christians have much to learn from the arts, and artists have a lot to teach Christians.)

What is art, anyway?

So here is a rough video from the first week from a few weeks back. The audio quality is poor since I don’t have a lapel or lavalier mic, which is something I hope to remedy sometime soon. (It’s not in my budget at the moment.) Also I’m shooting on an iPad and not a professional camera, and you can tell.

But I think the message gets across. I’ll be posting additional weeks as I can get these edited and cleaned up. I hope to get the slides actually integrated with the video but I haven’t had the time to get that done.

Here’s the video. If you can’t see it because you’re reading this in an email, click here.

Here are the slides but they may not make a lot of sense without watching the video:

(Slideshare link)

You can also check out this related blog post: What Is Art, Anyway?

Let me know what you think!

Poking the Bear: Why the Art World Needs Beauty Now More than Ever

February 10th, 2015

The world needs art to be beautiful. To do otherwise is like swatting an angry bear on the nose.The bear lunges forward, hell-bent on destruction, its massive paws destroying everything in its path. She lashes out, her claws tearing, her teeth gnashing, her roar echoing throughout the wood.

She is chasing someone. A person.

A person who had the nerve to poke the sleeping bear with a stick.

In the rear.

A good, hard poke.

Not a pansy little poke. A serious poke.

And then, an all-out sprint away from an angry bear.

The human wheels around and does the unthinkable, punching the bear in the nose. The nose!

“Maybe,” the human thinks, “this might stun the bear, make the bear stop.”

But no. It only makes the bear more angry. Even madder.

Paws and claws still thrashing wildly.

The human manages to escape to a high rock out of reach of the bear, and the bear gets tired and wanders off. The human is safe. For now.

But the bear is sick. She needs help. If untreated, her condition will grow worse. The human wants to help, but offers no real solution.

This is what I see every day in the art world.

Artists smacking angry bears on the nose, then claiming immunity when the world gets mad that the artist has pointed out a critical flaw in the way the world works.

We saw this recently in the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris. Cartoonists teased the bear a little too much and got themselves killed.

Sure, the cartoonists had a point: religious extremism does more harm than good. But rather than offer any sort of solution, they continued to mock the people who killed them. The mocking got worse and worse.

That’s not bravery. That’s stupidity.

Over the past 100 years or so it has fallen out of fashion in the art world to create anything beautiful, anything uplifting.

If art pisses people off, great! Let’s shake the world out of its complacency! Convulse them! Shock them! The more shocking, the better! Paint with excrement!

The thinking goes something like this: if artists shock society enough with the right images, music, movies, et cetera, they can change the world for the better.

But instead, artists are punching an angry bear in the nose.

Art that just makes people angry without providing a way out doesn't do any good.

That might startle the bear for a moment, but it won’t change anything in the long run, unless you do something to kill the bear or otherwise render her unconscious. Chances are if she wakes back up, she will be even angrier than before.

I want to offer an alternative: create art that has a way out.

Give some kind of resolution. The trend for the past century has been to dwell on despair and not seek any sort of solution except more death, more destruction, more nihilism.

Create art that brings hope. Create art that is a light in the darkness.

Dare I say it? Create something beautiful.

Scream if you must.

Weep if you must.

Destroy if you must.

Create, because you must.

You are capable of the demonic and the divine.

Both creation and destruction are demonic and divine. Choose wisely. Don’t create art that just shocks and destroys for the sake of shocking and destroying. That shock, that jolt, can do some good. But provide that good.

This is why I try to show a glimpse of hope.

I embrace the fog of every day life. The uncertainties. Because life is uncertain, when you’re young and struggle to pay the bills and feed three small children.

But I also know that life is beautiful. That there is light beyond the darkness. That the world is broken and is crying out for redemption. Because beauty is all the more poignant when brokenness is restored. When hurts are healed.

Be the light in the world. Bring hope. Bring beauty.

image source: Thinkstock

Stop Swatting Bears: Why the Art World Needs More Beauty

What is Art, Anyway?

January 6th, 2015

What is art, anyway?When we don’t know what something’s purpose is, it confuses and frustrates us. Or, if it isn’t obvious what something is, it gets passed off as art.

Sometimes.

Let’s look at Stonehenge. What is it?

stonehenge-above_24772_600x450

A monument? A meeting hall? A pagan sun worship temple? Art? All of the above? None of these? What is it for?

You can ask a lot of the same questions even about something that is obviously art: you want to know why it is there.

Every piece of art has a purpose.

We can deduce the evolving purpose of art by looking at the many roles artists have played over the centuries.

Remember, what we call “art” hasn’t always been called art.

It used to be called “craft.” A long time ago, there was no separation between the two.

Now art and craft are so divorced that there is in the art world a deliberate lack of skill. The less classically skillful a piece of art is, the more technically (and likely morally) crude a work is, the more praise it gets.

(At the same time, we are seeing a resurgence in “artisinal” everything. Artisinal light bulbs, anyone?)

The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci

The Renaissance ushered in a new wealthy elite. Along with it came a brand new patronage system where art became a status symbol and the artists became rock stars. Their art was beautiful, and it might be about Biblical themes, but beauty was the hero, not God.

Sure, beautiful art is made to elevate people’s feelings, to move them to an awed, inspired, uplifted state.

There is nothing wrong with that. Beauty is good. Ugliness serves a purpose, too.

By the end of the 19th century the “moving upward” purpose of art was discarded in favor of simply moving people.

Art might make you happy, sad, angry, confused. If it moved you at all, it had done its job.

The Greeks understood this.

Ancient Greek dramatic theatre consists of comedies or tragedies. In comedies, the boy gets the girl, with some laughs along the way. In tragedies, everyone dies, often heroically, and it is very sad. In either case, the audience is moved to laugh or cry.

Our movies today aren’t much different.

modern classic movie posters

The point of art is to move people.

The stories we tell and listen to still move us.

Let’s take it further: the goal of art is to change people. To transform them.

Does that sound familiar?

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.

– Romans 12:2

I take this command to heart. I want my to art be a transforming agent in the world.

I believe in this so much that in a few weeks I will be teaching a Sunday School class called Christianity and the Arts. We will discuss how art relates to the Bible and how Christians can and should relate to the art world.

If you’d like to be there, join me on Sunday, January 18 at Donelson Church of Christ right after the worship service. It’ll be fun!

Three words to lead me into 2015

December 30th, 2014

High-Achievers-760x527This past week, my wife and I worked on a course from Michael Hyatt called “5 Days to Your Best Year Ever.” We bought the course last year, but we didn’t finish it.

This year, we were determined to finish it. And we are glad we did. Because now we have an outline for accomplishing our goals in 2015.

I’ll share the details of those goals with you at a later date, but right now I want to do something that I’ve been doing the past several years with mixed success: sharing some theme words for the upcoming year. For 2014, my theme words were Intention, Boring, and Listen. I followed that up here. In 2013, my theme was Delete. Back in 2010, my theme was to Follow through and finish.

So while last week here on the blog I looked back at 2014, at what worked and what didn’t, today I’m looking forward. The 5 Days to Your Best Year Ever program walks you through the process of looking back and looking forward. Looking back is hard, because you have to face what didn’t go well. It can be depressing if you didn’t succeed at something you really wanted to go well, or if things that were out of your control just went badly in general.

But looking forward, that’s where the big dreaming happens, and you dream the dreams that get you excited and ready to conquer the world. Participating in the Best Year Ever program, I now know how to make those things happen.

So without further ado, here are the 3 words that are going to drive me in 2015.

Inspire. Build. Teach.

3 Words for 2015

All right, so what does that mean?

Inspire

2014 has ended as a pretty crummy year. The news is just horrible, with reports of racial violence all over. We all need some hope. Some peace. Some quiet.

Build

I want to build a business around my art. I want to build myself to be a better husband, father, and artist. I want to build the people around me to be what God made them to be.

Teach

I believe we all know things that others don’t. Things come naturally or are innate in one person that don’t for the next person. And we are obligated to share what we know with those around us. Whatever you have to share with the world, it’s your responsibility to share that. I want to teach people that there is in fact hope and goodness in the world even when you can’t see through the fog.

Let’s sum all that up

In a nutshell, I want to build a business around my art, and I’ll do that by inspiring people with that art and by teaching them how to live a creative, rewarding life.

It’s simple, but it is harder than it sounds. That’s why I have a plan this year, which I will share with you later.

Your turn

What about you? Do you have a theme for 2015? If so, I’d love to hear it. How are you going to make it happen?

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3 Words for 2015

Year-End Review: Reflecting on 2014

December 23rd, 2014

Clark Griswold's Moose Mug

Well, it’s the end of the year, and that means it is the perfect time for looking back and assessing the year that has passed. When you’re not spending holiday time with family or sucking down eggnog (whether in latte, alcoholic, or nonalcoholic form — I’m not a fan of it in general), you’re probably reflecting on 2014 as well.

Year-End Review: Reflecting on 2014I recorded this at the beginning of the month on my way home from my day job one night. Just some thoughts about 2014 and how my year reflected (or didn’t) the 3 words for 2014 I wrote about at the beginning of the year.

Did you set goals or themes for 2014? How did you do?

Notes:

Some quick notes regarding my voice memo, along with how I did for each word for the year.

Intention - 70%

  • Intention is the foundation for everything else, really. Until you form habits that become instinctive, you have to be intentional about what you do. Create habits and you are on your way. It’s about being proactive instead of reactive. I’ve laid a decent groundwork for this this year
  • My focus has been mostly on how I spend my time. I largely kicked the Netflix-late-at-night habit. I ran out of things to watch! Plus, the habit of getting up at 4 a.m. to get in the studio makes me unable to stay up late anymore. I’m an old man now, and that’s perfectly OK.
  • My Ideal Weekly Schedule experiment has worked really well. HUGE hat tip to Michael Hyatt and Dave Delaney. (Really, go check them out if you haven’t already. Subscribe to their podcasts and blogs.)

Boring - 85%

“Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.” — Gustave Flaubert

  • The Ideal Weekly Schedule ties in really well with this, since it’s not fun or exciting to get up and paint at 4 a.m. It’s kind of boring to not stay up and watch silly shows on Netflix. But I’m making myself get in my “chair” and work at being creative, instead of being “creative.”
  • normcore.
  • I gave up social media for Lent. It was boring, but not in the right way. Don’t think I’ll do that again. I’ll probably do something more traditional in 2015, like give up a certain food and focus on the spiritual aspects, not just the asceticism.

Listen - 20%

  • Listening is the hardest thing for me to do. Probably for any of us, really. We all want to focus on ourselves instead of others.
  • Intended to listen to my “tribe,” but I haven’t really gotten a very big tribe yet.
  • Learned to “listen” to my canvases. Learning to not impose my own way on my art.
  • Also wanted to focus on my inputs, but I’ve largely ignored that. At least I gave up the junk Netflix habit.

One of my biggest takeaways for the year has been to be flexible and be okay with the fact that it may take 11 months (or more!) to reach a goal, but that’s why you write down your goals.

Well, we are about to celebrate Christmas over here, and you’ve got audio to listen to above, so I’ll wrap this up. Next week I hope to have some thoughts for you regarding plans for 2015. I think it’ll be a great year. What about you?

Year-End Review: Reflecting on 2014