Why Vision Comes First in Collaboration

One of the advantages of marrying a creative person is that they draw out your own sense of creativity. Before I married Rob I knew I liked to work with words, I enjoyed writing, speaking and I kept journals, but I didn’t describe myself as a creative person. But living in close quarters with a creative changes you. Over time I began to experiment and push the boundaries on my own sense of creativity and it wasn’t long before Rob and I started dreaming of projects and ideas that we could both contribute to. The biggest one being Creative Kingdom of course!

At some point in the future I would love to do a tongue-in-cheek article about all the quirks that come to the surface when you marry a creative person…their love of Pantone themed products being number one on the list! But for now I just want to share one lesson I have learned about working with a creative person, especially when that person is your husband or wife, because the results can be rather special.

Vision First, Details Second.

One of the first ways Rob and I started working together creatively was when Rob became my personal designer for all the visuals for my messages. When I speak now Rob designs the PowerPoint, handouts and will even create personalized videos! I’ve found having my visuals designed really helps to punch up the message and hopefully makes the content memorable for the listeners.

There comes a time in the sermon-prep when I email Rob an actual brief of what needs to be in the PowerPoint and hand-outs, but that is usually the last step of the process, not the first. Our work doesn’t start with a list of tasks to give to my husband, because even from the beginning this is a partnership not a chore.

The starting point comes some weeks before where we just have a series of chats about the message. This is where the husband and wife advantage kicks in because we don’t need to book in a meeting to do this!

The conversation normally begins with me sharing what I am thinking of speaking on and why I think it is an important topic. We start the process by looking at the ‘Why’ of the message, Why are we doing this? What do I want to achieve? Why does this need to be said? The ‘why’ dictates everything else; the content, the tone, the feel, the pace and the presentation all stem from the ‘why’.

About a year ago I told Rob that I wanted to speak about loneliness. We spent a long time talking about all the different circumstances that can cause people to be lonely; we talked about changing jobs or schools, losing friends to bereavement or conflict, and how sometimes just being different from the people around you can make you feel lonely.

As we talked I came to see that everyone faces seasons of loneliness in their lives and that it isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes being on our own for a while can do us good, but no one is built for a lifetime of loneliness.

My message began to find its direction. I wanted to acknowledge that loneliness didn’t mean you were a terrible person, because everyone goes through periods of feeling alone. But I didn’t want to stop there. I wanted to talk about the things we can do to leave the loneliness behind and move on to something better. It turns out God’s word had plenty to say on the topic and over the next few weeks I kept on talking to Rob about what I was discovering.

A few days before I was due to speak Rob sent me the PowerPoint Slides for the talk. As I flicked through the slides I noticed they started off very dark in tone, with black and white photos and stark writing but as the message progressed they grew warmer and more cheerful.



Rob knew that the aim of the message was to provide a road-map to help people move past seasons of loneliness, to lead people out of a dark state of mind to something more hopeful. He designed the slides to follow that purpose, starting in a dark place and slowly lifting throughout the message to end on a hopeful image. It was a subtle but powerful reinforcement of the key thought of the message; there is hope for everyone, no one has to feel alone forever.

All of that was Rob’s input, it was not an idea I had suggested and asked him to do. It was Rob’s interpretation of the purpose of the message. Rob was able to do that because we had spent more time talking about the ‘why’ than we had talking about the ‘what’.

When you are working with creative people, whether they are your partner or not, spend a good chunk of your time talking about what you want to achieve and how you want it to feel. Talk through the purpose and the background to what you are doing. You might not understand how that information could possibly translate in a PowerPoint slide or a poster, or a sketch or a piece of music….but a creative person who is very good at their art will know. They will see it as you talk about it. If you can tell them what you want to achieve they will see what it needs to look like clearer that you do!

Since working with Rob I have found other people to partner with for my messages. I’ll ask our tech team to create a lighting visual or invite someone to share their testimony. I even arranged once for a member of our youth to fly in a model helicopter mid way through the message as the A Team theme tune thundered over the sound system! And as silly as that may sound, I promise you there is a reason behind each thing! What I continue to find is that getting people on board and involved with the reason behind your efforts creates a new sense of excitement and purpose with each new venture.

Suddenly it’s not you against the world, it’s you and your team setting out to achieve something good together. Yes, there is a risk of being misunderstood or misinterpreted when you involve others in your dreams and plans, but actually I have not found that to be much of a problem. I think we risk more by sticking to what feels safe and never exploring the art of collaboration. You see, working with someone on a project, especially when it is your husband or wife, has to be more dynamic than one person in charge, one person doing the work. It has to lean more towards a partnership where you both meaningfully contribute to get the best result

This means being open to change and new ideas from the other person. Once the vision is in place and understood let the team have some creative freedom with the details. If you stick rigidly to your ideas just because they are your ideas you are going to miss out. Instead we have to allow for the possibility that others could have something to offer beyond your expectations. That’s when all the best things happen!

The Righteous

We are doing a short series at our church all based around the title “Power in His name”. My wife Cathy was speaking for one of the sessions and had a list of verses from Proverbs all based around righteousness. So rather than just reading out the words Cathy thought it would be more memorable and interesting if we used a kinetic text motion graphic video, although she didn’t call it that.

So first up is audio, without the audio there’s nothing to time the animation. I record straight into Audition using my trusty Zoom H4, this way I can chop, change and rerecord quickly. Once I am happy with the file, there is a little editing to clean it up. After that I drop in some background sounds to fill it out.

Now into After Effects to type, tween, transform, and time all this together. This was my first time doing one of these videos and it took two full days to complete. The majority of the time was spent animating each of the words into place.

It’s a little over a minuet, I hope you enjoy it.


The path of the righteous is like the morning
shining ever brighter till the full light of day.

The LORD is far from the wicked,
but he hears the prayer of the righteous

The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life
The lips of the righteous nourish many,
but fools die for lack of sense.
Righteousness delivers from death.

The house of the righteous contains great treasure,
When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices;

No one can be established through wickedness,
but the righteous cannot be uprooted.
Though the righteous fall seven times, they will rise again,
When the storm has swept by, the wicked are gone,
but the righteous stand firm forever.

The wicked flee though no one pursues,
but the righteous are as bold as a lion

Stop Rest Listen

I was scrolling through my Facebook feed the other day when I should really have been doing other more productive things, when a post caught my attention.

My friend Joel, a worship leader and talented musician has just launched a new website intriguingly called Stop Rest Listen. This struck a chord. A lot of people around me recently have been talking about stress and anxiety, and the need we all have for quiet and re-charging.

I began exploring the links Joel had posted and discovered that this really is a gem of a project. Stop Rest Listen collects scriptures grouped around a certain theme and creates audio tracks with the words read out over original music. He explains it all in this short video:

In a blog post on the site Joel says that he created these tracks originally for his own use. Reading the Bible had not come easily for him and he had often felt stuck, but when he began recording the scriptures and listening back to them throughout the day they took on new life. In his own words he says:

‘I found that by listening to the scriptures, I was able to access the bible in the car, on the train, on a run, basically anywhere! The music makes the scriptures come alive for me, it creates a great atmosphere behind the spoken word. I’ve never been great at reading and retaining information and I often beat myself up if I forgot what I had read in the bible that morning. What I found is that I could retain and recite a lot more scripture by reading and listening to it.’ (Read the full story behind the project here)

I think this highlights an important truth. Not all of us learn the same way, not all of us connect with God in the same way, not all of us access the Bible in the same way. When we push everyone to approach the Bible in one way we leave people feeling frustrated and inadequate.Which is why I love projects like this that opens up a new path for people to know God.

Stop Rest Listen now have an EP available to download on itunes with five tracks in total. Each one with scriptures on a different theme. There is something very special about hearing the word against music, I think it helps to express the beauty, passion and strength of feeling there is in the word.

On top of this they also are producing podcasts that begin with a ‘scripture track’ before moving on to interviews and discussions with special guests. I have listened to the first two today, one after the other. They talk with sincerity and passion but the feeling is very relaxed and natural, like you are overhearing some friends catch up in a coffee shop. The Mark Stevens interview is especially worth a listen.

Anyway, I am excited about this and am looking forward to seeing what they do next. In the meantime you should go and check out their stuff!

Stop Rest Listen are on Facebook, Twitter and Soundcloud.

Canine Skull Scratchboard

For Christmas I try to do at least one homemade item each year. Cameron, my husband, is fascinated by animal skulls. This sounds morbid until you know that he has a degree in zoology and is preparing to teach Biology. He loves the structure, how everything all fits together, the teeth, all of it. With that in mind, for 2014 I wanted my homemade gift to have something to do with skulls. While looking through ideas one day I happened on an incredible scratchboard of a canine skull by Lori Dunn.

Canine Skull by Lori Dunn

The detail is amazing. I don’t know what possessed me, but after looking at it for a while I thought, “I can do that!” I studied how she did the crosshatching lines, the shading, the texture, and jumped in.

It didn’t take me long once I actually got scratching until I realized my ego had gotten the better of me. This was way more detailed and skilled than I am currently at. I got frustrated and put it away. Finally, Christmas was approaching and I decided to pull it back out and keep working on it. I got it done just in time for Christmas.

I didn’t know if I was going to give it to him. When I compared it to the original, I just laughed. I wanted it to look like the original, with the careful detail, the texture of the bone apparent, and everything just right. I nearly didn’t give it to him, but decided to wrap it up anyway.

He loved it. He turned it around for the others to see and I swear it wasn’t the same scratchboard. It did look okay! I was even proud of it!

Marquette LaRee Canine Skull Scratchboard

Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I’ve thought about that quote a number of times when I see my version of the scratchboard. I worked hard. This wasn’t an easy project. My lines aren’t as delicate, my details as refined, or my shading as subtle, but I accomplished something. I learned. I grew. I found a way to express creativity. I was letting my comparison of the two scratchboards rob me of my joy in the creative process and in the joy of gift giving.

Comparison doesn’t have to always tear down, it can build. Whatever we look for, we find. If we truly look for the positive, we will find it. That may be positive traits in others, things to be happy about with a finished project, life circumstances, or even finding the silver lining in a rough day. If we are looking for the negative, we will find that. Character flaws in others, places in projects where we didn’t match up to the ideal, gloominess in life.

I knew this scratchboard was a gift for Cameron, but I’ve found since Christmas that it has been a sort of gift for me as well. I think about Roosevelt’s quote when I see it and how I will find what I am looking for. It reminds me that I want to find good in the world and in life, but I’m not going to find it by focusing on the negative.

Rob’s Top 5 Gig Photos

I was chatting the other day with a work colleague. I found out that they were really into going to see bands and taking photos. She’s already booked 13 gigs for the year and planned out her holidays around them, now that’s dedication.

So I set a challenge to pick out her top five pics and I would do the same. So I thought I would share my choice with you.

01_BellX1_1Paul Noonan | BellX1 | Dublin 2006
03_Jon_SwitchfootJon Foreman | Switchfoot | Derby 2007
04_Dan_James_StarlingDan James | Starling | London 2010
Danny6_The_ScriptDanny O’Donoghue | The Script | Leeds 2010
02_IgniteUnknown | Ignite 2005

And of course I couldn’t leave it at that.
So here are a few others I like!

Steve1Steve | Dublin 2005
The_CoopersDavid Chatziliadis | The Coopers | Leeds 2011
05_Danny4_The_ScriptDanny O’Donoghue | The Script | Leeds 2010
BellX1_2BellX1 | Dublin 2006