Ok Go!

Ok Go do such creative music videos and I wanted to share their genius with you. They have recently release “I won’t let you down”, meticulously choreographed and on awesome little Honda scooters, which was filmed with a GPS-controlled drone.

I think “Here it goes again” will always be a favorite of mine. Enjoy!

From Cracked Pots to Blossoms

One night, at a prayer meeting, someone told a story about an old woman who walked to a well every day to fetch water. On her shoulders she carried two buckets. One of them was perfect, but the other was cracked and leaked. Each day she plodded to and fro, but it never got any easier. The months went by …. the ground was hard and dry …. then a remarkable thing happened. Along one side of the path beautiful flowers began to grow. People began to look at them in wonder, and they pondered why they only grew on one side of the path, and not the other?

cracked-pots

The answer lay in the cracked pot. Where it had leaked as the old woman walked to and fro, seeds had begun to germinate and grow. So even cracked pots have their uses!

Later that evening someone remarked that they see me as a ‘cracked pot’, leaving a trail of blossom. It made me think ….. are we allowing God to use us, cracks and all, to bring about something beautiful for all to see?

God has blessed me with the gift of creative communication. Creative ideas come in many different forms. Sometimes it’s a thought planted by God as I’m driving or walking. Occasionally something I read leaps out at me and strikes a chord. It can also be something I see or hear that just settles in my brain, and may lie there ready for a re-awakening, much like the seeds.

I find it helps to jot things down as quickly as possible and then just allow them to grow in their own time. If they are not from God they usually fade away and come to nothing. It also helps to have some purpose for the ‘seed’. As I organise a variety of events at my church, I can usually identify pretty quickly where it is leading, but then it needs time to germinate and grow, to be watered, weeded, pruned, and occasionally discarded for something better. If the ‘seed’ is God inspired, it usually changes from a tiny bud to a blossom in a relatively short space of time ….. a blossom bringing life and pleasure to others.

Once I have the foundation and basic outline for a programme or theme for whatever is planned, I like to discuss it with other people involved so we can refine it, add things, examine other possibilities, etc, until we are all satisfied with the finished product. Often success is in the minute details.

One of the ideas God gave me for an Away Day for our church this year was titled ‘BIRD IN A CAGE’. This partly originated from a vision God gave me many years ago. I was going through a tough time and my self-esteem had gone. I was the bird in the cage. The problem was I was too frightened to step out of the cage even though the door was wide open.

I believe there are many people in our world today who are trapped in prisons or ‘cages’, either of their own making, or at the hands of others, and they do not have the courage or ability to take the plunge, step out, and fly!

That was the main theme of our Away Day …… ‘flying free’. We made collage displays and dressed up lots of ornamental bird cages to represent different kinds of captivity:- drugs, alcohol, money, loneliness, fashion, gambling, isolation (particularly with the elderly), greed, homelessness, unemployment, rejection, sex trafficking, and so on. Throughout the day people participated in various activities together including making banners and enjoying a visit of wild birds from a local falconry centre. But the main focus was to draw near to God and allow Him to release us from anything in our past or present that was preventing us from being the person God intended us to be, or from following His purpose for our lives and ‘flying free’. God really moved in power in the afternoon, and it was wonderful to see people breaking the bonds. When the Holy Spirit moves, He sometimes touches spots we are totally unaware of!

Blossoms1

Some people see me as a bit of a ‘crackpot’. Maybe I am, but this is different. I am definitely a ‘cracked pot’. I find it quite astounding that God uses broken or cracked vessels to accomplish His mighty works, rather than perfect people (if such exist!) You only have to study the Bible to see the numerous characters that God used to fulfil His purposes :- murderers, adulterers, cheats, liars, prostitutes, and many more. However, ‘those who are forgiven much, give much in return’. God loves everyone and can use anyone who comes to Him in sincerity. He can turn dead bones into living creatures. He can turn a dry, dusty path into a flower bed.

If you have a creative mind …… give it to God and let Him use you to enable others to have fun and blossom in His love.

Wishing you all the best on your journey.

Maggie

Breaking Through the ‘I Can’t Do That’ Barrier

A couple of years ago David, our worship team leader, challenged the team to each find one thing within our walk with God or within our music to improve and take up to the next level. We spent weeks talking and praying about what that could look like and each person set themselves a different goal to achieve.

For me, I knew it was time to work on harmonies.

Harmonising was something I had never been any good at. The few times I gave it a go I would simply get it wrong. It was frustrating and embarrassing to keep messing up in front of people and as there were plenty of other singers in the team who are amazing harmonisers; I found that I could get away with just singing the melody most of the time.

This spared me the embarrassment of making mistakes each week, but there were drawbacks. There were times when I knew the songs would sound better if there was just one more part in the mix. Even then I couldn’t bring myself to try a harmony, even when I could hear in my head what was missing from a song, I couldn’t fill the gap because stamped firmly in my mind was big block letters that said ‘I can’t do that’.

I had drawn a line over my singing that said I can never improve pass this point.

I think many of us can find ourselves contained by the words: ‘I can’t do that’. Now, some ‘I can’t do that’ phrases are completely unimportant; I can’t break dance, but I don’t lose much sleep over that one, but other ‘I can’t do that’ phrases have a far bigger impact on our lives, such as:


    I can’t control myself
    I can’t change
    I can’t do this anymore

Big or small things, the more we let our ‘I can’t do that’ barriers build up the more limited we become. ‘I can’t’ can take away our courage to try new things and diminish our confidence. It can be especially crippling in our creativity. It locks the door firmly shut before we have even tried the handle. ‘I can’t do that’ will erode our freedom a little bit at a time.

When we look at the things we can’t do we can feel defeated from the start. But what we need to recognise is that when we say ‘I can’t do that’ what we actually mean is:

    I can’t do that easily

or

    I can’t do that quickly

and

    I can’t do that alone

To say ‘I can’t do this’ is defeatist but to recognise that ‘I can’t do this easily’ is realistic. It leaves room for hope and possibility.

Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish’

Luke 14: 28-30

Jesus is saying here to think carefully before you commit to being His follower because there is a cost involved. This principle is true for lots of things in life. Any big goal comes at a price. There is a cost to breaking through an ‘I can’t do that’ barrier the same way as there is a cost to building a tower, or a cost to following Jesus.

In my goal to learn how to harmonise I knew that the price would be my pride. Reaching this goal would mean putting myself out there, making mistakes, slowing down in practices, and getting it wrong in front of people. My weaknesses as a singer were about to be exposed; that was the cost.

So apprehensive, but determined to finally tackle this, I asked the singers who were excellent at harmonising for advice and found that they were happy to help. Opening up and saying ‘I am struggling with this and I want to get better at it’ was the best thing I did because it allowed my friends to get behind me. They instantly put me at ease and gave me all the support I needed. Quite simply, they were fantastic.

I quickly learnt that the embarrassment of making a mistake wasn’t nearly as bad as the shame I had felt before on giving up on something just because it wasn’t coming easily to me. I also learnt how encouraging, patient and kind our worship team are.

I filled my days with singing and as I practiced I rediscovered how much I love music. I turned the radio up on every journey to and from work and tried to copy the harmonies on any song I could find. I recorded parts into my phone so I could listen to them over and over again at home. In practices I tried to add them, and when I made mistakes and got it wrong, I kept on trying.

Slowly, over the following months I got a little bit better at harmonising, and it got a little more easier. Then I got a little more confident, and it got a little easier. And making mistakes became less traumatizing each time I made one. And gradually finding and singing harmonies felt more and more natural.

Now I know that my harmonising goal was a really small, unimportant goal in the grand scheme of human accomplishment, but it mattered to me. This small achievement added a new lease of life for me in worship; I now had more choices in how I sing, I had new ways in which to worship God, I had more to contribute to our worship team. I was that much more flexible and more willing to take risks. I won a little victory over an ‘I can’t’ in my life and it simply made me want to sing more and more!

I have discovered that just because something is small, it doesn’t mean it’s not big enough for God to care about. God’s kindness and interest in us reaches all the way to smallest details of our lives; like the number of hairs on our heads.

God is with us in all things and I think it gives Him great pleasure to watch us take the skills He has given us and strengthen them; He is with us when we test our limits and He guides us to stretch them further. He is a good teacher who delights in us as we learn new things.

Galatians 5:1 says that ‘It is for freedom that Christ has set us free’. In Christ we are free; free from sin, free from condemnation, free from judgement. Jesus came to set us free from everything that makes us slaves. So if our own fear and insecurities are holding us captive, then Jesus can free us from them as well. His liberating power has no boundaries.

Sometimes we have all the faith in the world that God can do anything and still be crippled by doubts in ourselves. We need to recognize that the God who can do anything is at work in our lives too.
A part of living in the wonderful freedom we have in Christ, is to keep on pushing through the ‘I can’t do that’ barriers that keep us contained. From out tiniest hopes to our wildest dreams I am constantly amazed at what is achievable with God.

Once I tackled the ‘I can’t harmonise’ barrier I set about breaking free from some of the other insecurities that hold me back. Some battles are harder than others, many are on-going, but I am determined to live in the freedom Jesus has given me.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Philippians 4:13

It’s a Hobby, It’s Okay

Meet Joe. Joe is a painter. He’s had one beginning painting class he was able to take during his intense Physical Therapy degree. He’s been using the same medium grade brushes for a while now (using them as long as he possibly can before they break down), and he doesn’t have all the latest art supplies. He does find time to paint at least once a week, thoroughly enjoying the hobby he loves. In some of his spare time he reads art blogs and borrows painting books from the library to learn new techniques. He keeps some of his art, he gives some to family as gifts, and some of it ends up in the trash. He doesn’t have aspirations to be famous or make a living off his art, he just loves the satisfaction and joy it brings him. Joe is a painter.

Meet Kim. Kim is a painter. Kim has a high degree in art, focusing specifically on oil painting and she continues to take lessons from a master painter that lives nearby. She spends multiple hours a day in front of her many easels. She has art displayed in galleries around town and has won a few awards to boot. Kim uses only the newest and nicest supplies for her paintings, and often makes her own brushes and mixes her own paints. She hopes someday to be a master painter and to have work in museums. She loves the satisfaction and joy painting brings her. Kim is a painter.

These two artists approach their art completely differently, and they both have varying intensities and aspirations, but they are both definitely painters. Yes, one is more advanced than the other, but they are both still painters. Just because one has professional aspirations and the other has hobbyist aspirations doesn’t diminish the fact that they are both artists. Art is something that can be done at any level: amateur, professional, hobbyist, first-timer, semi-professional, etc. I think in general most people would agree.

I consider myself an artist. In addition to photography I like to paint, draw, sew, and do calligraphy. I am by no means even close to being a professional in any of the mediums, but that’s not my aspiration at all. Even though I don’t have professional aspirations in art I find it fulfilling and exciting. Photography is very much an art to me and I love saying, “I am a hobbyist photographer.” That title doesn’t bother me at all. I’ve always loved photography, and I got into it more seriously when I decided to try taking nice pictures that I could turn into paintings. It’s evolved a lot since then, but photography continues to be an expression of art for me.

Granite Gap Peak, New Mexico

Granite Gap Peak, New Mexico

To further my hobby, I follow a number of photographers online, read articles, and explore books at the library. I’m a learning a great deal, but I have also discovered an attitude in the photography world that bothers me. There is so much “chatter” online regarding hobbyist photographers.
Professionals are understandably trying to identify themselves to their clients as being more than just a hobbyist so as not to lose business to the rising generation of hobbyists. I’ve seen people go on tirades on Facebook and forums about how there are too many people who think they are
photographers because they own a camera. Hobbyists and amateur photographers have their work put down so often that many are more timid about sharing their work because of fear of what the professionals might say.

My great grandfather was a photography hobbyist, and I personally think he was amazing. Here are three of his photographs that I love:

Grand Teton Mountains

Grand Teton Mountains

Old Adobe Church, San Pedro, New Mexico

Old Adobe Church, San Pedro, New Mexico

Navajo Family

Navajo Family

Professionally, my great-grandfather was a federal judge, but he spent large amounts of time doing photography. He won numerous prizes at the state fair for his photographs. My aunt went to get a print of his framed and the framer thought she had brought in a plagiarized Ansel Adams photo. He was “just” a hobbyist, but he sure had fun with photography and it was okay and accepted. We cherish these photos he took and many of us have his prints hanging on our walls.

One of the great things about photography is that you can just pick it up and then delve into as deep as you want to go. If you want to just be able to capture memories throughout life, you can do that, or if you want to be a professional with all the set up and gear, you can do that too. Many things in life take formal training, but not everything. They used an argument I’ve seen on photography discussion boards, on social networking sites, and on a few other photography blogs that goes something like this: Doctors, accountants, lawyers, cosmetologists and truck drivers all have to have certification before they can do their job and practice in their chosen field, and photographers should too. That argument makes me laugh a little. Those jobs all require certification because they can ruin someones life if they don’t know what they are doing (yes, even a cosmetologist, don’t turn up your nose). If a photographer doesn’t know what they are doing and mess up a shoot, a life isn’t ruined. Yes, it’s a bummer, but life will go on pretty much as normal. When someone plays the piano in church, most people don’t get upset at them because they haven’t had formal training in piano performance. Self-taught artists are usually not looked down on for painting without taking expensive lessons. Photography is the same way. It is another form of art, another person’s perspective on the world.

I know a lot of people are excited about photography right now and are buying fancy cameras and going out trying to make money off of it; perhaps it’s a fad, perhaps it is here to stay. Either way, it’s just fine. I can understand why professionals might be upset, but I can understand why hobbyists want to just take pictures. Photography has changed with the digital revolution, and that’s changed who can be photographers and how easy it is to take pictures. Some people want just a simple family snapshot, and some want the “official” professional studio portraits; people will generally go and find the type of photographer they are looking for.

I have other photographers in my family who are amazing and it is fun to see the different levels of interest, the different styles, and the different ideas. There are hobbyists, photography majors, professionals, etc. I love seeing everyone’s photos. We all support each other in our interest. I don’t ever feel put down by those family members that have more photography training or education than I do. It’s just fun! I’ve really come to realize that the amount of photographers out there doesn’t matter. It doesn’t lessen the art. It shows how diverse everyone is. It gives the photographer a chance to show who they are through their chosen medium.

So what about the technical aspect? Does it matter? Yes. A photographer will get better and better the more they learn about their camera and supplies, but you have to be able to couple the technical side with putting together a composition, reading your subjects, using color, etc. The technical side is just one of many sides to photography. Yes, there are people that just turn their cameras to auto and shoot away. Is that wrong? No. Does that mean they aren’t “real” photographers? No. Does shooting in auto make you incompetent? No. Does shooting on auto mean you are lazy and un-artistic and not learning? No way Jose. I’d pretty much bet that most modern professional photographers started out on auto and that they’d tell you they learned a lot about photography while still shooting in auto. Of course there are huge benefits to learning to shoot in manual, but not everyone needs to shoot in manual.

So, since I’m a hobbyist I should leave the important shoots, like weddings, to the professionals so I don’t botch it up, right? Not a chance. I love playing the piano, but just because I’m not a concert pianist doesn’t mean I have to leave all the hard and intricate songs to those who are professionals and will get the song perfectly right. I LOVE shooting weddings. I love every kind of shoot I do, but I really LOVE shooting weddings. I’m always nervous before any kind of shoot, but the times I feel the most confidence in myself are when I’m shooting a wedding. I still have a great deal to learn, don’t get me wrong. People shouldn’t be told that they can’t practice art because they’re not good enough.

I used to get defensive about being a “hobbyist” photographer, but not anymore. I’ve made the decision that I don’t want to be a high end professional photographer with a huge waiting list of clients. While that sounds flattering, it also sounds stressful and not fun at all (which is partly why I love photography). I love taking pictures for me, and I love taking pictures for other people. I find joy in the photos, and I get excited when other people find joy through my photos, but I’m perfectly fine with being a hobbyist photographer. I don’t have to have a huge list of clients to enjoy what I am doing. I loved photography before anyone ever paid me for a photo shoot. I will always love photography. If no one ever paid me again, I’d still have a blast. The joy is in taking the pictures and learning to get better. The joy is in the art. The joy is in creating.