J Scott McElroy

Archive for December, 2010|Monthly archive page

A Weekend of Kingdom Creativity

In Art, Arts Conferences, Christian Art, Christian Arts Conference, Creativity, Uncategorized on December 29, 2010 at 9:53 pm

I led an overnight creativity retreat in early October, and had high hopes for what would happen when a group of artists got together for

Sunrise and Mist at Teter Retreat Noblesville, In.

a weekend of listening to the Holy Spirit and creating art. The reality actually exceeded my expectations.

Thirteen artists from Indiana and Ohio met at  Teter Family Retreat in Noblesville, IN, a  hidden rustic compound ringed by cornfields and forests and within walking distance of the shallow White River.  I’d never heard of  it even though it was 40 mins from my house.

Friday evening started with worship from our friend Jason Barrows, a talented local singer/songwriter.  I spoke about what God is doing in the arts, our place in the New Renaissance and touched on some of the concepts in Finding Divine Inspiration.  We did some creative exercises, and spent time praying for every person present, while Jason created acoustical magic with his guitar. The Holy Spirit’s presence was sweet while we went around the room praying and blessing each artist. Jason said he just kept getting interesting ideas and riffs from God and kept playing until the last person left for their cabin.

Artists at riverside.

Saturday morning we walked through the process of learning to listen to God, with plenty of time to practice each step. Developing the skills for learning to listen to the Holy Spirit is the foundation of everything we do in these creativity seminars, and it always creates a sense of peace and centeredness that often surprises people.  Creating art is a wonderful experience, but seeing artists really get how loved they are but their Father, no matter what they do or don’t do, no matter if they never make another piece of art, brings the greatest sense of fulfillment. Later in the day we took that sense of love and acceptance and a heightened sensitivity to His voice and did create art. And these artists were ready fly!  Every one came loaded with materials and expectations, and jumped right in to the collaborative exercises. First we paired up and took a moment to pray for our partner, asking God to give us a picture for them.  Then we took a few minutes to sketch or paint, etc, what came to mind, trusting that it might be from God. Then, partners switched to pray for the other person and repeat the process.  One pair burst into uncontrollable laughter in the middle of their exchange, leaving the rest of use serious, earnest folk to wonder what could possibly be so funny in such a moment.  Later, the two came up to show the pictures they’d drawn for each other. They struggled to contain themselves as they explained that they had prayed the night before for several specific things and the drawings they did for each other had–incredibly–referenced each thing. These were women who had never met before this weekend and I don’t believe had ever done an exercise like this.

I had encouraged everyone the night before to ask God to speak  about what seemed to be holding them back in their creativity. One of

Work in progress.

these laughing girls said that she asked God why certain things were not happening in her life, and she felt He said, “Because you haven’t asked!”  So she made a list of four things she wanted to see happen. The picture her partner drew was amazingly detailed, full of symbols and images, and it addressed every single thing on her list!  Laughter broke out around the room. The other woman had a similar experience. Her picture illustrated and affirmed words and prayers that were spoken over her the night before that her partner knew nothing about.

There were similar stories from others and I was thrilled once again to witness how God loves to speak to and through us when we trust that He will.  By the end of the retreat there was this wonderful sense of community that had developed among us. We really did get a taste of the joy and promise of Kingdom Creativity. I really didn’t want the weekend to be over.

Thanks to the folks at The Church of Praise for providing the food for the retreat, Betsy Potts and Cathy Freeman for organizing it, and Betsy and John for all their hard work.

For information on speaking engagements, seminars and retreat weekends, contact me at scott@FindingDivineInspiration.com.

The Teter Retreat group.

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Story Conference Chicago, 2010

In Art, Arts Conferences, Christian Art, Christian Arts Conference, Creativity, Uncategorized on December 29, 2010 at 6:21 pm

In summer of this year a packet of  mysterious and highly creative postcards arrived in the mail. They announced a creative conference that seemed almost too good to be true: Story Chicago was billed as an event “for the creative class in ministry”  with the goal of  fueling “the producer generation of ministry leaders who live to communicate the greatest story ever today–the gospel.”  The postcards claimed,  “You’ll hear from some of the best creative practitioners in both ministry and the marketplace. From filmmakers and authors to actors and musicians, these presenters will help you engage people in the most compelling and effective way.” Very interesting stuff. But the knockout punch came when I  went to the website. The Story website is very possibly the most creative faith-based site I’ve ever seen. Every creative person I’ve showed it to utters, “Whoooaa.”

The site was created by the insanely inventive Pixel Peach Studios, and their founder  Gary Dorsey spoke at the event.  Other featured speakers at the conference  included authors Dan Allender and Leonard Sweet, the Producer of  TV’s “Roseanne” and “Home Improvement”, David McFadzean, Charlie Todd, the guy who founded Improv Everywhere,  and David Hodges, formerly with the band  Evanescence. The whole event was the brainchild of Ben Arment,  author and New Renaissance man.

Well, you know where I was the when the conference started on Sept 23rd, 2010. Firmly planted in a seat at  Park Community Church beside a couple of Indianapolis friends. The 500-seat conference was officially sold out, but my friends Jonathon “JT” Tremaine Thomas, founder of Eastgate Studios here in Indy, and Steven Potaczek, lead singer of 1000 Generations were able to a get some tickets from some folks in Michigan who couldn’t make it.

One of the first things we noticed was the oddly configured stage (hard to see here), a platform for creating giant holograms designed by Clark.  This was a tricked out version of some of the technology that large churches with multiple sites use to create life-like images of teachers who are actually speaking from another location.  Faith-based holograms. Very impressive.

In many ways, Story lived up to its amazing promotional material. Not only was it possibly the best designed and packaged conference (visually) that I’ve attended, but many of the speakers were excellent.  Dan Allender’s message of discovering and telling the story God has written in us was brilliant, Charlie Todd (though not focusing on spiritual aspects) unpacked a suitcase full of inspiration when he showed us several of his Improv Everywhere skits.  Blaine Hogan, Creative Director at Willow Creek Church in the Chicago suburbs, contributed some wonderful dramatic presentations. (By the way, you can see some of Blaine’s work from the 2009 Wonder conference Here, and a story about Willow’s unique Christmas pageant Here.)  We left feeling refreshed and re-energized, all three of us deep in thought and brimming with  possibilities.

Thanks to Ben and his team for raising the bar for what creativity in the Church can look like.  I’ll be back for more Story in 2011. Keep watching the New Renaissance Rising website (http://TheNewR.org) for updates on this and other creative conferences.

By the way, If you enjoy creative websites like the Story’s, check out the site of  artist Daniel Baltzer, founder of the Limner Society.

A little inspiration from Tron: Legacy

In Art, Creativity, Family, Uncategorized on December 22, 2010 at 3:27 am

I saw the late showing of Tron: Legacy tonight and came away with a nice sense of inspiration.  I’m a late night guy, so getting a twinge of inspiration after midnight is not all that unusual, but I didn’t really expected it from Tron . I vaguely remember feeling a bit of an emotional chill after seeing the original in the theater. The computer/tech motif seem ominous and claustrophobic at the time.  ‘Course, the intertwining of technology and the real world has become normal since 1983, and much less foreboding (for the most part).  I now use computers every day and own a Droid smartphone that enables me to track  stars on a grid, transfer money while standing in a checkout line and play clips of Napoleon Dynamite at opportune times.

The tech in the new Tron was cool, and my son and I let out a few “whooaa”s, but that wasn’t the real source of the inspiration for me. I think I was more  affected by the concept of creation; that someone could imagine and  work to create  new ideas and new world, and see the dream realized.  And then that he could grow with it.  Jeff Bridges’ character made this world of “the Grid”, but remained in wonder of it. That sense of wonder was key for me.  When something came along in that universe that he didn’t expect, that disrupted  his pursuit of  perfection, he began to understand the value of not being in complete control. I love that: the thought that control and perfection are confining and actually fight against the creative process (and hinder collaboration with God), and that there is joy in the unexpected accidents, imperfections and improvisations.  Like the times when collaborating with the Holy Spirit on a project takes an unexpected and sometimes exhilarating turn. I’ve heard and said these things before, but Tron found a way to inspire me with the reminder. And in PG form, to boot (or maybe more appropriately, re-boot).

Thanks to Disney, for re-imagining this story. It might just make up for that last horrible Pirates of the Caribbean movie. Or…maybe not.