J Scott McElroy

Archive for August, 2013|Monthly archive page

I’m a Fan of God’s Creativity: Clouds

In Creativity, Devotionals, Uncategorized on August 27, 2013 at 6:36 pm

(Note: You’ve come upon an archive site. Scott is now blogging at JScottMcElroy.com. These and fresh posts can be seen there! )

“I gotta say, I’m a fan.” This was my spontaneous reaction recently when I noticed the breathtaking cloud formations from the window of an airplane  gliding over the California desert. A little prayer of acknowledgement for the astounding imagination of the Creator, my God and my friend, whose Holy Spirit stirs in my chest at the recognition of his brilliance and thoughtfulness.

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Taken with my smartphone over the California desert.

I’m all about creativity. God has wired me that way. In fact, everyone is wired for creativity, even if they don’t know it, because we are all made in His image and He is undeniably creative. And to me, the daily presence of clouds may be one of His best creative shows. Yes, sunrises and sunsets are magnificent; they announce hope in the morning and rest at night. But they last minutes. Clouds are often visible for hours, and they constantly change, creating one majestic masterpiece after another. I can’t imagine how a person would not at least wonder about the existence of God when this show is visible day after day.

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A cloud pillar.
(From Flicker)

The bible has a lot to say about clouds, including them in some of the most important moments in history. God led the Israelites to the promised land with a “Pillar of Cloud” (Exodus 13:21), and a cloud carried His presence in the Hebrew tabernacle and temple (Ex. 40:34). God appeared in a cloud and spoke at Jesus’ transfiguration (Mt. 17:1-8, Mk. 9:7, Lk. 9:34). Jesus will come back on the clouds (Dan. 7:13-14, Mt. 24:30, Mt. 26:64), in fact every eye will see him in the clouds (Rev. 1:7), and  believers will join him in the clouds (I Thes. 4:17). I think its safe to say that God likes clouds.

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Someone captured this scene of what looks like an image of Jesus in the clouds.

The science of clouds inspires joy in me, as well.  They are such a meaningful part of the health of our planet, playing a central role in the water cycle; absorbing, storing, and releasing moisture. The way they reflect, refract, and filter light is astonishing. The bible even gave us a clue as to why they are visible when most water vapor is invisible. Nahum 1:3 says, “His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and clouds are the dust of his feet.” Science has discovered that its not only the cold of the upper atmosphere that enables the water vapors in clouds to condense and be visible to us, but  its also the fact that that vapor is able to attach to tiny dust particles. The dust of God’s feet.

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Small clouds creating large shadows in the desert floor.

I love the way that clouds can create such gigantic shadows on the ground. It’s incredible to see

that from the perspective of 15,000 feet, and also interesting to think that someone on the ground just had their sunny pool day ruined.  That brings to mind the scientific and philosophical truth that the sun is always shining above the clouds.

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A cloud army.

“The air up there in the clouds is very pure and fine, bracing and delicious. And why shouldn’t it be?–it is the same the angels breathe.”  Mark Twain, Roughing it. 

This cloud formation to the right reminded me of an army of angels advancing to do God’s work in answer to our prayers.

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A anvil cumulus cloud, one of my favorite types. This shot came from a NASA site.

I searched for a poem that would say how I felt about these miracles of moisture, and there are many wonderful works to choose from, but none were quite right.  I heard someone give writing advice once that went something like, “If you want to read about something, but it hasn’t been written yet, then maybe you should write it.”

So… here is my attempt at a cloud poem.

Cloud Fan

I’m endlessly enthralled with clouds.

Wedding white and mystery gray,

Constantly changing, breaking up the day,

With shadow and light and shapes that confound,

A touch of God-glory, just hanging around.

Only God could produce glorious beauty out of simple dust and water vapor.  Clouds.  Yep, Lord, I am a fan.

More about clouds:

Wikipedia has a very good page on clouds.

Here is time-lapse video of an incredible cloud event over Scotland.  

God Enjoys Interior Design

In Art, Creativity, Interior Design, Kitchen Remodeling, Uncategorized, Writing on August 26, 2013 at 4:53 pm

  “If I were asked to say what is at once the most important production of art and the thing most to be longed for, I should answer, ‘a beautiful house’.” William Morris

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The interior design of a flower.

Some may find it strange for a guy to admit, but I’m passionate about interior design. I love the variety of elements that go into a pleasing design, the interplay of line and form with color and light, and the positive effects of good design in a home, church, or business.  I’ve found a well-designed space can actually facilitate openness to God’s spirit. In fact I think that God is a fan of interior design, as well. He certainly enjoys all the elements of it, as we can see by the abundance of these things in nature. In fact, you could say that he is the original interior designer, having conceived and executed the incredible interior design in humans, animals and plants. He is a master of mixing form and function.

As much as I love writing, visual art, and the ministry God has called me to, I can’t get away from working with interior design. And my wife loves it, too. Danielle and I are opposite personalities in many ways, but when we can compromise on design ideas in our home the result is eclectic and (I think) inspired. In fact, I could tell you many stories about how God has inspired or blessed our design process; like the blue leather chair he led me to at Goodwill for $35, or the set of 100 year old candelabras I got for $8 at a random garage sale, or the deeply discounted Crate and Barrel rug he dropped in front of me that, as “the Dude”from The Big Lebowski would say, “…really ties the room together.” In fact, another thing some may find odd, I’m the one in our relationship who enjoys shopping for design items (clothes are not included in this category). If you want to know where to get a certain sofa, table, lighting, or drapery in town, I can tell you and may even find it for you.

OK…I guess I’ll show a few pictures of the house.  And here is a link to before and after shots.

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The kitchen after. We knocked out a wall, painted and distressed cabinets, added rough cherry wood floor, solid surface counters, and new lighting.

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This is the front room. We refinished the oak floors, added maple crown molding, eclectic furniture and lots of color.

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This is the sitting room. We removed parts of two walls to create a large arch with columns (left) and smaller arched doorway. We also added custom sconces, and echoed a theme of oblong circles in room. This one is worth seeing in the before and after section on the link.

Kitchen Remodel

I really enjoy remodeling, as well. In fact, I find  that doing a little manual labor and handling solid material like wood and stone is a nice balance to the brain work of writing and developing a non-profit. I’ll be going into high gear on the latest book project during the last few months of 2013, so I decided to take the summer to  tackle a kitchen remodel project for my mom. My good friend Scott Rieger joined me in updating and re-envisioning my mother’s poorly designed 1979 kitchen. So far we’ve replaced Formica (fake) butcher block counters with new granite, tore out the old green tile and replaced it with natural field tile, reconfigured and rebuilt the island. It once had a cook top and veggie sink in it. We eliminated the cook top and expanded the veggie sink. We raised the bar counter top height, rebuilt all the lower cabinets in the kitchen, removed the old vinyl flooring, added lighting, removed  a wood stove and moved the refrigerator to make more room.  This week we’ll add a stainless range hood and pot rack, finish the tile, darken the cabinets, and replace the cabinet hardware. I thought It’d be fun to show you a few pictures from the project, and document the “before and after” as we wrap it up.

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In progress. The fridge and stove have been moved to open the space up, the counters replaced with granite (Bianco Romano), and border removed. New cabinet color, door hardware, and lighting is on the way.

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The kitchen before we started. It’s 12 feet wide, but the fridge and stove take up 5 feet! Notice the Formica butcher-block counters, and the grape border.

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In progress, natural field tile is going up. This will complement the beautiful granite, but not detract from it. New lighting is in under the cabinets, the dishwasher is now hidden, and a stainless chimney range hood will go in this week. The oven is a new GE double, bought at a discount.

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Before, the stove side of the kitchen. There was also a cook top on the island that we eliminated. And we moved the dishwasher to the island to make it less conspicuous. Notice the 70’s green tile back splash.

New “Faith-Friendly” Film from Creative Church Speaker Joe Boyd is “Strange Brand of Happy”

In Christian Art on August 22, 2013 at 2:05 pm
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Joe, in one of his film roles. Or maybe this is his pastor’s outfit?

Joe Boyd is a teaching pastor at a thriving 6,000 member church in Cincinnati. He’s also an improv comedian, actor and filmmaker; an interesting mix in a church leader.  His session “Telling the Kingdom Story Creatively” was one of the surprise stand-outs at our Creative Church Conference: Indianapolis last summer. You never quite know what Joe’s going to say, which brought a nice balance to a conference full of earnest artists and church leaders, serious about integrating the arts into church experiences and outreaches.  He helped us laugh, then drove home some very insightful points about creativity and faith.  (His session and the complete Creative Church Conference recordings are available on DVD, CD, or MP3, Here. )

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Rebecca St. James

Joe’s main venture these days–in addition to teaching  at the Cincinnati Vineyard— is film development for Rebel Pilgrim Productions. On September 13th, RPP will release its latest movie, “A Strange Brand of Happy”, starring Joe, Grammy Award Winner Rebecca St. James, (Yes, the Christian music star) and Academy Award Winner Shirley Jones (Aka, Mrs. Partridge).

“A Strange Brand of Happy” introduces us to an aimless bachelor (Joe) who is suddenly unemployed and finds himself attracted to his life coach, the same girl (Rebecca St. James) his manipulative ex-boss is pursuing. It’s a romantic comedy.

“Basically, we wanted to tell a story about an unhappy guy who loses his job and is forced to actually think about the meaning of life a little bit,” Joe said. “We wanted him to discover that in pursuing that thing inside of you that gives you a strange brand of happy, you find yourself … and maybe even find God there too.”

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Shirley Jones

Rebel Pilgrim wants to make films that have an offbeat, lovably quirky style like “Office Space” or “Little Miss Sunshine”, but remain “faith-friendly”. And though “A Strange Brand of Happy” certainly contains plenty of quirkiness, it manages to give center stage to questions about faith and the meaning of life. Its even earned a Dove approval rating for kids 12 and up.  This film delivers some brilliant moments, such as a profound and beautiful spoken word performance by Anis Mojgani, and really can open the doors to deep conversations about faith that ultimately lead to salvation. 

The company is counting on a Kickstarter-styled fundraising site, called Seatzy , for selling seats to prospective screenings on Sept. 13. The film will appear in any theater where people have pledged to purchase 500 or more tickets. Like a Kickstarter campaign, if it falls short, no money changes hands.

You can support Rebel Pilgrim, their mission, and this film by checking for theater locations in your town here and buying a ticket or two in advance. You can even buy tickets in cities where you don’t live just to show support. 

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