J Scott McElroy

Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

When Unmet Expectations are Part of God’s Plan

In Devotionals, Family on June 26, 2013 at 11:51 am

By J. Scott McElroy

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

expectationsI felt God drawing me to Isaiah 53 during quiet time today. I’ve read that passage many times and honestly wasn’t very excited about going through the suffering and sorrow and punishment again. I had hoped that God would lead me to something “positive and encouraging”, the kind Christian radio stations promote, minus the blandness.

After reading the chapter, I turned to my NIV Matthew Henry Commentary for a little extra insight. Henry was an incredibly perceptive pastor and bible commentator whose monumental work has been revered since it was published in 1708.  What I found there today was beautifully relatable.

Recently my family has been dealing with unmet expectations in a number of areas. Of course, this is part of the human condition, and as believer’s we remind ourselves that God’s ways are not ours. Still, disappointment is tough. So, when I came across Henry’s thoughts about the Jewish expectations for the Messiah, I was reminded of God’s brilliant, often confounding way of doing things. His plan sometimes seems completely at odds with what we think needs to happen to accomplish a goal– in this case the redemption of the world.

Henry comments about the “low condition (Jesus) submitted himself to, and how he abased and emptied himself”. We’ve heard this a thousand times, but Henry adds more light to our knowledge with some additional facts shared in his unpretentious poetic style.  He reminds us that Jesus’ “entry into the world, the character he wore in it (were) in no way agreeable to the ideas which the Jews had formed of the Messiah.” He writes:

“It was expected that his ancestry would be very great and noble. He was to be the Son of David, but he sprang out of this royal and illustrious family when it was reduced and sunk, and Joseph was but a poor carpenter. This is here meant by his being a root out of dry ground, his being born to a humble and despicable family, in the north, in Galilee, of a family out of which, like a dry and desert ground, nothing green, nothing great, was expected, in a country of such small repute that it was thought no good thing could come out of it. It was expected that he should make a public entry, and come in pomp with recognition; but instead of that, he grew up before God, not before men. He grew up like a tender shoot, silently and invisibly, as the grain grows up, we know not how, Mark 4:27. It was expected that he should have some uncommon beauty in his face and person, which should charm the eye, attract the heart, and raise the expectations of all who saw him. But there was nothing of this kind in him; not that he was deformed or misshapen, but he had no beauty or majesty, nothing extraordinary, which one might have thought to meet in an incarnate deity….His gospel is preached, not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but with all plainness. It was expected that he should live a pleasant life, which would have invited all sorts to him; but, on the contrary, he was a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. His condition was, on many accounts, sorrowful. He was unsettled, had nowhere to lay his head, lived on alms, was opposed and menaced, and endured the opposition of sinners against himself.”

Yet, he was joyful in all things, walked with authority in his circumstances, and was content with the path the Father prepared for him.

Henry wraps up this part of the commentary with a statement that annihilates the last remnants of the image of a politically powerful, aloof, glittering messiah. It’s a thought that stirred my heart this morning and cause gratefulness to well up in me for the incredible, merciful disregard for human expectations that the incarnation represents. Henry wrote:

“His spirit was tender, and admitted the impressions of sorrow. Grief was his intimate acquaintance; for he acquainted himself with the griefs of others, and sympathized with them.”

Wow.  Our God and savior not only exudes sweet sensitivity in his person, but embodies  it. He is a Messiah who is totally relatable and compassionate. And then he takes it to another level, not only intimately feeling everything we are feeling, but giving us supernatural strength to overcome struggles through his joy (Neh. 8:10) It also means sometimes he gives us what we need instead of what we expect.

Today this reminded me to look for the provision of God in the middle of unmet expectations. Come to think of it, he even overcame my expectations of getting stuck with a worn and gloomy passage of scripture for devotions, instead providing fresh and significant insight through it!

I feel a “profound thought” coming on….

God’s plan for us may not meet our finite human expectations, but it will certainly, ultimately, in some way, exceed them.

(Graphic used by permission from http://growahealthychurch.com/)

J. Scott McElroy is the author of Finding Divine Inspiration: Working with the Holy Spirit in Your Creativity (Destiny Image), an arts advocate, and founder and director of The New Renaissance Arts Movement, which promotes the arts in the church. Reach him at: Scott@TheNewR.org.

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Learning the Family Business of Creativity

In Art, Christian Art, Creativity, Family on August 2, 2012 at 7:30 pm

I just finished reviewing a yet to be released book called Empowered Creativity from a fiery young author named Art Thomas.  I particularly enjoyed this thought about working in the “family business”:

In the culture of the Bible, as soon as a child reached the teenage years, he or she was considered a full-fledged adult.  When a young man reached the age of his bar mitzvah, he was welcomed into manhood and given responsibility in the family business.  The father would announce to the town, “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased,” which essentially implied, “This young man represents me.  I support him completely and have given him my seal of approval to represent me and carry on the family business.”

If you remember what it was like to be a teenager, you might be wondering if this was wise!  Adults often think of teenagers as brain-damaged risk-takers with untamable hormones.  But biology hasn’t really changed in the last few millennia—only our perspectives and expectations have.

The extra bit of information we don’t often think about is that the newly dubbed “man” spent his childhood working alongside his father, learning the family trade.  Jesus, for instance, would have watched Joseph preparing wood, drawing plans, and expertly crafting tools and structures.  By the time Jesus was considered a man (at the ripe old age of thirteen), he already had more hands-on experience and insight about carpentry than someone today who may have attended a trade school.

By spending time with their fathers, the young men of Israel learned to run the family businesses.  Craftsmanship and skill were taught, handed down, and developed.

Our Heavenly Father has a family business as well.  He is a Creator who deals in acts of love and power.  If He can’t make something with the elements that are available, He simply speaks new elements into existence.  He is so creative that He thinks outside the realm of what exists.  He calls things that are not as though they are. (See Romans 4:17.)  He dreams, He invents, He forms, and He empowers.  Our Father’s business can be summed up as this: “Limitless, Love-filled Creativity in Action.”

How do we get involved in the family business?  The same way the young men of the Bible did.  We spend time with our Father.  We study His craft by watching Him at work.  We learn from the projects He has done in the past.  We ask for insight about the projects that now need to be done.  We pay attention and learn from present-day demonstrations of His work.  In this way, we learn the family business so that, like Jesus, God can declare over us, “This is My beloved son, in whom I am well pleased,” thus commissioning us into the family business. (See Matthew 3:17.)

That’s what I want to hear! Thanks Art. Good stuff!

A Little Justification for Art

In Art, Arts Conferences, Christian Art, Church Art, Creativity, Family on March 22, 2012 at 2:52 pm

Rookmaaker in the classroom.

In 1977 noted Christian philosopher Hans Rookmaaker wrote a small book titled Art Needs no Justification. His premise was that art, creativity, and beauty have inherent value simply because God gave them to us. In a general sense, art doesn’t need a reason to exist, any more than a tree needs a reason to exist. (I included a larger quote from it here.) It’s an inspiring thought.

But it is nice to have a little justification; an occasional confirmation that our artistic endeavors are on the right track.

Scott speaking at Bethel ’11.

Last spring, during a speaking trip to California, my daughter and I were at the Bethel School of Supernatural Creativity in Redding to lead a workshop. One of the interesting  things they do at the school is set up an “Encounter Room”, where attendees can experience a number of forms of creativity that are designed to be led by the Holy Spirit. I’ve written before about the prophetic culinary table, where chefs create a delightful treat in front of you while interpreting the meaning of each ingredient.  There’s also an area where dancers will do interpretive prophetic dance as you sit and pray, and a booth where children from the Bethel elementary school will pray for you then ask God to give them a picture or a word about your life. It’s amazing how powerful those innocent little crayon and colored pencil pictures and words are.

This kind of risky, out-of-the-box creativity is at first disorienting, then thrilling to watch. “What if it doesn’t work?” you might think. Well, what if it does! These people trust that God will inspire their creativity so that others can experience a unique personal encounter with Him. It may sound downright strange to the uninitiated, but it’s certainly not any more unusual than much of performance art you see in the world, some of which is designed to shock and disturb. This is designed to spread God’s love.

One of the encounters at this event involved a roving drama troupe that would walk around the “Encounter Room” looking for people whom God seemed to highlight. The actors would address those people and perform a little improv drama. When this troupe came across my daughter they gave her some encouraging words, then handed her a branch from a bush that they felt God had led them to collect earlier. It was some sort of holly I think, with shiny, thick leaves. This was a meaningful experience for Hailee, for reasons she couldn’t fully explain, and she kept the branch, carrying it during the last leg of our trip in California then on the plane back home to Indiana.

Somewhere along the way we noticed that the branch actually had a strange growth on it, like a very hard and reptilian-looking cocoon. At home we decided to put the branch in water and see how long the leaves would stay green, and then we pretty much forgot about it.

A couple of weeks later my wife started noticing dozens of pesky little green bugs around the kitchen. There’s nothing that Danielle hates more than bugs in the house, so my mission became to eradicate them and find the source of the infestation.  As I took a closer look at the little pests, I realized that they weren’t gnats or average, run-of-the-mill bugs; these were actually baby praying mantises! Yep, that odd cocoon had a little rip in it. They were Northern California praying mantises that had survived the multi-day journey home and a couple of weeks in our kitchen, to hatch when and where God intended!

This little miracle was a confirmation for Hailee of how God loves and cares for her and of His appreciation for her unique personality.  She loves random and odd occurrences and this turn of events brought a sense of joy and wonder to both of us.  When she looked up the meaning of a praying mantis, what jumped off the page is that they can be interpreted as a symbol of direction, to point your way home. As a 20-year old in a confusing world, she needs direction, and this was God’s confirmation that He will bring it. That He sees her.  It also served to affirm some personal things He’d been speaking to her.

This special message for my daughter started with a group of young artists, many Hailee’s age and younger, who were nurtured and encouraged by the ministry of a risk-taking church. They asked God for a little inspiration and stepped out to make an unusual improv performance art piece, hoping that it might have some impact on someone. It did, and neither of us will ever forget it.

Dear Artist of faith, keep working in the areas, on the projects that God is compelling you to. Keep seeking Him, asking for ideas and inspiration. Keep aspiring to collaborate with Him, keep taking risks. The making of art may need no justification, but sometimes, in surprising and whimsical ways, God gives it.

A baby praying mantis on Hailee’s finger.

J. Scott McElroy is the author of Finding Divine Inspiration: Working with the Holy Spirit in Your Creativity (Destiny Image), and Founder and Director of The New Renaissance Arts Movement. Reach him at: Scott@TheNewR.org.

The Epic 2011 Recap

In Art, Arts Conferences, Christian Art, Christian Arts Conference, Church Art, Creativity, Family, Uncategorized on February 1, 2012 at 12:06 am

Speaking at the Bethel School of Supernatural Creativity '11.

Although not exactly “The best of times and the worst of times”, 2011 was a bit of a personal rollercoaster ride. I touched on some of the year’s difficulties in the last post, but before January slips away I want to recap the positive highlights. And there were many.

There were exciting opportunities to carry the Finding Divine Inspiration and New Renaissance message to more people in more places in 2011 than ever before. I had the privilege of speaking across denominations and age groups, from Catholics to Pentecostals, and 5th graders to grandmas.  It’s thrilling and humbling to watch God release creativity and open the doors of hearts and churches across the country. I thought sharing some of these successes might be an encouragement to you.

The Releasing

The year began with a January conference called “The Releasing” at Bread of Life Church just outside of Indianapolis. I was invited to lead a workshop and train people in the concept of collaboration with God in our creativity. Gaining the skills of hearing and responding to God’s voice is one of the most important things any believer can do, so helping folks to experience that and then practice it is one of the greatest honors of my life. The most profound spiritual growth in us individually and the most effective work for the Kingdom is built on the foundation of personal experience with and guidance from God.

Suzy Yaraei led a some really wonderful worship during the main sessions of this conference, and I did a little spontaneous live painting.

The Foundry

Live painting during during a service at The Foundry.

In February, it was off to Nashville, TN to speak at The Foundry and attend the inaugural C3 Conference.  I’d heard about the great work with the arts that Scott McLeod and his team at The Foundry and Harvest Sound have humbly and consistently cultivated over the years; weekly worship coffeehouses, church services, worship training schools, music and recording ministry, and mentoring.  And my heart felt at home when I experienced the enthusiasm with which they worship and the love and inclusiveness that pervade the place.  I spoke on Tuesday night to a small but VERY enthusiastic crowd, and snuck back in on Friday night to absorb some of their weekend worship. One of the highlights for me that night was when one of the singers cut loose on the word “blood”, screaming it out like “screamo” bands do. “Nothing but the BLOOOOD!!”  It was thrillingly appropriate.  I look forward to visiting The Foundry again, soon!

C3 Conference

After The Foundry, and still in Nashville, The first annual C3 Conference got underway. The lineup of speakers was remarkable: Andy Crouch, Mako Fujimura, Donald Miller, and more presented some of the richest insight on the arts/faith connection that I’ve experienced at a gathering like this. Organizer Tim Jones offered us booth space to share the New Renaissance mission and materials.  If you are looking for an excellent arts conference and you are anywhere near Nashville, I highly recommend C3, March 1-3. Andy and Mako will both return this year.

Vineyard National Conference

Cactus flower at South Mountain Park, Phoenix.

In May I headed to Phoenix and the Vineyard National Leaders Conference. One of the hats I wear is Director of Arts at the Indy Vineyard Church, and I love the Vineyard’s international legacy in the arts.  The movement has always welcomed artists, having been started by a musician (John Wimber), and Vineyard worship music played a central role in the revolution of contemporary church music in the 80’s. Jessie Nilo, my cowriter and Director of VineArts at the Boise Vineyard, and I believe Read the rest of this entry »

What I Have in Common with North Korea

In Family, Uncategorized on December 26, 2011 at 10:03 pm

Last Monday the North Koreans revealed that they had been hiding the death of their “beloved” dictator Kim Jong Il from the world for two days, probably so that power could be transferred smoothly to his son.   Jong Il was a crazy little guy who seemed obsessed with creating nuclear weapons and taking over his part of the world, sort of the personification of “The Brain” from Pinky and the Brain, the 90’s cartoon. That show featured two genetically enhanced lab mice who opened every episode with:  Pinky: “Gee, Brain, what do you want to do tonight?” The Brain: (In an Orson Welles-meets-Vincent Price voice) “The same thing we do every night, Pinky—try to take over the world!”  I bet the nightly dialogue at Kim Jong Il’s crib was not so different.

Anyway, I must confess that this week my world has something in common with North Korea and Pinky and the Brain.  I, too, have been keeping the secret of an untimely death.  And I have much greater knowledge of rodent misadventures than you might suspect.

Similar to a communist state’s secrecy about the whereabouts and/or existence of its leaders, my family hasn’t always talked openly about the presence of a pet rat in our home. If you visited, you knew, but we rarely volunteered the information, lest you think we are a little odd.  Like that fact wasn’t already common knowledge.  So today I officially acknowledge that we have been rat owners and that earlier this week our beloved rat, Ratty, passed away.

Rats have gotten a bad rap throughout history. Many people shudder at the thought of them. Several times I added and deleted the fact that I owned a rat from my writer’s bio. You know, the part that says, “Scott lives on a park in Indianapolis with his wife, kids, dog…and rat.”

We were skeptical about rats at first, too. It took my wife a little time to get over the tail. But my family found that the truth is rats are not only very

smart, but surprisingly playful, full of personality, and affectionate. They are clean, don’t carry diseases,

Ratty, soaking up some love.

and don’t bite. They can make wonderful pets, like our Ratty did.

Ratty was a constant source of entertainment. When we’d let her out of the cage to get some exercise she was fearless with our 60 lb. Rottweiler mix, Eleanor. She climbed and rode on the dog, groomed her claws, stole dog food and comically packing it into her little rat cheeks.  She followed us around the house, stood on our feet when we washed dishes, and would climb up on a chair if you were sitting there, just to be near you.

Kim Jong Il was known to have a penchant for cigars, cognac and gourmet food. Our Ratty had a taste for the finer things, too. She loved to turn over any wine glass lying on the floor and drink the residue, and even try to sneak a drink from the glass in your hand.  She wouldn’t touch certain seeds in her rat food mix, but any human food, no matter how old, was gourmet to her.  And though I never saw her smoke, I’m certain she would have enjoyed a good chew on a cigar.

Now the world knows. Our beloved rat is no longer a secret. She was an excellent pet and a little blessing from God.  And though she didn’t try to take over the world like her rodent brethren Pinky and the Brain, Ratty did, unexpectedly, take over our hearts.

Growing a Paradise for Creativity and the Arts in Boise

In Art, Arts Conferences, Christian Art, Christian Arts Conference, Church Art, Creativity, Family, Uncategorized on May 31, 2011 at 7:09 pm

The first thing I noticed when I walked out of the airport in Boise, Idaho was an unusual sweet scent in the air, kind of like marshmallows and flowers.  My hosts didn’t smell it so I wondered if it was my imagination or maybe the hand soap I used in Salt Lake City. Either way, I like being greeted by a nice scent in a new town. Aroma travel. Sounds like an idea.

That weekend with the community of VineArts artists from Vineyard Boise Church was truly wonderful. We started with an exquisitely fun Friday night workshop, brimming with enthusiastic artists, at Irene Deely’s amazing Woman of Steel Gallery–which is just as robust and creative as the name suggests. We covered a lot of the material I share in these situations: the New Renaissance in the arts, collaboration with God and hearing his voice, and did several hands-on exercises, but the expectation in the room took the event to a most enjoyable level. I think everyone came away with a new understanding of God’s plan for creativity. I know I did. When the meeting was over Jessie Nilo (VineArts Director) and I prayed specifically for anyone who wanted prayer. The affirming words and pictures from the Spirit  flowed like a mountain spring.

Jessie and I met in 2009 at the CIVA Conference in Minneapolis and our mutual interest in bringing the arts into the local church sparked a friendship.  Later, her group had fun studying  my book, Finding Divine Inspiration, and when it was time to plan their Biannual arts gala, they asked me to speak. This workshop was just supposed to be an add-on, but for me it was the first of many highlights.  Dinner and late-night conversation with my hosts Judy and Dean Estes, whose gifts of creativity and hospitality overflow into every room of their house, followed.  Then, on Saturday, there was a tour of the wonderful VineArts studio and gallery and the Arts Gala in the evening. Artists created throughout Heritage Hall, Vineyard Boise’s large public space, during that event.  There were painters, sculptors, culinary artists (incredible treats with spiritual meanings!), musicians and more. Jessie founded VineArts in 2004 and they use the Gala to showcase their many programs and try to raise some money.  Their ministry has grown to include a large art studio that is open multiple times a week for workshops, open studio time and meetings, regular arts outreach to nursing homes and schools, and more. (See more about what they do here.)

With all they’ve accomplished, the thing I love the most about VineArts is the sense of community these artists have. I felt it in their enthusiasm and expectation at that first workshop and I benefit from it every time I sign on to Facebook or get an encouraging email. I think it comes not only from the culture of their church and its leader Tri Robinson, but also from the fact that they’ve really collaborated with God in every step of building this ministry.

Some time over the weekend, I took a little drive into the mountains that border the city and hiked a bit. I hadn’t realized until I got there that Boise is in the high desert, so I was anxious to get out and touch the rocks and vegetation. I like to do that everywhere I go because its something that helps me connect to a place, to make the experience more “real”. The desert is one of my favorite places to do that, probably because its extremely different from my green Indiana landscape.   That day the sky, the light,  the hills and the rocks with their colorful lichen–everything–was beautiful. And as I broke off a piece of a desert bush, I smelled that fragrance again. It was sage. Sagebrush. Boise smells like sage.   That sweet fragrance summed up the whole trip.

Since that first trip, I’ve spent time with some of the VineArts leaders and I feels like we are family. Jessie Nilo recently joined me on staff at The New Renaissance Rising, and we led two workshops on the arts in the Church at the National Vineyard Leaders Conference in Phoenix in May. ( You know I got in a good hike in the Arizona desert mountains!)  We’ll do prayer ministry in June at the CIVA Conference in LA, and are working on a book called The Creative Church that will help churches release creativity in their congregations through establishing and maintaining arts ministry. Just a few days ago I was with a VineArts team at the Bethel School Of Supernatural Creativity in Redding, CA. They befriended my daughter, Hailee and cheered me on when I led a workshop. If I could have been in two places at the same time, I would have joined a second Boise team in Texas at an arts pastor’s retreat at Laity Lodge. (Watch the http://revelatorart.com site for an update on that.)

May the grace and joy with which VineArts and Vineyard Boise embrace the creativity and the arts in their church become the standard for the New Renaissance in churches around the world!

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.

Back from Canada, right?

In Family on August 14, 2009 at 1:34 pm

I just returned from a vacation to Canada last week so it’s been a while since the last post on this blog.

flag-of-canada

Our trip up north was very eventful! As some of you know, my wife’s sister is married to a professional baseball player, Scott Rolen, who was playing for the Toronto Blue Jays, so we were in town to visit the family. Of course, you can’t go to that area without seeing Niagara Falls, which is always awe inspiring. The “Maid of the Mist” has become our favorite ride anywhere…it is thrilling to get so close to such power, be drenched in its mist, bobbing in its boiling waves and realize that God made this for fun! And that day He threw in a perfect rainbow, visible completely from end to end.

He is the essence and source of creativity and imagination, power and beauty. And to think, He wants to collaborate with US! As we learn to hear His voice He will work with and through to show more of His personality to the world.

A Baseball Update

The brother-in-law was traded to the Cincinnati Reds while we were at Niagara on Friday, a trade he had requested to bring the family closer to home. When a player gets traded he goes to play the next possible game with his new team, the family packs up and everybody moves to the new city asap. Since we were in the middle of our visit with them, Scott chartered a jet for everyone to fly to Cincy. My mom, who was with us, was thrilled! She had never jet-setted like that before. Hailee and I decided to drive two of the cars down, which I rather enjoyed (a nice break from the house full of commotion).

His second game with the team Scott got hit on the helmet with a 92 mph fastball! Almost knocked him out. He came back and played a couple days later, hitting a 2 run homer for his first official hit as a Red, but the next day concussion symptoms intensified. He’s now on the DL for a couple of weeks. We’re praying for his quick healing, and ask that you would too.

Everyone is so excited to have them less than 2 hours away!

An update on Canada’s reaction to the New Renaissance is coming next!

Blog Dedication

In Family on February 1, 2009 at 3:50 am

Dad on the beach with babushka

This blog is dedicated to my dad, Dr. J. T. McElroy, a remarkable man who wrestled MS for 45 years and held on to his faith and sense of humor.