This week Aaron McCrae preached. Aaron is from Cornerstone Church in Gilbert, AZ. Him and his wife Holly have been in Houston the last few months as their daughter Kate goes through her last round of proton treatment for he brain cancer. They found out about Kate’s condition a year ago and it’s been a painful and longsuffering journey as they seek to find a way to totally eradicate the cancer. To hear more about their story you can check out
Ecclesia has been a support for them during their stay down here. Holly and I met them and got to know them a bit because of Holly’s role in the hospitality dept.
I called Aaron on Saturday and he shared with me that the thrust of his message was going to be from John 16:33 where Jesus says “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” It’s not a promise that we won’t have problems/pain/suffering. In fact it’s a promise that we will…. AND that Jesus will be with us in all that. He has overcome all that.
I got the picture Saturday night laying in bed as I was praying and asking the Lord what He would want me to paint. I saw a flower growing into the world, being rooted into every part of it…. and after a while of contemplation I saw that the flower should be an Easter Lily – of course representing Christ. Christ’s resurrection being in all aspects of the world.
I think the painting is rad and I’m actually going to do a studio version of it.
LIVE LIKE YOU WERE DYING
There’s been a few songs out that talk about this… saying if you were going to die you should go sky diving and climb mountains and all that other fun stuff. And I get the point of it (besides trying to sell records) which is to inspire others to really live. I think the songs may fall short a bit of what really happens when you face death though.
I appreciated Aarons talk so much this last weekend. Death is something we all must face and his thoughts about the reality of his daughter possibly dying was painfully enlightening. What really happens when you face death is that you look at your life and sift through all your activities and focuses and decide what is truly important. If skydiving and climbing mountains are that for you… well great. But that seems a little short-sighted. From my own experience (not cancer, but i’ve been close enough) what you end up contemplating is the people you wished you loved more, the person you wish you could have become, and the work you would have given your life to.
i think being close to death helps you realize these things. that’s why the teacher in ecclesiastes was right in saying
“The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure” (Ecc 7:4)…. cause the understanding that your life will eventually end (maybe when you don’t plan it) pulls a big bullshit card on everything in your life that’s not important.
And we live in a culture that is good at filling your life up with unimportant things.
It’s a big wake up call…. a shaking of you out of your numb comfortable slumber. And hopefully, when others share their stories we can learn from them and look through our own lives and make the changes to LIVE LIKE WE WERE DYING.
What would that look like for you? And since I’m an artist and if you’re following these posts at all, i’m hoping you are one as well, what changes would you make to pursue your calling as an artist more? Here’s a few realities that I have come to conclusions too that are the sacrifices to live out the life I want to have in being an artist:
1. Mostly poor
People often ask me how I like being an artist and I say “It’s awesome. If you don’t mind being poor it’s the best job ever.”
Let’s be honest, it’s really hard to make a living being an artist. Mostly, choosing this route is becoming bi-vocational…. working on your craft and having another job that pays the bills. It’s a reality that you just have to embrace. If not, you’ll probably be constantly pissed about your situation. I’m not saying you’ll never rise above bi-vocationalism. In fact if you put enough time into anything it’s going to rise. You’re going to get better. It’s going to improve. It just doesn’t mean that people will start throwing money your way for your hardwork or that your craft/medium will be a marketable /sellable product.
Or the other way is that you are some kind of graphic designer or studio musician and you ROCK at what you do and make a great living at it. BUT…. you never feel like you’re truly creating the way that you think you as a TRUE artist should. This has more to do with the next point – Making time.
But before I get there, I want to say just one more thing about money.
Is it really that important?
I totally understand that I’m speaking from the top 95% of the world that is privileged with clean water, work, vacation time, and multiple computers. I get it, trust me, I get it. I’m speaking to the people in my category who want more for some reason. I struggle with this too. I’m constantly bombarded with images and things that are enticing me to be more rich, to have everything to make me happy… that I could do whatever I want whenever I want. But I know this pursuit of decadence wouldn’t be as fulfilling have enough to live simply and to spend the rest of my time doing what I know would make me feel whole and truly living. This pursuit of more is a distraction, and from the amount of drug use by the rich, and fruitless goal.
What would you rather spend your life doing?
What are you pursuing so hard? Is it worthwhile?
If you could do be rich and not have the time for the things you would really like to be doing or just have enough to live simply but were doing the work you’ve always wished for… what would you choose?
2. Making Time
A friend of mine said “that our religion is only known by what we say, what we do, and how we treat others.” Your religion is the beliefs you have that you put into physical practice. You can believe lots of things in your head, but how you live really speaks to what you believe.
What do you believe about your role in the world as an artist? Is it important? Is it important to you?
All this to say is that it takes time to produce work and to get better at your craft. If you are going to LIVE LIKE YOU WERE DYING and involved you spending a significant amount of your time creating…. it’s going to take just that – TIME.
What’s busying up your life?
What do you need to let go of?
What’s unimportant that needs to slide away?
What time are you going to spend getting better?
What time are you going to give to do the work you know you’re supposed to do?
3. Believing it has value
This is probably the hardest one to come to believe about yourself – that you being an artist and pursuing creating has value. We all feel the intrinsic joy in creating. That’s what keeps us coming back. But maybe we dismiss this as a kind of euphoric recreation feeling… like the same feeling we get when we are playing frisbee or baking snicker doodles for a friends party. Maybe we’ve always compartmentalized this as a non-necesscity… a kind of hedonistic side note to our lives.
I get it. We have life to live and there are lots of important things that need our attention and care. My point here isn’t to dismiss or reject those responsibilities. Becoming an adult is learning how to hold and care for responsibilities with wisdom and maturity. You must always maintain this as an adult. But what I’m getting at is that that joy that you experience…. that completeness, that longing, that need to produce work… and the satisfaction that comes out of that – that may be a signal to you that a life pursuing that would be a life you would want to live. That in fact, if you were to live like you were dying, you would want to spend your time doing that work, feeling that satisfaction, entering into that journey. That i think has HUGE value….. because here’s what the world needs –“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is more people who have come alive.” -Gil Bailie
You will be a better person when you give yourself to the work that makes you come alive. It’s for sure not going to be easy or safe or painless. It’s going to be all those things. But that deep joy is the path for you being the person that you want to be, the life you want to have, the work you want to give yourself to.
Live like you were dying.“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – Jesus