Burn the box

Just burn the box.

I work with a lot of creative people. Fascinating artists, designers, people who can take anything and make a snapshot-inducing experience that bends your mind with inspiration and wonder. It’s with birds of my own feather where I’ve come to reject the box of standard thinking, the box of non-creativity.

Burn the boxPeople talk about thinking outside the box when it comes to creativity. Do you know what’s wrong with boxes? They’re ugly. They have an unnatural shape: a square. Do you see anything else in creation that’s perfectly square that isn’t man-made?

And yet, we often limit creativity to carefully drawn lines of predictability. Why do we have a “box” of creative boundaries in the first place? Is it convenience? Laziness? Fear that what we might create at first isn’t very good, so why bother trying?

As Einstein said, “Creativity is intelligence having fun.” Out-of-the-box thinking needs to be less about forcing creativity without changing our lethargy towards thinking and creativity. We lack inspiration to be creative because we’ve desensitized ourselves to our Creator’s all-present creative work.

I don’t like being in the box of non-creativity. It’s dark inside the box. It’s controlled and limiting and not conducive to imitating our Creator through mini-creations in replication through worship. My most creative moments in life have come when I push past the expected, the convenient, the previously published, and create a mashup of ideas that are unexpected to me.

When we say, “Let’s think outside the box,” it needs to be a call to shake off the uninspiring, the everyday ho-humness of our routines we lock ourselves into for the sake of convenience. Artists and musicians and teachers and craftsmen have told me story after story about their most creative moments. Do you know what the common theme was in their most creative moments? “I tried something creative I’d never done before…”

Get outside the box. Remind yourself why your creativity deserves to be outside the status quo of non-creativity. Don’t ever settle for the convenient way of thinking.

And then, just burn the box.

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Brain Dump – July 23, 2014


  • God keeps providing new clients and opportunities to connect more with great personalities through Keynote Content. At least four big opportunities are on the horizon and they’re big, I mean, huge. I’m praying for God to keep opening doors and giving me clarity to keep building His business the right way.
  • If there’s one thing I’ve been reminded about this week, it’s that the average person doesn’t know anything about Hamas, Palestine, Israel, ISIS, Syria, and what’s really going on in the Middle East. In more than one way, things rarely change.
  • I love the message of Colbie Caillat’s new music video “Try”. It’s a great conversation starter on how mirrors and media are some of the worst perspective-setters.
  • An idea with organization is called a plan. Know the difference between an idea and a plan. Ideas are cheap. Period. Anybody can come up with an idea. Ideas are usually organic and messy and disjointed. The hard part is taking an idea and putting boundaries and purpose behind its future and then the real mastery is earned.
  • We were made by a Creator to be creators in imitation of Him. Our art and design needs to take more lessons from creation. Nothing that’s the color white in the natural world lasts very long: snow, clouds, teeth, waves, etc. God put us in a vibrant world for a reason. Take a tip from creation: expand the palette of your life experience by adding color where you can.
  • Kara and I got to spend the weekend up in Estes Park connecting with different summer camp staff and leaders. I’m humbled and amazed at how God carries on opportunities I was blessed to help start seven years ago. And guess what? It’s growing and changing lives without me, another great reminder of the small part I get to play in God’s massive plan.
  • The Gospel is the greatest message you could ever share. Why does Christ’s sacrifice makes such a dynamic change in your life? It takes practice and guts to share something as beautifully polarizing and personal as your story of faith.
  • God still holds tomorrow.

Be a voice, not a parrot


Have you ever heard someone talking and it sounds like they’re just stringing quotes together? It’s pretty obvious. Nothing sounds original. You almost want to put air quotes on either side of them to set the right context for what they’re saying.

I’ve been “the quoter” before. For the record, there’s nothing wrong with quoting someone else. It’s more valuable though that I can articulate my own reaction to what a quote means. If I’m just using quotes to sound smart, then I’ve missed the whole point.

With so much verbal noise today, it’s tempting to just parrot back different trendy quotes or ideas. If I was meant to be a parrot, I’d have wings and feathers. Whenever I do that, I miss the most important part: why did those quotes strike me in the first place? It’s my responsibility to figure out where I stand with ideas I engage, even if I ultimately realize, “I don’t know how I feel about that.”

There’s a massive conversation going on about God and faith and the Bible and church and culture. And we get to be a part of that conversation.

In that conversation though, we each have a responsibility: be a voice, not a parrot.

You don’t have to be a super genius, or even be absolutely certain what you believe about other opinions and ideas… but you do have to be yourself. You may not be the most recognized, smartest, most educated philosopher of today (it’s okay, I’m not either!), but you get to share your unique perspective on other people’s ideas.

We don’t need the next Albert Einstein or Plato or Thomas Edison; we need the first you. Share your ideas. Share your perspective. In your own way and to the best of your own ability, know what you believe and why. Have your own voice.

And don’t be a parrot. Parrots are noisy. Parrots say what people train them to say. You were made for more than just a pretty bird; you’re made in the image of God capable of original critique and thought.

Be a voice, not a parrot.

Ideas are clouds, not concrete

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Ideas are cheap. Good, bad, any type of idea, it doesn’t cost you anything but brain power. Our brain neurons fire at unthinkable speeds, which produce ideas with hardly any effort at all.

The problem with ideas is sometimes they’re hard to convey. Most times we can articulate our thoughts and ideas, but there are seasons in the creative process where even articulating ideas can be a difficult hurdle.

It’s because ideas are more like clouds, and less like concrete.

For example… how would you define a cloud?

Right about now you might be glancing out the window for a cloud. It’s easier to point out a cloud if you see it, but it’s much harder to define exactly what it is. There are massive clusters of microscopic ice crystals large enough to refract light from all seven color wavelengths to appear white in color… and that’s what we call clouds.

Much easier shown than said.

A concrete concept has little to do with actual concrete. It’s definite, absolute, an existing part of reality. At some point, everything we see around us was an idea turned into a concrete concept.

Someone had an idea of four circles and a bench or two with a motor to propel the benches and wheels to transport people places faster than a horse could. Of course, that’s now what we call a car, but someone had to articulate their idea in a way people understood so the idea went from “cloud” to concrete: a car.

When it comes to sharing ideas, much of the struggle isn’t about whether an idea is good, bad, or average. The biggest struggle is clearly articulating and defining the idea so others can understand.

If you’re involved in any type of creative process, the responsibility is on you to wrestle for the clearest, simplest ways to explain your ideas. If I can’t explain it simply, then I probably don’t understand it fully myself.

The journey from ideas being hard to define, like a cloud, to being more concrete is well worth the struggle. You owe it to your team, your fellow creatives, and your Creator in heaven to be as clear as you can with the clouds your brain produces. They’re not just ideas; they’re possibilities waiting to be defined.

The most valuable buried treasure

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People are fascinated with buried treasure. It could be a fossil discovery, a treasure map, the Dead Sea scrolls, hidden memoirs of a genius, even pirate’s gold. Anytime a new discovery leaks, it’s a race is to see what treasures are found.

When it comes to buried treasure though, the most valuable buried treasure is ideas we never share.

Graveyards are full of ideas, dreams, goals, aspirations, whispers of thoughts on how to better change the world and the status quo… that were never shared. There are countless stories of brilliant people who left hidden memoirs, locked and sealed, with the ideas they never shared with anyone else.

The reason? They didn’t know how others would respond. They were afraid of sharing more.

It’s hard to share an idea at times. Maybe others smirked, or even laughed off your last idea. Maybe it got shot down logically, or because enough resources weren’t available. So, you bury your next idea, and the next, and the next, until you have a graveyard of ideas, unsure of their potential.

Here’s the truth… some ideas aren’t good ideas. Some ideas need to be wadded up and shot from downtown into the trash can. But, you’d be amazed at how many bad ideas are springboards to good ideas. Don’t be the only judge and jury of your own ideas. The last thought you’d want to hear was about what could have been.

Don’t let your ideas stay with you. Find a way to share what could be, and trust others to help you develop and sift through your buried treasure. Ask yourself these three questions and start digging up your buried treasure.

  • What ideas are you hoarding today? Why?
  • Have you taken an idea, even a decent, but not great idea, and buried it because you’re afraid of someone else’s response?
  • Who can be the sounding board for your latest ideas who’s also capable of honest feedback?

Brain Dump – August 19, 2013

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Once my schedule shifts into summer mode, I try to capture a variety of random ideas and thoughts into a weekly brain dump.

  • Tomorrow night kicks off our fall semester for youthcrossing. We’re starting with a 3-week vision series about why we do what we do at youthcrossing. Starting with why needs to be the first step in so many parts of life. I love this TED Talk by Simon Sinek about why we start with why.
  • Kara and I have a chalkboard wall in our kitchen that all our guests get to sign before they leave. It’s one way we’re reminded how our paths cross so many others.
  • Today I watched our entire staff at The Crossing do an incredible job serving a family from our Chesterfield campus for the funeral of their two teenage daughters who were killed in a car wreck on Thursday night. The way that all of our staff loved on the Olivers, opened doors for guests, handed out tissues, provided crowd control, and so much more, all of it was a holy moment. I can’t believe that I get to be a part of all this.
  • Leaders- you are the gatekeeper for your team. There will always be two types of issues you’ll find on your team: what you allow to be created in your team, and what you let into your team. Guess who’s responsible for both? You… and only you. Guard your team well!
  • College football starts in less than two weeks. Let the tears of joy and loud rejoicing begin.
  • One of the biggest realities to rest in is that you are a child of God. Let that define you first before anything else does.

Brain Dump – August 12, 2013

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Once my schedule shifts into summer mode, I try to capture a variety of random ideas and thoughts into a weekly brain dump.

  • Wednesday is the first day of school for four of the school districts in St. Charles County. Praying for a great start to a new year and for our students to invade all of their classes with selfless love and a grace-soaked Gospel.
  • This past weekend I was able to experience the Global Leadership Summit simulcast here in St. Louis. So many good speakers, but the one session that stood out to me was Chris Brown’s message. Powerful message, direct, dynamic, and exactly what my heart needed to hear.
  • There’s something bittersweet about the end of summer. Most graduates are heading off to college. Some juniors and seniors are back from working at camps or summer jobs around the country. This weekend will be a mixture of both for me. Welcome back. See you soon.
  • This blog post called “What’s so uncool about cool churches?” came through my email and news feed earlier today. I’m not against everything he’s saying, but a few things do pop out to me:
    • I agree with the claim that youth ministry is where the battle is for the church’s future. That’s why I’m in youth ministry. That’s why more people need to be in youth ministry.
    • The idea of segregation in church is not a new idea. Segregation has been going on since the days of Solomon’s Temple. Not a valid argument. The segregation of families throughout the week and abdication of spiritual leadership in the home will always far outweigh any supposed segregation for a couple hours on the weekend. It’s as valid as saying your restaurant experience made you starve to death, instead of the fact that you never bought groceries to feed your family the entire week.
    • I agree that the “Christian” label being used on everything from t-shirts to music genres is a label we need to completely overhaul. That’s a soapbox in itself.
    • The writer’s premise about cultural relevance vs. transformation is an either/or bias, not a both/and. Neither cultural relevance nor transformation is intended to be exclusive. We have to hold the tension between those two worlds and pray for wisdom on how to best navigate between the two. Comparing the church to a comedy club is an insult to the many, many churches who work tirelessly to share culturally relevant messages grounded in the truths of Scripture each week.
    • I could keep going, but in the end, this blog post is only one man’s opinion (much like the one you’re reading). I’ve already heard a variety of people compounding this post with the recent CNN article by Rachel Held Evans about why millenials are leaving the church. A big summary statement would be: the Gospel of Jesus Christ has to be clear, souls are in a deeply spiritual struggle, and how we do ministry matters now more than ever.
  • I’m midway through reading “The Art of War”. I strongly recommend it for any leader, ministry or secular setting. It’s available through the Books app on the iPad for free.