What Happened at Loveland’s Fire & Ice Festival

public art Scott Freeman Mona Lisa

Just for fun, on Valentine’s Day, I want to tell you about a community art event that I and my church, Beggars’ Gate, put on at the city of Loveland’s Valentine’s Day festival.

I admit I am troubled over how divided and uncivil our nation has become. I got an idea for a project that would bring diverse festival-goers together in a fun, creative process that would end in an exciting collaborative result.

With my peeps at church and the Festival organizers on board, we contacted the owner of a boarded-up building downtown. He gave us permission to beautify his blank wall. Already there was lots of trust going around.

Here’s how it worked:
We laid out a giant 13 x 15 foot grid of 12 inch squares on the wall and painted a gold frame around it. We numbered the squares 1 thru 195. On my studio floor I transferred a (secret) design to 195 wooden foot square tiles. So each tile had part of giant drawing on it. I designated how each area of each tile must be painted in order to make this work: “L” for light, “M” for medium, and “D” for dark paint. Plus a few rare tiles with white, black, and red areas.

At the festival, our small army of volunteers instructed festival-goers in the process. Some of the tiles were impossible to mess up, provided the right color values were used, so even very small children and people with disabilities could (and did!) participate.

It was crazy and fun!

Loveland Fire and Ice Festival

Unfortunately, this being our first time, there was a lot of guessing and estimating going on. We ran out of tiles and completed the image before the end of the second festival day. But Fire and Ice is a three day festival. So…one of my peeps ran out and purchased a stack of floor tiles. Another one cut some that needed cutting until we had another 100 blank squares. We contacted the building owner again for permission to attach a second mural to his wall. I worked into the wee hours to put together a (much simpler!) second design, and we were all ready for day 3 on Sunday.

A pastor friend, (who ended up hanging most of the Mona Lisa image on Saturday,) must’ve been struck with some deep thoughts while nailing up the creative expressions of nearly 200 people. What follows is what he wrote when he went home Saturday night. He read it to our little Beggars’ Gate congregation on Sunday morning. His name is John Meyer, and here are his thoughts:

The Mona Loveland

What do you see?

This community art piece is a great picture of one of the good things we believe about life.

Everyone is an individual, with different talents, different experiences, different likes. It is those differences that make this picture fun, interesting, and a bit unexpected.

But there is a bigger picture that comes together in a way that makes a beautiful whole out of all the individuality. It happened because each individual brought his or her own expression within the plan of an artist who had an intention from the beginning. It would have been nearly impossible for hundreds of individuals to make the Mona Loveland by talking among themselves. But by accepting (even without understanding) the greater plan of the artist, the unique expression of each individual created something that included everyone, and has a greater meaning and beauty that only exists because everyone came together.

We think this is a good picture of God’s plan for life. Each of us is made wonderfully unique by Him. Just as no two snowflakes are alike, and no two sets of fingerprints are alike, every person has unique and wonderful traits that are found in no other life.

But none of us are meant to be a complete picture alone. We are made for community. The Designing Artist has had a plan from the beginning to allow us to experience both our individuality and the greater good of a community living together.

It is from both living out who we are, and expressing that uniqueness within the “lines” and plan the Designing Artist has for each life, that allows us to experience the beautiful picture of human community to come together.

Our goal is to help individuals appreciate their own uniqueness, and to understand the plan of God that allows all of us to experience His good and bigger picture together!”

Beggars’ Gate Church
Loveland, Colorado

Mona Lisa Valentine

The finished mural: “The Sweetheart City’s” own Mona Lisa, painted by local citizens…

I want to extend a big THANK YOU to the army of volunteers who enabled this event to happen for the community. They gave time, energy, and resources to make this event free for everyone else. ‘God bless em’ all!

dove peace community art project

This is the completed second mural.


Katy Faust is My New Hero and Role Model

marriage equality debate

“If I have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” – 1 Corinthians 13:1

From the get go, I intended to steer clear of politics in this blog. But I want to share a video today that I hope will be inspiring to people of any political stripe. I think Katy Faust is a breath of fresh air, and her perspective has very much to do with families and, specifically, children. So I hope you feel my decision to share this is appropriate. Katy is certainly an inspiration to me.

Because life is all about love.

And speaking of love, that’s the theme of my soon-to-be-released book, Bear Island. I had hoped to release it in April, but I’ve simply had too much on my plate. It won’t be long though – I’m starting the very last watercolor illustration today.

Here is a rough shot of the illustration that I finished last night
bedtime storyBut back to Katy Faust.
This post is going out the day after oral arguments were made at the Supreme Court regarding same sex marriage. Anticipating this, several weeks ago, Katy submitted a letter to the court, entitled, Dear Justice Kennedy: An Open Letter from the Child of a Loving Gay Parent. I felt Katy’s contribution was brilliant, articulate, insightful, and compassionate.

Katy is uniquely positioned to speak to the subject as a person who was raised by her mother and her mother’s long-term female partner. She openly loves her mom and credits her with being an exceptional parent. Yet as Katy came of age and had children of her own, as she watched her own husband within their family dynamic, the complementary and irreplaceable role of both a mom and dad in child-rearing became increasingly clear to her. Looking back on her own childhood, despite the love and care that surrounded her, she couldn’t deny that she had a longing for her mom and dad to love each other, and her, under one roof as a family, as all children do.

Katy now contends that “children are the reason government has any stake in this discussion at all.” She disagrees with the “wrongful message that all children need is two stable loving adults, which is statistically not the case.” She states, “When a child is placed in a same-sex-headed household, she will miss out on at least one critical parental relationship and a vital dual-gender influence. The nature of the adults’ union guarantees this.” Katy continues:

Like most Americans, I am for adults having the freedom to live as they please. I unequivocally oppose criminalizing gay relationships. But defining marriage correctly criminalizes nothing. And the government’s interest in marriage is about the children that only male-female relationships can produce. Redefining marriage redefines parenthood. It moves us well beyond our “live and let live” philosophy into the land where our society promotes a family structure where children will always suffer loss.
(From Dear Justice Kennedy.)

What is especially inspiring about Katy is the love she has for the gay community, and her willingness to reach out to people who consider her an enemy. To me she embodies the biblical admonition to speak the truth in love. I’m not talking about loving merely with thoughts or words, but with her time and actions. You’ll have to listen to the video to see what I mean.

Regardless of what the Supreme Court decides, Katy’s example will remain relevant to the church. The church as a whole hasn’t been very good at loving its gay neighbor, and yet, loving people is supposed to be the distinguishing mark of who we are and what we do. Whether or not the “marriage equality” movement actually believes their own accusations, what is most often said about opponents of the redefining of marriage is that they are hateful. Stated. Every. Single. Day. I don’t believe it’s true, but somehow they’re not feeling the love. We need to get better at this.

I stumbled across the following Youtube video of a TV show that I’d never heard of, interviewing Katy Faust. It’s 25 minutes long, but if you care about this issue, I think it’s definitely worth watching.

I hope you are enjoying the springtime. Hopefully, my next post will be announcing a new book release!

Confessions of a Revisionist Dad

lullabies and nursey rhymesRevisionism can cut both ways.

A few years ago my wife and I were in a public place with one of our teenaged daughters. She happened to hear the lyrics from the lullaby, Rock-a-bye Baby, and her mouth dropped open. She turned to us and exclaimed, “Did you hear what they said?”

“What?” I innocently asked.

“They said the bough breaks and the baby falls out of the tree!” she replied. “That’s terrible!”

My wife and I sheepishly looked at each other. “Umm…actually… those are the real lyrics,” I said, grinning.

“Are you serious?!…

I guess I forgot to tell my daughter that when she and our other children were small, I made a small change to the classic lullaby, and changed a few bedtime stories to boot.

The first time I started singing Rock-a-bye-Baby at bedtime with my first child, I stopped myself mid-lullaby. I thought it seemed almost like a taunt; sweetly singing to a child about the wind blowing and breaking the branch, and the baby then falling out of the tree. ‘Sweet dreams, kid! I imagined him lying in the dark after I kissed him goodnight, wide-eyed and staring at the ceiling, fitfully drifting off to sleep, having nightmares about falling. So I changed the lyrics to:

Rock-a-bye baby in the treetop,
When the wind blows the cradle will rock,
When the bow breaks the cradle will fall,
And Daddy will catch you, cradle and all.

And that’s what our kids grew up hearing. After adding this to my repertoire of bedtime lullabies, and singing it to our five kids over a period of years, after a while I never thought about it anymore.

A lot of old nursery rhymes left me scratching my head. What were these people thinking? Did they hate children? Were they even parents? Who wrote Jack and Jill, and Little Miss Muffet? And that one about the blackbird pecking off the maid’s nose? (Apparently, a 1744 version published in London had “four and twenty naughty boys baked in a pye.” Which, I guess, grisly though it is, at least has a point.)

With contemporary books it’s sometimes easier to guess the author’s intentions. A couple of my kids liked a certain storybook that I had picked up, used, from a garage sale. I purchased it because the illustrations were very nice, and, as an illustrator, I enjoyed looking at them. Plus, I liked the idea of the story. It was narrated by a little girl, and the story was really just her talking about her family, her dog, and her grandparents, and their lives together. I no longer have the book, but I’m pretty sure it was called, Come to Our House, Meet Our Family. It made for a cheerful and pleasant bedtime story.

I would guess the book was published in the late 1960’s or 70’s, and it seemed clear to me that part of the author’s intent was to normalize the idea of both Dad and Mom working outside the home. (The mom was a dentist.) I was fine with that, but I also wanted to do a little normalizing of my own. Toward the end of the book, there was an illustration of the Mom and Dad, and the boy and girl, and Smudge, the dog, all laughing together on the parent’s big blue bed. It said something like:

“On Sunday mornings my brother and I jump into Mom and Dad’s bed and wake them up. After a while we all go downstairs and make breakfast together.”

I would always cheerfully add a simple line that wasn’t really there: “Then we go to church!”

I had been struck by how rarely church-going is mentioned as a normal part of life in books and movies. As though it’s an embarrassing habit that we should all be quiet about. As though no one attends church in this country! Since this was a simple, unremarkable story about a normal family, I thought it would be nice for my kids to grow up thinking that going to church was simply a normal part of life. In fact they did grow up thinking this, but no thanks to the storybooks we read. Except for maybe this one.

I suppose someone might argue that classic fairy tales and nursery rhymes are the pinnacle of children’s literature for young children, but I’m not that person. Some I like very much, but some of them are downright creepy. I think there is room in the world for some children’s stories that are intentional about reinforcing a biblical worldview, yet without being so pedagogical that all of the enjoyment is sucked out. My conversations with other parents and grandparents have led me to believe I’m not alone in thinking this.

I would love to hear suggestions and insights from other parents on the subject of children’s books and stories. What do you like? What do your kids love? What is missing?

children's storybooks-fables

Watercolor illustration from The Cocky Rooster – coming in July 2014

UPDATE: I’m happy to say that my first new book, The Cocky Rooster, is finished and I’m waiting to get proofs back from the print-on-demand company before I make it available to you. My next post will introduce you to the book specifically.

I’ll talk to you then! May God bless you as you seek to make Him known to the children in
your care,

— Scott Freeman