About Freedom (by Andrew Gibson)

In the United States, the 4th of July is a day commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. This document declared our nation’s independence from Great Britain.
So we’re free now.
Right?2Cor3 17
I know some people who would emphatically say no. I’m not writing this to generate a heated argument on whether or not we are free. That is a philosophical conversation that I would love to have with anybody reading this over a La Cosecha coffee, a Strange Donut donut, or a Sauce on the Side calzone. I’ll even pay, so it’ll be free for you!
I’d like to briefly share my ideas on freedom. An element of freedom is responsibility: responsibility to your community and environment, responsibility to your fellow human and all creatures, responsibility to yourself, and responsibility to your Creator. Freedom means nothing if we don’t use it to enrich the lives of others and improve our world. Gal513However, I don’t believe that on this planet or in this life we will ever be truly and totally free, in every sense of the word. How could we? We are bound by natural laws that we cannot break or beat. To an extent, we are bound by our pasts and biases. Some of us are bound by poor health and similar challenging circumstances. I do know this: the freedom that I have thanks to Jesus Christ is a freedom that can never be taken from me. It’s a freedom that is valid in this life and the next. But regardless of differing spiritual beliefs, I’m confident we can all agree that freedom is a vast idea of supreme importance to every living creature on this planet. We named our organization Freedom Arts & Education Center because of that truth. We want to help people live freely. We want to enrich people’s lives and improve our community and inspire others to do the same.

So now you know that I love freedom, good coffee, good donuts, and good calzones. I also love powerful quotes and deep song lyrics. Here are some of my favorite quotes and lyrics about freedom:

“A hero is someone who understands the responsibility that comes with his freedom.”
-Bob Dylan

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”
-Nelson Mandela

“Freedom lies in being bold.”
-Robert Frost

“Time’s changed, freedom reigns, I’m a grown man. Holding the future in the palms of my own hand.”
Black Thought

“Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom.”
-Albert Einstein

“Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom.”
-George Washington Carver

“Pierced feet, pierced hands, blood stained son of man. Fullness forgiveness free passage into the promise land, that same breath God breathed into us God gave it up to redeem us.”
Propaganda

“Without Sovereignty, I don’t have freedom at all.”
Rod Wisdom

“To be a Christian is to live dangerously, honestly, freely – to step in the name of love as if you may land on nothing, yet to keep on stepping because the something that sustains you no empire can give you and no empire can take away.”
-Cornel West

“God is not interested merely in the freedom of black men, and brown men, and yellow men; God is interested in the freedom of the whole human race.”
-Martin Luther King, Jr.

John 832

Andrew Gibson (Executive Director, Music Coordinator, Music/Academic Mentor)

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What I’m Worth (by Miles Dela Cruz)

Psalm 139:14 says “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” This is a good verse to remind me every morning that God is GOOD. Despite my mistakes, He has made me in His good image.10501434_10152303831123198_427699438_n

The clothes we wear, the tattoos we have, or the jewelry we wear do not decide our worth. A twenty dollar bill marked up with stamps, written on, and drawn all over is still worth twenty dollars because of the image of US President Andrew Jackson on the front of the bill. Throughout the world and the different nations, currency has different values and that value cannot be destroyed. But even the value of our currency is man-assigned and of THIS world. Our worth goes beyond this world, for our worth is not determined by us or anything we do! In the eternal kingdom, the dollars we use are worthless, but because we were created for the eternal kingdom, we are invaluable! 10506201_10152303816263198_1044672718_oGenesis 1:28 tells us that our Father has created us in his image to “have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” But more importantly, God has enabled us to overcome sin through Him. Our worth is determined from the one who created us: the Lord our Father.

What worries me are not the articles of clothing I wear but the scars I may have. A few years ago I made a terrible mistake. I was drinking alcohol excessively and had not one care for the consequences. I would drive dangerously under the influence of alcohol and it was scary. Late one night after I had been drinking for hours, I got into my car and started the ignition. I backed up, pulled out of the parking lot, and was immediately pulled over. I was sitting in my car with the police lights illuminating the whole street. I failed a field sobriety test and was arrested. My thoughts while in the police car ranged from, “How could I be this dumb?” to “What will my friends think of me now?” As crazy as this may sound, I’m so thankful that I did get pulled over right as I left the parking lot and was arrested. I’m so thankful that I didn’t endanger the lives of anyone on the roads. I had my driver’s license taken away and lost the job I had at the time. I was so worried about what people would think of me. “Just another mistake and failure to further people’s thoughts of me not being a good person.” But that wasn’t God’s plan. God’s plan was for me to overcome this bad habit and learn from my mistake so I could become stronger and grow closer to our Father.

Over the next few years, I had to attend AA meetings, complete community service hours, and rely on the strength from God to overcome the consequences from my mistake. It wasn’t the end of me. With God’s love and compassion, I didn’t allow that mistake to take over my life and let it define me in a negative light.photo_32215_20110228_9124710_std
I let God define me, for He has makes me stronger. He has made me in His image. He has created me and crafted me.

I have made many mistakes and have many different types of physical and emotional scars due to those mistakes. I worry that the scars will make me less of a person, but I thank God that it’s in His image I was created and He cannot be tainted. Jeremiah 1:5 tells us “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

We all have made mistakes. We all have scars. That’s not what makes us. The Lord our Father created us and wants us to spread the good news to all people. Through the mistakes I smile. Through the scars I continue. I’m not the first to make a mistake and I won’t be the last.Photo 174 Through these words I pray you learn of the worth our Creator and Father has placed in each of us. We are His works of art. I hope this small part of my ongoing story blesses you in some way.

In His image,

Miles Dela Cruz (Technology Manager, Assistant Mentor)

Cherish Your Mistakes (by Andrew Gibson)

Nobody that I know enjoys making mistakes. Mistakes can be ugly. Mistakes can be messy. Mistakes can embarrass us. cherish your mistakes

That’s one of the things I love about art. It’s a safe place to make mistakes. I don’t remember the last time I got through a performance without making a mistake. A huge part of my teaching is about how to recover from mistakes and how to keep mistakes from taking over your performance. I talk to my students all the time about this. I tell them that it is okay to make a mistake and that it is not helpful to try not to make mistakes during a performance.Why not? Mainly because that makes the performance a fear-based one.

Though part of the mission of Freedom Arts is to help young people realize and utilize their God-given talents, we are careful not to shy away from flaws and mistakes. Mistakes are indicative of the learning process.If you are making mistakes it means you’re learning! It means you’re trying something new and you’re struggling with it. That is a beautiful process. Mistakes indicate a weakness. Weaknesses keep us humble and remind us that there is so much more for us to learn and know. The journey to creating or conquering is what makes the end goal so rewarding.

Have you ever heard the expression “trial and error?” What does that really mean? It means trying something and messing up. Yes. By messing up, you are on the road to succeeding. Think about it. By trying, you are ruling out what does not work. By trial and error, a child learns how to walk. By trial and error, a child learns how to ride a bicycle. And by that very same process of trial and error, the Wright brothersz3 made that bicycle fly.

Einstein supposedly said he often thought and daydreamed in music. I often think and daydream in baseball. I love everything about baseball. One of the things I love is how forgiving baseball can be. A batting average is a statistic that refers to a player’s hitting ability. A .300 batting average is considered very good, but that means that in 10 at bats, the player only got 3 hits. That’s a 30%. 30% is failure in everything else. If I finished a season with a .300 batting average – or in other words, failed at the plate 70% of the time – I would be thrilled. And I know all about failure in baseball, but I’ll save that for another post. z4

Art is not far removed from this either. You have to make mistakes to create what you see or hear in your mind. You have to confront your weaknesses to work towards mastering your crafts. One of my favorite songwriters of all time is Bill Withers. He once said “It’s okay to hold out for wonderful. But before you get to wonderful, you’re going to have to go through alright.” You have to begin. Then you have to go through the beginner level before you can get to an intermediate level, and then the intermediate level before you get to the advanced level. In cherishing that climb, you will find happiness in the climb and not just on the mountaintop.

Accomplished artists understand the beautiful value of z5mistakes. People who are truly successful in anything and are conscious of how they reached their goals are cognizant of the tribulations they encountered, why they encountered them, and how they conquered them.

Here is an inspiring passage from a book by music producer Quincy Jones called Q on Producing:
“You have to treasure the opportunity to make a lot of mistakes. Because the more mistakes you make, the more you’re going to learn. And at some magical, unexplained moment, all of those mistakes, with Band-aids all the way up to your neck, morph into experience. When you have a lot of experience and have made a lot of mistakes, you have something to offer.”

And here’s what master drummer Jack DeJohnette said at a clinic of his at PASIC 2009 when asked if he has any weaknesses in his playing that cause him to make mistakes: “Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Sometimes the best ideas come from things you didn’t mean to do.”

That parallels what musician and writer Kenny Werner said in his book Effortless Mastery (which has some material I cannot vouch for, but is overall pretty good) about removing fear from your aspirations: “Just as fear pollutes the environment for creativity, it also inhibits effective study. Fear takes away the strength of what you are doing.”

Cartoonist and writer Scott Adams said: “Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.”

2 Cor 12.9And what did Jesus say about making mistakes and weaknesses? 2 Corinthians 12:9 says: “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”

We must not fear mistakes. We learn from our mistakes and can teach others through our mistakes. We also will never succeed at anything if we are afraid of making mistakes. Mistakes keep us humble and remind us that we are human. Mistakes are how we figure things out!

But most importantly, the power of God works best through our weaknesses. Cherish those ugly, messy, embarrassing mistakes. Work hard! Play hard! Create freely! Fear nothing! Be humble and give the glory to God ALWAYS!Image

Andrew Gibson (Executive Director, Music Coordinator, Music/Academic Mentor)

Pull the Weeds (by Beth Gibson)

I love spring time and I love gardening! At the last Freedom Arts Super Scholarday, we planted flowers at Clayton Community Church (our temporary headquarters).

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Good Friday was the perfect day for working in my own garden. Since Andrew and I moved into a new house, we have a huge garden to take care of and maintain — which I am extremely excited about! We had a teeny tiny little garden at our old house, and it was hard to grow ANYthing since the soil was full of dead roots and very acidic. Every time I planted flowers, I would water them, check on them, and then before I even had a chance to realize what had happened, they were dead. Really dead. All that to say, I am pumped that we have a huge garden full of beautiful perennials that are popping up. It is pretty exciting to see what is blooming. Since we moved into our house in November, we have no idea what is planted in the garden. So far, we have lots of tulips, lilies, a white tree, a pink tree (I still have to figure out what they are!), some other flowers and a LOT of weeds. The weeds took over the empty lot next door to us and have unfortunately spread throughout the garden. I had to get those weeds out before they took out the rest of my plants!

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I happily started pulling the weeds out of the rich, fertile soil. After a while though, I was getting tired and frustrated that the weeds were even there in the first place! I’m not alone, though. It got me thinking about a sermon podcast that I had listened to just yesterday (maybe that’s why I was motivated to go outside today and do some weed pulling!). “Nobody likes to pull weeds, but everyone wants to have a beautiful garden!” Kyle Idleman, Southeast Christian Church

The tricky thing about weeds is that you have to dig down deep and pull the weed out by its roots or it is only a matter of time until it comes back. If you only pull out the top and not the roots, your garden will be overgrown with weeds in no time. Our sinful nature can be just the same as those nasty little weeds. We battle things every day, like anger, jealousy, selfishness, envy, drunkenness, impurity, and so on.

Paul tells us how the Holy Spirit can produce this fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. We want to grow in those ways, but often times our acts of the sinful nature take over. We change some things on the surface, or try to cover it up, but we don’t dig down deep to pull out the sin by the roots. “The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants… These two forces are constantly fighting each other…” Galatians 5:17 NLT

We can’t grow the fruit of the spirit in our lives if we get lazy and stop pulling the weeds every day.  We have to be intentional about it. We need to be in constant prayer to replace our sinful nature with that of the Holy Spirit. “Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.” Galatians 5:25 NLT

Whatever you fill your mind with will feed your sinful nature or feed your spirit. “One you love and one you hate, but the one you feed will dominate.” -Kyle Idleman, Southeast Christian Church

Keep track of what you’re doing. Are you growing weeds or producing fruit? Is the TV you’re watching and the books you’re reading helping you grow? Are the people that you’re spending your time with encouraging you and making it easy to practice the fruits of the spirit? Is what you’re spending your time doing and thinking about producing fruit or covering up the weeds? Do the work; dig down deep daily and pull those roots!

“For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.” Galatians 5:13 NLT 

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As we remember Jesus’ sacrificial death, let’s thank Him that he took the desires of our sinful nature to the cross and crucified them there and that through Him, we have a chance to produce good fruit.

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For the original sermon by Kyle Idleman, visit http://vimeo.com/10952221 and http://podbay.fm/show/287341044/e/1270958400?autostart=1

Beth Gibson (Staff Assistant, Academic Coordinator, Academic/Visual Arts Mentor)

Welcome! (by Andrew Gibson)

Welcome to the official blog of Freedom Arts & Education Center! logo blue We are a nonprofit organization in St. Louis whose mission is to help people become the highly creative, literate, passionate, independent thinkers they are capable of becoming. We provide arts education, academic tutoring, mentoring, and leadership training to the underserved youth of our city. We aim to inspire youth to realize and utilize their God-given talents and youth. SONY DSC We hope that our blog proves useful to you. We will write about the arts, education, nonprofits, ministry, and all of the other things that make up our organization. We will share our insights and philosophies on faith, art, and education. We will post fun activities for kids, encouragement for students, and our journey in the nonprofit world. Posts will be by various members of our organization. We want to create a community of inspiration and support! 4 Visit Freedom Arts at FAECSTL.org to learn more about us. I’m really proud of our website. Our Technology Manager Miles Dela Cruz handles the whole thing and does an awesome job. Get to know Miles and the rest of my faithful, hardworking staff. We have tons of photos and videos to peruse. All of our events and workshops are posted as well as great opportunities for you to get involved in the Freedom Arts mission. We will also be more than happy to send you a birthday card. We love connecting with people everywhere! Happy Birthday! Thank you for visiting and come back soon! Untitled Andrew Gibson (Executive Director, Music Coordinator, Music/Academic Mentor)