Ferguson: Truth in Action (by Andrew Gibson)

Andrew14a“To accept passively an unjust system is to cooperate with that system; thereby the oppressed becomes as evil as the oppressor. Noncooperation with evil is as much as moral obligation as is cooperation with good.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.

On this day last year, we were holding our third annual Freedom Arts Expo. Recap collageThe sun was out, my people showed up, and we put on a great block party style art fair for our scholars. Yesterday we did it again and it was another successful, significant event. And yet someone I never met before was on my mind.
On this day last year, 18 year old Michael Brown was dying on Canfield Drive in Ferguson, just a bit north of where we were. He was shot and he died and then he laid in the street for four hours. And all I could think about was what if that was one of my scholars? What if that was one of my friends? Somebody I know and love?
The death of this young man that I never knew changed me. It changed me for the better. I’m thankful for that.
Yes, there have been different accounts and opinions of what happened on August 9, 2014. I’m not even going to get into that. What has remained true in all the accounts is that Michael Brown was killed by Darren Wilson who said he saw no other alternative than to take an 18 year old’s life. A trained, weapon wielding, experienced law enforcement officer saw no other alternative than to kill that young man.
Do we not see the problem? Forget all the rhetoric, agendas, and distractions. Do we not see the many problems?
It’s a problem that we aren’t overflowing with compassion and action. It’s a problem that white America struggles in grieving this young man. It’s a problem that to some it’s as simple as “well, he shouldn’t have been _____.” It’s a problem that we can’t have more compassion for someone who doesn’t look like us. It’s a problem that some of us believe he earned his death that day.

When we hurt or kill someone else, we are actually hurting ourselves too. We are striking down our own humanity.
Far too often, that someone else is somebody who doesn’t look like us. Even more often, that someone else is somebody who doesn’t look like me. That someone else is darker than me.
We need to quit arguing about what’s going on. We all need to step back and take a look at the reality of the world in which we live.
We need to accept the reality that people of color are mistreated due to systemic ethnic inequality. People of color are treated as less. As inferior. Or expendable. This is a lie that is pure evil. Have you ever felt inferior? Have you ever felt useless? Have you ever felt mistreated? Then have some compassion. Don’t argue about it.

My freedom fighting friends Alexis Coleman & Devon Durdin

My freedom fighting friends Alexis Coleman & Devon Durdin

We need to accept the reality that people of color are being killed every day and this has been our country’s history. We all know this inconvenient truth. We all know about this country’s historical attitude and treatment of people of color. What we don’t all seem to know is that it’s not over. Racism still lives, and it lives here, in our city. Racism lives in St. Louis, the city I love. That’s reality. Let’s face it. So we can change it. Let’s change this reality by realizing, accepting, and actively living the truth.

The truth is that we are all made in God’s image, and Black Lives Matter. That truth CAN define our reality if we put that truth into action. That’s the truth and I’ll say it until I don’t have to anymore. We are ALL made in God’s image. So, Black Lives Matter. The human race is a fallen, sinful one, but a perfect God created us in His perfect image. We bear that image, ALL OF US. I’ve seen that truth in action over the past year and it has been beautiful. I’ve seen people wake up and show up. I’ve witnessed artists, educators, and mentors become activists for this truth. I’ve seen God at work in St. Louis.

We are all made in God’s image, and Black Lives Matter. Realize this truth. Then get out there and put it into action.

Meanwhile, expect the nonviolent direct actions and civil disobedience to continue as long as the killing and abuse of authority continue. Expect your comfort and convenience to be put on the back burner while many of us fight to change the status quo.

I’ll keep speaking the truth and putting it into action.Andrew14b I’ll keep asking God to guide my steps, for He is the only one capable of reconciling power with love. I’ll grieve with those who grieve and stand with my people of all ethnicities and backgrounds. I’ll work to help people understand their God-given value. I’ll encourage all people in this struggle. I’ll fight for this city that I love so deeply. I’ll keep proclaiming the truth: We are all made in God’s image, and Black Lives Matter.

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

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Do Not Give Up (by Andrew Gibson)

Art is powerful. As an artist, I think, feel, and relate through art. Songs come to mind as I ponder and pray. Scenes from movies play in my head when I am seeking encouragement or meaning. Last year, I actively sought art that shared a common theme, a consistent message that I needed and still need to hear and follow: do not give up. Ant do not give up

Personally and professionally, losses and letdowns have led to doubts and discouragements. Current events have strained some relationships, but strengthened others. So despite the trials, triumphs are still evident, yet I struggle with staying focused on the good. God knows this. I’m always amazed at and thankful for the very particular way that God communicates with us. He speaks to me through art: books, movies, and mainly songs. There were many songs that kept popping into my head last year and kept me going.  I have chosen four to share with you. If you need some encouragement of the same brand, I hope these songs can do for you what they do for me.

Persevere
“The world is so insane, I got to maintain, nothing is easy here. Stand tall through the rain, my heart will never change, I got to persevere.”
That’s the hook from a song called “Persevere” by Robert Glasper Experiment. Snoop and Lupe go on to expand on that idea, but the simple hook and rich groove resonate with me. Despite the difficulties of this life, I must persevere and continue in the vision. If you have a goal or a vision, you have to persevere through all the opposition you will face. From the internal to the external, from the seen to the unseen, there will be opposition, especially if you’re doing something positive. Just look to my friend Nehemiah. You’ve got to maintain. You’ve got to persevere.

Raise the Banner
For your children, for your neighbors, for your communities, follow the banner. Everybody, unashamed, lock your arms, plant your feet. Look around, they need you. Follow the banner.”
The end of the hook of “Raise the Banner” by Propaganda has imagery that could not be more timely. The image of raising the banner or carrying the flag is powerful and vivid. The final scenes from Glory and The Patriot come to mind. Soldiers would carry the banner or the flag through a battle to rally the troops and keep everyone pushing forward. Sometimes that flag would fall, so someone had to pick it back up and keep moving!
That someone has had to be me.
I look around, but it’s me that has to pick it back up. I’ve finally accepted that.
And I want to do it. I want to live that life to glorify God and serve the people.
I do it for my wife, my brothers, my sisters, my friends, my community, the staff and scholars of Freedom Arts, for my future children, and simply because God has called me to. It’s my role. It isn’t easy to take the hits and keep on moving, but it’s necessary. I’m thankful for the people I have that will lock arms with me and follow the banner towards victory.

We Shall Overcome
Oh deep in my heart I do believe, we shall overcome someday.”
This old protest song may have vague roots, but the message is anything but vague. This song has been ringing through the streets of St. Louis over the last six months, and perhaps the most touching moment for me came following a march on January 18. It was a unity march down Grand in honor of Martin Luther King and in remembrance of the lost lives of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and the other tragedies of our recent past. Three of the Freedom Arts scholars urged us to take them along, so we did. Tysean, Lanora, and Stanley came with us. All three of them marched, chanted, prayed, and sang with hundreds of other people. The march ended on the steps of a church where we sang this song. On the drive home, Lanora requested that we keep singing “We Shall Overcome.” Her little voice carried on from the backseat, declaring this hopeful message. All I have to do is think of her small voice, sincere heart, and the words of this song, and I know it’s true.

Eyes on the Prize
Hold on, hold on. Keep your eyes on the prize. Hold on.”
I probably tell myself this every day and listen to the song about every three days. This song is the namesake of the most recent Freedom Arts newsletter and is another relevant song of today. Mavis Staples growls out this proclamation over a dirty groove and a defiant guitar line. Referencing ancient stories of visionary people with great faith who stayed focused on the task at hand amidst challenges I will never face, this song reminds me that tunnel vision is not always an impairment. We’ve got to deal with problems, but we cannot let them be in charge.

2014 was revealing. The movement altered many relationships in my life but also secured my focus. The grind broke some backs. Voices broke some ears. I was broken by the truth and subsequently put back together by it. True stripes were shown and loyalties were made known. The users and abusers revealed their motives, broken by the grind. The soldiers and supporters stood taller, forged by troubled times. So hold on. Persevere. Raise the banner and get through the troubled times. Have defiance against evil and all that seeks to turn you around. Have reliance on God and all that keeps you pressing forward. What happens when you refuse to give up? You develop a backbone as strong as an oak tree. You get an infusion of steel in your spine. It gets harder and harder for evil to back you down. You get to where you don’t have to dodge bullets. You get to where you can take a lot more than you used to be able to take. You develop endurance and strength. So have faith. Stand together. Push through. Do not give up. Let your back be strengthened and your heart remain open. Persevere. Raise the banner. Overcome. And keep your eyes on the prize. Do not give up.

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

Ferguson: The Light, The Dark, & The Need For Reconciliation (by Elisa Doty)

Listen here: 

(full transcript below)

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“Words which do not give the light of Christ increase the darkness.”  – Mother Teresa 

To say that these past few months have been challenging would be an understatement. Both in my personal life and in my city, things have literally and figuratively been going up in flames. Like so many, my heart grieved after hearing of the tragic event that took place on August 9th and the reactions that soon followed. Since that day, emotion have heightened and have ranged from frustration and anger, to sadness and grief, to passion and joy. There has been much said and re-said, written and rewritten. At times, it’s simply been overwhelming! And honestly, you don’t need my opinions, my thoughts, or my proposed solutions. It would be wrong of me to assume that I have any real understanding of the issues that have arisen in the hearts of so many over these past couple of months. But I do see a need! My heart fills with compassion and is greatly burdened for ALL people, to know hope. A real and a tangible hope, a hope of healing and a hope of restoration.

Regardless of specific views, I’m daily confronted with people, who like myself, are longing to be a part of something bigger, longing for something to change, and longing for things to be made right……but what is right? Is there an answer?  We cry out for justice. We pray for peace. We speak of love, yet my own heart asks, do I know what love, peace, and justice look like?

As I went before the Lord, as I searched my own heart, and as I spoke with close friends, the idea of something bigger kept arising. Something bigger than you or I. Something that would transcend generations and cross racial and social lines.

Because, if we’re looking for our streets to be calm and crime free, if we’re looking for there to be an end to racial profiling, if we’re looking for some sort of government reform, or if we’re simply waiting for things to die down so that we can get back to life as usual, then our goal and our aim is too small! I implore you to see something greater!

We’ve all heard it: “every issue is ultimately a heart issue.” And yes, we’ve seen the very heart of our city exposed. St. Louis has been known for being hyper segregated. It’s a place where race and economic status have divided us for so long. And in many ways we have become calloused to the hurt in our city and to our very own prejudices.

I wish I could say that I’ve been surprised by the all the violence, by the destruction, by the rioting, by the protests, by the anger, by the passivity, by the insensitivity, or by the countless people now falling on their knees in prayer…but I can’t.

I can’t because I know my own heart, I know how easy it is for anger and pride to arise. I know how easy it is to be passive or passionate about something. Yes, I’ve experienced pain, but what I’m learning is that it’s through pain and the exposing of the darkness in my own heart that healing is then able to take place.

Mother Teresa said, “The way you heal the world, is you start with your own family.” And I would add, you start with you, with your own heart. You cannot lead anyone to a place of healing if you don’t know the way yourself. By God’s design our own journey of healing can bring healing to others. So let’s look at our own heart. Let’s ask, “am I willing for God to begin the work of peace, justice, and love in me? Despite how hard or uncomfortable it is, am I willing to allow Him to expose the darkness of my own life, the things that I would much rather leave untouched?” For many of us the answer will be no, but for some, I pray that the answer is yes.

I write these words with a heaviness of heart, because of the utter brokenness I’ve seen in homes across this city and region. I’ve seen the widespread effects of our wickedness, how jealousy can destroy a home and how anger plays out on the streets.

Every intention of the human heart is evil and sinful at its core. Not only does this divide us from one another, but it also divides us from the very one who created us, the one who loves us, and the one who ultimately gives value to each and every life. And although I may not yet know what our reconciliation really looks like, I know the God who does. The God who is love, the God who gives peace, the God who sovereignly sits on a throne of justice and who is righteous in everything that He does. It’s to Him we look. The grand solution that we’re all searching for in our lives and in our city comes from HIS powerful hand alone.  GOD, perfect in all His ways, looking on us the unjust and the unrighteous. Choosing to have compassion, when we ourselves were helpless and completely without hope. He chose to come. Through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection we have hope of reconciliation, first to God and then to one another. Jesus alone is the source of healing. We look to Him, to his word, and to the cross. Because whether we know it or not, each and every one of us is in desperate need of a savior. And that savior is Jesus Christ.

And yes, JESUS is a NEED! He’s not like a drug that you try out to simply mask the problem in hopes that you get hooked and so that you won’t have to face or feel the pain anymore. He’s not about covering up the darkness. He’s about cutting through it with a light and a love that brings true healing. So despite all of the challenges we face, I’m excited, because I serve a God who works through our brokenness and He is faithful!

I urge you brothers and sisters, be reconciled to God and to one another through Christ Jesus. Don’t harden your hearts, but be willing to allow the Light of Christ to shine in the darkest of places. First in your own heart, in your own family, and then in our city also.

Romans 3:22-24  says,
This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Elisa Doty (Community Outreach Advocate, Academic/Visual Arts Mentor)

Ferguson: The Greatest Thing (by Beth Gibson)

Most of the time, I feel very removed from the situation in Ferguson. Teaching in a predominantly white elementary school in West County where roughly 11% of the student population is black, the terrible killing of Michael Brown sometimes seems as if it happened across the country, instead of a mere thirty minute drive northeast. The social injustice that is occurring today is an afterthought to many, and it seems as if some would like to sweep it under the rug rather than face the fact that there are people in our city who are denied rights and treated inferiorly every day because of the color of their skin. Comments such as, “When are they just going to stop already?” And, “Haven’t they gotten it out of their system already?” make my heart hurt because no they haven’t, and no they won’t, and no they don’t have to. 1 1st para
I think people should speak up about social injustice. A young black man was killed and nothing was done about it. The Bible tells us to weep with those who weep. People are weeping because of fear and anger. If you are removed from the situation, make an effort to understand what it is like to be a black person living in St. Louis today. That would be love in action.

In addition to working full time in a public school, I have the privilege of working at Freedom Arts. Our student population is predominantly black children from North City who suffer from poverty, neglect, and sometimes even trauma. I love them dearly and cherish the opportunities to spend time with them. After spending the afternoon recently with five of our little girls, my heart was full after we laughed together, talked about how much Jesus loves us, and how to treat their brothers with love and kindness. Though I met them three years ago, I feel like our journey together has just begun. Freedom Arts is committed to mentoring these little ones for many years to come and although I have answers and advice for them now, they are going to grow older and start asking questions about their culture and society that I want to be able to help them figure out answers to. As of right now, I still have a lot of questions myself. If one of these kids asked me, “Why did this happen to Michael Brown?” 2 2nd paraI would talk about sin and how it can consume us. I would lead them to the truth of God’s word, which is our peace. But…I’ve never been a little black girl from North City who suffered from poverty, neglect, and trauma. I’ve got a lot of learning to do. They are growing up, alright. I want to be there for them along the way because I love them.

As a Christian, I believe that we are called to do and serve more. We need to be a light for others, for those who don’t know the Lord. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. We know these things, so we should be sharing them. I refuse to forget it or sweep it under the rug. I come into contact with too many impressionable young people to forget how valuable they are. We need to be ambassadors of Christ by getting involved and sharing the love.

Be aware. Listen carefully. Be open. Stay humble

People can be fearful and angry and hateful. We should follow Christ’s example and love them. After all, that’s the greatest thing that there is…

3 very endHalloween

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

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)