So you may have noticed a bit of a dry spell…understatement of the week. Okay there has been a drought of creativity in my life. It’s not that I haven’t had creative thoughts. Take for instance my obsession with the acquisition of super powers. Every day (well almost every day) I imagine myself jumping over the Peak and I try it…just in case I have been blessed with the ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound over night. Or even my obsession with living the dream of being a Rock Star. My neighbor has a band and when I mow the yard or work outside I make sure I sing along to my iPod with extra gusto and rock-n-roll bravado! So I think I live out my life in a rather creative fashion. But I think sometimes I lose the creative spark when it comes to sharing something divinely inspired with my blog readers.
But I think we find ourselves in this kind of lull in our daily lives anyway. There are times where Christ is doing amazing things and we see his hand in amazing victories and successes in our lives. And then there are even those times where God seems distant, even absent. We are walking through the Valley of the Shadow of death and we feel so far from God. These are equally great times and contrast mightily but sometimes they make the in between times seem…dull.
One of the verses that I hear people quote a lot when they are in time of struggle and they are leaning upon God is Philippians 4:13. You all know it, but do you know the context. Philippians 4:11-13 says, “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” It’s funny that the reference made famous in verse thirteen referring to “all things” could also simply refer to any and every situation. Situations that are good, bad or indifferent. I think sometimes we struggle with the indifference more than the good or the bad.
So how do we learn to be content in the indifferent? In the drought? In the boring? We carry on…we try to jump tall buildings…we hold informal backyard rock-star auditions. But we know above all else that God is with us in all of these situations. So we sing on, laugh on and even write on. You’d be surprised as to what you write when you discipline yourself to just do it…even in a drought of sorts.
It struck me as I finished penning the last letter today. I really am participating in a lost art. You see every week I try to write at least two hand-written letters. I know that may seem bizarre in this information age of email, instant messaging and text, but I think there is still something special about the written word. It seems weird to think about how technology that has only been around for 2o years or so could so vastly shape the way things are done. Think about it, without the written word there would be no Shakespeare, no C.S. Lewis, no Steinbeck (to name a few) and yet that which composed all of these works is becoming more and more extinct. Just to prove a point, I was recently handed a couple of pieces of paper to look over and help proof/edit. What should have taken probably about two minutes ended up taking me about ten because the script was written in cursive and I hadn’t looked at cursive hand writing in I don’t know how long. I am not saying that the current information age is dumbing us down, but if the shoe fits.
To extend it to another example, if it weren’t for the hand-written word, the Bible would not exist. So often we are spoiled in today’s world. If there is a certain verse I want to read or a text I want to look up in scripture I simply jump online and I am armed with all sorts of ways to examine the Bible. And yet, the Bible was written very differently than in the fashion I am able to disect and written with great intent to those audiences. Paul himself said in Galatians 6:11, “See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!” I don’t think Paul’s intent was boasting with this statement, but rather intensity. I have written all of this for you. And I know how “painstaking” it is to write letters today, think about how painstaking it might have been while you were imprisoned awaiting a death sentence from the Roman empire.
Maybe this post is simply a plea for simplicity. I think sometimes we have become over-indulged in our everything is easy and in front of us culture. Why should I write a letter, place it in an envelope, pick up a stamp, drop it in the post and wait a few days when I can just text someone and it arrives immediately? I guess it all stems from the culture of instant gratification. Maybe I am speaking out a foregone time, but there is just something about opening a hand-written letter. Maybe because I know that there was time and energy spent in moving the pen that isn’t used in every day communications anymore. And maybe that is all that matters.
So maybe today you can pick up a piece of paper and scribble out a letter to an old friend. Maybe you could write a love letter to a spouse or significant other. But whatever the occasion may be, let’s not lose this art.
I once read somewhere* that Christian makes an excellent noun, but a horrible adjetive. I believe the refrence was in fact made surrounding Christian music. And it made me think for a minute…ok, I admit it still makes me think. Is Christian really the best way to label stuff? The word Christian broken down simply means little Christ and so therefore we are labeling certain things as either “little Christ like” or “not little Christ like”. In todays world there is an industry for profit that is even linked to this description…Christian music, Christian books, Christian T-shirts, Christian movies… And I am not saying that any of this is inherently wrong, but maybe that sometimes we get so comfortable looking for Christ in these “Christian” mediums that we forget that He is bigger than any of them.
I am a huge fan of all things media (ask any of my friends how nerdy I am regarding this and they are in concurrence). And I think it it is ok to admit to you that all the movies I watch, music I listen to and books I read aren’t “Christian” as identified by the general market. But does that inherently mean that they are not of Christ? Colossians 1:16-17 says, “For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” So if all things are held together in Christ and are created for His glory, then perhaps His truth can be found in media and in culture where we aren’t always so comfortable looking for HIm. There might be a song that expresses great truth about the human condition and that truth comes from God. There may be a book that opens your eyes to the suffering of others and moves you to compassion and that movement comes from God. There may be a movie that helps you speak Christ into someone’s life because of a common love and that common ground is from God.
I think my point is this: maybe we shouldn’t let any market or industry dictate to us what is and isn’t from God. Maybe through the workings of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we might just be able to evaluate that for ourselves. In fact, we are even given an evaluation formula in scriptuire with which to look at art. “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” So maybe next time we pop in that DVD, load up that iPod or turn on that e-reader (that sounded so contemporary) we should Philippians 4:8-it and then see where we stand.
* I believe I remember my source, but am excluding it due to the hype surrounding the source. I can give credit if you ask me individually.
In the beginning God created…This is our introduction. This is how God is first revealed to us. He is a God who creates. And shortly thereafter we are awakened to the fact that we are created in His image. We are formed into the image of a God who creates and it is magical. It all of a sudden is no mystery why we as humans strive to create great things. Works of art, compositions of beauty, buildings of grandeur, even the little pieces of ourselves we like to call children.
My wife and I were conversing recently (a healthy habit which I suggest all married couples do) and she talked about how it made sense that couples define their landmark moments around the birth of their children. In that moment you are drawn into something mystical as you “create” life. You experience life in greater fashion because in that moment you are closer to God, the creator, than ever before. This is part of your design! But often times this is where we see design-flaws come in. And in no way is the original Creator to blame, but instead the secondary creators take over and the design starts to falter.
Children are at times abused or neglected. Or they are purposed to live out the dreams of their originators, instead of being raised up to understand that they are God’s glorious creation intended to live out their lives for His glory. Not only is this our purpose as God’s creatures, but this should be the purpose of all of our creations as well. This is where Babel fell. This is where our creations fall short. And this is where we to often as the image of God fall short.
We can draw closer to God when we create. We do take on a sense of God-likeness when we create. But if it is not for His glory…then sometimes we are just trying to be our own gods and we are building Babel all over again and our life takes on the form of confusion and chaos.
So create! It is after all a mandate from our Creator God! But paint, compose, design, dance, sing, build, run, leap, and find any way to express your creative potential that you can…but be sure you are doing it for the glory of the Creator and not your own.
This morning I received an invitation to a game which simply asked if I was bored. Then I began thinking, which I know is a dangerous activity, has mankind always struggled with boredom. I can’t quite see the Native Americans being bored in their scraping out a survival on the American Plains. I have a hard time believing that a viking turned to his fellow sailor in the middle of a voyage and declared, “This is sooo boring”. So when did this concept take root? After a bit of study I found out that the first appearance of the word boredom came about in the mid-1800′s in a Charles Dickens novel. Upon further study I discovered that the concept was directly pulled from the idea that the task of boring a hole, for instance with a drill, was a very tedious and dulling task and thus the idea that something was boring came along. But let’s think about the timing of this concept a bit. Charles Dickens was a great commentator on the effects of the Industrial Revolution and maybe he was onto something by highlighting the onset of this word which is so overused in today’s culture. With the rise of the Industrial Revolution mankind, at least in the Western world, all of a sudden felt the need to be entertained. Many processes that were necessary to survival had become streamlined and made easier and thus there was a void that was destined to be filled with entertainment.
Now, fast-forward 150 years. From the steam engine to the electric car. From the Victrola to the i Pod. We now are surrounded by some of the most amazing stuff ever witnessed since the dawn of man and yet one of the most common utterances, especially among the students who I get the pleasure to minister to, is, “I’m Bored”. What has happened? We have more resources and devices to entertain us than ever before in history and we are “bored”? Maybe we have too much…Maybe we have forgotten to marvel at some of the things around us that actually deserve our attention. How many of us have woken before the sun in order to stare in to a vast starry sky? How many of us have paused to look at the intricate detail in a fallen leaf? How many of us have even stopped to ponder the extreme precision with which we move and breathe and even exist? Maybe the issue isn’t that we are bored, but maybe that we are so over-stimulated that we have lost sight of the extravagance of life all around us.
Psalm 8:3-4 When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?