Category Archives: creativity

making space

In the beginning…

These are words that spark a variety of responses from different folks. Some might hear the beginning of a story. Others might think about their family and how it started. For those of the Judaeo-Christian camp we know where this phrase leads, “…God created the heavens and the earth.” But sometimes we don’t think about the way the rest of the story goes and how it applies to the way in which we live today. The story continues: God separates the light from darkness, the sky from water and the land from the sea. He then fills in the spaces He has created and after He has filled in these spaces He says that it is good. The crown of creation after all of this is God’s selem; His image. He creates mankind in His image as a reflection of Himself and then God stops. We often refer to this stopping as the Sabbath rest but literally God is allowing space for creation and Creator to pause, breathe, reflect and it is called good.

I want to return to that idea of mankind being made in God’s image. Because I believe that there is something in this story that we miss if we simply try to break this down to a line by line account of how and not necessarily why. On days one through three God creates space. On days four through six God fills in that space and on day seven He pauses to look at all that has been done. If we are made in that same image, then how does our life reflect the life of a creator God? Do we make space in our lives for God’s creative Spirit to blow through us and allow new and good things to be created? Or are we so busy filling our lives with our own concerns that there is no space for His Spirit to work? The writer of Genesis understood that there was a rhythm to life. The seventh day was necessary to allow one to reorient, to recast the vision of how one leads their lives and then to move on from there. But if that rhythm is missing, can we be a complete selem?

The writer of the Psalms knew a little about this idea when he penned the words, “He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;“- Psalm 46:10. All too often in today’s world we are so busy going and doing and acquiring and earning that we don’t even realize we have taken up all the creative space inside of our selves and left no room for the Spirit of God to work. I belong to a tradition where we consider ourselves to be people who live by the presence of the Spirit of God. But if we don’t make space in our lives for God to work, can He? One last thought came from my reading this morning from Dennis Kinlaw today and I want to share it with you. “This personal character [creativity and love] of God and the personal character of Christianity, along with its emphasis on faith, means that God does not desire primarily obedience from us. If He wanted servile obedience, he could force it. What He really desires from us is that we should love Him so much that He is our joy, our delight, and our fulfillment” Are you making space for God to be all He can be in you today?


it’s summer…wait a minute

Okay, first things first. It has been way too long since I have posted anything and I want to apologize for that. But as you know, youth ministry starts to escalate a bit around summer time and so honestly, it’s just been a bit busy. Between open houses, mission trips, camps and all the other craziness it just seems as if time is fleeting. And let’s be honest, who wants to be indoors these days. Perhaps if I could dictate my blog while running around in a game of tag or sitting around a campfire? But that kind of misses the point. After all, it’s summer. The time to run, frolic, jump, swing, swim, hide, chase, sweat and enjoy all this season has to offer. Which brings me to my rant, I mean point today. I wonder how many of you have seen this commercial:

What is going on? Is this really what childhood is becoming? After seeing this commercial I just felt sad. I for one have now instated a ban on taking any kind of gaming device outside. I remember being young and the door basically being closed on me during summer and then opened again at the end of the day and occasionally for meal times. Getting outside and enjoying all that life has to offer is probably one of the most defining characteristics of being a kid. And yet, for those people who have the privilege of affording luxuries like the 2DS, we are robbing our kids of their childhood. While in some countries kids aren’t even able to play like these kids could because of being forced into slave situations in order to help their families survive. All that being said, I think there is something special about protecting the innocence of childhood. After all, it’s through the innocence and the joy of childhood that we see the possibility for all that is the Kingdom of God.

The writer of Luke put it this way, “But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” – Luke 18:16-17″ And yet, I think so many things we do today rob us of the ability to see all that God has in store for us and in store for His Kingdom. I think a big part of that is not being able to enjoy all that is around us. So maybe we need to turn off our phones, tablets, DS’s, computers (give me a few more words first), etc. and start living the life that awaits us right out our respective back doors. And it might look a bit like blowing bubbles, playing in the rain, jumping in mud puddles, collecting rainbows, smelling flowers, stopping along the way, building sandcastles, watching the moon and stars come out, saying hello to everyone, going barefoot, going on adventures, dancing, flying kites, wondering and wandering around, riding bicycles, looking at the sky, staying up late, climbing trees and ultimately enjoying all the good gifts God has given us to remind us of His love for us. So enjoy the summer! It’s rhythm reminds us of a God who continues to make all things new and wonderful.

the blank page

There is nothing worse for a writer and yet there is nothing better for a writer than the blank page (not that I necessarily consider myself a writer…I just like to write sometimes). In that blank page is the infinite void and also the limitless potential. In that page universes spin out of control, fates are decided and yet in that page there is frustration and writer’s block. What possesses someone to come to that page and think, “yeah, I can do this”? Often times I stare at the screen in front of me or the blank page before me and just sit in despair. Who am I? Why would anyone listen to anything I have to say? What could I possibly put down that would make the world around me better for having read it? It almost seems to border on arrogance. But then I realize that I really am not the creator…I am simply the steward.

You see once upon a time creation happened. I don’t really care particularly how you think it happened (that is a different discussion for a different day), just as long as you agree that once upon a time something came from nothing; ex nihilo if you will. And out of this nothing, this blank page, life spun into existence. Some accounts speak of a Creator speaking into life all of existence and from that we eventually end up where we are today. Every atom, cell, cluster, fiber, muscle, breath, thought, expression, emotion, etc. eventually came from that nothing to something moment. And consequently every thought, expression, written word, played arrangement, and sung melody is really an act of co-creation, participation in that which was brought into existence at that creative moment. The poems, songs, prose, art, designs, structures, dances, plans and every  other creative achievement are ultimately an expression of stewardship in the gifts offered up in that original creative act. Although a rather negative expression of this partnership, the teacher in Ecclesiastes puts it this way, “What has been will be again,what has been done will be done again;there is nothing new under the sun.Is there anything of which one can say,“Look! This is something new”? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time.” Ecclesiastes 1:9-10

But I don’t like to think of it in negative terms or as a means for despair. In fact, co-creating may be one of the most Holy things we get to participate in. Think about it. We are expressing in us the in-born imago dei (image of God) that seeks to create beauty where there is none. It seeks to create order out of chaos. It seeks to speak light into darkness and bring life where death previously reigned. Maybe this makes the blank page even more of a necessity to our lives. I share an office with another creative type at our church and above his desk he has a print of an amazing quote that goes a bit like this, “Look at the blank pages before you with courage. Now fill them with beauty.” – Blaine Hogan

Maybe that is where I find myself. In need of courage to participate in the creative act that happened so long ago. And maybe each of us find ourselves on the precipice of our own blank page as well. May we find our song, poem, dance, design, plan or whatever gift we seek to express and be the best steward we can be as we dance with the Divine.

imago dei

You have to love getting to see the world through your kid’s eyes. There is so much to be discovered, learned, conquered, played with, challenged, enjoyed, etc. My six-year old is the ultimate when it comes to this (I think this probably goes for most six-year old kids). Everyday the litany of questions starts around the time he opens his eyes and ends about the time we force them shut. How does that work? Where does that come from? Why are you doing that? The list goes on. And recently he asked my wife a question from which she proved her motherly wisdom goes beyond this dope of a father by leaps and bounds. ‘Mommy, what does God look like?” She replied, “Well, the Bible says we are made in His image so I guess if you put all the people together in the world that might be a good idea of what God looks like.” And this answer worked for his little concrete world for the time being. But the beauty of this answer is found in the abstract rather than the concrete.

In the church we take Genesis 1:26-27 to be a true doctrine of creation, “Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” But I am not sure that this means we actually physically look like God. Rather I think it means that we have the capacity for God…the ability to act as a representative of God, if you will. The actual Hebrew word behind that word for image is the world selem. A selem was an image of a conquering king placed in a conquered territory to remind all the inhabitants of said territory who their true king was. If we are God’s selem then we are placed in this world to be a reflection/image and a reminder to the world around us as to who our true King is.

So maybe we don’t physically look like God altogether, but maybe by acting as his selem together we might get a better picture of what God looks like. Maybe when we all feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, proclaim freedom for captives, adopt the orphan, care for the widow, love our neighbor and enemy…maybe when we do these things all together we get a better picture of what God looks like. Maybe when we bring God’s Kingdom to earth then maybe we start to get a better understanding of what God looks like. And maybe then we all do look a little more like our Creator. May you find a way to be His image to someone today.

a drought of sorts

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.

a lost art

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.

christian media

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.

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