The power of creativity

“Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up.” Pablo Picasso

“The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” Sylvia Plath

Sometimes I just need a good quote , something that reminds me I’m not the only one who thinks a certain way.

Sometimes I need to know I’m not the only one who is struggling.

Sometimes I need some art therapy.

Children are great teachers in this area. They remind us to enjoy the process instead of focusing on outcomes. I say I’m a recovering perfectionist. I say the prices of creating is more important than a perfectly executed project. But my inner critic is loud. And , oftentimes, there is a world ready to pounce on each and every perceived flaw.

And that’s when I look for a quote by one of my beloved famed philosophers … ( who also happens to be a talented actor) … Mr. Denzel Washington, who once said :

“At the end of the day, it’s not about what you have or even what you’ve accomplished. It’s about what you’ve done with those accomplishments. It’s about who you’ve lifted up, who you’ve made better. It’s about what you’ve given back.” – Denzel Washington

And, about the process versus criticism :

“If I am a cup maker, I’m interested in making the best cup I possibly can. My effort goes into that cup, not what people think about it.” – Denzel Washington

These are great reminders. As creatives, sometimes we can feel lonely. Sometimes we can feel as if the hours we pour into our work goes largely unnoticed.

Sometimes we feel like we just want to Make Good Things, but the world demands we learn how to market ourselves and the things we make. There is a tension there. We can take comfort in the fact that it is not New. Those that have gone before us had similar struggles. (Don’t believe me? Read a biography on Monet or Jim Henson.)

Creativity is healing . Creativity is intuitive. People that are naturally creative are often not as proficient at the business side of things.

That’s ok. We can learn .

The Sun as a Reminder

“Praised be you, O God with all your creatures; and especially our brother the sun, who is the day, and the light; fair is he, and shining with a very great splendour: O God, he signifies you to us!”

God isn’t in the sun, and he isn’t the sun, but the sun can remind us of Him.

And on mornings like this, it does.

Psalm 19:1, ESV The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

The sun reminds me of an Intelligent Creator.

It reminds me that He is vast , and I am small.

It reminds me that today is a new day, and that I get to live again.

What is the Sun reminding you of today?

Not Quite Done Christmasing

I have learned a handful of lessons this Christmas Season.

The top three that come to mind are:

1) we will continue making good, meaningful memories.

2) When I don’t over decorate, then I’m more peaceful, and not itching to undecorate immediately the day after Christmas.

3 ) We don’t have to stop celebrating Christmas on December 25th. We can continue for as long as we like. In fact, many people celebrate until January 6th- Epiphany. I decided that is what I’m doing this year. ( Even though classes resume the 2nd.)

The first lesson is meaningful to me because I have been feeling excessively nostalgic. My oldest has his license, my second has his permit.

My second youngest is a freshman, my oldest will be a senior in the fall.

There are ongoing conversations about what it means to be a man, and why it’s easier to never try drugs in the first place rather than trying to overcome an addiction.

There are part time jobs and honest conversations about character traits, and plans about what the future might hold.

And while all this is good and wonderful and full of hope… I miss the little days. I miss being their whole world . I miss snuggles on the couch, and whispered secrets.

I miss them and they’re still all right here. This seems excessively ridiculous, and that is precisely why I’m sharing it.

And all this is to say, that in the very midst of being sad and nostalgic, we had a great time together. Looking at lights, playing games, just talking and drinking coffee.

I realized that this might have been the best Christmas yet.

And I also said this last year.

And the year before that.

So, then by my own admission- each and every Christmas is the best ever.

Meaning that just maybe, we are still living the “good old days”, right now.

Maybe even though I feel sad that my kids are growing up, I can acknowledge that we’re still making great memories right now.

This is a necessary and valuable thing to remember.

My second lesson is pretty self evident. By choosing to decorate three main places , I am not “tired of” Christmas decor by December 26th.

My third lesson ties into the first two.

We’ve had some great times of celebrating this Christmas season. We also have had a lot of hosting , volunteering, and projects.

I don’t feel like I’m finished celebrating Christmas, so.. I’m going to keep going.

The tree is staying up. I’ll still be lighting the red candles, and playing calm, contemplative a Christmas carols.

And I have a big Christmas party to host this weekend with family from out of town.

I’m not finished with that trappings of Christmas, because at the end of the day, there is a deeper reason to all of this.

This isn’t where I trot out the tired “He is the Reason for the Season.”

He is. And most of us acknowledge that.

But He is also the motivation for the season.

And this year in particular, He had given me so much.

He has worked miracles in my home, my children, my marriage, my finances, my church …

He worked year-round miracles . Miracles of hope and healing, “far as the curse is found.”

“Repeat the sounding joy”, indeed!

I’m not finished Christmas-ing because I’m not done contemplating all He has done for me.

And I can’t help but want to help others find the peace that He has brought me as well.

On a more practical note, Will I be pulling my hair out when I’m back in the thick of homeschooling and running children places and still have to take down my tree on January 6th? Only time will tell. 😉

Your turn! What have you learned this Christmas season? Funny or serious , sentimental or sacred or none of the above. Feel free to comment below, or if you’re more comfortable with journaling about it, then I would like to encourage you to take a few moments to do so.

Fading Roses, and the End of Fall

“You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintery light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen…”

Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

Come Over to My House

I don’t have formal dinners. While my husband and I love to host, we don’t entertain.

If you come to my house I will feed you, I will listen to your stories, and I will use pretty dishes.

If you come to my house, I hope you feel special. Welcomed. Eagerly anticipated.

Zach’s smoked pork butt is the best around, and I’ll offer you more than or helping.

Feel free to heap your plate high.

Dinner will be delicious.

But it won’t be complicated. It won’t be stuffy or formal.

It won’t be impressive.

I’m not here to impress you. We’re beyond that.

We’ll talk, maybe cry alittle, hopefully laugh a lot. Well eat good food, then get comfy on the couch to talk, maybe refill our glasses a few times. feel free to move the pillows on my couch to get comfortable, maybe curl up or tuck your feet under you.

We have nothing but time.

There’s nothing pressing. Nothing urgent.

There’s you and me. There’s relationship. Communion.

Would you like a glass of tea?

Birthday Cake , our 8 year old selves, and connection.

Madeleine L’Engle: “The great thing about getting older is you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been.”

This was a quote I spent considerable time with last year. Many of us have very specific, even visceral memories of last March. For me, reading through many of Madeline L’ Engle’s nonfiction books.

And this quote stopped me in my tracks.

We add. We don’t subtract.

Just because I’m 34, doesn’t mean I have stopped being 8.

I am her, I am more, and I am still becoming.

And so are you.

And , to this point, we do well when we remember to take time to re- Engage with those parts of ourselves .

My daughter recently turned 8, she is reading Mr. Poppers Penguins, as I did for the first time at her age. And this has been a glorious point of connection. I didn’t plan it, I didn’t even suggest it, it’s just one of those serendipitous things that happens sometimes. But the amount of joy we have received by talking over the book has been unmeasurable.

Is there something simple in your life that you could share with a child or young person? Some connection that you could make, a simple bonding activity? It doesn’t have to be elaborate. The older I get , the more I realize connection happens best when we are in our most natural, unforced state.

We don’t have to wrestle and plan and force connection.

We can take pleasure in simple activities.

We can take the time to look into our children’s eyes, and Lauren to their thoughts on a book.

We can empathize and sympathize because we are still that age- we haven’t lost that part of ourselves, we’ve simply carried it forward into adulthood.

It’s all good, and it all matters.

You haven’t lost your childhood self. You can still access those things that made you feel alive and green, right now, this very day.

Go have some fun and make some connections!

Like a Bridge Over Troubled Waters

Children are Literal creatures. I adored the song Bridge Over Troubled Water for years, from at least age 7, long before I understood the meaning and story behind it.

When you listen to the lyrics literally, especially the beginning, it sounds like a beautiful, loyal friendship.

“When you’re weary, feeling small,
When tears are in your eyes
I will dry them all
I’m on your side
Oh when times get rough
And friends just can’t be found

Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down.”

It sounds like a lovely sentiment.

Isn’t that the kid of friend we all want? It appealed to me as an 8 year old, and I still find it appeals at 34.

I remember telling various adults in my life how meaningful I found this song.

And then they set me straight…

That complicated matters a bit.

According to the popular lore of my childhood , Simon and Garfunkel wrote it as satire, and that it chronicles a struggle with alcohol. Or perhaps even heroin ( referencing the” Silver Girl “ line.)

This was a widely accepted story that was oft-repeated.

If we read the lyrics with a skeptical view , now Alcohol is the narrator, instead of a friend.

Alcohol lying to us, seducing us, saying it will comfort us when friends can’t be found ?

Well that flips the entire song, the entire meaning , completely on its head.

Hardly the comforting , soulful tune I first thought it was. I still found the tune haunting, the lyrics hopeful. But it was hard to ignore the dark underbelly of meaning.

Until.

We live in the age of Information.

Because of this easily accessible information superhighway, I’ve read a handful of interviews about the story behind the song.

It was written by Paul Simon (performed as a solo by Art Garfunkel) , in 1969, during a period of political unrest , much like our own time.

According to Mr. Simon himself , the song is in fact about providing comfort to someone in their time of need. It’s about comfort, hope,protection.

Whew. Big sigh of relief.

That means the childlike , innocent, and literal interpretation wins this round over the skeptical, sarcastic and jaded.

It’s not often that this is the case.

Too often adults art is jaded. It’s sarcastic. It’s laughing up our sleeve at every Pollyanna we encounter. Why is that? Why on earth would we consistently create art out of our bitterness and then display it for all to see?

What would our culture look like if we applauded the Brave Hopeful for making art , instead of the Sarcastic Sophisticate?

What if we created art, genuinely good art, the celebrated friendship, loyalty, and carrying one another’s burdens?

And then, when the next generation comments on the meaning of our songs, we can joyfully tell them that yes, the song really is about unity and brotherhood .

And maybe we ourselves could become that bridge?

Pop Culture god versus the God of the Bible

Attributes of God are His character qualities. This is how Christians discuss Gods personality, if you will.

Many attributes in Christian theology what God is not, or what He does not do, as a means to knowing and understanding Him. For example, God does not lie, God does not change, …

I write this with much trepidation. However, I would like to compare and contrast the idea we find of God in pop culture, with Who He has revealed Himself to be in His word.

Physically, pop culture usually points us to an old white guy with along beard in a white toga. If you are picturing an angry , vengeful Santa then you are picturing the many cartoon versions we have all witnessed .

We compare this with God revealing Himself as Spirit.

Jesus had a body, and He is God, the second member of the trinity. But God the Father is invisible.

Colossians tells us that Jesus is in fact the image of the invisible God.

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation:”
Colossians 1:15 NASB

The second attribute of God that we are going to look at is that hmHe is eternal. God has no beginning, He has always been. Psalm 90:2 reminds us that …

Before the mountains were born Or You gave birth to the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.
Psalm 90:2 – NASB

Whether or not you subscribe to the theory of evolution, our basic experience tells us that everything has a beginning.

But this is the material view of the matter, and not the metaphysical.

God is good and Holy.

God is in fact the very standard of good.

God is unable to do wrong. Holiness means that He is set apart. God cannot “look on” evil, which means essentially that he cannot condone sun, or call good what is not good.

We can compare this to the angry God portrayed in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”

We often hear about the angry Old Testament God, but are not often provided with the proper context . Nahum 1:2 for example does say that God is vengeful, but against whom? Against ruthless people who are preying on the innocent.

We are unfamiliar with the culture of those days, worth the precedence of child sacrifice as a way to please the barbaric false gods. This very practice was something the God of the Bible detested.

The God of the Bible is also Immanent. His Immanence means that He is present in the world that He created. That he is actively working things for good. He grants us free will, which unfortunately have led to sin and sickness and death. But He is Immanuel, God with us.

This is in direct contrast to the disinterested God of pop culture. The picture we get from pop culture is of a god who may have created the world but set it spinning and then generally doesn’t care. Or worse- one who takes perverse pleasure in the pain of humans.

The God of the Bible is Omnipotent. this means that He is all powerful. A God who certainly is capable of wiping all of humanity off the face fo the planet, but who stays His hand because of His great love and patience.

Thai is contrasted by the impotent god of pop culture who is limited in his power and influence. His scope is limited. Otherwise, we demand, if he ain’t impotent then why doesn’t he show himself? Why is evil so prevalent in the world? He must be pretty powerless, the reasoning goes. We get a glimpse of this good in the show Supernatural.

The God of the Bible is Omnipresent. He is present everywhere. He is outside of time. He transcends time and space, he isn’t bound by the same limitations we humans are .

We contrast this to the god of pop culture, Joan of Arcadia style , who is limited. He’s present but not super helpful or loving. Or even kind.

I hope these contrasts and comparisons have been helpful to you. Thank you for reading.