Breath of God for Image Bearers

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I am blessed with:

1. an unexpected “girl’s lunch out” with my mother and sister

2. the blue richness that only comes in an autumn sky

3. friends who share common interests with enthusiasm

4. time for quiet reflection

5. the written words of those who have gone before (Thank you, C.S. Lewis!)

6. the serendipity of discovering others who are spinning the same tops that I am

Creativity to me is one of those God-given guarantees. We are created in His image and He is the ultimate Creator. Ergo, we are all creative.

Now, it is true, that only God can breathe something out of nothing. He spoke into the void and made the miracle of the universe and every miraculous diversity contained within it. No human can do this. At best, we co-create with the Father, using the things He has already made to gild beauty with wonder. This need to create is part of His image, breathed into us at our own creation, a compulsion to participate in making with Him and through Him. If you live, if you breathe, you are creative in some way.

The trouble is, so many people put incredible limitations on the definition of “creative.” For instance, a person who makes “art” is creative, but a person who makes dinner is not.

Recently, a friend of mine posted a photo on Facebook of the cutest wooden Christmas tree that she and her husband had built and stenciled. In the comments, another woman remarked that she herself couldn’t make anything, “Except breast milk.” Of course, I immediately responded that creativity takes many forms, breast milk included.

That little social networking convo has stayed with me… another spinning top, whirling its way toward resolution.

Her words perfectly illustrate the idea that so many people have about their own creativity, and give rise (again!) to the vehement argument I find myself making, every single time another person tells me they are not creative. You are! You ARE! YOU ARE!

Now I can push watercolors around with a brush. I can carry a tune. I can letter, draw and doodle. I can shape wire and stone into artistic designs that hang from earlobes and barn doors. I can even wrangle with words until they go where I tell them (mostly). But, to my sorrow, I have never given birth to a child. My creative response to this has always been in loving other people’s children (which I do well).

Here is a woman involved in the most profound act of co-creation imaginable, that of birthing and nourishing new life, and she does not recognize the God-breathed creativity within herself. Can there be more creative work than motherhood?

And so I argue that creativity is within you…

when you stir the pot that holds your family’s dinner.

when you teach the one and thirty in your classroom.

when you arrange the blankets on your daughter’s bed.

when you stoop to listen to a child.

when you offer to shop for an elderly shut-in.

when you leave all that is familiar and move your family to the mission field.

when you polish the window that frames the sunrise.

when you lean closer to the weeping friend to share his sorrow.

when you thrust the spade into the hard earth to plant a flower.

when you cast your line into sunlight-dappled waters.

when you invite your small group over for Games Night.

when you take the time to look the one who serves you in the eye and say “Thank you.”

when you brew the coffee before the church doors open.

when you speak light into darkness.

when you extend hospitality to your neighbors.

And yes, when you draw your baby near to nurse and nourish.

There is an art to everything, small or large, under heaven, and there is as much creativity in the person who stands before great art admiring as there is in the person who makes great art and hangs it to be admired. In these ways, and a million others, you reflect the creativity of your Maker.

So, please. Do not tell me you are not, and never have been, creative.

You’re breathing, aren’t you?

 

Spinning the Top

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I am blessed with:

  1. Mom’s recovery from a recent illness
  2. This morning’s “cradle sunrise”–full of pale pinks, blues and yellows
  3. Sharing part of my “His-story” aloud with a friend and discovering certain memories are not as painful to probe as they once were
  4. This pink-clad baby — laughing-right-out-loud-at-nothing-in-particular-but-baby-joy — on her mommy’s lap at the table beside me

I have found that I go through “seasons of thought” like the planet changes seasons. Often sparked by conundrums in my life or bumpy rides in relationships, these thoughts spin about like tops set in motion, until they achieve some resolution… or revolution… of enlightenment for me. I wrestle with them, like Jacob and the Lord, and I will not let them go until I am blessed with… something… understanding, peace, contentment, direction in the way I should go.

Mostly the top spinning is quiet. I do a lot of silent reflecting, reading, praying. Sometimes I need to bounce words off of others until I can find my way. Always, always, always, God speaks into this process at some point, which amazes and astounds me…. That He should hear my thoughts…. That He should care to offer His input in such beautiful, creative ways.

So, most recently, the whirlwind of thought has revolved around the question of pain. Deep, personal pain, encountered in my  life and in the lives of people around me. Our reactions to pain. The patterns that we tend to play out over and over again, every time we encounter experiences that threaten our comfort or gouge deep-down, indelible scars into our trust.

We run away.

We clench our teeth and shoulders and hands.

We shake our fists at one another and Heaven.

We withdraw from others.

We hide.

We wear masks.

We lick our wounds.

We gnaw our hearts.

We grow angry, bitter even.

We lash out at others.

We deny our needs and vulnerabilities before the enemy, and we make enemies of everyone.

These are some of the patterns that I have observed in others, but also (dare I confess it?) participated in myself, when confronted by pain.

More specifically, I’ve been thinking about how we are to love into those places of pain and brokenness in a way that honors Our Father, who is love.

So I’ve been reflecting, reading, praying, pinging ideas and words off friends whose opinions I value, and praying some more on this one. And God has been speaking into the process with His usual creativity.

Reading Ann Voskamp’s blog A Holy Experience, I am reminded that we are all like Jacob, looking for blessings we cannot give ourselves. It was a pattern in Jacob’s life… disguising himself as Esau for a blessing from his earthly father, enduring a wrenched hip socket for a blessing from his Heavenly Father. But it is a pattern of need that we all share. Ann writes:

Everybody is just a brave beggar looking for a blessing. We’re all Jacobs. There isn’t anybody who isn’t starved for a word of blessing.  What if no one had to dress up any better, any stronger, any braver — and we just handed out words that bless to everyone just as they are in all their real and honest messiness?  What if we weren’t about dressing up as good — but about giving the blessing now? This changes your life and a thousand more: Only speak words that make souls stronger. To the smoldering teenager and the bored guy pumping gas and the burdened husband slumped at the table and the volcanic kid spewing lava ugly everywhere. In the beginning was the Word and the Word was God and words have the power of God in them. Words have the power to literally breathe life — to literally reshape the atoms of real lives. Sticks and stones may break bones — but only words can curse a soul or be a blessing We could make it a different world: We don’t demand anyone go dressing up as good, to get our blessing now.

So I am reminded by my Father through Ann’s blog: “words have the power of God in them.” I am reminded of the need to choose words carefully, thoughtfully, and to lay them down tenderly, like a blessing, on the souls of those around me who are wrestling through this messy business called life… just like I am.

Never mind our patterns. Jesus knows we have them. Do we really think He sits on His throne in Heaven muttering:

“Oh, here we go again!” [Big eye roll] “Ignore her.”

“That’s just her way.” [Careless shrug] “Leave her alone.”

“He does that every time.” [Angry gesture] “Just walk away.”

I suspect laying down a blessing is a bit like forgiveness… How many times must I forgive? How many times must I bless?

Well… how often does Jesus forgive? How often does He bless?

And do I really wanna be like Jesus, or do I just say I do?

“What if no one had to dress up

 any better, any stronger, any braver —

and we just handed out words that bless

to everyone

just as they are

in all their real and honest messiness?”

The question gives me a lot to think about.

Embracing thanksgiving as a lifestyle

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So my friend and I have been seriously applying Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts to our daily living… learning to hold our hands open to God’s blessings and give thanks for them, even when they (sometimes) don’t feel like blessings. Our Friday morning breakfast conversations are filled with the struggle, the challenge, the very real effort involved in this practice.

There are definitely areas on both of our lives where we just. aren’t. there. (YET.) And maybe we won’t get there this side of Heaven. But I’ve decided that’s okay. I don’t think Jesus will fault me for being open to thankfulness, even when I wrestle to actually BE thankful.

The PROCESS is the thing. And in those quiet moments of slowing down, listing gratitude, naming miracles, I have begun to see His blessings everywhere. The richest one of all has been the growing ability to really see this moment. The one right in front of me. The one He wants me to LIVE in. Right. NOW.

How often do I allow my joy to be robbed by my tendencies to dwell on the sorrows and failures behind me or borrow troubles from a tomorrow that may never come? Mindfulness of the moment has never been my default setting. And yet, here He is, in this moment, teaching me attentiveness and gratitude. I am a debtor to Grace, it’s true. But not impoverished by the debt.