Creating Together

As we finish out this month’s discussion on creativity I wanted to share one last encouragement with you. One of the best things about creativity is when we get to celebrate what others have created. I know, it can be hard to appreciate some of the things that others call art, because they just aren’t part of your taste profile or preferences, and that’s OK. You don’t have to appreciate everything that everyone does. But that doesn’t mean you have the right to judge them for creating something you just can’t appreciate (they might even go so far as to say you’re the one with the problem, not them!!).

As is pointed out throughout the Bible, God wants us to build each other up, not hurt each other. And while some criticism of art is expected, even necessary so we can improve, and because everyone has an opinion, if it’s not celebrated too there won’t be a point to creating it. After all, most of us are working in hopes of creating greatness, not for endless criticism and judgment.

So when you see art don’t just throw out your judgement of it or laugh it off and be done with it. Take a minute to see if you can see the artist in the creation, see what they may have been trying to express through it, and see what it reminds you of. You never know how God will use what someone else has created to inspire you. And don’t forget to give the artist some encouragement and tell friends who you think might enjoy what they’ve created. After all, there are things that God created like bugs and slugs that not all of us appreciate yet He still loves them and has created them with a purpose in mind.

“We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord.” Romans 15:2

Reality Reflection: Decoration Day

Did you know that Memorial Day began as “Decoration Day” back in 1868? It was established by the Union veterans after the Civil War as an opportunity for everyone to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. It’s a tradition that has continued since then, and we do it for more than just soldiers too, but on days like Memorial/Decoration Day, the 4th of July and Veteran’s Day, we make extra effort to decorate in honor of the soldiers.

Why decorate? For the same reason that we wear team colors to the ball parks and school events. For the same reasons that plaids and family crests were the norm years ago. For the same reasons that we think of red and green at Christmas and pastel colors in the spring and for Easter. It’s a way of celebrating, unifying, showing respect, remembering and honoring. We decorate because it means something to us and we want people to know what’s important to us.

This Memorial Day I encourage you to decorate. Hang the flag at your house, bring flags or flowers to family member’s graves and to other veterans’ graves you know of, participate in a town parade, put a poppy in your car and any other reminders that will encourage you to remember the veterans and their families and let them know you remember them and appreciate their sacrifice.

Curiosity and Creativity

Do you know one of the best ways to build your creative storehouses and become inspired? Curiosity!  That’s right, if you look at the world with an attitude of curiosity and go through life with a willingness to try new things and learn what things do and how they work, not only will you be more creative but you may even become more cultured, more productive, and create more amazing and creative works of art. Your curiosity will make you a better artist and expand your horizons to what and how you can create.

Trying new things is healthy for all of us, whether we believe we fit in the traditional definition of creative or not.  Even if you’re not into photography, painting, sewing, dancing, construction, or any of the other things that fit in the typical creative standard, the ability to be creative and think creatively is important for all of us.

If you’re able to be creative in your job you’ll come up with better solutions for your customers and clients.  If you’re able to be creative in your relationship it will probably last longer and be healthier.  If you’re able to be creative with your family you’ll hear the dreaded phrase “I’m bored!” a lot less.  And if you’re able to be creative and curious in life in general you’ll find more things to be happy about and appreciate, which will make the tough times easier and good times better.

What have you tried or learned lately?  What inspires your creativity?

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” Walt Disney

A Mind for Creativity

Creativity is part copy part innovation.  When we create stained glass windows or draw pictures often we copy those that we admire or learn from the styles of masters to apply to the designs we create.  It’s not a bad thing to learn from what others have done or respect a particular creative style, it’s only when we try to replicate exactly without considering individual differences and unique possibilities that we can run into trouble.  God may have created some of us that look alike or enjoy a lot of the same things, but there is at least one difference between each and every one of us.

Being creative starts with how you think though.  If you think everything is the same and there’s nothing new, that will most likely be what you end up seeing.  If you think that you’ve heard all the answers and there is no hope you’ll live a hopeless life and not find any possibilities or options you could pursue.  If you believe God has given up on you, that’s the reality that you could find.  However, when you open your mind to the possibilities and are willing to learn and try new things God will be able to open the door or window that you’ve been waiting for.

What do you need to create in your life?  Do you need to create a new relationship? New hearts and solutions in your current relationship?  A new job?  A new relationship with yourself? A new relationship with God?  More freedom? More happiness? What do you need to create?  Start by considering how you think about things, especially those you want to create and see how you’re limiting yourself there.

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”  Romans 12:2

Creativity and Perfection

As an artist, and slight perfectionist, I often struggle to find a happy medium between the two.  It isn’t ever easy, but I’m learning to let the creativity win and relax on striving in my art, in whatever form it happens, to be perfect.

Perfection is a worthy goal most certainly.  I love knowing that I’m truly satisfied with the appearance of something.  Knowing that I’ll get more praise than criticism, and that I won’t look at it and always pick out the imperfections.  But the concept of art was designed almost as the opposite of perfection.  Some art is perfect in some people’s eyes, and others can’t see any beauty in it.  That is one gift that art gives us.  Some people enjoy dancing and work hard to perform well.  Some do yoga and work on their form and stretching.  Yet others don’t appreciate dancing or yoga, but do find value in painted pictures or needlepoint.

Another aspect that is definitely prevalent with perfection is the acceptance of their art with others.  For some their art is a performance and they live to get the approval of others.  For others, the approval factor is a downside to art.  I think it works both ways.  With the criticism of others you can become a better artist.  If you can’t see that your legs are in the wrong position, you need someone to tell you so that you can perform better, or feel better.  You can improve your painting and drawing with a little constructive criticism and critique too.  Someone’s advice about your garden or about your creative decorating may give you a good idea that will help you get closer to the desired perfection.

Most importantly when struggling with the challenge of perfection, don’t forget to enjoy the experience.  Art is all about the experience, about learning about yourself, about healing, about sharing yourself, about opening the world to your perspective.  Many of the biggest “mistakes” and “imperfections” have revolutionized aspects of the artistic world.  There wouldn’t be new dance styles without imperfections, there wouldn’t be new plant species without mistakes, some of the most beautiful paintings wouldn’t have occurred without imperfections.

What encouragement will you find and new doors open from welcoming a little criticism?  Try it this week and find out!

How Do you Talk with Strangers?

Would you consider yourself an angry person?  How about someone who has lots of friends (real friends, those you actually know personally)?  Would those who know you say that you’re a generous person?  These are important things to know because like it or not we all deal with other people every day.  Sometimes we interact with those we know and other times we interact with strangers.  But whether the person is a stranger or a friend shouldn’t impact how you generally act towards them; for example, just because they’re a stranger doesn’t mean you should disrespect or ignore them. No, you may not give them a hug when you meet them like you might a friend, but you’ll still be civil to them.

But there are those who are overly suspicious of everything and everyone else, those who see the world as a half-empty glass, and those who believe that there aren’t many good people in the world.  We all have our bad days and misunderstandings or miscommunications, but that’s no reason to assume that the rest of the world is all bad and treat them as such.

You may not fall into the category of those who believe most of the world is bad, but you may have fallen into the habit of being snarky or treating friends in a certain (less than polite) way and it spills over to how you interact with everyone else you meet.  You may not even realize you’re doing it.

But James 1:19b reminds us to: “…be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.”  I’m going to pay more attention to how I interact with others this week.  You know why? Because it’s not just about those we personally and currently know, it’s about those we meet and the role they may play in our lives in our future too.  You don’t know what role a stranger you meet today may have in your life several weeks or months down the road, but if it’s a negative interaction they have with you now that may ruin the opportunities you could have with them in the future.  How do you treat others?

Reality Reflection: Friday the 13th

Today is Friday the 13th. Did you know it’s the only Friday the 13th in 2016? I know there are only 12 months so there’s not a really great chance of having it happen often anyway, but to just have one is pretty unique, and a good thing some people would say. Friday the 13th has to do with two things that we all consider at one point in time or another: luck and superstitions.

I can’t say I really put a lot of stock into all of them, but I have seen enough coincidences and connections in my life that I do give things like Friday the 13th, curses, planets, horoscopes and luck some degree of respect. Karma is something that in some ways I categorize in this group as well, but I believe more in Karma than in curses or superstitions.

Some people will say that life is what you make of it and the luck you have is based largely on what you’ve done in the past and a chain of events that have lead up to it. Sometimes there is no evident connection and things just seem to go wrong (which some people would say is because of something in a past life).  It’s also been shown that if you give things like luck and superstitions a lot of credit you will have plenty to attribute to it.

I do my best to be thankful for the good things and stay away from the bad. When a little luck or good karma comes my way I do my best to pass it on. The reality is that much of life is about what we do with what we’ve been handed. If you’re in a bit of bad luck you can choose to change it (unless of course you think you need punishing for something). What are your thoughts on luck and superstitions?

Creating the Existing

This month the topic we’re working through is creativity. Creativity is something that applies to all our lives, from the creative answers moms give to their kids’ questions, to the structures we create to live in and look at, to the ways we’re working to heal and keep people alive. As we dive further into the topic of creativity today I want to address something that’s a truth and a lie wrapped into one. You’ve heard it said that there are no new things, we just keep bringing stuff back? In some ways I think this is true, but probably not how you think.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said: “A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.”

This quote reveals the answer to the question of whether there can be new things in life. Technically there are no new things, just new ways of seeing and or using what we already have. The simplest definition of creativity is seeing new things in existing things, like Antoine de Saint-Exupéry suggests. Life isn’t always about making new, but of making the best use of what you have.

So before you permanently ink creativity into the list of things you aren’t good at, take a moment to consider exactly how creative you could be. Maybe you’re creative with your kids and tell them stories or build legos with them. Maybe you’re creative with your clients and help them organize their homes. Maybe you’re a counselor and help people see things from a different, creative, perspective. The very core of creativity is creating, and I believe that life is what you create of it. As the old saying goes: when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

What is Prayer for You?

Last week around the US people gathered for National Day of Prayer. Prayer is an important part of our faith lives, it’s how we primarily communicate with God. We don’t always get the answers through prayer, but the words that we share with God are important and valued by Him. It would be easy to just pass off prayer as mundane and a regular task we have to do, but it’s so much more than that (although it is a task we should be doing regularly). It’s an opportunity to share our lives with God, to share with someone who truly cares about what goes on in our days and the things we’re dealing with and to celebrate the things that we enjoy or that go well.

There are many verses throughout the Bible that talk about prayer, one is 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: “Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”

This Bible passage is interesting because it sandwiches prayer between two very positive instructions: being joyful and being thankful. Are you joyful and thankful about what goes on in your life? Yes, circumstances can be challenging and can be depressing sometimes, but prayer is a great opportunity for us to really analyze and work through the details of the circumstance, which allows us to move beyond the possibly negative emotions and first reactions to the circumstance and see how God could be working in and through it and what we might learn from it.

So how do you view prayer? Do you see it as a chore? Maybe you’re just frustrated because you’re expecting something specific in return instead of seeing it as a great opportunity to share with someone who won’t look at us in judgment and interrupt our telling of the story, and find some quiet time and peace in a turbulent world. What are you thankful for about prayers?

Reality Reflection: Mother’s Day Celebrations?

Sunday is Mother’s Day here in the US, and of course it’s got me thinking about moms both good and bad.  Some moms get a bad rap because they are single moms and have to leave their kids with sitters often so they can make money for food and a place to live.  Other moms are actually bad moms: they don’t take any interest in their kids or their kids’ lives, they abuse them, or they don’t care for them (or provide care for them).  And some moms are great moms simply because they do the best they can and care about their kids and their lives.

I’ll say what you may be thinking: some women shouldn’t have kids. I understand that birth control is usually accurate, but sometimes fails, so there are some women around the world who didn’t mean to become moms.  These women have the choice to either keep the kid and do their best or to give it up.  Honestly, if you can’t care for a kid on a physical or emotional level there are tons of families around the world who would love to have a kid and you could make their dreams a reality.  Don’t frustrate yourself and your kid by being an absentee mother.  On another note just because society expects you to have a kid because you need someone to pass your fortune on to or for some other reason doesn’t mean you should have one.

Mother’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate the moms in our lives, but it’s also a call for moms to do better.  Maybe you’re doing the best you can by yourself and it’s time to reach out and ask for help from the community around you.  Maybe it’s time to re-prioritize your life and let go of some of the things that you really don’t care about and aren’t in line with your life dreams or goals and/or aren’t helping you be a good mother.  If you’re not a mom or you know a mom in need make sure to reach out and show some love to them too this weekend.