Creativity

Communicating Mysteries

I'm always happy when I get a request to contribute to the online magazine for church leaders, @sundaymagtv. The most recent edition was all about the theme Level Up, and I was asked to write about the need to engage in, and communicate, the mysteries of the Christian faith.

This is my favorite article I've written to date. And the article artwork was great as well. How about this image? Melissa Watkins did a fantastic job. So fun!

20130902-152545.jpg

You can read the article here.

The Work of Silence

After last year's Luminous Project gathering, Ian Cron suggested I read Thomas Merton's The Seven Storey Mountain. I'm finishing up the book, which has been an incredible experience. Merton's work, much like my experience at Luminous, has been deeply formative as I work through what it means to respond to God with my life and work. Silence has been a reocurring theme, and I've been wrestling with how to facilitate silence in my life nearly every day. It sounds ridiculous to say, "how to facilitate silence" but it's true. If it were easy to just shut up, I'd be well on my contemplative way. But it's something that takes tremendous effort. I would love to give you a series of practical take aways that we are accustomed to in these types of posts. I could tell you to take longer showers, turn the radio off during your commute, wake up 30 minutes early, stay up later, etc etc etc. But the truth is, silence, just like any other spiritual practice, takes...practice. You must be intentional, you must facilitate silence by finding a rhythm. I am still searching for mine.

Here's the great news: when you find that rhythm, it becomes natural to respond to God with both life and work out of a spiritual depth and grace. I've known this to be true in my own life. I also heard Pete Wilson say once that writer's block is really just being empty. To break through the block, then, you just need to fill yourself up. Of course, there is no greater way than by spending time in silence and prayer. Here's a bit from Merton on his writing (and on life):

...I had found that the interval after the night office, in the great silence, between four and five-thirty, on the morning of feast days, was wonderful time to write verse. After two or three hours of prayer your mind is saturated in peace and the richness of the liturgy. The dawn is breaking outside the cold windows. If it is warm, the birds are already beginning to sing. Whole blocks of imagery seem to crystallize out as it were naturally in the silence and the peace, and the lines almost write themselves.

Yes, you will be more productive, more creative, and more pleasant if you find room for silence. But productivity and creativity are not, cannot, be the end goal. A life more firmly rooted in Christ's grace is the aim, and the rest are byproducts. Keep your eye on the prize. Find your rhythm.

This post was inspired by the Luminous Project. Luminous is a creative spiritual event in Nashville May 1-3, 2013. To find out more, check out www.luminousproject.com. You can use the promo code ‘BRINGitHERE’ to get 35% off the registration price.

 

 

Creativity Spawns Creativity

This is a guest post by my brilliant friend, Sam DuRegger Fertile creativity is a creative product or process that has the ability to propagate further creativity into perpetuity, that is to say – creativity spawns creativity.

I came upon this concept in Eugene Peterson’s book, “Working the Angles” in which he states..."The variants of error are finite. The 'deadly sins' can be numbered; it is virtue that exhibits the endless fertility of creation."

I really like the idea of sin being finite. It makes sense when you think about it, as sin cannot lead to life, as it only leads to death and/or destruction.

Wrath begets murder. Greed begets taking. Sloth begets nothing. Pride begets stumbling. Lust begets wanting. Envy begets resenting. Gluttony begets devouring.

But, what about virtue?

Temperance begets enjoyment. Prudence begets wisdom. Fortitude begets courage. Justice begets equity.

Faith begets conviction. Hope begets expectation. Love begets love in return.

My hope is in your creative endeavors. That each of the projects you pour your heart into will overflow with fertile creativity. A virtuous creativity that will propagate your artistic legacy as one of hope, love, and strong conviction -- positive and long-lasting impressions meant to give life in a world driven towards destruction.

An Orthodox Prayer, Remixed for Writers

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. I can't unplug the phone. I can't silence the Twitter bird. I long for the screen.

Glory to Thee, our God, glory to Thee!

I resist the silence. Anything but being present. Anything but depth.

Holy God! Holy Mighty! Holy Immortal! Have mercy on us.

No solitude. "Distract me!" I scream. I can't bear me.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

I cannot rest. I'd rather not have peace. I forsake being still.

O most Holy Trinity, have mercy on us.

I stand alone. I stand in the whirling of many voices. I stand.

O Lord, cleanse us from our sins. O master, pardon our transgressions. O Holy One, visit and heal our infirmities, for Thy name's sake.

I am not sick. I need no healer. I cannot still myself for examination.

Lord, have mercy.

Lord, have mercy.

Lord, have mercy.

 

on creative work

A few thoughts on creative work... 

stampede

But a Vapor

When an artists creates out of an awareness that they, and their work, is but a vapor, and that no amount of acclaim will satisfy the deep longings of their soul, the creative process can begin in a healthy way. From this place, an artist can create out of a fullness of the soul that only comes when our value is measured inside of our relationship with the Creator. In these moments, we refuse to pick up the burden of making something of ourselves in our attempt to make something for ourselves. We simply follow the whisper of the Spirit, and respond in whatever way we know how.

 The Artist's Human's Struggle

I had a professor in college say all great writers struggle somewhere between extreme egotism and severe self-deprecation. I think he’s right.

I think it’s indicative of the artist’s soul.

I think is indicitive of the human soul.

Bastardized Creativity is Utility

The couple in the garden was instructed to join God in the creation process. To reflect his creative spirit in their tending to his creation. After the fall, however, they transitioned into creating for utility. Rather than dressing the garden, they began to use the garden to dress themselves. They created to fulfill a need; to make themselves feel better. To borrow a definition from the dictionary, utility is something, “designed chiefly for use or service rather than beauty, high quality, or the like.”

Quotes

Creativity is an instinct to produce.

Bruce Ario

Creativity shouldn’t seem like something otherworldly. It shouldn’t seem like a process reserved for artists or inventors or other “creative types.” The human mind, after all, has the creative impulse built into its operating system, hard-wired into its most essential programming code.

Jonah Lehrer - Imagine: How Creativity Works

The thing is not to get self-conscious. It’s like playing the piano; if you play the piano and suddenly start looking at your fingers, thinking ‘what the hell is all that about?” the music will stop.

- Sir Ken Robinson

The reason I keep making movies is I hate the last thing I did. I'm trying to rectify my wrongs.

Jaoquin Phoenix

 

The Relationship Between Art and Pride

Every artist creates out of pride. And to some extent, that has to be okay. Pride is something that needs to be addressed, and dealt with honestly. Like fear, you can't escape pride in your work, so you have to learn how to create in its presence. Artists must learn to use their pride as a barometer of sorts. Our level of pride is directly linked to our work, our relationships, and our response to the Creator. When we create out of our own ability, or out of the assumption that we alone have something worth presenting to the world, things get messy. In these pride-filled moments, we are creating for ourselves. We want to hear praise and be esteemed. As a result, the response of an audience directly influences our satisfaction. This is a horribly backward way of approacing creation and art.

When an artists creates out of an awareness that they, and their work, is but a vapor, and that no amount of acclaim will satisfy the deep longings of their soul, the creative process can begin in a healthy way. From this place, an artist can create out of a fullness of the soul that only comes when our value is measured inside of our relationship with the Creator. In these moments, we refuse to pick up the burden of making something of ourselves in our attempt to make something for ourselves. We simply follow the whisper of the Spirit, and respond in whatever way we know how.

The Relationship Between Art and Pain

The Relationship Between Art and Fear

The Relationship Between Art and Fear

Art and fear are constantly dancing the tango of creation. The dance is empassioned, intentional and often times improvisational, as the ebb and flow of the creation process is matched by the rise and fall of fear. When it is time to sit down and do our work, to get into the rhythm, fear spikes in an unforgiving crescendo that swings us around the dance floor. As artists in these moments, we must tighten our grip and keep our feet moving.  To run from fear, to abandon the dance floor, in these moments is to concede to fear, which prevents us from completing (or even starting) our work. Rather, we must learn to dance well, and maintain composure. If we can look fear in the face, and press forward, we will soon enough take the lead. We all know that fear will never go away, it will only change outfits to meet us on the floor next time. Ah, but next time we will be sharper with our steps, and stronger in our lines. We will be ready to take fear by the hand and and begin our dance.

The Relationship Between Art and Pain

The Relationship Between Art and Pride

The Relationship Between Art and Pain

The relationship between art and pain is undeniable. All art (I'd add the best art) is birthed out of pain, in one form or another. Pain is universal, which is the reason art can break down barriers and bring people together. Art, birthed out of pain, speaks to our personal and communal brokenness and our longing to be mended. I recently heard it said that poets and songwriters create their work as a result of experiencing pain. So for us to ask for more work, more poems and songs, we are asking the poet and songwriter to experience more pain. While most of us would not actually want someone to experience more pain, we eagerly anticipate more art, because it speaks to the pain in our own lives.

Great artisits create work that expresses personal pain, and in doing so, addresses our pain felt corporately. I can listen to a blues song and be moved, because I can relate on some level to the lyrics of the song. And so can the single mom, and the businessman and the homeless teenager.  The singer's gut-wrenching story is my story. And it's our story.

Art that is created out of pain not only resonates because we relate to the pain, but because we have an insatiable desire to be relieved from that very pain. In order to experience healing, deliverance, restoration, and mending, we must first acknowledge and confront our pain. Great art speaks not just to the pain experienced, but also looks toward the day where we are able to move forward. 

All art is shaped by pain, but not all pain is permanent. And when art taps into this reality, it becomes transformative.

The Relationship Between Art and Fear

The Relationship Between Art and Pride

Creative Instinct

Creativity is an instinct to produce.Bruce Ario

I loved coming across this in Linchpin (which I'm absolutely loving) because it speaks directly into my goals and aspirations for 2011.

My one word for 2011 is produce as I am working on putting out a book, and lining up other avenues to produce resources for the artist ministers in the local church. Glad to have you along for the journey.