26 June, 2015

Friday Creativity - Through the Window

The Rules:
1. Set a timer for five minutes
2. Look at the image and write what comes to mind, no editing, no thinking about it - just write. 
3. If you want to post what you wrote below, I'd love to read it.
4. Save what you write

25 June, 2015

Submission the way to Freedom

I am currently reading The Making of an Ordinary Saint by Nathan Foster in which he writes about his walking with the disciplines one by one. Last time we touched on how submission to God, living with hands open before Him, can provide freedom from the things that enslave us (whether physical or emotional). This week, I want to look at submission as an individual action.

Surrendering Your Story

“I encountered a deep serenity from surrendering my desire and accepting life for what it is and not what I want it to be. … I accept people for who they are and not who I want them to be… When I let go, God shows up” (p.31 – Saint).

I am not the author of my story. It is not up to me to make it all work, to create my path, to cling to other’s ideas for my identity.

In letting go of the lie that my striving does any good, I am able to release my need to control or allowing outside standards define and dictate me. I release people to be who they are and realize it is not my place nor my duty to change them.

When I let go – God shows up.

Finding True Freedom

Since the Fall, the greatest lie has been that we can affect a single thing better than God can.

“Chain yourself to me and I’ll teach you how to live as you were created to live. … ‘My yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:30). (p, 31 – Saint)

It’s an odd idea, chaining yourself to God. But if you think of the analogy – two oxen together on a yoke – the stronger one will teach the other how to walk. There is an accountability to it. One cannot just stop or give up. They cannot go off on their own. They won’t get lost. Together they get the field plowed, they finish what they start.

So it is if we partner with God. When I read the words in Matthew 11 (Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.) I see the true heart of my Father.

We often only turn to God when we are at our wits end. We have tried to solve whatever is going on by ourselves. We have schemed, bargained, worked, run ourselves ragged – and the whole time God is offering to shoulder this load with us (for us).

It’s surrender. It’s letting go of control, it’s realizing we are not commanders of our lives. It’s acknowledging that we are not going to get our way and that there is a better way.

But we as humans are selfish and, for some reason, prefer the hard way.

“Jesus knew that as humans, we are by nature slaves – slaves to power, approvals, to escapism. So instead of leaving us bound to our selfish desires, he calls us to chain ourselves to his rule of love” (p. 32 – Saint – emphasis added).

What have I chained myself to?
It is an uncomfortable question, but one that must be answered honestly if we are ever to be free of what enslaves us.

It is a slow process to leave behind what I am told to let define me and to lean hard into God. We do not know His yardstick and we are not supposed to. It is surrender, not perfection! It’s letting go and realizing it never was about me.

What have you chained yourself to? 

19 June, 2015

Friday Creativity - At the Bar

The Rules:
1. Set a timer for five minutes
2. Look at the image and write what comes to mind, no editing, no thinking about it - just write. 
3. If you want to post what you wrote below, I'd love to read it.
4. Save what you write

Image from WeHeartIt

15 June, 2015

Cultivating Creativity in the Warm Up

For those of us who pursue creativity it is important to keep the ideas coming. What is a painter without something to paint? It’s just a person with a blank canvas.

The blank screen – the white canvas – the unmarked sheet music – the lump of clay. To many these can be the most intimidating things in the world. People get so overwhelmed by the beginning of something that they never start at all and just give up and walk away.

The truth is that creativity has to be cultivated. Like a garden, it has been to be tended. Weeds need to be pulled, fledgling buds need to be helped. Seeds have to be planted and, when ready, harvested or enjoyed for their beauty.

We tend to look at those who (it seems) are creative all the time. We evaluate ourselves against artists with galleries, iTunes lists a mile long or entire shelves at the bookstore. If we let this comparison – what a naughty, evil devil he is – overwhelm us we will give us being a creative all together and go work in a bank or run a scooter shack on the beach.

Many write about the need to cultivate a creative habit. Art, like music, is something that must be practiced and taken seriously if it is to grow. Ken MacLeod says that, “the secret of becoming a writer is to write, write and keep on writing.” And so it is with anything we want to pursue wholeheartedly.

But how to start writing! How to take that white page and turn it into something amazing.

I have started doing the three-page warm up in the morning. After my quiet time and journaling, I take out three pages and write until they are full. I intentionally chose to focus on my creative projects – working out a scene, drafting a bit of dialogue, writing down a timeline, doing a character profile. Who knows if it will ever end up in the book, but it gets my creative mind going.

Twyla Tharp writes about how, for her, getting into the cab each morning to go to the gym is a creative trigger. It is not the work out or the warming up before practice that gets her creative energy going. Somehow the action of putting on her sneakers and getting into the cab awakens her creative energy.

Joe Sutphin does an ink warm-up drawing to focus his creativity. Casually posting them on his Instagram, he was surprised when one sparked his wife to write a poem. That further sparked his creativity, which invited more of hers to emerge. What came about was Sutphin’s diving further into the character he’d drawn as a warm-up. The drawing of Old Roger Ribbit may now inspire others to write a story, a song, a poem or maybe even a ballet about this old frog’s adventures.

Image by Joe Sutphin

Too often we wait for the stroke of brilliance to hit us before we move. Sometimes the greatest acts of creativity and inspiration come in the warm-up as we are waiting for the “real creativity” to emerge.

How do you cultivate your creativity?

12 June, 2015

Friday Creativity - Legacy

The Rules:
1. Set a timer for five minutes
2. Look at the image and write what comes to mind, no editing, no thinking about it - just write. 
3. If you want to post what you wrote below, I'd love to read it.
4. Save what you write

11 June, 2015

Becoming an Ordinary Saint

I am currently reading The Making of an Ordinary Saint by Nathan Foster. I read his father’s book while in Africa and at the time the disciplines seemed a bit overwhelming to me. I was lost in my own dark night and so the idea of stillness, submission, fasting, or confession, which would have probably prevented much of what came after, were too much for me to even consider.

Nathan Foster
It is tragic that the church has lost the disciplines. They are a way of bringing about true communion with God. We are trying to talk to God with only the numbers' pad on our phone. We can’t talk to God and His voice is lost along the way. We are a broken, lonely, disconnected people who don’t seem to realize the power of solitude, meditation, service and guidance.

This week we will speak about submission and how it can be a source of freedom in the midst of life’s difficulties.


Foster starts with submission. This is living with hands open – it is the core of David’s humility. He knew that nothing he had was truly his and so lived his life fully submitted to God. That does not mean he got it right 100% of the time. We are all human and regardless of how much we try to yoke ourselves to God and let Him “train” us how to be, we are still flawed people in need of grace. But in the key moments, David realized he was not the author of his story and chose to leave that role with God instead of pretending it was his.

Richard Foster defines submission as: the spiritual discipline that frees us from the everlasting burden of always needing to get our own way. … We learn to hold things lightly, We are also always learning to diligently watch over the spirit in which we hold others – honoring them, preferring them and loving them" (p. 21 – Saint).

So the big deal with the actions of Sarah to Hagar, David to Bathsheba or the duplicity of Rebecca is not only did they usurp the role of God to get their own way, but they also used/destroyed another person to do it.

They put (let) their desire for a child, their lust, the need to be first, override their trust in Him. They chose to have “their own way” verses knowing God was writing a narrative through them (as he does with all who truly submit to him) and trusting his timing.

“Submission means to hold the interest of others above our own. It means freedom self-pity and self-absorption (the opposite of submission). … Self-denial is the only true path to self-fulfillment" (p.21 – Saint).

Circumstantial Freedom

Too often we only look at physical freedom. Maybe Paul’s words in Ephesians to the slaves was a key to “internal freedom, the type of freedom that can never be stolen. Do our external circumstances always dictate the level of freedom we feel? Can we find freedom through submission?" (p.28 – Saint).

The answer is no – circumstances do not dictate our freedom. People in prison, hiding or pain find true freedom and people with “everything” are imprisoned.

It’s attitudinal. It’s perspective. It is what you chose to focus on. What are you looking at? Where is your vision? What are you letting define you?

Slavery is tangible – in Ephesus, in the South, in the Middle East, and globally – the physical human bondage is real and oppressive. And yet how many live in emotional bondage; addiction, depression, submission to something other than God (money, fame, title, image, etc.)?

This does not excuse the wrongs of slavery. Nor does this imply people should just accept where they are and look for the bright side. But it does suggest that our ability to see beyond where we are is a choice. The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, is available anywhere.

If you listen to the words of the gospel songs from slavery you will find this resounding resilience coupled with a vision of something better than where they were. It was a trust in God – their deliver, their hope and their vision of freedom.

Or read the Psalms – the heart cry of David (and others). Here was a man told the kingdom would be his, only to spend 16 years on the run from the current king who wanted to kill him. He had opportunities to kill the king, but did not because it was not his place. He cried out to God in the wilderness, he submitted his circumstances to God’s hands. He was patient for his promise, in the midst of persecution, war, hatred and time. Yet he submitted – again and again – and held all he had with hands wide open before the Lord.

His greatest sin – adultery and murder – came when he let his sin compound and started to pursue his own desire. He is a great reminder that submission is not a once time action. It truly is a momentary release of control. Next week we will get into how submission affects us as individuals and why it is truly the way to freedom.

What are your reactions to the idea of submission? 

05 June, 2015

Friday Creativity - Hands

The Rules:
1. Set a timer for five minutes
2. Look at the image and write what comes to mind, no editing, no thinking about it - just write. 
3. If you want to post what you wrote below, I'd love to read it.
4. Save what you write
Image from Taryn Elise
© Amanda Lunday