Word of the Week

CreativityCourage2I'm a fan of courageous people who are also writers. And I'd say that Elizabeth Gilbert is one of them.

Many of you know her from her 2006 bestseller, Eat Pray Love which chronicled her healing journey from divorce while visiting Italy, India and Bali.

(I also loved Gilbert's not as widely read follow-up memoir, Committed: A Love Story. I've even used this collection of essays on marriage in my pre-marital counseling sessions!)

And this is what I want to tell you today . . .

One of the best books I've read in 2015 hands down is Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.

As I continue to navigate the ups and downs of my relationship to the creative, I feel I couldn't have discovered this book at a better time.

For from the first couple of chapters, it's clear that Gilbert is serious.

She slams down all of the good excuses we offer instead of creating.

You’re afraid you have no talent. You’re afraid you’ll be rejected or criticized or ridiculed or misunderstood or—worst of all—ignored. You’re afraid there’s no market for your creativity, and therefore no point in pursuing it. You’re afraid somebody else already did it better. You’re afraid everybody else already did it better. You’re afraid somebody will steal your ideas, so it’s safer to keep them hidden forever in the dark. You’re afraid that someday you’ll look back on your creative endeavors as having been a giant waste of time, effort, and money. You’re afraid you don’t have the right kind of discipline.

The bottom line is all of these excuses are fear-based.

Gilbert then suggests an alternative. Just do it.

So not giving into fear, we do something about that essay, that book project, that painting, that garden, that wood carving, or that song that is in us and longing to get out and bless the world!

On page 89 she writes, "Are you considering becoming a creative person? Too late, you already are one. To even call someone 'a creative person' is almost laughably redundant; creativity is the hallmark of our species. . . . If you are alive, you're a creative person."

So this is the word:

Write: even if your book never gets published.

Cook fancy dinners: even if your family is the only ones to taste it.

Plant flowers: even if no one else appreciates it.

Do the creative work for the love of the work itself, Gilbert says.

Throw out the idea that you don't have time.

Drawing upon the metaphor of being in love for the first time-- remembering how two lovers steal away any moment they can get to be together-- Gilbert says honor your creative soul in the same way. We all have little pockets in our day. Indulge ourselves. Create!

People ask me all the time, how it is that I keep up this blog. How do I have time? How do I have things to say? How do I make the posts happen?

The real answer is simple. I just do it.

I can't not write. I can't not blog. I can't not share what I experience with you, my beloved audience. So because it's this important to me, then I always have time to write.

I hoard moments on airplanes. I hoard moments right before I go to bed. I hoard moments when I'm in between appointments. Sometimes Kevin looks over at me on the computer with that focused stare and asks, "Are you blogging again?" Of course, I am! 

For several years ago, I decided to say yes to creativity.

Even if I wasn't the best writer in a line-up. Even if I hit publish on a post full of typos sometimes (or maybe a lot). Even if nobody ever read what I offered. When inspiration came, I would do something about it.

It was a scary decision, yes. It has changed my daily patterns, yes. But it's a choice I've never regretted. Because I am a creative person. And I must create. And my SOUL THANKS ME every day.

So what are you working on? I'd love to hear. Post a comment or send me an email. We've got to encourage each other.

Making-Progress-QuoteIf you're the type of person who's interested in personal or spiritual growth (and probably you are because you're reading this blog!) then there's often comes a point when you wonder, "Am I making progress?  Is my life any different this year than it was the last?"

It's hard to know sometimes, of course-- self-improvements are objective.

This Lent at The Federated Church, a small group of us studied a book I found particularly helpful on this topic called, A Clearing Season by Sarah Parsons. 

Within the chapter, "New Growth" Parsons gives 4 ways we can know that new growth is happening in our lives.

First, spiritually open people are creative.

She exhorts us: "As we open ourselves by successfully clearing space in our lives, creativity energy flows more easily.  . . . My own creative impulses are as small as a desire to cook dinner . . ."

So many of us think of creativity as something "those kinds" of people do. Not us. We say "I can't sew. I can't draw. We can't arrange flowers." And because of these things we assume that we're not creative. But Parsons points out here with her cooking dinner example that all of us can create something.

Woodwork, gardening, painting, writing, dancing and the list could go on and on. I've heard it said that the greatest enemy to creativity is comparison. So who cares that you're not a rock star?

Second, spiritually open people are loving.

Parson writes, "As we grow spiritually and new life springs up in us, we discover that we have more love to give, and we feel more confident in our giving."

It's so easy to believe in a world of scarcity, to believe that there's not a enough love to go around. But when we are spiritually open, Parson says, we approach life with the freedom of loving lavishly. We tell people how we feel about them. We open our heart to new members of our social circles. We make time for the most important moments of life. We love without strings attached!

Third, spiritually open people welcome surprises.

Parson says, "A willingness to be surprised is a matter of trust in God, of trusting that somehow God's surprises are always good."

Each new day IS an invitation to surprise. Even if we think our day is planned from the moment our feet hit the floor, there's always the possibility of factors we cannot control. And aren't surprises are the best? A conversation that lingers long. An encouraging card in the mail. A tasty meal. A glorious sunset. A chance to see the Big Dipper in the night sky.

Openness to God is always about the possibility of what the Divine could only orchestrate for our days. And aren't the words of Isaiah 43:19 so wonderful when God says to us, "I am about to do a new thing; now that it springs forth, do you not perceive it?"

Fourth, spiritually open people are vulnerable.

Consider this, "Most people" Parson writes, "can recall an experience of being vulnerable that left them hurt, and we can start to think that our vulnerability was the problem. If we just avoid showing our weakness, we can avoid all hurt in the future. But Paul offers us the opposite lesson, 'I will boast all the more gladly in my weakness, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me." (1 Cor. 12:9)

Or, otherwise known as speaking our truth. A warning here: not everyone can handle our vulnerability (and not everyone has earned the right to hear our stories as Brene Brown would say). But there are some gems of people who can. Through them, we receive the blessings like compassion and forgiveness.

So are you getting somewhere? I bet you are!

Many of us can be so HARD on ourselves. We don't celebrate that we've moved an inch when we've think we should have moved mile!  As an aside, a dear friend of mine frequently tells me when I start complaining like this, "Don't should all over yourself." And it's so true!

Here's your homework: take a walk alone. Sit quietly for a few extra minutes in the morning. Sit outside in a beautiful place. Be still and know God. And the rest will come!

People ask me all the time what I miss about church life? Do I miss preaching all the time? Do I miss the committee meetings? Do I miss the hospital visits? Do I miss the cranky people calling me after church on Sunday afternoon?

I'm not really sure how to answer these questions.

Because yes, I do miss church life.

I miss putting on a robe on Sunday morning with the wind of courage behind me, filled with something to say to eager listeners.

I miss people calling me to say "I just needed to talk to my pastor."

I miss the privilege of walking an adult through a baptismal process and seeing the light come to their eyes just before the water touches them.

I miss Sunday potlucks-- you know the meal that is best served at a church where you really never know what exactly you are eating . . .

(But, no I don't miss anything with the description "cranky" in it. And no, I most certainly don't miss long committee meetings).

However, all this to say, as much as I miss these things, I know I'm in the right place. I know this season of life as a non-traditional work-er, minister type in the world is where I am to learn.

Sometimes, in life, I believe, we are asked to give up what is most comfortable, what we most know, or even what makes the most sense to us and our educated friends around us. We are asked by God to seek out the new.

I was having a conversation with a colleague a couple of weeks ago. It was a colleague I'd worked with in denominational life connected to my most recent pastorate, a colleague I hadn't seen in six months. It was fun to see her happy face again.

Yet, personally, it was a sad day for me when we ran into each other. A day when I was thinking a lot about what I had lost and how much I missed about my former life. But this colleague surprised me with the first words coming out of her mouth were, "Girl, you are looking so good!"

How could she say that I wondered? I had just been crying in fact.

She went on to explain was that my posture seemed more relaxed, more at ease, that their was light in my eyes she hadn't seen in me when I was going about the business of keeping a particular church in good order. I thought, well, now that's interesting . . .

This colleague then asked me more about my future plans and what came out of my mouth was, "I feel called to create something that is yet to exist."

Well, then. That was news to even my own ears. Called to create something that doesn't exist . . .

Upon further reflection of this moment, I realized maybe this was why she said I was looking well. As much as I do miss the familiar or even the simple joy of putting on a robe and saying, "Thanks be to God" every Sunday-- there's something about this season of re-evaluating, of re-grouping, of renaming that suits my soul quite well.

I am more myself. I am more at ease. There's light pointing me in new directions I might have been scared to death of years ago, but now I'm here. There's no turning back now.

It doesn't mean the path to get to this unknown place is easy though. It might suit my soul. But, my body doesn't like it very much at all.

My days are often filled with self-doubt, loneliness and lots of prayers of "Why can't I be like everyone else?"

I want to work normal hours. I want my work to be respected and acknowledged-- even paid for from time to time. I want to not feel so alone as I usually do between the hours of 8-6 pm every day.

But in the meantime, I try to see the progress I'm making along this path of what I know not of, and what does not exist yet.

I eagerly look forward to any opportunities to connect with other like-minded thinkers and doers-- even if I have to travel to another state to find them.

I eagerly look forward to moments when my ministerial identity gets to be expressed in an life-giving and affirming way (such is hard to come by in Oklahoma, but that's another story for another day).

I eagerly look forward to the day-- whenever that may be-- when my eyes get to see the dreams come to pass that my heart has had a long-standing commitment to.

And on that day, I'm sure I'll probably say that the journey, no matter how long or hard it has been was worth it.

But until then, all I can say is this kind of creative work is harder than I could have ever imagined.