Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Capturing Creativity

A friend and I recently planned a retreat called, "Capturing Creativity." We held it at a local ranch that is set up to host quilters, scrapbookers, beaders ... basically, anyone who wants to get away to a beautiful and quiet place to "create". Eleven of us enjoyed three full days of quilting, crocheting, crosstitch, crafts, sewing, games, delicious food, meaningful worship and devotions.

Here is the devotion I shared on the first night of our retreat, which lays a Biblical foundation for the pursuit of creativity in each of our lives:

Capturing Creativity

We're not calling this a quilter's retreat, because some of us won't be quilting, but crocheting, crafting, or crosstitching. So we decided to call this a "creativity retreat", which can include any creative project.

Many of us don't feel we are creative. We don't paint, sculpture, decorate, do crafts, etc., but as we will see over the next few days, there is a legitimate Biblical basis for making room for some aspect of creativity in our lives. In planning this retreat, we wanted it to not only be a relaxed "get-away-from-all-the-distractions" time to focus on our creative projects, but we also hoped to take a look at what the Bible has to say about creativity and the arts.

Tonight I'll introduce the topic, then after each of our meals I'll be sharing a 5-10 minute "nugget" focused on one aspect of creativity, with a longer time of sharing in the evenings, and a wrap-up session on Sunday morning.

Gene Edward Veith said in his exellent article, "Stealing Beauty", which appeared in WORLD magazine's March 2004 issue:

"Christians are in a position to recover the arts. This is important because the arts are valuable in themselves, as gifts of God, and because the arts are a powerful means of shaping the culture and influencing the human heart. At a time when current ideologies are undermining what is most valuable in the arts, the Bible can restore them ... The Bible has much to say about the arts. A good part of the Old Testament is taken up with God's detailed commands for human beings to make things, specifically, the designs for the Tabernacle, the Temple, and their furnishings and decorations. The most direct and explicitly Biblical passage about the arts has to do with the calling and the equipping of Bezaleel, the artist in charge of making the Tabernacle:

Exodus 35:30-36:2 says, "Then Moses said to the people of Israel, 'See, the Lord has called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; and He has filled him with the spirit of God, with SKILL, with INTELLIGENCE, with KNOWLEDGE, and with CRAFTSMANSHIP, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold and silver and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, for work in every skilled craft."

Veith goes on to say,

" given a task by God, who has called him not into some prophetic office...but to work with his hands, to serve God and his neighbors by being an artist."

Veith points out that the:

"main purpose of the lavish and elaborate adornment of the place where God would meet His people seems to have been purely aesthetic. The garments of the priests were to be made 'for the glory and for beauty'. The splendor of it all would glorify God and would offer a glimpse of the glory of the courts of heaven. As such, beauty is an end in itself."

We often won't pursue a creative project unless it is to be given as a gift or used in ministry of some sort (which are, of course, wonderful reasons to be creative). We sometimes carry around needless guilt over being artistic, maybe because we are having so much fun! But when we look at God's directions for the building and decorating of the tabernacle, much of what was used was purely for beauty's sake in and of itself, to reflect the glorious beautiful character of God. God was extravagant in the decoration of the tabernacle, and when we look around at all He's created here on earth, we see He has also lavished upon US His extravagant beauty in all of His creation, from the tiniest flower to majestic mountaintops!

It is obvious God values color, texture, melodies, aromas ~ BEAUTY! As Psalm 19:1 says, "The heavens are telling the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands."

Some truths we can glean from the passage in Exodus, and also from Veith's article are:

  • God highly esteems art.
  • The desire to create and work with our hands comes directly from Him.
  • One of creativity's purposes is to reflect the glory of God, giving us a glimpse of His nature.
Edith Schaeffer's book, The Hidden Art of Homemaking, laid a strong foundation in my early married life, to consider all the creative aspects of homemaking. Edith challenged me to:

  • See the home as an incredible place in which to demonstrate the creative nature of God.
  • Understand that God is the original artist.
  • Know that God, the creator of the universe and everything we see in this world, indwells within us. We bear His image, and that includes His attribute of creativity, even though it is spoiled by sin.
  • Embrace the knowledge that it is not a waste of time or a selfish pursuit to delve into some aspect of creativity - it is simply expressing who God is.
I love what Edith said about creativity:

"Each of us has within us the capacity to express in some form, what others can see, hear, smell, feel, taste, understand, enjoy, be stimulated by, be involved in, find refreshment in, find satisfaction in, find fulfillment in, enter into. Art satisfies and fulfills something in the person creating and in those responding."

So we hope this weekend will give you a glimpse of creativity as God intended it, and that it will increase your desire to "work with your hands" to create something beautiful.


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Why Make a Home?

My earliest attempt at homemaking was in a cardboard box. Daddy dealt in large appliances, so there was always an empty refrigerator or washing machine box lying around in our backyard to use for my little home. I'd cut square holes for windows and tack up "curtains" I'd made from my mom's fabric stash. Smaller boxes became a table and chairs, which I'd also cover in scrap fabric. My best friend, Margaret, and I would get busy creating a tea party in our little cardboard cottage. The menu usually consisted of mud pies made from dirt we'd dug up in the alley behind my house. We'd decorate these "pies" with a wide variety of tiny twigs, small rocks and leaves, or if we were really going for the "professional" look, the small white blossoms off the citrus trees in our backyard. "Tea" (muddy water) was served from my miniature plastic tea set as we entered the world of make believe homemakers, complete with some sort of accessory (most often one of Mom's costume jewelry cast-offs, an old apron, or her ruffled silky red petticoat) hanging off our jeans and t-shirts. My most memorable outfit for tea was the fake fur and high heels I'd gotten one year for Christmas when I was five years old. We were certainly the picture of high-society ladies in our little appliance box world!

So even early in my life, I loved the whole idea of “playing house”. But when I became a wife and mother, and the realities of homemaking set in, (washing dishes, doing laundry, cooking meals, and cleaning house) I found myself losing motivation for doing any of it. There were moments when it felt like drudgery and I was just slogging my way through it all. In my early years of marriage and motherhood, I led a Bible study for women on the attributes of God. Through this study, I discovered precious truths about who God is – that He is a God of creativity, hospitality, order, beauty, peace, comfort, joy, and love. It was one of the richest times in my life for spiritual growth, because I was discovering the beauty and fulfillment of beholding God.

Somewhere along the way, two ideas began to merge in my mind – that of God’s attributes, and the fact that He is preparing a home for me in heaven – one that will be filled up with every aspect of His nature. He says in John 14:2, “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” A wonderful thought came to me – God is preparing a place for me. He is making a home for me. God is a homemaker!

I began to look at my own homemaking efforts with a fresh perspective. If God is making a home for me – one that will be beautiful, creative, orderly, peaceful, welcoming, loving, joyful, comforting and filled to the brim with a knowledge of Him, wouldn’t it bring Him glory to "shadow" that heavenly home in my earthly home? What greater motivation could I have in my homemaking efforts than to bring more of God to my loved ones – and give them a tiny glimpse of heaven.

As I studied the word “home” in scripture, it was comforting to learn that God is not just preparing a home for me in heaven. He has declared Himself to be “home” for me right now - my dwelling place, shelter, refuge, and habitation...

“God makes a home for the lonely.” Psalm 68:6

“Lord, Thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations.” Psalm 90:1

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty ... for you have made the Lord, my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place.” Psalm 91:1

“Be Thou to me a rock of habitation, to which I may continually come.” Psalm 71:3

“The eternal God is a dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” Deuteronomy 33:27

“Moreover, I will make my dwelling among you.” Leviticus 26:11

As children of God, through the work of Christ on the cross, we have the incredible privilege of being God’s “dwelling place” – the temple in which He lives. He is our rock of habitation – the One in whom we “reside”. God places a high value on the idea of HOME. He longs to be our home, He is preparing a home for us, and He wants to use our earthly homes to reveal Himself to the world.

We are a broken people - sinful, flawed, self-centered, and prone to wander. Yet God, through His enabling grace and sufficiency, calls us to create a home in which all those who gather around our tables and hearths might see His glory and experience His attributes in some small measure. God chose an unpretentious stable in which to enter this world, somehow it seems consistent with His nature to continue to manifest Himself within the rooms of our humble homes.

In heaven, we will clearly see and experience the fullness of all the attributes of God – His love, joy, comfort, beauty, creativity, protection, order, peace, hospitality, knowledge and more. No matter how diligent our homemaking efforts, right now we will see and experience him in our homes dimly, "through a glass darkly", but praise God we, and others, can still see HIM!