Find Your Tribe

In my conversation with theatre Director Mark Booher, Mark shares about his first experience with theatre when he was in high school. He immediately found acceptance and community there. He argues that we all have a need to be known, and that art is a key way to know ourselves, have others know us, and relate to each other. He argues that art is an antidote to despair.

So why are we not all partaking in this?

Sadly, “we create division where we’re meant for integration”, according to Mark. We see this in every aspect of humanity: race, gender, politics, class, demographics, and even the church. While it can be very difficult to overcome cultural differences, political viewpoints, and socio-economic inequalities, art should be a safe place where people can share, be known, relate, and appreciate each other.

This is not to say all art should be the same and all creative people should agree. On the contrary, there needs to be diversity in art. But there needs to be an acceptance and appreciation for that diversity. Interestingly, unity can be built in diversity.

We were built for community. We were designed for relationship. The family unit, friendship, the gathering church, government–these were set up to safe-guard against isolation. You’d think since we are wired for community it would be effortless to maintain, but instead our modern Western culture makes it difficult. There are lots of factors for this: geography, technology, media, etc.

When we forsake relationships and don’t partake in community living, we fast become a culture that lacks empathy, loses perspective thinking, breeds discontentment, has extreme behaviors, and regresses rather than progresses. We become internally frustrated, unable to process our emotions, work through our thoughts, and find fulfillment in anything. In short, despair.

Sound familiar in this current day of rampant narcissism?

I know full-well that there are many problems with many factors, and I’m not saying that our culture will be righted if we simply take up painting and pottery and join writing groups. But these things can bring healing for sure. Being able to express and process the internal by means of an exterior venue is so healthy.

I have been challenged to get over my own insecurities, take risks, and share my creativity. This blog has been one step in that. Getting my writing out there has been another. And every time I partake in creative community I am energized, challenged, and inspired in so many ways. I swallow an antidote to despair.

I try to attend a writer’s conference at least once a year. A few years ago I hosted a writing group. Last week I co-hosted an art night at my church. I’m in the works of starting a ‘creative expression club’ that will meet once a month and share projects. And on a day-to-day basis I have open conversations and brainstorming sessions with my husband and close friends.

Whatever your creative bent is don’t be afraid to partake in its community. We all need to be known. We all need to belong. We all need community. We all have a tribe out there. We just need to show up.

Follow Your Joy

In August our Word was Imagination and our creative expression was Performing Arts. I interviewed Pacific Conservatory of Performing Arts Director Mark Booher.

Thank yous to Mark Booher and Spotlights actress Erin Drazin, actress Cassidy Sullivan, director Sarah Barthel, and actor/director/playwright Eric Drazin

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Permission to be in Process

My interview with interior decorator Susie Fitler was deeply satisfying.  I came away with lots of great things to ponder about the creative journey. But one point stuck out to me and has lead me to ask myself some provocative questions.IMG_9386

Susie talked about giving yourself permission to be in process, and by doing so, giving your kids permission to be process. In other words, allowing yourself to make mistakes and learn from them, and modeling that to others. In terms of interior decorating, Susie used the example of “putting that nail in the wall”. She is always surprised at how many people are afraid to put a nail in the wall for fear of making a mistake. As a result they have wall hangings, art pieces, and the such hidden away. She encourages her clients to be brave, take a risk, and just put that nail in the wall.

Why are we so afraid to make mistakes, especially with our creativity? Sure, there is a lot of pressure for perfection these days where our lives are on public display via social media. And there is an innate instinct to avoid vulnerability that kicked in when Adam and Eve hid their nakedness. But I think the root of all this is the Fear of Man. Hang with me as we dive into a bit of theology!IMG_9233

Mankind started out creating with freedom and courage (Adam’s first job was creating names for all the animals, for goodness’ sake!). Creativity was an expression of obedience to and communion with God. The only fear in the garden was the appropriate Fear of God, who deemed everything ‘good.’

Then the big shift happened. Lies told mankind that God wasn’t good and He didn’t have the final word on what was good. Pride made mankind shrink back from creative expression for fear of being exposed. The Fear of Man became the gatekeeper.

And that’s one thing we’re always fighting against in our creativity. What if no one likes it? What if it’s not good? What if I make a mistake?

Part of our ongoing redemption through Christ is reversing the shift that happened in Eden. We have to shift from the Fear of Man back to the Fear of God. If we have the proper perspective on our creativity–that it’s essential to life and is an offering to God–then we should no longer worry what others think of it, but rather we should find freedom in God’s opinion of it: it is good.

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As parents we delight in our kids’ art. They give us their scribbles and paint splatters, and we hang them on the fridge. In the early stages of childhood they are so eager to create and show us; there’s no fear because they know we will gush over their work and deem it ‘good.’ So does our heavenly Father with our offering, if only we will let go of our fears. I suppose this could be one example of having ‘child-like faith.’

So now I have to ask myself the tough questions:

Am I willing to make mistakes in my creativity?

Do I let my kids see me making mistakes?

Do I create an atmosphere at home that gives us all permission to make mistakes?

The answer to this last question in particular can have many layers from spiritual to practical.

Spiritual: When my kids mess up, make the wrong choice, or disobey, how do I react? I’m guilty of yelling at them, getting frustrated, etc. Rather I need to model God’s parenting: chastising, leading them to repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation. IMG_9135

Practical: Is our home set up in ways conducive to creating, exploring, and making messes? While I like our home to be aesthetically pleasing, I need to be practical. The table and chairs in our homeschool room is no looker, so the pencil marks, paint splatters, scissor-knicks, and Sharpie marker can only improve its look, right? I won’t fuss over the dirty feet smudges on the couch because it only cost me $20 from the thrift store. I buy a lot of craft supplies and Play-Doh from the Dollar Tree to save money and allow my kids to create with reckless abandon.

But most importantly, it’s my perspective that affects our creativity the most. If I’m to nurture an atmosphere at home that encourages creativity and gives permission for mistakes, I must first do the same.

 

Ditch the Labels

I really enjoyed interviewing Benji, and he gave me a lot to think about, in particular his view on Christian culture toward creativity. In his interview, he makes a point that as Image-Bearers we were created to create and delight in it. We don’t need to label our creativity as “Christian” and we don’t need to “conquer” the world and make it all “Christian”.

I come from an evangelical upbringing where being a witness for Christ was reinforced. And anything we did, whether creatively or practically, should be used as a witness to the world. If you’re gonna write a book, it should mention God. If you’re gonna paint, add the cross. If you’re gonna sing and play guitar, lead worship at a Bible study. If you go to church, serve in a ministry.

I grew up thinking my creative endeavors needed to shout out “Jesus Saves!”, and if they didn’t then they had no value. (There are some people in my life who still don’t see my writing having much value or being a reflection of God’s creativity in me because there is no Christian label on it). And I would feel guilty for not writing stories where the protagonist repented and became a believer at the end of the story. I would also feel guilty if I wanted to try something new just for the sake of enjoying it and not trying to push people to Christ. I would try to find a way to “Christianize” my creation to justify it, as if by doing this would give it value and clout.

There are quite a few problems with this mindset: IMG_9184

  1. It’s works-based, making me strive to use all my means necessary to further God’s kingdom. I delude myself thinking that if I don’t use my creativity to share the Gospel, then the world will never know about Jesus.
  2. I miss out. I avoid things not because they are sinful, but because they don’t have a Christian label and therefore are a waste of my life.
  3. As a Christian, I have to “do without”, “deny”, and “avoid.” This is the message I send to the world about being a follower of Christ. To quote Benji from one of his sermons, “It’s eating liver and drinking prune juice.”

Through the years, God has shifted my thinking as the holes in my theology have been filling in. My mindset is different:IMG_9186

  1. It’s God-centered. I don’t have to strive. God’s kingdom will be expanded with or without me. He can use any means to do this, and in His grace he can use me and my creativity. I can rest in that.
  2. I can fully enjoy life and this wondrous world He created. I can pursue anything (aside from sin, obviously) and simply enjoy and delight in it and worship God through it all.
  3. As a Christian, I should be living fully. As an Image-Bearer tapped into the Creator, I should be free in my creativity. This life style of freedom and delight and fullness will attract a dead world more than liver and prune juice ever will.

I don’t need to “Christianize” my creativity to give it value. It’s worth something because I created it. I have only started to see this as my theology has been bolstered. I’m grateful to Benji who God is using to do this on Sundays and through this interview.

As Sinclair Ferguson says in his book Devoted to God: “Knowing whose you are, who you are, and what you are for settles basic issues about how you live.”

I belong to the Creator, and I was created to create. And that’s enough.