Report from Down Under

It is hard to believe that the first week of our trip Down Under is over.  Much to my discouragement the weather here in Sydney has been cold and wet – not much fun for Black Stump where most of the speaking was in tents.  I came back to my mother’s with very muddy shoes and feeling i needed to dry out before embarking on the next part of our trip.

However we still thoroughly enjoyed the festival – an opportunity to reconnect to old friends like John and Glenna Smith as well as to make new ones like Ash Barker and Jim Reiher from UNOH (Urban Neighbours of Hope).  I also loved the emphasis on social justice issues.  Lots of fair trade tea, coffee and chocolate.  Lots of talk about issues of slavery, poverty and human rights.  We spoke mainly in the TEAR Australia tent.  The only disadvantage was that in the background they were making rice and dahl for lunch and the wonderful aroma wafted through our speaking area tantalizing our senses.

We are really looking forward to speaking at the UNOH conference this weekend and from there i will fly to Launceston Tasmania for a week while Tom stays in Melbourne where he will be working with World Vision.  We then drive to Adelaide together and spend a week at tabor College before flying back to Sydney for the last week of our trek.  Hard to keep all the bits and pieces in the air but hopefully we will all be at the right place at the right time.

One of the things I really enjoy about a trip like this is that it stretches my understanding of God and of what it means to be a person of Christian faith.  I realize that it is very easy for me and in fact for all of us to put up barriers to listening to people and perspectives that are different from our own.  A trip like this blows out the cobwebs for me and helps me to see a bigger and more incredible God than I ever thought possible.

This does not mean that I unconditionally accept everything I hear but it does force me to think, to analyse and to reflect.  It also forces me to go back to the Bible to to see what it really says about a variety of issues from poverty to women’s rights and what it means to be holy.  My thinking is constantly changing which can make me feel a little insecure at times but the great part is that it helps me to see that God is far bigger and more impressive than I ever thought.

Part of what I realize is that whenever we think we understand God we limit God’s ability to reveal himself to us and we limit our understanding of the awe inspiring nature of God.  Not that we can ever understand God – in fact the longer I am a Christian the less I feel I understand God – which I am sure is healthy because I realize that it is rather arrogant of me to think that I could ever understand the creator of the entire universe.

Anyhow I am probably rambling here.  Hopefully as I continue to travel I will be able to more coherently express what i am thinking here particularly as it relates to my interest in interpreting our daily activities as spiritual practices.

The Spirituality of Creating

This morning there is much to share – lots of creative juices flowing which is very much in keeping with the theme of today’s spiritual practice.

First I am in busy preparation mode for upcoming events which you might like to check out.

I will be speaking at the West Coast Healthcare Missions and Ministry Conference in Pasadena CA September 17 – 19

Also getting ready for Mustard Seed Associates Wild Camano Forest tour September 26th.

Tom and I head out for Australia September 29th.  If you are interested in connecting we will be at:

Black Stump Festival

Intensives (a week each) at Worldview Centre for Intercultural Studies Tasmania

Tom will speak on Joining the New Conspirators in the Shadow of the Empire

My topic Spiritual Rhythms for Everyday Life in a Hectic World

UNOH – A Revolution for Hope

Another intensive at Tabor College Adelaide

So all of that as preamble to the latest in What is a Spiritual Practice from John Chandler – The Spirituality of Creating.  John is a pastor in Austin Texas.  He blogs at Some Strange Ideas

Most of my life, I’ve been been stuck with one consistent label. Whether teachers, family, friends, or those who just didn’t know what to do with me, I was told I was “creative”. Of course I like to be called…if feels cool. But in recent years, I’m learning that it is one thing to be called creative and it is another thing entirely to be creative. It’s hard work to create something.

And why is it hard?

Because to create, to make something, is a spiritual practice.

A few years ago, good friends were visiting us while we lived in Seattle. To enjoy the time them and share the beauty of the Pacific NW, we took a drive across Whidbey Island. On our drive we settled into a discussion of what it means to be made in the image of God. As I took in the beautiful scenery sweeping past the windows of our minivan, I came to a realization that had never occurred to me before…

To be made in the image of God is to be made a creative being. I had always considered that being made in the image of God means that we have the core characteristics of God’s image imprinted on our soul, no matter how broken we may be. Every human shares God’s need to give and receive love, compassion, pleasure and relationship. Likewise, a person who makes, who creates, is a human who is straining into the image of God that sits in their soul.

Now you might have realized long ago that to be creative is to exercise the image of God within. But for me, it was a fresh, important, and empowering shift in how I view my “creative” label. It was not just who I was, but who I am meant to be. And whether or not you’ve been told you’re creative, it’s who you were made to be as well.

The Creator was the first creative, and that first act of creating was an expression of love. NT Wright describes it this way: The creation of the world was the free outpouring of God’s powerful love. The one true God made a world that was other than himself, because that is what love delights to do.

And every creative act since, in it’s most pure form, is an act of love. It is a gift to others, an invitation to life and goodness. The strokes of a pen, the dabs of paint, the strums of a guitar — any act of creativity is a partnering with God in re-creation. In Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott penned these words about the beauty, and the difficulty, of writing. But I think you could translate her words to any creative expression:

You are going to have to give and give and give and give, or there’s no reason for you to be writing. You have to give from the deepest part of yourself, and you are going to have to go on giving, and the giving is going to have to be its own reward. There is no cosmic importance to your getting something published, but there is in learning to be a giver.

The compulsion I feel, and you feel, to make something new is crying out from the core of our humanity. It is calling you to give yourself for the benefit of others. And that is why it is hard, and why sometimes you feel blocked. The part of you that is broken, the part of you that only wants to be concerned about the protection of self, is trying to hold back who God created you to be. You bear the image of the Creator.