Sunday Scripture ~ Genesis 1:1

The New City Catechism asks, “Who is God?” and then provides an answer based on the very first verse behind the leather cover of your Bible:

“God is the Creator of everyone and everything.”

Whether you are personally in the business of creating by threading a needle or making music on a keyboard or by stringing together sentences on another kind of keyboard, your urge and ability to create come from your Creator.

From the time when Adam took up residence in Eden with no instruction manual other than God’s permission to “master it,” humanity has been unwrapping God’s gifts and glorifying Him as co-creators, even if some fail, in this life, to acknowledge His role in it all.

This Sunday, let’s delight in God’s creation and in His gift of creativity,

 

 

Advertisements

An Invitation to the Generative Life

Our first summer living on this country hill, the budget was tight and luxuries were few.  I had planted a garden that seemed huge to me at the time, and a friend, intending to surprise me, weeded the entire plot as a generous gift from the heart.  How could she have known that those random shoots between the green beans would have become marigolds or that the tomato plants had been interspersed with a potential forest of sunflowers?  Reading Culture Care by Makoto Fujimura explained for me the long ago disappointment and the deep sense of loss that clouded my gratitude to that well-meaning friend:  those flower seeds had been planted just for joy.  To me, they had represented hope and beauty in a world that ran almost exclusively toward practicality.

Our common lives become far too common when we fail to carve out a space for beauty.  Makoto argues effectively that when we starve our souls in pursuit of our “living,” we lose sight of our own nature as creative beings, made in the image of a Creator God who calls us to lives of fruitfulness and beauty.  Working from insights gained in his calling as an artist, the author invites his readers into the generative life, which is “fruitful, originat[es] new life, [and] . . . draws on creativity to bring into being something fresh and life giving.”

Capture

I’m sharing my review of Makoto Fujimura’s influential book over at The Perennial Gen today, and you are invited to click on over and join us there! The Perennial Gen is a space for men and women in the second half of life to cultivate frank conversation about transitions in our faith, culture, church, relationships, vocation, and bodies. Be sure to check out some of the great writing there when you visit.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope,

michele signature rose[1]

 

It’s Time to Stop Comparing and Start Rejoicing

I am, by nature, a do-er, but one of my favorite, long-time friends can “squander” an entire afternoon over tea and conversation without batting a remorseful eyelash. When we were both in the trenches of parenting toddlers, we twirled long phone cords, and I heard her sleep-deprived voice say, “Sometimes I just sit on the couch and watch the kids play.”

Really?

Thunderstruck, I’m sure I must have added “Sit on couch. Watch kids play.” to my list for the next day, but I will never naturally live in the moment like that dear friend does.

Then, there’s my friend with the beautifully decorated and perpetually spotless house. I dearly love her and her glistening floors, but I am, by nature, oblivious. Once I have walked by a sock beside the coffee table three times, it magically disappears. From her, I am learning the joy of grabbing the sock on the first pass and using it to swipe dust off the piano on my way to the laundry room.

And yes, there are also giraffes, and platypuses, and the wild hyenas of the Serengeti, but I ask you, ladies and gentlemen:  Is there anything in all of God’s glorious creation that demonstrates His creativity and imagination more outrageously than human personality? God delights in our humanity, and He invites us to delight in His God-ness.

Rejoice in the Many Expressions of Orthodoxy

Why, then, are we so reluctant to celebrate the richness of orthodoxy in all its many expressions? Maybe your church (like ours) enjoys the musical gifts of both Charles Wesley AND the Gettys on a Sunday morning–or maybe you lift your voices together to psalms sung in unison. In Chapter 8 of Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton shouts “Vive la Différence!”. . . as well could be expected from a posh British intellectual:

“All modern philosophies are chains which connect and fetter; Christianity is a sword which separates and sets free. No other philosophy makes God actually rejoice in the separation of the universe into living souls.” (198)

This is an invitation to rejoice in the rich diversity of “living souls” that abound even within the walls of our own homes, which sure beats complaining about the ways in which our differences irritate and provoke.

Rejoice in the Sacred Separation

Chesterton goes on to exult in the sacred separation between God and humanity:

“That a man may love God it is necessary that there should be not only a God to be loved, but a man to love him. All those vague theosophical minds for whom the universe is an immense melting-pot are exactly the minds which shrink instinctively from that earthquake saying of our Gospels, which declare the the Son of God came not with peace but with a sundering sword.”  (198)

Jen Wilkin puts it this way in None Like Him:

“Human beings created to bear the image of God instead aspire to become like God. Designed to reflect His glory, we choose instead to rival it. We do so by reaching for those attributes that are true only of God, those suited only to a limitless being. Rather than worship and trust in the omniscience of God, we desire to be all-knowing ourselves. . . Like our father Adam and our mother Eve, we long for that which is intended only for God.”

Even with our smart phones, we are not omnipresent or omniscient. Even with our long days and our overloaded calendars, we are not infinite. Pining for that which has not been given, either in our comparison to God or to one another, is the surest path to ingratitude, discontent, envy–or worse.

Rejoice in the Process of Sanctification

God has graciously invited his much-loved children into the process of sanctification whereby we find ourselves living our way into attributes of God that not only make us more like Him, but also draw us closer to our families, friends, and all those who need our holiness, our faithfulness, and our patience in order to see what God is like.

May we find grace to celebrate humanity, mothering, wife-ing, AND orthodoxy in all their expressions and resist the urge to shoe-horn one another into ill-fitting identities that fall short of expressing all the manifold glory of God, utterly separate and other, and yet closer to us than our next breath.


As usual, your insights on Chesterton’s writing are welcome in the comments below, and if you are also inspired to create your own blog post, be sure to share the link with us so we can continue the conversation over at your place.

This post is part eight in a meandering journey through Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton. If you’re just joining us, you can start here for the rationale behind this project. The journey through Orthodoxy has taken us into topics as diverse as parenting, the irony of free will, the humility of being right, and the miracle of God’s creative genius. In May, we examined Chesterton’s thoughts on patriotism just in time for Memorial Day, and in June we marveled at the “furious opposites” inherent in orthodoxy. Next month, Lord willing, we’ll conclude the series with a discussion of Chapter 9!

Joining you in resisting “the huge syntheses of humbug” (203) and leaning into the glorious freedom of truth,

michele signature rose[1]

Just one more thing:  If, like me, Orthodoxy is one of those books you’ve “always meant to read,” you’ll be glad to know that it’s available in a Kindle edition at a very low price. Amazon prices do fluctuate, but the last time I checked it was under a dollar!

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular content delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

Partners in Revelation: Bringing Beauty into View

If it is true that, as we age, we become even more of whatever we have been all our lives, then Luci Shaw is becoming more and more difficult to “shelve.”  A poet and essayist well into her eighties, she continues to tackle topics ranging from quantum mechanics and the incarnation to the haecceity** of things and what it means to “doubt faithfully.”  Thumbprint in the Clay examines these themes and more within the context of Luci’s decoding of the rich presence of purpose, design, and beauty in the universe in which we see God’s fingerprints and His invitation to become part of the creative process.

In four places in Scripture, God is identified metaphorically as a potter, and, made in His image, we also delight in the creation of useful and beautiful things. This response to beauty should not surprise us, for it is a “mark of the Maker,” and Luci Shaw has concluded that “beauty doesn’t reside simply in what we observe or the fact that we can see and take note, but in how we perceive and distinguish with all our senses.”  The glory of this is that as seers, we become “partners in revelation to bring beauty into view.”

A collector of pottery through the years, Luci invites her readers to consider the beauty that results when something is imprinted or stamped upon clay — or upon a life.  Impressions are made and influence has its “in-flowing” way with us and we are changed.  As reflectors of the image of a creative God, all believers (and artists in particular) are called to reflect that image authentically so as to impact culture.  By way of illustration, Luci shares a heart-warming story in which she helps a homeless woman, and the happy-ever-after just doesn’t come true.  The help of one person was not enough to fix the “sad, smeared print” of a whole life, and yet out of that untidy tale of disappointment has come a more informed community of believers who are working together to help the needy.

Luci’s generous sharing of the sting of inadequacy (“Oh, God of living compassion and tender mercy, what could we have done differently?”) gives me courage to view my own failures with more grace, perhaps as part of God’s marking and molding of this lump of clay.  Certainly God used various methods in Scripture to mark His people:  Jacob’s limp from wrestling with God never left him; Miriam was marked with leprosy and Moses with radiance in direct correlation to their demonstration of faith; Zechariah was stamped with a nine-month silence.

Most joyful and inspiring is Thumbprint‘s underlying narrative of Luci’s own yielding to the Potter’s shaping and molding.  Her heritage of “missionary blood” with all the baggage and expectations that cling to it, her wrestling with faith and doubt (something she reminds me that one cannot do from a distance), and her ever-curious approach to life through travel, outdoor adventures, and asking the questions have all marked her.  Poems sprinkled liberally throughout the pages serve to document her progress and to pull me into the quest for fresh ways of saying the ancient Truth.  I’m challenged by this observation about words and The Word:

“. . . we must be prepared to open our eyes, to move from what has become a well-worn bit of dogma in our minds to a vivid picture vigorous enough to freshen a relationship with God.”

I can just barely imagine the experience of being present when THE wardrobe from C.S. Lewis’s home arrived at the Marion E. Wade Collection in Wheaton, of finding his coat still hanging inside, of looking for tufts of Aslan fur.  Insights into Luci’s formative relationship with Lewis scholar Clyde Kilby and Luci’s creative collaboration and friendship with Madeleine L’Engle are a treat for those of us who have followed Luci’s career (and say that we want to BE Luci Shaw when we grow up!).

“Generativity” is a word that shows up in one of Luci’s books, a word about growth and pushing forward into the future, and the reality of that word emanates with blazing brightness from between the lines of Thumbprint in the Clay.  Having been imprinted by Christ, the questions to His followers hang in the air like a challenge:

  • Can we live in awareness of the rich evidence of purpose, the fingerprints of God upon His world, and then invite others into the creative process?
  •  Can we listen and respond to the voice of God as He speaks Truth to the world (and directly to our searching hearts) through beauty, order, and grace?
  • Can we view the circumstances of our lives (whatever they may be) as the continual reshaping and remaking of our Potter God?

//

** I never read a Luci Shaw book without gaining a new word.  Naturally I had to show this one off.  It literally means “thisness”and refers to “the essential unique quality of every created thing.”  The idea was proposed by 14th century philosopher John Duns Scotus and is demonstrated well in the poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins.

This book was provided by IVP Books, an imprint of InterVarsity Press, in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews from Living Our Days delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

 

For the Creative Soul

I am a utilitarian knitter with mittens, dish cloths, and the occasional scarf as my only output, but even so, one of the things that is always in my sturdy, grab-and-go backpack is a pair of knitting needles holding my current knitting project.  It may go for months untouched, but I value any time that I get to spend on it.  Knit. Purl. Pray. by Lisa Bogart reminded me of all the reasons why.  In the steady rhythm of following a pattern there is space for quiet reflection, and Lisa comes alongside her readers to fill those moments with “a smile of recognition or a gentle conviction, but always a look toward heaven.”

Hard core knitters will delight in Lisa’s references to specific stitches and knitting terminology.  “He takes things away (K2tog), and He gives blessings (yarnovers).”  However, anyone who is devoted to an artistic pursuit in the context of believingly following Jesus Christ will benefit from her thoughts on focus, on prayer, on obedience and trust, as well as the scriptural basis for her insights.

I especially appreciated the sense of awe Lisa’s devotionals inspire in considering the elegant dance of eye-hand coordination and muscle memory that goes into every knitted garment and that trumpets the miracle of God’s “knitting us together” so “fearfully and wonderfully.”  It goes without saying that Knit. Purl. Pray should be a supplement to daily time reading in the Scriptures, and, then, each of the fifty-two readings ends with a prayer that stitches in place that day’s devotional thought.

Years ago I received a hand-knitted sweater made by a dear friend, and I have always enjoyed wearing it — not only because it is a thing of great beauty and warmth, but also because, although we rarely see each other now, through that sweater I have felt connected to my friend.  Reading Lisa’s words, I know why:  “There is no doubt of the love behind the needles.  I feel prayer is probably the most important part of the sweater.  [As I knit], I wrap my loved one in prayer all year long.”

Every stitch wrapped in prayer.

Every prayer wrapped in love.

I can’t think of a better reason for knitting!


Early Christmas shopping tip:  Knit. Purl. Pray along with the yarn and appropriate needles required to complete the two patterns included in the book would be a very thoughtful and unique gift for the crafters in your life!


This book was provided by Worthy Publishing in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews from Living Our Days delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page.

I link-up with these communities on a regular basis:   Looking Up,   Soli Deo Gloria Connections, Inspire Me Mondays, Good Morning Mondays, Soul Survival, Testimony Tuesday, Titus 2 Tuesday, Tell His Story, Coffee for Your Heart, Live Free Thursdays, Faith-Filled Fridays, Grace and Truth, Fellowship Friday, Still Saturday, The Weekend Brew, Sunday Stillness, Faith and Fellowship, Blessing Counters, Women with Intention, Sharing His Beauty, Monday Musings, Motivate and Rejuvenate Monday, Thought Provoking Thursday, Small Wonder, A Little R & R, Beloved Brews, SusanBMead, Faith Along the Way, Cozy Reading Spot, Reflect, Literacy Musing Mondays, Purposeful Faith, The Loft, Words with Winter, Rich Faith Rising, Encourage Me Monday, Tuesday Talk, What to Read Wednesday, Booknificent Thursday