Adventures AWAKE

A pithy little blog encouraging creative adventures of the Christian spirit

Under the Influence March 24, 2010

“At some point in your life, you need to decide if you are going to impress people…

or influence them.” 

~ Gary Haugen, International Justice Mission

I’ll be honest, sometimes when I sense someone is wanting to impress me or others I end up left with a bad taste in my mouth. (I know I shouldn’t judge…) I don’t want flash, I want substance.

But what am I doing on a daily basis?

Am I going through my day bent on impressing certain people? — or am  I working on my influence? Substance is an awfully mundane topic but it’s absolutely essential if I am who I say I am. And, it doesn’t happen by accident. Substance is the fall-back of character. Despite the sometimes tedious nature of establishing it, truth be told I want it to be the foundation of my parenting, my work, my art, my spiritual life…virtually, everything. When someone has influenced me, I move closer to their way of being. I’m not just like them while they’re around; that would equate to a reaction to peer pressure. I become something different and it sticks. For whatever compunction, I leave part of my old ways behind. Thinking about it, when I’ve sought to impress someone I tend to be a copy of someone — or something — else. And, who wants to be a copy?

 As I gain life experience (a.k.a. “get older” but not that old), I’ve realized that without examining my days through the lense of influence, whether I want to admit it or not the quality of them is diminished. It’s kind of like my sudden need for readers. I can get away without the age-exposing eyewear but I know I’m missing detail. I’m aware things aren’t as sharp as they could be. (Thank goodness WholeFoods sells really cute ones, now).  I want to be sharp — capturing every brilliant detail of God’s creative plan for me.

 

Want an adventure? Consider whether your life has centered on impressing people or influencing them, lately. What difference would it make in how you’ve been approaching things? Ask a friend if he/she notices one characteristic moreso than the other in you. True strength resides in humility. Humility undergirds lasting influence. And, that kind of  influence can change the world.

 

The-500-Year-Question December 23, 2009

 

The year is quickly coming to a close. (Once again, the season finds me wondering HOW it is upon me so fast). And this morning as I read an excerpt from Refractions by Makoto Fujimura, I had to pause.

If life seems to speed up as we tally years, if my life is a blip on the radar of history, if I hope to be more than a “blink” of goodness in my time on earth, the greatest gift I could offer would be a means of transcending the dash of this season. As this sense of time flies at me, it seems right to ponder a gift which will make life — your’s and mine — richer, fuller, more engaging, and a bigger blessing to the “close others” in our lives. Beginning now.

It occurs to me that the best gift I could give comes in the form of a question I tripped over in what I read this morning. The question is one Makoto recalled as he stepped back, breathtaken, from the beautiful painting, Madonna and Child, at the Met’s 2005 exhibit of Fra Angelico. It  is “The 500 Year Question,” according to Fujimura.

“What is the five-hundred-year question? Well, it’s a long-term, historical look at the reality of our cultures that asks, What ideas, what art, what vision in our current culture has the capacity to affect  humanity for more than five hundred years? It’s the opposite of the Warholian ‘fifteen minutes of fame.’ It’s also a question I raise to my teenagers, whose cutlure celebrates immediate gratification, also seeking after ‘fifteen minutes of fame.’ If our decisions matter and make ripple effects in the world, then should we not weigh what we say and do in light of the five-hundred-year question?…If Fra Angelico were alive today, he would have a hard time being apprenticed or finding anyone to teach him his craft, let alone joining an order. The church is not the first place a creative genius would look to be trained in art. That statement alone reveals how much Christians have abdicated our responsibility to steward culture…In short, we are all staggering about, or should be…those who have eyes to see. That is precisely how we should react to Fra Angelico and the five-hundred-year question. We stagger because we have lost even our ability to ask that question.”

I get sucked into the drivel of our culture…heck, of my calendar. And I, too, have teenagers. The slick, fine and beautiful garner the most attention, too many days (that and the scandalous trainwrecks outlined on the nightly news, in tabloids and entertainment “journalism”). But what can I say and do — TODAY — that has the capacity to affect humanity in 2509? Afterall, Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “He has planted eternity in our hearts.” When we live for less, we undoubtedly find ourselves yearning for more. Purpose. We change history by how we live now. 

Though this may sound like more of a new year’s wish than a Christmas gift, I place it directly beneath the branches of your glorious tannenbaum. For I find no greater occasion to consider what has been given to us than what will truly last well-beyond when our overstuffed trashbags and overfilled stomaches are again empty. This Christmas, I humbly invite you to a Renaissance of spirit. To a creche turned Kingdom. To a silent, peaceful, revolution of heart. May it carry us both world-changingly forward — ever toward God’s creative heart.

Merry Christmas all year through…

Want an adventure? The question is it. Spend the last week of this year considering how to spend each day in the its shadow…

 

Dance like nobody’s watching August 31, 2009

Gillian Lynne

Recently, I heard creative guru Ken Robinson tell the story of Gillian Lynne. Gillian is choreographer of the Broadway hit Cats, which ran 21 years in London’s West End and 18 years on Broadway. She also directed and choreographed Phantom of the Opera. Impressive. But when she was a little girl, Gillian was a not so impressive — o.k., frankly a horrid — student. Her school thought she had a terrible learning problem and she couldn’t quit fidgeting. So her parents took her to see a specialist; hoping to figure out what could be done. After listening to Gillian’s mother voice her concerns, the man told Gillian that he wanted to speak to her mother alone for a few minutes in the other room. As they left his office, the specialist turned on the radio and — just outside the door — told her mom to turn around and watch. As soon as they left the room the girl was on her feet swaying to the music. The specialist said to Gillian’s mother, “Your daughter’s not sick…she’s a dancer. Take her to a dance school.” So she did. And, there the girl met others who, by her account, were just like her: they needed to move to think.

Gillian went on to become a gifted dance soloist, graduate from the Royal Ballet, open her own school and eventually meet Andrew Lloyd Webber, composer of the two mega-hit Broadway shows which she collaborated on. All it took was someone looking and really seeing her for who she was — for what was inside trying to wiggle its way out. And once that someone saw, once the people around her believed in her potential —  Gillian’s creative capacity was unleashed. Her future was cast as she entered the dance studio. (I imagine somewhere deep in her creative spirit came a huge sense of “at last!“) But what if the specialist had gone along with the school, labeled her a problem, medicated her and left it at that?

Because it gives others a glimpse at our souls, sharing our creativity is risky. Mark Twain said: “Sing like no one’s listening, love like you’ve never been hurt, dance like nobody’s watching, and live like its heaven on earth.”  It was only when Gillian danced — thinking no one was watching — that she was freed to choreograph her future. It must have been heaven.

In Jeremiah 1:1-9, God tells Jeremiah that  He knew him before he was born and has set him apart to do great things. In that way, we are all like Jeremiah. Even he had excuses, but God would hear nothing of them! Like Gillian Lynne, we all have a dance inside us, too. And God has set the stage; our lives are a working production — choreographed to engage our unique combination of abilities. We have to show up, work hard, discipline ourselves to develop into our gifts but no one else can handle your part and you won’t be satisfied until you join in.

Your creativity is important…life-giving! Stop making excuses and enjoy the joy of your God-given talents.

 

Want an adventure?  Think about it: How has your creativity gone unrecognized, misunderstood or resisted (by you or by others)? How have you been labeled — or perhaps, labeled yourself? What excuses have you made? Why? Who do you know who needs to embrace their gifting? How can you encourage both of you to “join in the dance”?

 

Creative Resistance August 26, 2009

One night I was layin’ down,palate

I heard Papa talkin’ to Mama.

I heard Papa say, to let that boy boogie-woogie.

Cause it’s in him and it’s got to come out.

~ John Lee Hooker, “Boogie Chillen”

Resistance is the most toxic force on the planet. It is the root of more unhappiness than poverty, disease, and erectile dysfunction. To yield to Resistance deforms our spirit. It stunts us and makes us less than we are and were born to be. If you believe in God (and I do) you must declare Resistance evil, for it prevents us from achieving the life God intended when He endowed each of us with our own unique genius. Genius is a Latin word; the Romans used it to denote an inner spirit, holy and inviolable, which watches over us, guiding us to our calling. A writer writes with his genius; an artist paints with hers; everyone who creates operates from this sacramental center. It is our soul’s seat, the vessel that holds our being-in-potential, our star’s beacon and Polaris.

~ Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

 

Want an adventure?  The Holy Spirit is genius!!! Think about it: How has your spirit been deformed by resistance to God’s endowed gifts in your life and the Spirit’s guidance of that calling? The opposite of resistance is acceptance. Enjoy the freedom and fun of operating from the center of who you were made to be! Take some time to acknowledge your gratitude for the opportunities that this opens up to you.

P.S. To embrace your genius, read Pressfield’s book. A kick in the creative butt for those of us who need it.

 

A servantless American blogger August 20, 2009

Filed under: Art,Journey — Amy Pierson @ 7:29 am
Tags: , , , ,

I used to blog often. Fairly regularly. It was fun. It was fresh. The ideas seemed to flow. But lately it seems the pressure is a tad overwhelming. To be clever enough to earn someone’s reading time…whew! And, without interaction with readers, it’s tough to tell whether or not I’m hitting the mark. Sending words out into space not really being sure if they’re ever read is like the feeling you get when talking to someone who is terribly distracted. Occasionally, you’ll get a grunt of acknowledgement through a comment or two but generally it’s a one way, unspectacular conversation. It’s a lonely blog world.

If you’ve seen the movie Julie & Julia, the scene where Julie has a meltdown and lies snivelling on the floor with her stuffed chicken wondering if she’s making a difference…that would be me. (OK…I’m not snivelling but I am earnestlywondering). I began this blog on the premise that we are all creative and God speaks to each of us in a uniquely creative voice. I am committed to the message! I want to encourage both of us to pay attention to Him — to hear, see, taste, touch and smell the God who regularly prompts us to engage in the conversation.

In my art and in my writing — any creative endeavor, really — I depend on His voice to breathe life into the process. As I blog, I realize that quite likely I am the “someone who is terribly distracted” when God is speaking. If the ideas are drying up and the motivation appearing to wane, it seems logical that it is precisely because of my inattentiveness and underestimation of my value in the conversation.Julie blogging

 

Want an adventure? Spend some time engaged with the voice of God. Tell me how God has been speaking to you lately. In art? — show me the work. In nature? — send me a snapshot. In literature? — share the title. In film? — give me your review.

 

Nothing is really something July 31, 2009

statue_of_liberty needle artNeedle-eye sculpture

 

My friend, Ellen, sent me this link. Talk about individual creativity!

Abraham was promised his descendants would number more than every one in the sea… (Genesis 32:12)

God’s precious thoughts toward each of us outnumber them… (Psalm 139:17-18)

…and this incredibly focused artist, Willard Wigan, sculpts them. Get this: We’re talking about grains of sand!

 

Follow the link above (the one under the picture) and watch the ABC News story of what this talented man has taught himself to do. It is incredible. It is painstaking. And, it is worth a LOT of money because of its uniqueness. (Did you hear the part about painting with a hair plucked from the back of a housefly?) Recounting how he started doing this form of sculpture, Wigan explains how his teachers made him “feel small…like nothing,” so his goal became to prove “that nothing doesn’t exist”.

In watching this footage a few thoughts gnawed at me:

  • How inestimably precious each of us is to God — our Creator. 
  • It is hard to get my brain around Willard’s work let alone God’s! He shapes us on an even more intricate, quantum level — involving body, spirit and experience).
  • How painstakingly He designed every detail of my form and experience. (Rarely do I consider what God is going through as I struggle to be His vision of who he created me to be.)
  • The driving force behind Willard Wigan seems to be a woundedness yet — by sharing from this place — his wounds have created great earthly gain.

I pray Mr. Wigans has embraced his extraordinary value and purpose in the eyes and at the hands of his Creator. What an amazing gift!

 

Want an adventure? Read Psalm 139:14-18. Meditate on God’s perfect plan in your unique design. Looking at your life, how do you notice Him gently scraping and sculpting you? Dwell on the Truth that you are precious, prized and loved with purpose. Bask in that today. You are really something!