Daily Verse – Three Things on Your To-Do List.

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

Romans 12:12 NIVUK

We are used to productivity gurus and time-management geniuses giving us the number one rule – have one main thing on your list, have five things, have as many as you can think of but only to the top two, etc. etc.

In this verse, the Apostle Paul puts three things on our to-do list.

Hope. Patience. Prayer.

The same three things every day.

Hope – elpis – to anticipate, to be expectant, to have confidence.

Patience – hupomenó (this is the only occurence) – to endure, to remain, to have fortitude, to persevere.

Prayer – proseuché – to pray, to worship, to be earnest in prayer.

Paul is always quite clever in the way he gives us the ‘big focus’ of our faith but also adds in qualifiers almost without notice.

Not only are we to have Hope, Patience, and Prayer, as central to our days, but we also have rejoicing, affliction, and constancy.

We are to rejoice in our hope – chairó – be glad, cheerful, calmly happy.

We are to be patient in affliction – thlipsis – trouble, burden, under pressure.

We are to be faithful in prayer – proskartereó – to continue, be diligent, to adhere to.

Paul’s to-do list isn’t one to be ticked off and consigned to the ‘completed’ archive or filing cabinet of diaries, it remains our priority everyday. We may not tick the items off everyday, but we still have the chance to do it the following day.

So rejoice in the hope of our lives with God.

Be patient in difficult and troublesome times.

Be faithful in our Prayers to God and he will lead us in both hope and difficulty.

The ‘Chicken and the Egg’ Guide for Creatives?

It is a common catchphrase – which came first, the chicken or the egg? – which appears to have a simple answer, either way, until you come to justify it.

Apparently, it was Plutarch which first posed the question in the 1st Century AD, addressing the problems of origin and first cause. Aristotle, writing four centturies earlier wouldn’t even have considered the question as he believed there was no true origin.

By the close of the Sixteenth Century the Christian world didn’t even consider the dilema as God made, or created, everything. By the Twentieth Century Evolutionary Biologists decided the answer had to be the ‘Egg’ as they calculated that the first hard shelled egg – not laid in water – couldn’t have happened until about 312 Million years ago.

So what has 2000-312,000,000 year old debate have to do with creativity?

To answer the much more pressing question of whether I am procrastinating or not!

If the egg = researching for searching for the creative impulse and chicken = actually doing the creative thing, then you are looking at the problem as I am.

I am new to art and, although I have always loved looking at art and watched lots of documentaries on art movements and artists, I am acutely aware of the lack of reference points and natural triggers I possess when I come to do the creative action.

So I research. A lot.

The it struck me, this morning as I glanced at my still empty sketchbook pages for the day, that most of the time I had for the action of creativity was in fact being taken up by the research to obtain the creative triggers, to then be creative.

So which comes first?

Creative Action?

Or Creative Thought?

Ironically, as a writer I would definitely tick the box of Creative Action. I usually start with the thinnest sliver of a starting point – maybe a few words or a person walking or entering a building – then I write. As I write the Creative Thought occurs and I get the next scene or chapter developing in my head.

As an artist the process is definitely the reverse.

Perhaps it is because there are more elements to taking action? What type of surface, what type of meduim, brushes or palette knives, sketch an outline or simply apply the paint?

In general though, how does your creativity arrive?

If you are a person of faith, or an evolutionary biologist, then you maybe decisively fall on one side or the other of the debate. Or perhaps you give the answer of certitude ‘well, it depends . . . ‘

I appear to have a foot in both camps.

My faith make me certain that the chicken came first, and if it turns out the egg was created before the chicken, then the whole creation thing happened anyway, so the principle is still proven.

I beleive that creativity comes from the Creator.

So my creative thinking process is, as I have begun to suspect, an elaborate means of procrastination.

But taking time to think and research has definitely furnished me with many creative ideas and actions!

However, if I fill in the time sheet of thought versus action, then the beginning of the Bible would go like this:

In the beginning, God took five and a half days to do research then realised it was almost the Day of Rest, so he decided to do a final bit of research and then wrote in his planner to definitely create something first thing on Sunday!

(Saturday is the Jewish Sabbath – just in case you were wondering.)

So, maybe you are like me and you are certain you’re pretty sure you know which comes first?!

Then again both options are creative, so what does it matter?

Or maybe this brings us onto another age old debate?

If a tree falls in a wood with no one there to hear it, does it make a sound?

Or, are you only being creative if there is an end product to prove it?

Go and be creatively thoughtful or creatively creative, and I will join you.

What’s New in September?

A new month. The summer is over.

Autumn may be beginning but this month is also a time for beginnings.

In the UK, September is the start of the new academic year.

New uniforms, new teachers, moving up age grades.

New knowledge and skills being learnt.

I decided to start a few new things out of a like-minded habit.

You may have noticed a couple of additional pages on the website?

First, there is Bible Reading Plans.

I’ve used the app YouVersion for a longtime now – it is awesome. There are so many translations in so many languages available, as well as a good deal of audio accompaniments, plus reading plans and prayer guides. The app allows you to join together as a community and share verses and notes.

On the Bible Reading Plans page I will put up the latest plan I am working through, and if you connect with me on the app then you can read my notes and share yours with me.

Second, there is Art Study – Weekly.

With this I am going to choose an art work each week and over the course of the seven days I will write any thoughts, feelings, insights, I have regarding the piece.

Primarily, this is to force me to be slower in considering other works of art and using them to be more informed in my own artistic endeavours.

Over on on my Instagram account @herbiecreative I will be sharing 30 days of my sketchbook – warts and all!

I am not a trained artist and I will be attempting to use lots of different mediums to create and learn new techniques.

It is going to be a busy September, but I hope there is something amongst this which will make a connection with you as well as inspire you.

God Bless You!

Herbie.

Daily Verse – Walking with the Wise.

Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.

Proverbs 13:20 NIVUK

In this recent technological era we can gain unparralleled access to the very best people in our field of interest.

Most of them even do Masterclasses to teach you everything they have learnt on their journey.

We are often told in the marketing blurb ‘they have made the mistakes so now you don’t need to’.

According to Proverbs, however, this will not make us wise.

We are instructed to walk with the wise – hō·w·lêḵ – to go along with, keep pace with, to be conversant with.

Rabbi’s like Jesus did not just ‘teach’ in the synagogues, as we might here a preacher in a pulpit, but every footstep, every conversation, every gesture, even the way he ate his meals, would be observed by his disciples and imitated.

A teacher’s wisdom was the sum of every part of them, physical, spiritual, and thought.

Literally, walking in the footsteps of those wiser than ourselves in our field of interest, creativity, spiritually, or our work, will help us to become yeḥ·kām – to be wise in word, action, or thoughts. This word only occurs three times in the Old Testament, with all of them occuring in Proverbs.

I am not suggesting that we ignore every bit of wisdom which isn’t given to us in person – as much as I might like it, I cannot take a walk with Claude Monet if I want to paint ponds – but we should perhaps make more of an effort to form relationships/friendships – mentors – where we can experience their gifts in proximity.

Find a mentor/teacher and howlek them!

Daily Verse – Psalm 105:1

Hallelujah! Thank God ! Pray to him by name!

Psalm 105:1 MSG

Depending on which translation you are reading from the phrase here ‘thank God’ could be written as ‘Praise God’.

The Greek phrase hō·w·ḏū allows for both thank and praise.

‘Thank God’ seems easier to do in your everyday life – ‘Praise God’ conjures images of spontaneaously bursting into your favourite worship song, which could be embarrassing in the middle of your favourite coffee shop.

The root of the Greek yadah is ‘yad’ which literally means to hold out your hand or throw something.

When we give thanks to God we are to hold out those thanks or literally throw them out.

Giving our thanks to God isn’t meant to be an intensly private internal thing to do.

The mindset is to be outward, towards God.

How many of us sit down with a coffee or cup of tea and exclaim, ‘I needed that!’?

Instead, trying saying ‘thank you God, I really needed that’.

If you are in your coffee shop, when you say it, people may join you in a spontaneous worship song, or just move their chairs a little further away from you.

The important thing is that your focus is upon God and giving Him thanks becomes the habit rather than moments saved up for your church service on a Sunday.

If you are a list person, or goal orientated, choose a random day and log how many times you thank God. Then, pick another day and try and beat that total.

You obviously can thank God for other things than coffee – I just know on any given day that will get my tally going strong!

Discard.

Having expectations and an overall aim are widely believed to be useful for success.

Some suggest that to be truly successful you have to break everything down into stages and specific blocks of thought and action.

Many people do achieve what they set out to using this style of methodology.

Sometimes, however, we are not clear or honest enough in our criteria.

I want to paint a cathedral is perhaps only part of our thinking, and maybe it should read I want to paint a cathedral just like Monet did.

When the image doesn’t look like we wanted it to, then we feel a sense of disappointment and doubt our abilities as a creative.

This type of thinking can affect every creative no matter what the medium.

So what can we do?

Discard.

Search through those drawers and cupboards of expectations, find them out hidden at the very back, and recycle them, or if they are plain broken then take a trip to the skip.

Discard what is not useful or helpful, no matter how long we have held onto it.

When we approach any creative endeavour we need to know the direction of our journey, but let go of the way markers we think we must count before arriving at the destination.

Like a pilgrimage, the Way should alter us.

The experience, spiritual and physical, of the journey will effect and influence us, and this will be seen in our creativity.

Monet was changed by the light. He realised that it couldn’t be captured in one painting, so he chased it. across a number of canvases, switching from one to another as the light moved.

Monet started out painting a cathedral. He finished painting light, which happened to have a cathedral in it.

Imagine if the French painter had only produced one canvas of the building in the way he thought it should look originally?

Discard your assumptions and expectations, and learn from the process, tools, and the materials you are using, how the image should finally look.

Like home and business experts advise us, take time each month to declutter and discard (or recycle) our things and our environment.

As a creative person, a major part of this should be our expectations in the realising of our final pieces.

Creativity Update.

I have taken once again to writing my reflections upon a verse of the Bible each week day. As always I write what I most need to hear and do. I am conscious of more focus on individual words in this phase of writing than before. Then the whole verse was in consideration. Now it is one word. One detail. I try to find the right expression of that word. Possibly using many more words than I need.

I had intended to finish one of my novels during this April Camp of NaNoWriMo. It stood at just over 75,000 words. By day two I completely lost the compulsion to continue. I don’t think this was due to hesitancy or doubt on my part. My focus had shifted.

Since I first summoned the courage to place artistic Apple Pencil upon iPad paper on 24th Jan of this year, I have now produced over 400 pieces of art. Many will be consigned to the dusty storage boxes of the iCloud, but I have begun to share some of them via Instagram. More courage. At times I am overwhelmed by how little I know about art and a deplorable lack of skills, in a way that I am not with writing. Despite this I am trying to fill the gaps.

As with the Daily Verse I am captured by a single detail. It may be a specific colour or combination of colours. It may be a pattern or shape. I am studying other artists and their works. I am watching YouTube videos and events online from galleries. You must watch ‘The Eye of the Storm‘ about Scottish artist James Morrison. (The link may only work if you are in the UK – sorry!)

Each image I make has become like an act of meditation. I relax. I have no anticipation of the final result. I try to be aware of God as a draw or paint. The emblem of three trees and the cross are repeated motifs.

I will try and share more, more regularly.

I’ve Been Kondo’d!

Studying martial arts from a young age taught me not underestimate the small person – for most of the time I was that small person. 

Lifestyle, tidying, de-cluttering guru, Marie Kondo is definitely one of those opponents you should be wary of. I was gentlemanly and didn’t look up her personal information but from watching just one of her tv episodes she seems tiny!

I will confess that I had read one of her books before – and that I acted upon none of it.

I read and understood the principles, I could visualise the end result, but the anxiety of being in the process left everything the way it was with just the occasional ‘putting away’ more effectively of too much stuff.

Switching study’s with my wife brought me back around to tackling clothes and other paraphernalia which needed sifting. 

Surprisingly, after the main furniture move between the two rooms, I was taking a break and looking for something to mindlessly watch for half an hour with a cup of coffee, and a well known online tv supplier highlighted Kondo’s tv series to me.

I watched. The methods detailed in her book were refreshed in my mind. I was convinced sufficiently this time to give it a go.

What did I have to lose, I already had more stuff out of the wardrobe than in it now, so I couldn’t close the doors and pretend everything was fine.

I’m not sure that I selected clothes on whether they gave me joy – except all of my rugby jerseys, of course! – but I was far more realistic, or ruthless, in getting rid of items I really hadn’t worn for a good length of time.

Then came the folding!

If it was a competition I wouldn’t have won on either speed or consistency, but the satisfaction of being able to see all of my clothes and, therefore, not just pulling out what ever was on the top was greater than I expected. Shirts on hangers, suits and dress coats in one half of the wardrobe, general outdoor jackets and gillets on the other side. I even had space left to put hats, scarves, and gloves inside, instead of in another storage unit.

Books I had already sorted, but there are items I will thin out further, just from glancing across the shelves.

Pens, pencils, cables, notebooks, paperwork, all sifted and thinned.

The numerous ‘miscellaneous’ drawers and boxes quickly became the throwaway/recycle drawers and boxes.

The final result?

The admission that I should have done all of this when I read Marie Kondo’s book to begin with!

Once the trauma of dealing with everything you have drawn into your home has been overcome, the product of less but more effective ‘stuff’ in your life is like a weight being lifted.

Once you engage with the process the ease with which you can maintain the system makes you wonder why you didn’t do this years ago.

One of the biggest lessons is the realisation that you are actually creating a system which then needs maintaining. 

It’s a flow-system like any other.

Maintain the system and enjoy the flow.

It has been a couple of months now but all is ‘flow’ still.

Plus, I am discovering the mindset is seeping in to other areas of my life.

My phone now has less apps – a lot less. I am even looking at it less. Use, as well as functionality, is a key driver now.

If there was a sticker out there declaring ‘I’ve been Kondo’d’ I would gladly display it!

What Would You Do With 47% Extra Time?

A study, led by Harvard, claims that an average ‘knowledge’ worker works in a state of distraction for 47% of their time.

Flip this around.

By being more focused they could accomplish the same amount of work in half the time.

Or potentially double their output.

Just because we are ‘creatives’ it doesn’t mean we don’t get distracted, or it doesn’t matter if we are distracted.

So how effectively can you focus?

Remember that multi-tasking is a myth – your brain focuses on each task by rapid switching, so you only ever do one task at a time.

Phone messages. Phone calls. Social Media. Changing the tunes. Not being clear on the task you will execute in a defined period of time. Not being prepared with everything you need for that task.

Any improvement in your habits or discipline, which impact that 47%, will result in a significant improvement.

Professional cycling team Ineos – formally Team Sky – are as famous for their 1% rule as they are their Tour de France victories.

Try and improve everything you do by 1%.

Over time those 1%s add up to something incredible.

  • Prepare properly – have everything you need where you need it.
  • Schedule specific tasks in your calendar and put a time limit on it.
  • Use a timer to keep you on track.
  • Limit the amount of time you need to switch away from your task – if you are hinting for 90mins don’t have a playlist which only lasts 55mins, for example.

You can Log/Record what you do in the time you devote to your creative endeavours, to see how personally bad the problem is for you. Every time you stop doing your intended task make a quick written or voice note.

Review it and do what you can to delete those clear distractions. See how much of that 47% you can gain back.

(The distraction of keeping the log doesn’t count!).

The Daily Verse – Luke 13:8

“Sir,” the man replied, “leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig round it and fertilise it.” – NIVUK

Luke 13:8

Are there areas of your life that appear to not be bearing fruit?

Have you decided to cut those areas out of your life or attend to them more carefully?

Today’s verse is taken from the Gospel of Luke and is part of a parable which Jesus is teaching from.

We are told that a man has a fig tree growing in his vineyard but for three years it has not produced fruit. He decides it is time to cut the tree down and do something else with the soil.

He calls to his gardener and gives him the order but the gardener asks for another chance – one more year – for the tree.

He will tend it – dig around it loosening the soil so the roots are watered more effectively – and he will fertilise it – adding in manure to nourish it.

The gardener will put in extra time and effort to that one tree, out of the whole vineyard, to try and get it to bear fruit.

He tells the owner, if this doesn’t work then cut the tree down.

Many commentators state that Jesus is alluding to the nation of Israel here. They have one more year to ‘repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand’.

There are many other verses in the Gospels which lend strength to his view, but often in parables Jesus has several threads in his teaching.

The owner has waited patiently. Three years is more than generous.

The gardener sees his job as caring and nurturing, not cutting down; although judicious pruning is often needed for a plant or tree to grow more healthily.

The gardener commits himself to put in the extra time and effort to aid the tree.

When the owner thinks it is worthless the gardener sees possibility.

We see this attitude in Jesus throughout the Gospels.

He takes time with people the leaders of society think are worthless. He nourishes them. They produce fruit.

In more recent times the habit of structuring our lives and getting the maximum potential out of them, we are generally encouraged to be like the vineyard owner.

If something isn’t bearing worthwhile fruit then cut it out.

Habits, possessions, use or users of time – if they aren’t productive then get rid of them.

The logic makes perfect sense and can be the right way to act.

This parable contrasts the owner’s attitude with that of the gardener. The former has put very little effort in to the vineyard and the gardener has; and he is willing to put in more time and effort on this one tree.

Is it his superior knowledge that commits him to this course of action? Or is it faith in his ability to effect a change?

If we view the tree as the sinners and the tax collectors and the sick and those who counted for nothing in Jesus’ society, then we see the difference between the owner – the religious leaders – and the gardener – Jesus.

The tree can be us, our lives – habits and actions – or perhaps the people in our lives.

The gardener doesn’t just leave the tree, he commits to the time and attention it needs.

This is how we need to look at our lives on many occasions.

Some areas may not be working that well, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t, given sufficient effort from ourselves.

It needs to be the right effort though.

We need to look at the deficient areas we all have and assess what will improve the growing conditions for our ‘trees’.

If we aren’t sure we can ask another gardener – they love to share little tips and tricks, generally from their own experiences.

So, identify a few fruit-less trees in your life and look at them with a gardener’s eye – what can you do to improve the nourishment to the tree and improve the soil it is in?