Daily Verse – Struggle.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Ephesians 6:12 NIVUK

In this verse the Apostle Paul is teaching, and reminding, believers that our world and lives are more complicated than we think.

Before becoming believers we were purely physical beings and existed in a world of physical situations and challenges.

Now, as believers, we have had the spiritual connection, which Adam and Eve originally possessed, put back into place through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

This spiritual ‘refit’ brings us to a new life but a life which also has it’s own unique set of circumstances.

When I read through this verse this morning I got stuck on the ‘struggle’.

The Greek word used is palé and occurs only in this verse in the whole of the New Testament.

Translated mostly as ‘struggle’ it derives from the word ‘pallo’ which means wrestling or to wrestle.

Often our struggles are very much like a wrestling match. We are in the grip of an issue or problem and we are trying to pull away or overpower the ‘thing’.

I am reminded again of the story of Jacob wrestling the Angel of the Lord, mentioned in yesterday’s Daily Verse.

Jacob saw and understood our lives/world is much more complicated than we often care to consider.

We can struggle creatively as well.

Creativity is a mental and physical experience.

Even creatives who are not believers will refer to their practice as often being a spiritual process.

Recognising and making connection with the spiritual can still mean we struggle or wrestle – with doubts, with processes, with realising that physical form of the mental idea.

If we wrestle like Jacob we will become stronger in our spiritual lives and creative practices.

Daily Verse – Nothing Returns Empty.

so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

Isaiah 55:11 NIVUK

The word of the Lord never returns empty.

I’ve always thought of this verse and the return of the doves to Noah’s Ark in the same way. The doves returned with the olive branch indicating that the flood was receding and dry land was present again.

Likewise God’s words return with a sign of something better or changed.

God’s word always impacts us and others.

Isaiah speaks out loud God’s message – God’s word will not return empty – rê·qām – in vain, without cause, or void.

It will accomplish – tsalach – cause, effect, be profitable, be good – what God pleases and it will accomplish – asah – advance or become – the purpose for which He sent it.

Our words go out, but do we think about how they might return?

It is obvious from many sources that many people don’t think about what they say, or only focus on what it achieves for themselves.

We should always be careful and considered in what we say – a lesson I am often reminded I need to still learn!

Creatively, it is similar. We should consider what our creative output says to others and expect a return sign.

Words and actions.

Nothing returns empty.

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!

Line Up Your Shoes.

It is traditional when entering a Japanese home to take off your shoes and place them together, neatly, inside the hallway. These shoes should also be pointing out of the building, prepared and ready for your outward journey.

Creative types come in all shapes and sizes – like people really,

There is a romantic notion of creative genius being messy and chaotic but creating beauty out of it.

For some of us that might be true – messy and chaotic at the very least.

Others may be ordered and organised.

I have no judgement on either type, but I will confess that I can easily slip into one but prefer being the other – you can decide which.

One of the traditional ways of craftspeople and artists in Japan I admire the most is their focus on their tools and the process of creating.

For them, their tools are an extention of their movements and the process is part of the creativity.

Preparation and tool placement is very much like the chef’s mise en place.

Every thought and movement you make in the process of your creativity, helps to form the final piece.

Wasted movements take away from the creativity.

Searching for a brush you know is somewhere in a drawer, running out of a tube of paint in the process of application, trying to find the piece of paper you wrote that chord progression on in the footwell of your car, all interrupt and divert.

Organisation my not be a ‘creative’ word, but preparation and making the process as smooth as possible will have a fantastic impact upon your creativity.

Like lining up your shoes for the next journey, line up your tools for the process of creating.

Busy = Lose + Heart.

In Japanese writing the character for ‘busy’ includes the characters for ‘lose’ and ‘heart’.

To be busy is literally to lose heart.

In western society busy has come to mean working hard, becoming successful, going places.

Busy also means stressed, rushed, no time to think.

For creative people ‘busy’ can still mean working in our creative spheres but we could be losing touch with our creativity itself.

We can rush through a chapter in our novels, get another canvas started or finished, blaze through our instrumental practice.

Stuff may get done, but we may have lost our heart connection to it.

Being creative is a whole mind and body action.

It is physical action. It is mental concentration. It is an emotional effort.

Don’t be ‘busy’ or your creativity will suffer.

If you are busy then take a time-out.

Fresh air, coffee, tea, birdsong, a short walk, a shower – whatever you need to do to hit reset.

Remember your heart is in all of your creativity.

Creative Mindfulness.

Mindfulness is the new mantra covering a lot of areas from simple meditation to a mental health checklist.

Some meditation and mindfulness techniques exhort you to think of ‘nothing’.

Hit the eco-setting, dim the screen, go to a blank screen rather than screensaver.

If you are a creative then this is probably impossible.

If you have managed it, I would argue that it may not benefit you.

Being creative is who you are and not a menu-setting.

Imagine asking a dancer not to move their body whilst you play a piece of music – they would probably cause you of being cruel.

Whether you are a writer, musician, or artist, you are tuned to be creative.

It is how you respond to your environment. It is how you communicate. It is you.

So, rather than emptying your mind, sit for a short period and reflect upon your creativity.

What are you happy about in your output? What are you finding difficult? What are you being drawn to which is new?

Afterwards, write down the strongest thought which came to you.

Pursue it.

Be creative with it.

Create.

Words Fail Me.

I’ve been trying to write an update of where I currently am creatively for over a week.

Literally, the words have failed me.

I’ve struggled to even write a handful of words.

I’ve reflected upon the reasons for my sudden wordly-mutism.

The closest reason I can come to is that it is like having another language. If you stop using it, you are going to struggle to find the right words when you need it.

Recently all my creative attention has been on art – painting, drawing, looking at, watching, learning.

My words are sulking in a corner, like a dog when you arrive back home after leaving them behind.

Maybe I am not bi-lingual and this will always be a problem for me?

Or perhaps I need to balance my focus and attention between the art and writing?

What if I wrote about art or paint words?

This is undoubtedly a very creative period for me but also a little confusing as I haven’t developed a clear path through it all yet.

The pathway will become apparent.

I am reading Welsh poet Gillian Clarke’s new book Roots Home. The Welsh words catching my attention and reminding me of years spent in the vale and mountains.

My wife mentioned living in Wales again, and the next day an artist on Instagram posted a photo of the hills behind our old house. Maybe it is a sign.

I’m struggling to juggle art and words, adding Welsh into the mix could be entertaining.

But then, Dylan Thomas didn’t write in Welsh, although he undoubtedly understood it.

Roots Home.

Creative roots.

Art came before the Words.

The Art was stopped and the Words sustained me.

Art – Roots. Words – Home.

Daily Verse – Psalm 35:7

You Version

Commit to Yahweh your way.

Commit – gōl – yourself in Psalm 22, your way here in Psalm 37, and your works in Proverbs 16:3.

These are the only three occurrences of gōl in the O.T.

All three seem appropriate.

Commit to God, yourself, the way you are in life, and the works which you do.

All of these seem appropriate to creative types.

Obviously, the Psalmist includes everyone in this verse but often it is in creative types of people that you, they way you are in life, and your creative works, are most often in synchronicity.

We should always strive, out of our commitment to God, to work with the gifts we are given and reflect back to the giver of those gifts.

Our way should be one of engagement, action, encouragement, reflection.

Commit to God your way of being, seeing, and acting.

Daily Verse – Revelations 7:9

You Version

The Book of Revelation is a rich source of information and complicated.

In today’s verse I am just concentrating on a few words.

A multitude out of every nation and tribe and peoples and tongues.

Ochlos – a crowd, a multitude, like the people surrounding Jesus as he entered towns and villages.

Ethnos – out of every nation, but usually used to denote non-Jewish people. These people at the Holy City are not the people of Israel but the people of the gentile nations. Foreigners, brought to God through their faith in Jesus Christ.

This point is further emphasised with the words, tribe, people, and tongue.

There are so many things which differentiate us. So many ways of looking at others as different.

Different and differences can be good and part of God’s diverse world.

But there is one thing which can easily unite us – faith in Christ.

Until then we should help point the way and look for as many ways as we can to stand together as nations, and not stand apart.

Art, music, writing, dance, and other creative endeavours can all help build communication and message, until we all stand together.

500 Word Challenge – The Old Man.

A month or so back, I began the 500 Word Challenge.

This was a writing challenge to myself to write for approximately 15-20 minutes, about whatever was in my head at the time.

Sometimes the result was fiction. Sometimes it wasn’t.

Sometimes it took longer. Sometimes it wasn’t just 500 words.

It turns out there is a rebel in me after all.

Here is the result of one of those challenges:

The farmer O’Hare met the Old Man at the gate to North Field. This was normal on early spring mornings. The Old Man’s frame, tall and broad, had aged and weathered like the gate post which he was leaning upon.

Nine, O’Hare’s sheep dog was doing a lackadasical job of keeping a group of fifteen goats moving down the narrow lane. His master was inclined to ignore his dog’s poor workmanship on the understanding that he was a sheep dog and not a goat dog after all. 

The goats didn’t stray very far anyhow.

The Old Man had turned his gaze towards the farmer, his clear blue eyes were unblinking. His shaggy eyebrows hooded down, like a hawks. He liked O’Hare. He was a straight forward man and there weren’t too many of those in the world from his experience of it.

O’Hare greeted him with a nod of his head once he was a few feet away.

The Old Man responded with a gravelly voice which started from deep in his chest.

‘When are you going to get a proper goat dog?’

‘Far too expensive, you know that? Nine is good enough, they’re only goats after all.’

The Old Man gave a single nod of his head, then waited for the other man to give him the news.

O’Hare tried to sound level and even in his delivery.

‘I see some young fella from the city has taken your cousin’s cottage?’

‘So I am told.’

‘For a month no less?’

The Old Man turned his gaze towards Nine, who was now lying in the middle of the lane whilst the goats attacked part of the hedgerow.

‘Apparently, he is an illustrator. Plants and flowers and stuff like that.’

‘Is that so?’

‘Surely, your cousin has told you so?’

‘She knew you would do it for her.’

O’Hare laughed quickly.

‘You bastard.’

The Old Man lifted himself up from post. He was a tall man.

‘So my Mam always told me.’

O’Hare knew that was a lie. The Old Man had never known his mother, dying in child birth as she had. It was a tragedy in the village and make no mistake.

O’Hare’s attention was drawn back.

‘Have you seen the fella?’

He shook his head.

‘He arrived late last night by all accounts.’

The Old Man broke a smile which increased the lines in his face.

‘You mean by Lettie’s account, which is why you are late in getting getting the goats this far.’

‘By Jesus, I’m not that late, Old Man. You must have been out here earlier than usual, that’s all.’

‘Have it your way, Michael, but I will say you should make an honest woman of the poor girl.’

‘Girl? She’s older than the both of us!’

‘In that case what you’re doing must surely be illegal, and not just what the youngsters say about you and those goats.’

O’Hare grinned back at him, shaking his head.

‘I’m just waiting for that little fucker, Billy G to get himself closer enough to Nine – his precious Mam will have him away to the Medical Centre getting rabies shots and all sorts.’

The Old Man reached out an enormous hand and gripped the other man’s shoulder reassuringly.

‘I’ve thought about biting the little bastard myself.’

‘Once I know anything else, I will let you know, of course.’

‘Thank you, Michael, I’d appreciate that.’

He removed his hand and O’Hare turned, calling to Nine, who leapt up and went and barked at the nearest goat to at least show some form of willing.