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.

Daily Verse – Psalm 119:11

I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Psalms 119:11 NIVUK

When we hide something we normally do so to keep it a secret.

Good or bad.

We don’t want others to know, so we can surprise them or because we understand they would think poorly of us.

The Psalmist hides God’s Word.

In the New Testament we are encouraged to take God’s Word to the ends of the Earth.

The Hebrew word ‘hidden’ (to hide) is tsaphan and it only occurs three times.

It has also been translated as treasured, esteemed, or saved.

So to hide God’s Word in our hearts – our intellect and emotions – is to value it so much we keep it close. We keep it in our hearts figuratively and literally. It is the most important thing to us.

God’s ‘Word’ is imrah – His commandment and speech.

God’s Word is not something upon a page, but something which is voiced to us.

When we read scripture from the Bible, the words are active, alive, communicating with us.

These ‘words’ support us in not sinning against the Lord – chata – we will not speak words, or commit actions, which are contrary to God.

We won’t blame, or cause harm, or lead astray.

We hide away God’s Word not just because it is valuable but so it cannot be easily taken away from us.

We keep the good things of the Lord close to us.

If God’s Word – the good things of the Lord – are at arms length, then there is space in which we can become seperated from it.

It was common, even in the time of Jesus, to bring what was valuable into your house overnight. The ground floor of houses were more like our garages, places to put not cars but animals. Things outside the house could easily fall prey to thieves or predators.

Our hearts are like those houses.

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 – Hosea 6:6

You Version

For I desire – chaphets – I delight in.

Nine occurrences in the O.T., all translated ‘desire’ but with a clear meaning to be something was pleasing or not.

Mercy – checed – goodness or kindness. Perhaps a good deed or favour.

We should all delight in kindness and favourable acts towards people.

At this time the Law allowed the Jews to offer animal sacrifices to cover or stand in place of their sins.

This is not what God wants.

He wants us to act towards our fellow people. When we show checed then we follow Christ.

How many times did Jesus heal or forgive sins, when the people of the Law told him he couldn’t?

Look back through the gospels because here we find the knowledge of God.

Daily Verse – Colossians 4:6

Colossians 4:6 https://my.bible.com/bible/113/COL.4.6

The Apostle Paul is talking again about proclaiming the mystery of Christ.

He exhorts us to talk about Jesus, the hope of our lives, wherever and whenever the opportunity presents itself. As in yesterday’s verse, we are to always be ready to share our faith, even in the face of opposition.

Today, Paul asks us to have grace in our conversations.

The Greek word is charis and it occurs 24 times in the New Testament and is mostly translated as grace and favour, from God and from ourselves as a result of God in our lives.

Strong tells us that charis is from chairo meaning: of manner or act (abstract or concrete; literal, figurative or spiritual; especially the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life; including gratitude).

Our conversations are to have God upon our hearts and be a reflection of Him in our lives.

The Daily Verse – Luke 13:19

‘It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.’ – NIVUK

Luke 13:19

What do you plant in your life?

Can you see your life as a tree?

Jesus has just had an argument with a Synagogue leader because he was criticised for healing a woman on the Sabbath.

The only things you were permitted to do on the Sabbath were to go and pray publicly or at home. Food had to be prepared the previous day. It was to be a complete day of rest.

Jesus took pity on a woman who had had a debilitating illness for eighteen years. He saw this as God’s work.

The Synagogue leader was wrapped up in the man-made laws surrounding this day of rest. He was completely unconcerned about the plight or the healing of the woman.

In response to this Jesus teaches him about the Kingdom of God.

Israel’s expectation was that the Messiah would come in triumph and over throw their oppressors. They expected a military leader who would restore the nation to power and might.

Jesus tells them the the coming Kingdom was starting with the mustard seed – the tiniest of seeds – but would eventually grow into a great tree, whose branches would become home to many types of birds.

He was teaching that the Kingdom would not just consist of the nation of Israel.

Jesus’ continual references to going plants and seeds in his parables was a common ‘language’ for the majority of his listeners. The majority of people lived rurally and would grow some food to eat and also keep a few animals.

For many of us growing is a separation of commercial growing for food, and personal plants for visual aesthetic, if you are lucky enough to have a garden.

We can use this growing metaphor and apply it to ourselves as well.

If we plant the smallest of seeds – if we begin with a positive intention – and tend the soil and care for its growth – attend daily to develop that first positive action – over a period of time the seed will become a tree – the habit will become a strength and be clearly seen by others – eventually providing a home for the birds amongst the branches – and will prove a blessing to many others as well as ourselves.

What seed could you plant in your lives?

Do you want to be more creative or organised? Do you want to learn a musical instrument? Do you want to learn a foreign language? Do you want to learn to cook better?

Do you want to develop the courage to talk to more people? Do you want to find ways to do small positive actions for those in your lives? Do you want to be fitter and healthier?

All of these things will enable you to develop those branches and bless the people who come within their reach.

If you ever get the chance to watch the documentary-movie Skid Row Marathon then I would highly recommend it.

A Los Angeles Judge is a keen runner. He is then asked by a man who he convicted and sent to jail to go down and see the Midnight Mission which was helping him get back on his feet after his release from prison.

The Judge is encouraged to help out with the Mission, so he starts a running club.

Watch the film – it is uplifting and will leave you teary eyed at the same time.

The Judge’s seed was his love of running. The tree grew as the running club developed. In the branches miracles happened.

What is the first seed you will plant?

Chase Jarvis – Creative Calling – Pt.1

You know who Chase Jarvis is right? You’ve heard of CreativeLive?

No? Then hit the links before reading any further.

It’s okay. I’ll wait for you.

Sorted? Great!

Now we all are familiar with Chase and his amazing team in CreativeLive, then let’s get into his book Creative Calling.

This book is his blueprint and experience of living a full life of creativity and harnessing the energy of your talents to live the life you truly want.

It covers all types of creative impulses and outlets.

Chase puts out a massive amount of free content in personal sharings, interviews with the top creatives and entrepreneurs in the game. There is a mass of free content on the CreativeLive site as well.

The latest offering from Chase is the Creative Calling Book Club.

This is a free 6-weekly class where you are tutored and taken through the key elements of the book with Chase Jarvis himself, for about an hour. There is usually a long Q&A session at the end as well. It takes place live each Saturday – 6pm UK time – but the content is then up on webpage shortly after.

In this post I want to share the main takeaways from Week 1.

The first takeaway is in essence a daily mantra for creatives:

  • We are all Creative!
  • Believe Creativity is a muscle!
  • Do small Creative acts in daily ways.

You don’t need to see a painter cut off his ear to know that being creative is just as much an emotional/passionate state of being as it is a job of work like any other, needing continual inspiration and daily input.

We are all Creative – most of us need to use it – that part of us – more regularly.

In fact Chase has a saying which puts this the best: Do the verb to be the noun.

You have probably heard of writer’s block? I’m not sure if there is an equivalent in other artists’ endeavours? Painter’s Block . . . Embroiderer’s Block . . . Musician’s Block . . ?

Creativity is a muscle. So what’s your daily work out and is it in your calendar alongside your physical workout?

You’ve not got either? Then that’s a whole different blog post!

Athletes don’t just train a couple of times a week. Most will train everyday, but they vary what they do and tailor workouts to specific skills in their disciplines or areas of their bodies.

Small Creative acts in daily ways. If I focus on writing, which is my predominant creative sphere, then I need to write everyday on my main project. I also need to do research. I need to read other writer’s words and see how they do their thing. I need to play around with words – use them, flip them around, drop them into different orders, see what happens and what they can do.

How do these three elements fit into you creative sphere?

The next big takeaway is IDEA.

  • I – Imagine what you want
  • D – Design a system to do it!
  • E – Execute the plan!
  • A – Amplify

What do you want from your creativity? Is it a full time career? Is it the ‘me’ time you rarely get? Is it to create art for your family and friends? The what is a value set against a graph it is the sum of your desire for your creativity.

Once you’ve decided (and it is okay to change your mind!) what you want then you need to design a system to accomplish that want. There are plenty of generic systems out there but you need to design one which fits your current life and circumstances. How much time can you put aside each day? When? What sequence do you need to create in? Get your system!

Now you have the want and the system, you’ve got to execute! Start creating and keep doing it, in line with your system, every day, or the days you’ve allocated to being creative. This is down to you. You may have the support of family and friends to help and encourage you, but ultimately it is you in the cockpit – fly the plane!

To finish with you need to amplify. Take your system and improve it, build upon it, make it slicker or bigger. Develop your want and alter it, enlarge it. Increase the time you spend on your creative endeavour. Change the days you do each element on. Switch to every other day but increase the time in one go. The choices are yours to make.

Chase Jarvis and CreativeLive – they’ve made a huge difference to my creative attitude and output. See what they can do for you.

(And no, I’m not being paid my them – they don’t even know I’m here!)

Taking a Break.

clay-banks-qBquBZ9GO9I-unsplash
Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

If you choose to take a break, have you broken your habit?

I’ve written just over 63,000 words in the last 7 weeks, with the aim of writing at least 1,000 words a day.

I established the habit I wanted of writing a minimum of 1,000 words a day.

Then two days ago, I stopped writing.

It was a conscious choice.

The story was going fine. I am a ‘pantser’ by inclination and, creatively, I was having no problems.

The problem came from the characters themselves.

They were easy characters, working well together.

They had a plot which was going forward and had layers. They didn’t grumble.

But they pull me to one side and ask me one question – we know what’s going on, but does the reader?

I looked blankly at them and then asked for more coffee.

They were right.

I was leaving the reader to make big leaps in understanding of the characters from subtle clues in the things they said.

The characters left me alone to work the problem out.

The first thing to do was stop writing.

Another one thousand more words which weren’t quite hitting the spot wasn’t going to help.

I realised I was going to have to make changes in what I had written so far, but I wasn’t going to do that now.

Finish the story. Edit after.

What I needed to do know was realise all of the character points I knew in their backgrounds, and let that information out to the reader, without them having to do an ‘escape room’ puzzle to work it out.

I am writing a thriller. Not a character trait treasure hunt.

I have dropped the reader into the midst of a group of tight characters.

The reader needs to understand how they got where they are and why.

I am the writer, so it’s my job to get them up to speed.

The main characters know we are back to work as normal tomorrow.

Break-time is over.

I’ve looked them in the eye, and I think they believe me.

Creativity on the Clock.

Photo by Tristan Gassert on Unsplash
Photo by <a href=”http://Tristan Gassert on Unsplash

Normal is no longer ‘normal’.

The rules have changed.

All those books, videos, and articles, telling us how to streamline our days to gain us that often small precious window of time to achieve our creative endeavours, are now a thing of the past.

Why?

Because we all suddenly have gained lots of extra time.

Commuting time. Coffee break and lunch time, where most of us probably still sat at our desks and worked. Outside the house hobby and sport time.

You can make your own list.

Instead we have the pressure to create because we have all of this ‘time to create’ time.

It turns out that having all the time we need is just as paralysing as not having enough time for our creative endeavours.

So what’s the solution?

For me, I went on the clock.

Some of you might remember going to work and having to ‘clock in’?

You had a card and you put it in the machine and your name and time ended up on a little printed receipt roll, which told the office that you had turned up on time, worked your day (when you clocked out) so they should pay you your full daily amount.

My own version of this has been to set a count down timer for fifteen minutes.

I clock in – press start.

Then stop when Chewbacca roars at me.

It doesn’t sound much, does it?

Fifteen minutes.

But with this timer I’m hitting an average of 440 words in that fifteen minutes and this includes ‘thinking time’, as I am generally a ‘pantser’ when I write fiction.

Two fifteen minute sessions and I am almost hitting my minimum 1000 word target a day.

Why did I choose 15 minutes?

Two reasons.

I realised that I often wrote as much in 15-20 minutes as I sometimes did in an hour!

And, I could not possibly find an excuse not to write for fifteen minutes if/when our new normal goes back to the old normal.

Try it for yourselves.

Set a timer for whatever period works best for your type of creativity.

It might be a 30 minutes session if you are a musician? An hour session if you paint.

Remember you can do multiples!

Experiment.

Clock in and clock out.

Let me know how you get on with it.