From the Desk Remix! – Information Overload and Lettuce!

Information overload.

We are living in an environment of information ubiquity, which is at times amazing.

At other times, it can be a problem.

Too much of a good thing turns out not to be good for us.

Consider this – how many doughnuts is too many? You are correct, no amount of doughnuts is too many as long as there is coffee to go with it!

Our need for new clothes to cover our expanding waistlines and the doctor’s report on our health may indicate otherwise, however.

Currently, I am reading too many books, studying too many online courses, writing too many articles/stories, and trying to work in too many art mediums.

All at the same time!

There is so much knowledge I need to acquire and so many creative things I want to do, but too many isn’t good for me.

I started musing over this today due to our recent family pet acquistion of a tortoise.

George is an amazing creature but he goes wild for lettuce. He won’t eat anything else.

It turns out that lettuce to a tortoise is like McDonalds to a teenager, or coffee and doughnuts to me.

George loves it but it isn’t good for him, as it has relatively little nutrional goodness for him.

I am trying to do too many things all at once, which I love doing, but I might not get as much from them all in the long run as if I was more focused.

I need to change my ‘diet’ and so does George.

Tortioses, however, are notoriously stubborn – something we weren’t told when we bought him.

Apparently, given sufficient water, they can go without eating for up to a month.

It turns out that I must be stubborn too, because I have been on a ‘diet of lettuce’ for a good while, knowing that it can water down everything I am trying to achieve.

George needs to change his ways and so do I.

So George and I are going to enter a pact. We will wean ourselves off of ‘lettuce’ together.

I acknowledge his side of things will be easier as I will be witholding his preferred diet and, although he may hiss at me in outrage, I will need to exert great self-discipline to match him.

I need to be more specific about what I will accomplish each day in writing and art, read one book until I have finished it, and follow one online course to the end before starting another one.

And if you can’t keep a deal with a tortoise, who can you keep one with?

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.

Discard What You Don’t Need.

This is an easy piece of advice to agree with.

Until we open a drawer, or look in a cupboard, or try and find a file on our computers.

There are lots of reasons and theories about how and why we accumulate so much stuff and our parents, spouses or partners, and professionals, telling us to cut down or not buy more to begin with.

The same can be said about our creativity.

We accumulate.

We accumulate attitudes, ideas, ways of doing, which over time can leave us in a mess.

Every now and then we may have a tidy up but how many times do we discard.

The writer Stephen King was stern in his advice to ‘kill your darlings’ – those characters, paragraphs, ideas, which are you need to discard.

It is difficult to determine what we don’t need.

Creatively, surely the more skills and techniques we have the better we become?

Yes and no.

The more skills we have the more versatile we can be, but they can also lock us into a particular way of doing things which maybe limiting.

In art, think of how differing brush strokes created whole new movements such as the Impressionists

In music, think of how discarding notes from a chord helped to produce the deeper and heavier tones of Rock/Metal.

But what do we discard?

Discard whatever is holding you back.

Creatively experiment by removing things.

If, as a writer, you spend ages writing descriptive passages because you find them difficult, then discard them. Be simple and straight to the point. Your reader will help by filling in the gaps.

If, as an artist, you struggle to draw faces then don’t draw them. Most fashion designers don’t. Go further and don’t draw the bodies either.

Discarding isn’t always about getting rid of something.

It is about making space where you can choose to bring something new in.

Replace lines for dots, chords for individual notes. A human character for a non-human character.

And remember you can discard your thoughts.

You don’t need to remind yourself of what you can’t do.

Discard.

Remind yourself of what you can do.

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 – 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.