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.

Daily Verse – Gladness and Singing.

Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.

Psalms 100:2 NIVUK

The Hebrew word translated here as ‘worship’ – ‘iḇ·ḏū – is more correctly ‘to serve’ – to be linked together in a close bond.

We are to be bonded to serve God with gladness – bə·śim·ḥāh – with pleasure, rejoicing, joyfulness.

King David was a singer and musician, so it is natural that he wrote that we should sing – bir·nā·nāh a joyful voice – to the Lord but I think we can bring to God any of our gifts.

All of our creativity can be offered in joy and service.

When you paint, when you write, when you dance or, like David, when you sing and create music, think of it all as praise and service to God.

Whatever we bring to the Lord let us do it with gladness.

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 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.

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 – Psalm 23:1

YouVersion

Yahweh is my shepherd.

ra’ah – shepherd – is only used in this verse in the entire O.T.

To tend a flock, to pasture it, to keep companion with it, to keep with it.

The Lord is with us, as a companion, looking out for us, keeping up with us.

Because of this we ‘shall not want’ – chaser – again this word is only used in this verse.

To have a lack, to fail, to lessen or be lesser, to be made lower, or to decrease.

We may feel those things if we judge by the world’s standards, but not by God’s standards.

It is not surprising that Jesus took this image as a central theme in his ministry.

The Lord is our shepherd. He is all we need.

In the midst of everything that is happening in the world, be conscious of the Shepherd with us.

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 – Psalm 46:10

YouVersion

Be still and know that I am God.

Try it right now.

One minute – sit and be still. No thoughts. Breathing calmly. Close your eyes, but no napping.

If you managed that, well done!

Most people freak out and think of all the things they have to do or should be doing or want to do.

Our society thrives on being busy.

Often times it even tries to fool you by referring to it as being engaged, active, purposeful.

Being in control of your schedule, your day, your work, your free time, is great, but it is always worth while stepping back and checking to see if you are really still in control.

On anxious days, worry and panic easily pervade our thoughts and actions.

God tells us, no matter what our circumstances to be still.

The Hebrew word for ‘still’ is harpū, and this verse is the only place it occurs – how’s that for emphatic?

Cease. Stop what you are doing or thinking.

And know that I am God.

Ūdeū – be sure, acknowledge, take knowledge, investigate, perceive, learn, know.

The word occurs 9 times in the O.T.

Be still and know.

Take time out and be aware that God is with you.

No matter what the circumstances, God is God.

The Daily Verse – Micah 6:8

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8

Do you feel like you walk with God?

Do you act justly and love mercy?

The Prophet Micah was declaring the Word of the Lord, sometime between 750 and 686BC, and amongst his prophecies he predicted the fall of Samaria, which was Israel’s capital.

In this verse, the He is God and the O mortal is just another way of referring to men/women. The latter phrase emphasises the limited life span of humans compared to God who is eternal.

The question is then set what does the Lord require of you?

Over the years many individuals and religious leaders have answered this question.

One of Jesus’ primary conflicts with the Pharisees was by holding them to account for the rules they set upon the people but didn’t hold to themselves.

Jesus phrased his answer to this question out of the first two Commandments of Moses – You shall love the Lord your God above all others and your neighbour as yourself.

This was the sum of the Law.

Micah in verse 8 phrases his answer in a very similar way – act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.

The Hebrew word mercy is ‘hesed’, which can also be translated as loving-kindness or grace.

God emphasises action and reminds the people what one of our privileges, maybe even one of mankind’s purposes was, as God walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

If you deal with others justly, prize mercy or forgiveness, then you will walk. . .with God but in a manner which doesn’t prize that fact over the heads of others.

I’m not sure any of us would openly admit to being ‘good’. We would probably hedge our bets and say we try to be.

This verse in Micah tells us that God has shown us what is ‘good’ and we certainly have the perfect example of that in Jesus.

This might not be what you might think, however.

Jesus argued with people. He turned people away. He told some that they were condemned by their own words and actions.

Now I’m not necessarily suggesting that we go out and argue with people and point out their faults, but we shouldn’t either be trapped into thinking being a Christian means being passive and lacking strength.

Micah also tells us that God wants something from us – and it is quite simple, rather than a lot of the trappings of religion we maybe used to.

We are to act honestly and with integrity in our speech and actions, within our families and with the others we come into contact with.

We are to have a heart for loving-kindness to those around us.

We are to walk humbly, to not think of ourselves in any great way, or that we are better than others, because we walk with God.

Like Adam and Eve, like Noah, like Abraham, like Moses, and like Jesus, we walk with God. In His company and in His care, all the time we walk.

Walk with God – it is an action. We need to move forward. Take steps. Journey with Grace, Justness, and in Humbleness.

The Daily Verse – Proverbs 8:34

“ Blessed the man, blessed the woman, who listens to me, awake and ready for me each morning, alert and responsive as I start my day’s work.” -MSG

Proverbs 8:34

Are you ready for God each morning?

Do you listen and look for God?

The Hebrew word translated as ‘proverb’ occurs in Numbers (23:7,18) as ‘message’ and Ezekiel (17:2) as ‘parable’.

The book of Proverbs is generally referred to as the book of wisdom, and this wisdom generally take the form of short statements which are easily to remembered by the reader.

Many of the proverbs show a result of actions taken and often are written as command.

Others are given in metaphors, and others use direct comparisons.

The sequence which Proverbs 8 falls into is generally regarded as a Father’s invitation to make wisdom, and the pursuit of it, central to your everyday life.

It asserts that wisdom is for everyone – blessed the man, blessed the woman.

As in many other places in the Bible, the reader is encouraged to listen to God and be alert and responsive.

Just as we rise and begin work, so does God – as I start my day’s work.

You may have said this yourself, but I am sure you will have heard this phrase said if not, ‘I’m not really a morning person’?

This verse in Proverbs 8 sets the beginning of each day as the most important time of the day to be with God.

A lot of modern living advice encourages you to leave your mobile phone in another room when you go to be, so it isn’t a distraction as you go to sleep, or the first thing you grab when you wake up.

Personally, I use my mobile for an alarm and I use YouVersion Bible app, and a couple of meditation prayer apps, like Presence and Pray as You Go.

So when the alarm goes I switch onto God’s word or pray first thing – I also then check the news and have been know to doze back off during prayer – which are the less intended consequences of having everything on my Mobile.

God tells us, through Solomon, that we should be awake and ready, but more importantly alert and responsive.

We need to wake up and be ready for me – be ready for God.

Often morning rituals are to prepare us for the day ahead.

God tells us our morning ritual should be about focusing ourselves on Him.

We should listen for Him – He may be with us as a voice, or as music, or in the chatter of the birds, or the blowing of the wind.

Get awake and ready, to hear God’s voice.

Be alert and responsive – pay attention and act upon that which we hear from God.

As God starts His day’s work.

This phrasing is reminiscent of the beginning of Genesis, but importantly it reminds us that God didn’t stop when he got to the Sabbath day.

God still works everyday, just as we work each day.

We need to be ready to listen and be reactive, acting upon God’s words and signs for our lives and the lives of others we come into contact with.