I Can Imagine…

Holy hell!

Twenty-seven people were killed today during a Sunday morning worship service inside a Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. About half of their congregation’s average attendance is dead, among them a two-year-old; four children are among those hospitalized. The shooter is one of the dead.

I can’t even imagine…we say. Yet that’s not true.

By power of imagination and regular practice, I can mentally seat myself in a church, with my loved ones and friends, my church family. We are singing, or praying, or jotting down salient points from the sermon. Though we each bring our assorted baggage, in this time and place we are unified in spirit. All is calm.

I can hear the Sanctuary door jarred open, the bang and squeak disrupting the quiet moment. I can see heads turning in confusion, wondering at the interruption. I can hear the pop pop pop shattering the worshipful hush, the fearful screams, the shouts to “Get down!” I can see those who would sacrifice themselves leaping from the pews, rushing the gunman, the thud of bullet meeting muscle, the shudder, and the gunman stepping over fallen bodies to continue his bloody rampage.

How long does it last–minutes feel like years–and how would it end? At what point does the gunman decide to turn his weapon on himself? Because that’s how it happens, usually (what hell do we live in that I can write, “usually”?), unless police arrive to stop him with their own bullets.

I can see the aftermath: the scared and crying congregation, some shirking from the bloodied bodies, retreating into themselves; some wailing; some jumping into immediate action, whether from well-worn servanthood or numbness; many running from the Sanctuary-scene to the courtyard, falling into hugs and prayer, clinging to one another in desperation. I can see (I pray I never see) fellow worshipers—children, teens, adults—those with whom I have prayed and served for years, gone in a gun’s flash.

Carrie Matula embraces a woman after a fatal shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017. Matula said she heard the shooting from the gas station where she works a block away. (Nick Wagner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

How will we recover? Through faith, with prayer (and a healthy dose of talk therapy), with the strange togetherness that results from shared experience no matter how awful. Some will fall away, unable to fathom a God who would allow this to happen in His house. Some will take their fear and anger to God, and some will take it out on Him.

I can imagine the horror. I wish I couldn’t. Mass shootings in the U.S. have become such a terribly regular occurrence that even as we are horrified we also aren’t surprised.

Can we please, please, pretty please (because the reality is the antithesis to pretty) end the madness?

Forward

Oh friends, how I have needed the words and wisdom of this post…! Even for those who don’t think of themselves as Creatives, our very lives are adventures we have the privilege to create. Ann yearns to cheer-lead and encourage, and I’m certain others also need the cool refreshment she’s offering, the gentle nudge to keep going. Let’s keep moving forward, stronger for moving forward together.

re:create recess #17: Ann McDonald

Forward.

I’m soul stirred by the concept of inhabiting forward motion lately.

Truth? I’m not even sure I know what that means, but it feels like the daily practice of choosing to leave yesterday completely behind so today and tomorrow can actually be new…

…new places and spaces where creating is fresh, not simply re-purposed from what we’ve always done.

There is this holy unrest in me to move forward. To see what is possible.

We’ve got something else to build, you and I.

It’s not time to settle in and get small.

The concept of soul-downsizing offends me, as I see some of my acquaintances fold up hope and shrink back in fear. Considering their ideas and dreams old and of no use…they call it wisdom. But it feels more like embarrassment or self-judgment…that comes not from God, not from love.

I believe our best upsized soul days are ahead. Let’s walk those days out together, you and I. It isn’t exit stage left just yet…no matter what age or cycle.

My heart yearns to cheer-lead and encourage in this season.

To remind us we’ve got something never before seen inside of us that wants to be created and come out.

Jesus came to give us abundant life and there is a piece of abundance that includes more.

It’s the “lying one” that came to steal, kill and destroy.

If our thoughts start to steal hope in us, they need to go.

If our dreams start to kill the blessing of prosperity, they need to go.

If our imaginations turn destructive, they must bow to the name of Jesus…and find, in that name, grace for hope in today and most certainly, tomorrow.

Everywhere I turn, my heart burns to lift our collective countenance.

To empower us to the next heap of joy. Not sappy happy, but deeply seeded, “heaven is actually real and it wants to break in on our every-day” kind of joy.

There is this piece of me that yearns to stand on the park bench and get my Berkeley preacher girl on:

“Take the music lessons at 80”
“Learn to ride the horse at 70”
“I heard about this couple named Sarah and Abraham who had a family after 90….”
“Build the idea you’re afraid of into an abundantly prosperous business at 30 – 60 – 100”
“Start an orphanage”
“Bring water to a village”

Why? Because we can’t create those things from a place of downsizing in our soul. They must come from a place of hope and courage. Those things come from abundance…

“Write the book”
“Write the book”
“Write the book!”

Why? Because you may not see yourself as an author, but heaven knows you as one…and time is waning, the veil is thinning…

As I see it, we humans are a resilient and marvelous bunch. Every single one, created by God with something great inside, but we must steward our part forward.

It’s not easy, but sometimes it is. Sometimes there is grace for today to forget and forgive ourselves so we can live our best fearless day with dreams abandoned to the impossible becoming possible…

This is my re:create cry in this season.

Re:create what is impossible without God.

Try.

And so this holy unrest in me to move forward. To build something new. To be something I’ve never been.

Forward. Upsized. In spirit, soul and vision.

Stretch our tent pegs to the right and to the left.

Every day we get a new chance. Every day. Every day we set the coffee and pour a cup for Jesus, convinced at some point He will, in fact, show up to drink.

What is our everyday hope? Do we still have one? Can we even find one in all the noise?

What is our tomorrow dream?

Don’t downsize your soul and fold it up because it feels hard or heavy.

Turn on the lights at home. Buy a new pillow. Have a dinner party. Have a dance party. Host a prayer group that keeps the music on and the feet walking while the prayers ascend…

So many questions I know, but for the Creative, questions stir life.

There must be unanswered questions that move our soul into places in glory we’ve dared to dream of…

For today, let the spaces and places you inhabit move you forward…not hold you back.

And here dear one, is our collective key: the doors only open forward…

Xo – Ann

Creative Ann McDonald has been designing spaces & places and enterprises from ideas for over 30 years. Having lived & worked in New York City, Beverly Hills and now the San Francisco Bay Area, she exists to empower people to do great things. Ann believes joy is strength and if God said it, it must be true…even when we can’t see it just yet. Her Idea to Implementation curriculum is part of the 7 Mountain Message, she mentors Kingdom Entrepreneurs & equips people to create prosperity from ideas.

She and her husband Patrick have recently co-created a new health minded endeavor, Forwardshape™, set to launch Fall 2017. The purpose of Forwardshape™ is to empower a multi-generational movement away from shame, regret, unbelief and unforgiveness into joy, peace and righteousness in the everyday. To join the movement free of charge prior to launch, visit www.forwardshape.com.

 

 

Re:Create • Sanctified Imagination

Pictures of cute kittens and babies aside, one of the more useful benefits of social media is connecting with people you haven’t seen in a while. That’s exactly what happened when, a few years ago, I got a message from a friend I hadn’t seen in over 20 years. He had stumbled across our church website, then found my picture, and reached out. Since then I have been grateful to be back in touch, especially through his posts on Facebook and his blog. Quite a thoughtful writer, I am thrilled to have him share on the blog today. We would all do well to consider how the people in our lives shape the stories we read, tell, and live.

re:create recess #2: Randy Ehle

Re:Create
One of the greatest truths of our humanity is that we are created in God’s image. And being created in the image of the Creator God—the creative God—means we, too, are creative. Creation came into being when God spoke. He has revealed himself for all history through his Word, written. His redeeming Son, Jesus, is called The Word. And so my image-of-God creativity is expressed in words.

Re:New
I grew up in the church, so I knew all the stories, all the books, all the characters. I knew about daring to be a Daniel and being patient like Job (though frankly, Job never seemed all that patient to me once I really read him). I knew the twelve disciples and most of the twelve sons of Jacob. I knew Moses and Joseph, David and Jonathan, Samson and Delilah. I’m sure I had the full set of Little Golden Books, including Jonah’s whale and Jericho’s tumbling walls.

But by the time I’d become a pastor, the stories had become merely that: stories. Even with more translations at my fingertips than Legion’s demons, I could scarcely read my Bible without already knowing what comes next. Familiarity had bred, if not contempt, at least complacency. Then I met Carolyn.

Carolyn volunteered in our church office. Warm, chatty, deeply caring, and ever wanting to learn more about Jesus, Carolyn and I had long conversations about life, the Bible, and whether the God of the Old Testament changed in the New. I learned as much from Carolyn’s questions as she did from any of my seminary-trained insights. I also learned something about disabilities. You see, Carolyn had been in a wheelchair for a quarter century, the result of a freak accident in which her mail jeep overturned, pinning her under a mound of first-class letters, junk mail, and packages.

Carolyn's baptism in the American River

Carolyn’s baptism in the American River

As I got to know Carolyn, I also met anew some men and women I’d been reading about since childhood: the blind men, lepers, and paralytics whose lives intersected with, and were changed by, Jesus. As I heard more of Carolyn’s story—not just the accident, but everyday life with a lower spine injury—I began to wonder about the lives of those biblical men and women.

Re:Write
Though I’ve enjoyed writing since my school days, for most of my life I wrote only for myself. Even when I began writing a blog, I did little to solicit readers. Writing was an outlet for the thoughts and ideas circulating in my head, but I never felt I had much to add to the world’s conversations. Any conversation. Meeting Carolyn began to change that, and led me to think about another paralytic:

His friends created the world’s first skylight, lowered his bed through the hole, and hoped beyond hope they wouldn’t have to lift him out the same way. Waving the swirling dust away from his face, the itinerant healer in the room below spoke … not words of healing, but of conviction!

“Your sins are forgiven.”

We who are familiar readers of the text barely skip a beat here. We rush right on by, scarcely noticing the crowd’s incredulity. We want to get to the good stuff, the miracles, the healing. We know what comes next and love to watch Jesus stick it to the self-righteous religious folks … who, of course, are not we. Because of Carolyn, I read the words with new eyes; like a blind man given new sight, I began to see beyond the words on the page.

The over-crowded room had only packed tighter with the invasion of the horizontal alien from above. The dust and dirt of the impromptu renovation choked throats while the brief cooling from the escaping air was replaced with the heat of the noonday sun now streaming onto their heads.

“Your sins are forgiven.”

What?!? What in the world does that mean?

Neither the hushed crowd nor the prone man could believe what they’d heard. They were equally incredulous, but for vastly different reasons: the crowd, because of the healer’s audacity to think he had the right to forgive sins; the paralytic, because of the audacity to think he—crippled as he was—had even the slightest capacity to sin.

If we were filming in 21st century style, we might pause the action here and focus the camera on the man’s reclined face. He would speak an aside, directly to the audience, revealing his inner thoughts and feelings. Having no such cinematic tools at our disposal, however, we are left to our imaginations – our sanctified imaginations. It’s a term my mom uses often to encourage deep, extra-biblical thinking about feelings, thoughts, and actions the Bible doesn’t tell us. And so I write—or rather, rewrite—from that sanctified imagination.

In recounting the story of the paralytic, the gospel writers are concerned with Jesus’ divine authority. Saying “your sins are forgiven” is easy and shows no visible effect; but causing a known cripple to walk is no cheap trick. In fact, the evangelists tell us, this is more about confirming Jesus’ authority to forgive than about demonstrating mercy.

There’s more to the story; more to the story that’s written, and more to the story that’s not written. Maybe my re:creation—my sanctified imagination—will open others’ eyes to the Creator. Maybe my words will open others’ ears to the Word whose Word is Life. Maybe I have something to add to the conversation, after all.

rehle-bio

 

Randy Ehle is a husband and father, coach and teacher, writer and speaker. He was—and longs again to be—a pastor. He’s lived in Canada, Germany, England, and throughout the United States; and has traveled on four of the seven continents. A self-described “rushed contemplative,” Randy has known life and death, gain and loss, wisdom and foolishness. He uses writing as a creative outlet, spiritual inspiration, and personal challenge for his readers. Find more of Randy’s thoughts at www.randehle.com.

The (Wounded) Artist

Create Challenge Guest Post #1 – woo hoo!

I am so excited to devote Wednesdays on this blog to create a platform for friends wide and far, from every arena of my life, to share their perspective on and experience of creativity. And I am a big fan of today’s guest post author, Paul Quinlivan, as I’ve been cheering him on since he was in junior high. He held Teen when he was, ahem, teeny, and he was one of the first to hold newborn Tween when he arrived home from the hospital. Guy performed the ceremony in which Paul married his beloved, and these days their arms and hearts are full-up with their own beautiful boy-bundle. Paul’s one smart, thoughtful guy, and today he shares with us a vulnerable story to which I’m sure most of us will be able to relate.

Without further ado, please welcome Paul Quinlivan!

Like many young boys I was prone to doodling, you know, stick figures of our family dog, or the pretty girl who sat next to me in Mrs. Gauthier’s 2nd grade class. I filled the margins of my composition books while teachers attempted to fill my mind with the finer points of grammar or mathematics. As my imagination evolved so did my art. Sketches of soccer players transformed into beach scenes which morphed into surfers on waves. I imagine I am not the only person who has found themselves mind-surfing across the page. My drawings were by no means “good” art, as if one could put value judgments on works by an 8-year-old, but they were creations of the heart.

Super heroes consistently graced my pages. I was obsessed with the idea that characters could be blessed with powers that enabled them to step outside of the realm of possibility and wrestle with those who would threaten hope. I lived in comic books and Saturday morning cartoons.

My imagination also produced its own heroes. One character I created was a man with a square head, a combed-over Mohawk, a cape, and a giant “BM” on his chest: “Block Man,” protector of the universe (contrary to what may have been your first guess). A hero so strong and fierce and good and moral and literally block-headed, all evil fled from his presence. He was my imagination’s amalgamation of all the heroes I admired.

My father’s friend had a son who truly had an artistic gift and would often draw elaborate life-like sketches of his favorite heroes. One day as the two men talked about how this son might cultivate his talent, I looked at them with longing as I said, “I can draw, too. Look, I call him Block Man.”

With sadness on his face my father replied, “You do not have a single artistic bone in your body.”

His horrific remark raced through my body, mind and soul, wounding so deep. Did he not see my Block Man sketches? Sure, they would never end up in the Louvre or even the county fair, but were they not still art? When measured against his friend’s son I paled in comparison. I felt ruined.

When we arrived home I went straight to my room and trashed all my drawings. Out went the heroes and beach scenes. Out went the crayons, pastels, charcoal, and watercolor kit. I did not pick up an artist’s tools for years, and each time I did the wound stung as I heard the words echo, the message always the same: I could not possibly be an artist.

He wasn’t entirely wrong. I have always been an athlete, creating feats of art with my body’s movement and my teammates around me. But he most definitely wasn’t right. Let me be clear: my father meant no harm and spoke what he believed to be truth, that I would never become a professional artist. Intent, however, does not change impact.

I am not alone in having a wounded artistic child. As humans, we bear the consequences of a long-ago broken relationship that opened the door for hurt and trauma and well-intentioned words that cut to the core. Many of us feel shamed by the culture of comparison, the pressure to live up to some impossible and invisible standard. Maybe, like me, you hear the echo of words spoken by a family member, coach, teacher, pastor, friend, or bully. Each of us has our own story of betrayal and faces that go with it.

Each of us has also been created to create. In the beginning, humankind was commissioned to “be fruitful and multiply,” or to create. When we create we move closer to the One who created all, to fulfilling our purpose for being. For most of us this will require finding a way to embrace our inner artist’s woundedness. We need to share our stories of betrayal and harm with those in community who can hold our pain and help us to (re)create and to again pick up our pens, paints, cameras, or clay.

My challenge for you is to tend to your wounded artist and once again embrace the younger you who had a vibrant imagination and a longing to allow it to run wild.

Godspeed in your recovery.pq1

Father, Husband, Friend, Therapist, Hiker, Surfer, Mystic, Writer, Farmer, Teacher, and Pastor are but a few of Paul Quinlivan’s many monikers. He lives with his lovely wife, almost 3-month-old son, and their South American dog in a slowly gentrifying suburb of Seattle. When he is not attempting to recapture his artistic self through writing he works to help others find themselves as a therapist in private practice and instructor at a graduate school helping to train future prophetic therapists, pastors, and artists.pq2

Mickey Matters

I love Disneyland!

holiday castle

Not in an obsessive, appareled and home outfitted, pin collecting and trading sort of way (not that there’s anything wrong with that if that’s you), but still, I love it. Having grown up in SoCal, Disneyland was “in our backyard” and a regular excursion several times a year for family trips, youth group trips, school trips, you name it.

Of course, it wasn’t nearly so expensive then. Dating myself, I even remember the days of E Ticket rides when Disneyland was free and you paid per ride. And then the SoCal discount, which for a while got you in for about $25 admission.

Strange as it may sound, as a regular part of my life, Disney also influenced my theology.

*Disney encourages child-likeness and so does Jesus: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). The wonder, delight, imagination and creativity Disney imbues into the smallest details lights up my soul and reminds me of the beauty our Creator God created into our world and our lives.

*This sign at the entrance to Disneyland

Disneyland sign

sounds reminiscent of this description of Jesus from Hebrews 13:8 – “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Disneyland may change (becoming ever more delightful) yet The Magic Kingdom remains “the happiest place on earth.” For those who believe in Jesus, the Kingdom of God has come and we live in the joy-filled presence of the King yesterday, today, and forever.

*It’s not enough to go to Disneyland; you have to enter the Kingdom. Why wait at the gates and never spin the turn-style? Similarly, it’s not enough to go to church; you must enter into a relationship with Jesus. A whole new world becomes available when you enter the gates, when you say “Yes!” to Jesus. When Guy and I were in our 20’s we had a friend in her 40’s who lost the use of her legs to a childhood bout with polio. She loved Disneyland but, confined to a motorized wheelchair, she realistically thought her Disney experience was limited to shops, parades, shows, and Mr. Lincoln, which she thoroughly enjoyed. Content just to be in the park, she was still on the outside of the Disney experience. During one group trip to Disneyland we convinced our friend that Star Tours would be completely safe and doable. We entered through the exit (a small perk) and several of our strapping young men carried her into a seat. She was completely blown away! Having tasted the truth, what else could she try? Matterhorn, Space Mountain, the log ride, we did it all. The joy of the real Disney experience overflowed. It changed her, and it changed the rest of us as well. God’s hand at work didn’t escape our notice as we witnessed, participated in, a conversion unfolding before us. When you go all in, there is so much more to life in the Kingdom.

*And perhaps the most significant aspect of my Disney-influenced theology: hidden Mickeys. One spring, long before we had kids, Guy and I took five Disneyland trips with friends and family in the course of three short months. By trip three we began to get bored (gasp!) and then someone mentioned hidden Mickeys, the three circles that form the “classic” Mickey Mouse shape hidden in plain sight throughout Disney parks and animated films. The hunt for hidden Mickeys transformed our next trip. We looked for, and found, hidden Mickeys. We swapped stories with other hunters. And we observed that as we trained our eyes we saw Disneyland differently; as we train our eyes – and our hearts – to look for God, we see life differently. In Isaiah 6:3 the angels declare, ““Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” But we won’t see the Lord’s glory unless we open our eyes to see it. We find what we seek.

And so it has been important for me to share Disneyland with my own kids. We moved away from SoCal when Tween was only a toddler; it has since required significant logistical (and financial) effort to create Disney memories. Five years ago we celebrated my birthday at Disneyland (our first trip to California Adventure); this week we spent two days there, likely our last trip while Teen still lives under our roof.

Disney theology aside, Disneyland can be completely over-stimulating, capable of bringing out your very worst self. Amid the happy faces we saw plenty of families fighting and young children screaming. It is real life on steroids. And so we look for miracles in the mundane, as extraordinary as this mundane may be.

Where did we see miracles?

*We put our cell phones away and shared conversation and experiences. We played together.

*We each compromised for the sake of the family. Tween doesn’t cherish big thrills while Teen lives for them. Teen put away his teen pride to ride Dumbo. Tween tried Space Mountain, Matterhorn, Indiana Jones. Afraid of heights, I braved Soarin’ Over California. When Tween decided that Space Mountain wasn’t scary, was in fact his favorite ride, Guy rode it more than once even though he doesn’t like it.

*I enjoyed one-on-one time with Tween while the others rode California Screaming, beyond Tween’s comfort zone. We rode the Under the Sea carousel and the Golden Zephyr, both of which he loved. I commented, “See? It’s fun to be a child!” to which he replied, “It is, and I think you enjoy being a child just as much as I do!”

*Of his own accord, Teen decided that he would bow to any little princess who made eye contact with him. He graciously played the role of prince and added to so many little girls’ wonder-filled day at Disney.

*We told stories from previous Disney trips and both created and re-created memories our kids will be able to share with their friends and family.

If you live in SoCal, you can stop reading now as you probably have your own Disney do’s and don’t’s. If you’re planning a Disney trip, this is for you based on what worked and didn’t for us.

*Never, ever, ever buy tickets from a private vendor. With such a big heart of goodness, Guy trusts too willingly. He bought discount tickets from a young woman who claimed her grandmother bought tickets for the grandkids who couldn’t use them. She lied, took his money, and disconnected her phone. The tickets had been used (Disney takes your picture and associates it with the ticket bar code so tickets are completely non-transferable – which would’ve been good to know beforehand) and we had to buy tickets at the gate, a painful punch to the pocketbook.

*Go on a weekday. Friday Disney was at 64% capacity and it felt doable; Saturday it was at 81% capacity and it felt like 100%. Holiday time is extra-special with all the beautiful decorations.

*Comfort rules, especially, wear good walking shoes. We walked 25 miles in two days and that doesn’t count the hours standing in line. Fourteen+ hour days on your feet will take a toll even in the most supportive shoes.

*Where to stay: two ways to go… since you will really only sleep and shower in the hotel, you can go budget. You’ll want to be within easy walking distance, with an included continental breakfast, and affordable parking. Or save your pretty pennies and stay at the Paradise Pier. You’ll have a shorter walk and get into the park an hour before opening. We stayed at PP last time and I wish we’d made the same choice this trip.

*App at it. Seriously, download Disney’s park app. It will tell you wait times at lines which is oh so very helpful in deciding where to spend your time.

*Go with the flow. Pick a park, pick a direction, and go for it. Encourage everyone to try (just about) everything with an open mind and attitude.

*Know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em. We walked a fine line, gently nudging Tween beyond what he wanted to do while also respecting his boundaries. He may never go on Indiana Jones again, but especially after the ride broke and we had to be escorted out, it was important to us that he have the full experience before we left the park. California Screaming looks too “traditional coaster” and he knows he doesn’t like roller coasters so we let that one stand. Taking risks and setting limits are both valid options, a good life lesson.

*Lockers cost less than lunch. We stuffed a backpack with bagels and cream cheese, fruit, trail mix, and a water bottle, along with our jackets for after sundown, and stuck them in a locker. As food averages $10-15/person/meal, the locker saved us significantly on lunch.

*Put the cell phones away. Our kids left their phones in the hotel; parents brought cell phones to use as cameras and to keep in contact when we went separate ways. This meant line-waiting actually became family time. We saw our kids faces instead of the tops of their heads.

*Caffeinate the kids. In generally we stay off sodas, but a caffeine jolt can really help get everyone through the day.

*Take advantage of Fast Pass, essentially a reservation to ride, but be strategic: if the wait time for Space Mountain is an hour, you’ll need to wait an hour until you can get another FP.

*Let the wonder captivate you. Disney does a great job creating “moments.” I got a little choked up during the holiday lighting of Small World. Not just me, the kids readily admitted it was cool.

holiday small world

Two days later and we are still recovering from Disney-induced exhaustion, but it was worth it. We closed our Disney adventure with Fantasmic, the show on the Rivers of the World, followed by fireworks. Fantasmic allows us access into Mickey Mouse’s dream where “beauty and love will always reign true.” After defeating his nightmares and dancing with his good guy buddies Mickey exclaims, “Now that’s a dream!” Which is just how I feel – we had quite a Disney dream. Until next time…

Bug bye