Creating & Making

I met today’s guest post author when my friend (her mother-in-law) hosted a gathering for people to learn about her family’s exciting new oversees adventure in Indonesia. Over the few times we’ve shared together since–at church, over meals, at St. Mary’s College basketball games–I have been impressed with how openly she shares her heart, her faith, her laughter, her tears. I can only imagine the creativity that comes into play daily as one lives, parents, and works in a foreign country. God is our Creator, yet we are all makers, and I am grateful Fawn shared her creativity with us.

Create Challenge #34: Fawn Stephens

Many times I’ve labeled myself as “not creative.” I don’t possess the talents usually associated with this adjective; my paintings really do look like something from 3rd grade art. I played music in the high school band, but fell into the ‘average’ category and never pursued it after. And relative to those friends of mine who can craft, sew, scrapbook, and decorate with ease, I’m left admiring their work.

In Genesis, the very first thing God said created everything. This is the first picture He wants us to have of Him, a (the) Creator. This Hebrew word for “create” is bara. This is the only way in which this word is used, when God makes something new of out of nothing. Contrary to popular belief, we are not creative just because we are made in God’s image. Well, respective of the bara kind of creating.

Only God can make stuff out of absolutely nothing.fstephens-baby

The kind of “creating” we humans do is actually more like “making” and is found in the Hebrew word asah. This is like when we buy paint and a canvas and make something beautiful out of it. Or when my mom plants flower starts in her garden and they grow in a perfectly staggered rainbow of heights and colors. When a realtor, lawyer, doctor, or teacher gets “creative” in making a contract, diagnosis, or lesson happen effectively, this is taking what he or she has and working with it. This is the kind of creating we make happen.

Something out of something.fstephens-lady

That doesn’t mean, however, that because we can’t bara, it doesn’t happen in our lives. It’s just not of our own doing. God works through His created children all the time to create new and beautiful things out of nothing. Friendships, love, trust, repentance, and wisdom are all things God builds in us, when none of those things are there to begin with. In fact, the spiritual gifts we are told by Paul to be eager for are some of God’s favorite works. Patience, discernment, and generosity are evidence of God doing His thing in our lives.

I’ve come to realize in the last year that I am actually very (asah) creative. Living and working as a cross-cultural missionary wife and mom in a remote, tribal, mountain town in a developing country requires nothing less. I now make my own yogurt, bake bread (without a bread machine!), come up with home-remedy-type pesticides for my garden, carry area rugs on a motorcycle, and figure out countless other ways in which to get things done for my family each day—all with no box stores for thousands of miles in every direction.fstephens-bug

At the same time, God is proving to be very (bara) creative in my life. One of the most spiritually-growing things I’ve ever faced, relationships with my missionary co-workers, prove to be both impossible and rewarding. There is no way that any of us, not having chosen each other to live beside, worship next to, and work closely with every day, could come together in love to do God’s work here without His creative hand involved.

This is because, by its very nature, creation is unnatural. Without God working around and in us, things wouldn’t even exist. And if they did, they would constantly be falling into a state of disarray.fstephens-butterfly fstephens-leaf

Where there is nothing, because we have no history together before coming from different corners of the world, God makes something in my teammates and me. He builds trust and common vision in the space between us, where there was literally nothing.

Can I make something out of nothing? No. Can I make something out of what God gives me to work with, trusting Him to make new things where there is nothing? You bet.

So, I guess I am a creative (and wonderfully created) person after all.fstephens

Fawn Stephens, along with her husband Michael and children Kalem and Adria, is a missionary serving in Papua Indonesia. Fawn and Michael are both helicopter pilots with Helimission; helicopter travel allows them to access remote or otherwise inaccessible areas to bring medical relief and humanitarian aid. They also assist in mass emergency situations. Routine treks include supporting jungle missionaries, who need aid to live among remote tribes in the mountains and spread the gospel. They also bring medical aid to the people they minister to, regardless of religious affiliation. Find out more and follow her blog:

Creating is Like Breathing…

I met Jim when he served as a volunteer youth leader with a ministry my husband and I led what feels like a bazillion years ago; well, Teen was a toddler and we were in grad school, so everything might have been a bit blurry about the edges. Jim wasn’t. He was crystal clear, thoughtful and truthful, a straight shooter who preferred the creative fringe. He saw the boys in the back and found out-of-the-box ways to engage them, to love them, where they stood. He made a difference in their lives and, through his work, in the world; and I have all the respect in the world for him. Please welcome Jim Moriarty!

Create Challenge Guest Post #5 – Jim Moriarty

Creating is like breathing. I can’t imagine living without also creating.

God wired us as creators. He’s surrounded us with this crazy, endless pallet of colors, tools and inspiration. He’s sculpted us into infinite variations within the same human meme…and planted us with insatiable seeds of curiosity and endless imagination. How absolutely amazing is that?

I’ve come to the conclusion that I literally cannot go to sleep without the creation of something. That might be sewing a new bag for a surfboard or spray painting something that most people wouldn’t paint. Most of the time I hack photos.

I get a kick out of the tag #nofilter because we take photos with smart phones which are made up of hundreds of electronic components and run operating systems and apps that are executed from thousands of lines of code…and yet somehow we think what we’re doing is #nofilter. I think this is close to the root of why I take photos and then edit them the ways I do.

A photo to me is false, by definition. What is real is in front of us and whether we sketch that image, paint it or take a photo of it, all of those things deliver false representations of reality. So why not keep pushing those false limits as far as possible and create something else, something new?

This first photo is from my last day at a previous job. It was a party at San Onofre State Beach and we were watching the sunset. The truth is that all sunset photos miss the mark; reality is SO much more interesting. The colors of an actual sunset are lit from behind and change with every passing minute. With these things in mind I took another photo, motion blurred it until it became horizontal lines and then treated it as a transparent layer on top of the beach shot. In my mind this image comes closer to what I felt watching that night.JMsunset

Lowriders work for me on many levels. They define Southern California. They embody a cross-border existence. They make amazing use of what we’ve forgotten and sent to landfills and they (usually) embrace nutty-cool color schemes. That’s why I make images like this one.JMlowrider

The sky is as close to cobalt blue as I could make it. The vermillion, metal-flake car paint is overdone…pushed to a place where it’s no longer calm. It’s overly hot in every way. And to further push things, I’ve made everything that isn’t the car the same color as the sky.

When we take photos we are visually capturing assets. These are pieces to puzzles. They will never become the real thing, that’s impossible. So let’s create things that challenge our point of view and turn it into something else, something hopefully more emotionally interesting.

Creation should be pushed until it breaks…and then pushed a bit more. This is when we find something new.

That’s what I’m trying to do with this photo. JMsurfer

First, Southern California skies are simply magical in the winter. Many nights I’m out on the water looking at a sky-sized gorgeous fade that feels imaginary. So why not try and represent skies that way? Regarding the surfer, I see this image all the time. I love the simplicity of an isolated surfer and their board. I also like pushing that idea until it breaks and is on the edge of not making sense. That’s why I cut off the body and floated it up. I’m proactively trying to create something that makes me think differently about that surfer.

I love graffiti, especially smart graffiti. Any time I’m in an urban environment I’m that person off to the side, photographing interesting tags and walls. If I share those images I rarely present what actually exists and this wall is no different.JMgraffiti

The death to hipsters was a sticker in Brooklyn, the mail label came from San Francisco (I think) and the MP sticker doesn’t exist at all. It’s a photoshopped hack I made to round out the tags (and show a nod of respect to what I see as the best surf photo ever taken).

Life is this way. We take influences from various places and people, mix them up, interpret them, add in things that weren’t there before…and move ahead with a new take or new idea. This is what software development is about, what art is about, cooking, etc. Same with photos. It’s all innovation. All invention.

Creativity is about making something that wasn’t there before but doing so with the tools, influences and assets that existed prior. We’re all standing on the shoulders of those who created before us.

I dig old, outdated things. Look at this RV. The aerodynamics are…nonexistent. The color scheme is brilliantly simple (and perfectly ‘70s). This vehicle just works for me. I take photos like this all the time and always straight on like this one. I like the stark truth a profile delivers. Let’s face it, a photo of an RV is kinda boring, so I tried to make it less boring. I floated it on an ocean of an almost-complimentary color. The exact complimentary color is easy to identify…but less interesting.JMwinnie

Many of us have to make something and so the question becomes, What should we try to make? Images like these work for me because creating them can be done on a highly portable platform. We always have a smart phone in our pocket and tiny slices of available time as we progress through a day. And most of us also have powerful computers nearby for other touches. We create for selfish reasons; we create for ourselves. What I’ve noticed more and more is that we create because we have God-given curiosities, talents, restlessness and experiences.

Creation is how we understand who we are; creativity is how we understand who God made us.


Jim’s life has been defined by ideas larger than himself: punk rock, Christianity, fatherhood, software development, the internet, environmentalism and brand citizenship. He spent the last decade running Surfrider Foundation, the largest nonprofit focused on coastal environmental protection, and currently works at 72andSunny where he connects global brands with deeper purpose. He married the love of his life yesterday (almost 30 years ago), is father to twins and his favorite surfboard is a 6’ singlefin.