Late last night I returned from a fantastic few days connecting with people in Mennonite Church Eastern Canada (MCEC). My sincere thanks to everyone who so graciously hosted me and for the opportunity to share with you in so many ways both formally and more informally!
The invitation I received to speak at the Spring Enrichment Day for Women of MCEC became so much more as I also met with a number of pastors, shared many conversations in the car, hallways, homes, and walking along the beach at Point Pelee, led an adult Sunday school class in lectio divina, preached on Psalm 23 at North Leamington United Mennonite Church, relaxed at a house party, and ate Lake Erie perch at a fish fry fundraiser for a local Christian high school. As I waited for my return flight at the Toronto airport and reflected on the last few days, I knew that I was the one who had been enriched.
A key Scripture for our Saturday morning session focused attention on Jesus’ parable of the master who left his three servants in charge of his money while he was away (Matthew 25:14-30). The first two servants immediately invested the funds they had been given and doubled their investment, while the third servant buried his money. When the master returned, the first two servants were commended for their faith, given even more responsibility, and invited to the master’s celebration. But the master said to the third servant, at least
you ought to have invested my money with the bankers,
and on my return I would have received
what was my own with interest (verse 27).
So the master took the money away from the third servant, gave it to the first, and the third servant lost out on the master’s celebration and joy.
In what ways are we like the first two servants, investing the creative gifts that we have been given by God? The evidence abounded at this event as I delighted in the many unique pieces of pottery created by one woman and artfully arranged at the front of the church. To begin our Friday evening session, each woman received a daffodil to add to the display–I wish I had a photo of our 130 daffodils in the different sizes and shapes of pots! Other women led music, sang, offered prayers, used coloured pencils to journal or draw during our sessions, prepared lunch, discussed issues of budget and leadership in the business session. In our attitudes and conversations, in handshakes, smiles, and hugs of greeting, we created a beautiful time together.
We can and do live creatively in so many ways–whether we plant a garden or build a computer, dance or sew, write, solve problems, raise children, care for grandchildren, offer hospitality, lead a Bible study, volunteer in the community, work at home, on the farm, or in an office, or whatever we do.
Yet for all God’s abundant creativity in our lives, and for all the creative gifts we express, sometimes we are more like the third servant who buried his talent. In the text, the servant said he was afraid. But when I asked, “What buries our talents and blocks us from living as creatively as we dream of living?” we came up with an even longer and more detailed list of reasons:
fear of success
someone saying, “you’re a failure”
opinions of others
doing things others expect
doing what we expect of ourselves
fear of failure
lack of confidence
lack of physical energy
thinking that “the picture is too big”
don’t know where to start
need for self-care
lack of sleep
being a parent
negativity in the world around us
the belief that you’re wasting your time
distraction of emails and other computer things
taking on other people’s priorities
reading the news
being a grandparent
being a child
doing things for others
other mental illness
peer pressure and trying to fit in
Unlike the experience of that third servant, sometimes it’s not fear that buries our talents, but they get buried by lack of opportunity, by health concerns, by the expectations of others, by other pressing responsibilities. Some have found creative ways to deal with these, like the young mom who solves the I-don’t-have-time dilemma by getting up at 4 in the morning to write. Another says she never watches t.v. One woman takes her knitting along to any meetings. Another signed up for a flower arranging course so she would have a good excuse to create floral arrangements.
Sometimes we also need to recognize the creative possibilities within our constraints. In a busy season of life, we might not find the time to write or paint or whatever we might do–not everyone has the energy to get up at 4 in the morning, and for some of us, our kids might even be up then too! Instead, we might express our creativity in the way we teach and play with our children, the way we care for our parents, the way we live out the responsibilities that we have been given. Creativity is not limited to making music, writing poetry, or other expressions that we might identify as the creative arts. Living creatively also means creating friendships, creating a home, creating family, creating community, creating a life.
This is just one one brief glimpse of a wonderful weekend on living creatively. Thank you, Women of MCEC for your invitation; thank you, North Leamington United Mennonite Church for hosting; and for all of the women and men and creativity that made this weekend possible, my sincere appreciation.
And now may the wind of the Spirit continue to inspire you,
may Jesus walk with you from one creative step to the next,
may God the Creator enliven and encourage you today and every day.
(from Spark: Igniting Your God-Given Creativity, 63)
Writing/reflection prompt: After this session, one woman told me how much she valued this exercise of creating a list of things that can block us from living creatively. “It made me think ‘I’m not the only one,'” she said. What in this list resonates with you? What would you add?
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