Tutorial: The Craft of Hymnwriting

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author Lisa Clark

Hello again, lovely readers! Let me introduce to you Lisa Clark. She’s an author of YA fiction (check out her books here!) and a writer of hymns, as well! Please check out her blog, Why of a Writer, too. And here’s her tutorial on the Craft of Hymnwriting.

 

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First of all, I’d like to thank Sarah for inviting me to visit with all of you on her blog. Also, what a great idea! A series looking at craft is a great reminder that our Creator has crafted us and that He has given us creativity to create for His glory. In fact, two of my favorite words when talking about hymn writing are “craft” and “wordsmith.” I think it helps me picture the care and time it takes to create a hymn text, just as it takes care and time to make any number of tangible creations.

 

So, let’s get to it, shall we? As with any of the posts in this series, you may not always feel particularly gifted or interested in a particular craft. But if you enjoy poetry, writing, music, or a combination of those three, you might find that you enjoy writing hymn texts. And if not, we’ll all learn and grow as we appreciate the gifts everyone has as brothers and sisters in Christ. (Hint: Read this through once before getting started. It’ll take less than fifteen minutes, and you’ll be better prepared when it’s time to dig in.)

I’ll start with one caveat: not all hymn writers write this way. If fact, I don’t always write this way. But I’m going to walk you through one of my most tried-and-true methods of writing a hymn text so that you can see one example of the process. And if you want to go from there, find me on the Internet and ask me more! Or ask someone you know who writes hymn texts too.

 

SuggestedMaterialsSuggested Materials:

Bible

Hymnal

Paper (a notebook or journal is best)

Writing utensil

Computer

 

 

First, think of a topic you’d like to write about.

Topic

Maybe you’re interested in creating a hymn for family devotion time. Or you’d like to meditate on a favorite Bible passage. Or you’d like to encourage a friend. (Hint: Notice the scenarios do not include riches, fame, and esteemed publication. Focus first on serving your neighbor for the most fulfilling writing.)

 

StudyItOnce you know what you want to write, study it. Read over the Bible passage, or use your Bible’s concordance to find some readings that pertain to your theme. (Hint: With any devotional writing, it’s always best to start with the Word rather than cram passages in later to make your point.)

 

When I study a Bible passage, for example, I’ll often print it out, read it over, and highlight interesting turns of phrase. Then I let it all marinate in my mind while I move on to the next step.

 

TuneThink of a tune you’d like to use. No, this may not be the tune you will always use for this text. But finding a good tune can help give you a framework. It’ll help you focus on a certain mood. And it’ll help you find the right places to rise and fall with your theme.

In other words, grab that hymnal. If you don’t have one at home yet, see if you can borrow one from your church the first time around. (Hymnary.org can help in a pinch, but it’s best to start with what you know.) Think of a fitting tune by considering your topic. If you’re thinking about a Lenten text, find a tune used during Lent. If you’re wanting to write something for your family’s bedtime routine, look for an evening hymn. It doesn’t have to be quite so direct, but it’s a place to start. (Hint: Look at the bottom of the page. Does it say “public domain” for the tune? If so, great! If not, that’s a different discussion.)

 

Okay, now this next step might seem silly, but it’s essential. Especially if you’re picking a tune from a hymn you know, take a look at the text that’s already there. Study it too.

RhythmMeterParticularly, look at the rhythm and meter.

Rhythm, simply put: where the stresses fall

Meter, simply put: how often the pattern repeats per line

 

 

 

Common rhythms:

Iambic (stress on the second of two beats: unite, divide, agree)

Trochee (stress on the first of two beats: offer, given, happen)

 

So write until you have it right. (iambic tetrameter)

Sister, help me learn this meter quickly! (trochaic pentameter)

 

We could go on, but you can easily find more on this topic elsewhere. Before we move away from studying the text, look also at the rhyme scheme. Try to copy the pattern or do something similar, but also be wary of taking these words! Your brain will naturally go to them if you’re using the tune of a hymn you know well.

ReadyReady? Let’s go! I encourage you to grab a notebook or journal. If you don’t love hymn writing, you can always use it for something else. If you do love hymn writing, you’ll forever regret that you lost some of your earliest texts because you misplaced them in the shuffle (ahem, cough, cough). Sure, you could start writing with the computer. But there’s something about hymn writing that is satisfying when you look at a page full of scribbles and messiness. Also, I use pen. Why? Because I change my mind. I’ll write arrows, cross out lines, and make all kinds of silly notes in the margins, and I’m glad I have everything right there so I can go back and remember my original words if I want to use them somewhere else.

 

How’s it going? Got your first line? First stanza? Here are some tricks as you go:

Tricks

  1. If you’re really stuck early on, try a different tune. Yes, that might mean a different meter too. But maybe it’s not the right skeleton for your hymn’s body.
  2. Hum as you write. But don’t forget the rhythm and meter! Some of my earliest mistakes happened when I relied so much on the tune, that my rhythm—and even meter—were off.
  3. Not enough words rhyme with love? I hear ya. If you want to use a phrase that doesn’t rhyme well, try recasting your line so that it ends differently.
  4. Hate it? Take a break. Frustration muddles the wordsmithing.
  5. Rhyming is soooooooooo easy? Great! But hang on. Is that because you’re using very common words and religious clichés? Make this text your own by challenging yourself to say something in a different way.
  6. Speaking of rhyming, you may have noticed I didn’t mention a rhyming dictionary. I challenge you to try to think of rhymes that come naturally to you. Maybe not the first rhyme that comes to mind, but the second or third. You could also run through the alphabet in your mind (bat, brat, drat, fat, beGat . . . ). If you are totally stuck, you could use help on occasion, but be honest with yourself: if you’d never use a certain word on your own, try not to use it in your writing. And as far as tools go for rhyming helps, an Internet search engine works as well as anything else.

 

Time to edit! Okay, so you were probably editing as you went along, but now it’s time to really evaluate the text. So, first, let it rest. Walk away. Give yourself time to breathe. You’ll either love or hate the text a little too much at the moment, so take some time to separate yourself from your work. Ready? Okay. Here’s the part where I pull out my laptop. As I type in the text, I’ll catch a few things I’ll want to change. I’ll tweak a little more. Then, I read it again. Does the rhyme still work? How about the rhythm and meter? Does it still sing well? Did you use the same word too often? Is there a better way to say this line? How about that one? (Hint: Grab a snack of a favorite beverage to keep yourself going. This can be tough.)

 

Print your work. It sounds silly, but do this: Type your name and date. Even use this handy sign: ©. As your text rolls out of your printer, you are officially published. (There are other ways, but this is easy enough.) Hey, that was easy, right? Now comes the best part. Bring the text to life: Sing it. Teach it. Hang it on your wall to remember it. And then? Try another one.

 

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Joyful Noises

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Songs of Praise

Songs appear throughout Scripture. Moses, the Israelites, and then Miriam sing after God leads the people through the Red Sea when fleeing Pharaoh’s army (Exodus 15). Mary sings after the words Elizabeth speaks, as inspired by the Holy Spirit, about the Child she carries (Luke 1). David wrote an entire book of songs, called the Book of Psalms.

Let’s turn to one of those songs now, Psalm 150. It’s the last of those in the book, and sort of sums up a lot of them.

It opens with a call to praise God. As His redeemed people, we have ample reason to praise Him. Notice that the psalmist says to praise Him in His sanctuary and in His mighty heavens. These are places that He dwells. Because of Christ, we have no fear approaching God for praise or prayer or anything…He sees Christ when He sees us.

We praise Him anywhere and everywhere, because He dwells in our hearts.

Verse two goes on to address the “why” of praising Him. Mighty deeds and excellent greatness. We praise Him because of what He has done and because of who He is.

Verses three through five describe the “how”. It’s almost like a listing of instrumentation of an orchestra. His list seems pretty comprehensive, bringing in stringed instruments, wind and percussion, and even dancing!

Finally, in verse six, he tells us “who” should praise the Lord: everyone and everything.

A Song and Dance

Like songdance is a recurring theme in Scripture. A mode of creative expression, dance has many positive references in Scripture (see 2 Samuel 6:5-15). Like many good gifts that Satan likes to twist and pervert for his own purposes, there are also negative mentions of it (see Mark 6:21-29).

Much of the book of Jeremiah is full of rebuke and the call to repentance; during Jeremiah’s time, God’s people had turned away from Him, following after other gods, reveling in their sin. God called Jeremiah to bring a message of repentance, and he did. Nestled in this book, though, are several chapters that are clearly prophetic in nature, speaking of the promise of salvation, of rescue to come. It’s ultimately fulfilled in Christ.

Let’s read one mention of dancing from Jeremiah 31:1-14. The passage addresses the restoration that salvation brings. Jeremiah 31:13 especially points to dancing:

Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance,

and the young men and the old shall be merry.

I will turn their mourning into joy;

I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.

Restoration is at the heart of what God does in the lives of people. He gives faith and brings us into His family. Forgiving sin, clearing consciences, strengthening and encouraging, comforting and soothing.

A Song Unsung

What about those inevitable times of sorrow, though? Whether from our own sin or from living in a world sick with sin, we will all know pain. Sometimes, we just don’t feel like singing or dancing.

Music and mourning have an odd relationship in my own experience. On the one hand, emotions that run high make it nearly impossible for my voice to carry a note. Sometimes I just can’t sing. But on the other hand, music has been hugely cathartic in my mourning process. Maybe you’ve listened to the same song on repeat, like I have, to help you process a loss in life. . .

The fact is that similar to happiness, music can touch a depth of sadness in our hearts that words alone sometimes can’t.

As we already mentioned, Jeremiah is full of messages of “repent!” and other similarly non-happy messages. It’s natural, therefore, that there would be words of mourning and sadness among those messages.

Let’s turn to Jeremiah 9:17-24. As you read, remember that this is couched in a prophecy of the children of Israel being exiled to Babylon, after a terrible defeat . . . God sees that their hearts are turned from Him, and He will act for the ultimate good, even if it requires exile and mourning for a time.

The “skillful women” mentioned are professional mourners, who lead the assembly in crying for their dead. Sometimes, we just can’t sing. Sometimes we need a track to listen to, that will sing for us. Sometimes our hearts cry out in a way that our voice can’t match or our words fail us when praying. Ever a good and gracious God, our Lord helps us even in this.

Read Romans 8:26-27. In the Body of Christ, in the relationship with our God, in the day-to-day of vocational living . . . we aren’t alone. We aren’t left to our own devices.

Music and the Day-to-Day

Throughout life, we go through seasons of rejoicing and seasons of sorrow. We thrive and we suffer. In the midst of this, music can have a profound impact on the day-to-day of life.

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Music can be a central part of that day-to-day. An upbeat song when you’re cleaning the kitchen or bathroom can make all the difference. Quiet, soothing music can help thoughts to calm and center on Scripture during devotional time.

Let me know in the comments how music affects your lives! And stay tuned, because very soon, I’ll be posting a great tutorial on hymn-writing from author Lisa M. Clark! You can check our her blog here, or go check out her books, The Messengers series!

In Stitches: Sew Fashionable Tutorial

I’m so pleased to introduce Grace, a friend from a church we belonged to before moving to our current home. She’s a sweet person who shared some books with our daughter, always had a welcoming smile and a kind word for anyone, and graciously agreed to put together this tutorial for you. She has some great pictures and easy-to-follow instructions. The tutorial is in the form of a PDF, and you can access it TunicTutorial.

Grace doesn’t have an Etsy shop yet, but if she opens one, I’ll be sure to add it to this post.

Enjoy!

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Full of Good Works

This title might raise some red flags for those of us who take Ephesians 2:8-9 at its word:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

We touched briefly on this verse yesterday. We can’t leave out verse 10, though:

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

So even the “good works” that we do are given to us by a loving and gracious God. He works both in and through us, for the purpose of seeking and saving the lost.

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Let’s turn to Acts 9:36-43 for an illustration of what it looks like to walk in the good works that God prepared for us. Tabitha was a woman, a disciple, living in Joppa. The second part of verse 36 tells us that she was “full of good works and acts of mercy.”

Now, before Luke (the writer of the book of the Acts of the Apostles) even tells us about her story, he is sure to tell us these two things: she was a disciple, and she was full of good works. Notice that he doesn’t say she was full of good works and was a disciple. The order follows the truth of our Ephesians 2:8-10 verses above. Faith through grace, and then follow the good works, prepared for us. Tabitha was walking in those good works without a doubt.

As we read on, we learn that she grew very ill, and died. In the midst of their funeral preparations, they heard that Peter was nearby, and they send for him. Acts 9:39 gives us a clue about the sort of mercy work she was doing in her life. The women, the widows, who are mourning her have with them tunics and other clothing she had made for them. She had clearly made an impact on their lives, and they mourned the loss.

Luke goes on to tell us that Peter comes to them, and God uses him to raise Tabitha from the dead. Verse 42, though, shows us the greater good that He was working through first Tabitha’s good works, and then through her death and raising.

And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord.

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This is at the heart of Christian good works, of Christian vocation: making known the love and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Tomorrow, we’ll have a tutorial by Grace Hughes, but in the meantime, I’d love to hear about some people you know that are “full of good works”, that God is doing great things in and through their lives.

You Clothed Me

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Looking at sewing and particularly clothing, this week, we have to return to the idea of vocation as it intercepts with creativity.

Remember, vocation is integral to creativity at its most meaningful. Thinking of creativity as separate from vocation can make it an end, when it really is a gift, a tool to be used. And just as we can hone and improve tools in the garage or toolshed — or with gifts of musicality or relationship or mathematical prowess — we can do the same with creativity. But it’s the reason behind it that motivates us to do what we do.

Service to our neighbor and glory to God.

Let’s explore this in light of Matthew 24:31-46. Consisting of two juxtaposed scenarios, two juxtaposed groups, Jesus is making a point about faith in action.

It opens with Jesus saying in verses 31-33 that when He returns, He will separate the “sheep from the goats”. While this is a judgement scene, the focus isn’t on judgement or even on belief or faith, but how that faith played out in the life of the person.

Jesus then goes on to address each group, beginning in verses 34-37. It seems a rather standard commendation, such as when an earthly king rewards the noble behavior of his subjects. But as we read on, we see that there’s more going on than promoting desirable behavior.

In verses 38-40, the “honored subjects” or the “sheep” ask the King, “When did we do all these things?” There’s a lot of repetition in this passage, which may be boggy to wade through, but if you look at it from a few steps back, is rather poetic and perhaps even rhythmic in its telling. So many ways the people ministered to Him, and so many ways that we minister to one another. It’s really beautiful!

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And of course, verses 41-46 are the other side of the coin: those who did not minister to Him by ministering to others. We must be careful, friends, when we consider this passage, not to confuse the purpose of the faith and the works, nor to confuse their respective sources.

Faith is a gift that is given by the Holy Spirit (see Ephesians 2:8-9). By it, we believe and are saved. Without it, we are lost. Similarly, works are a gift, prepared for us by God and we do them at His moving (see Ephesians 2:10). It’s the faith that makes the works good. Anyone can feed or clothe or visit. Many do! But the good works that we do are only as good as the One from whom they stem.

We do good because He has done greater good for us.

Tomorrow, we’ll be looking at the raising of Tabitha and her ministry of clothing the poor. In the mean time, please let me know about a favorite clothing gift!

Again, I’ll go first: My amazing sister is such a sweetie and much more fashion-minded than I am. She pretty regularly cleans out her closet and offers me whatever I’d like from the clothes she plans on donating. For me, a gal who doesn’t enjoy shopping all that much (gasp!), she’s a huge blessing in my life!

In Stitches: Contentious Clothing

She couldn’t believe her sister. It was just a sweater, and it hadn’t even shrunk that much in the drier. And she’d given it back, hadn’t she? Her sister probably wouldn’t have even noticed it missing in the first place, if she had kept it.

His daughter must be trying to kill him; that’s all there was to it. Why else would she try to go to the movies wearing that? He was just glad he caught her before she left.

How many times did he have to hear his mom gripe about his favorite jeans? It seemed that everything in life was changing, but the jeans still covered the important parts and were too comfortable to throw away. So what if they had a few holes?

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Maybe you’ve never had an argument over clothing before. Maybe you have. But most of us have likely watched a scene in a television show or a movie in which there was some sort of argument over clothing.

Something that is necessary for survival in the elements, something that was a gift from God to grant us modesty after the fall, (like most gifts) isn’t off-limits where Satan is concerned. Where he can stir up contention, he will.

And trust me! This isn’t a new thing. As we mentioned last week, and as the writer of Ecclesiastes says, “There is nothing new…” It was even happening in Genesis.

We learn through the later chapters of Genesis that Jacob, whom God gave a new name of Israel, married two women, and favored the younger, Rachel. She was barren, while her elder sister Leah bore Jacob many sons. When they were older, God opened Rachel’s womb and she had Joseph. Playing favorites is always a dangerous game, but this is an instance where a piece of clothing, meant as a gift to a beloved child, plays a part that Jacob certainly wasn’t anticipating.

Please read Genesis 37:3-4.

Let’s pause for a moment to consider how color was added to clothing in the ancient world. In addition to the wool being shorn from the sheep, carded and cleaned, spun and woven, it would be soaked in boiling water with whatever dye would make the desired color. Various stems, leaves, roots, and blossoms might have been used, or shells or rocks ground into a powder, or even secretions from a snail or other creature.

Imagine doing that enough to make many colors! Even if, say, Jacob had saved pieces of many other dyed things (say some red from a tent, some blue from a tunic, some yellow from a headcovering, etc), he would have to save and store all of those things for some time, and then stitch the pieces together. Either way it happened, he put a lot of work into it.

And Joseph’s brothers were jealous. Not only of the coat, though that certainly didn’t help matters. But we know from the verse we already read that Jacob loved Joseph more, and it would be difficult to imagine that Jacob hid it very well. Heap onto that the fact that Joseph had dreams that indicated his family (and brothers!) would some day bow down to him. Looking back with hind’s sight, we know that they did indeed bow down before Joseph, years later, when he was in Egypt after God blessed him and used him as an instrument to save many lives in the face of a terrible famine. But first, Joseph has to be sent to Egypt.

Read Genesis 37:18-28. There’s a lot happening in this account, and while we could spend hours delving into it all. Consider, though, how quickly the brothers’ jealousy devolved into hatred, and eventually murder. Reuben is an exception, and those verses concerning him are worth further study. We’ll have to save that for another time, though.

Think of the coat of many colors, and what it represented for Joseph: his father’s favor, safety and security, a place of honor. When the brothers took the coat to use as proof of Joseph’s made-up fate (being eaten by a wild animal), they also took those things the coat represented as Joseph would be uncertain of his future and separated from his family.

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Isaiah 61:10 also speaks of a robe that instead of being removed, is placed on someone. Where are we clothed with a garment of salvation and a robe of righteousness? While the removal of Joseph’s coat symbolically represented the apparent removal of the good in his life (though not really, for God was still orchestrating things for a greater good), we are given, in our Baptism and in the faith there planted by the Holy Spirit, a robe of righteousness.

We’ll close there, but I’d love to hear, in the comments below, your thoughts on this question: What other places in Scripture use clothes as symbolic or even literal blessings?

In Stitches: Leaves and Hides

The clothing industry is a big one (to put it mildly), and many people really enjoy putting together fun and stylish outfits. For our generations, most of us don’t need to make our own clothing, and it’s not always a cost-effective endeavor. Two hundred years ago, you’d either have to pay someone to make clothes for you, or make them yourself. Two thousand years ago, most people likely had one or possibly two sets of clothing only, traded or made by the wearer; shearing the sheep, carding the wool, spinning it into threads, weaving it into a garment…it was a lot more work than driving to the store or clicking “place order” on a website!

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As integral as clothing is in our world, and how styles and fabrics define cultures and societies, it’s easy to forget the reason for our clothing…the Fall.

Let’s turn to Genesis 3:7. We read it last week, as part of the larger story of Adam and Eve’s fall into sin.

Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

We wear clothes to preserve modesty, because of sin. For me at least, it’s weird and uncomfortable and strange to think about clothing as being tied to that. And yet, Scripture makes a point of including this detail of the Fall. Imagine, if you will, what would have happened to Adam and Eve’s fig leaves…the durability of even the most tenaciously sturdy leaves is temporary at best, and short-lived at worst. Theirs was a “quick-fix”.

After detailing the consequences that their sin would bring, we read in Genesis 3:21 that God isn’t going to leave them in their flimsy fig leaves.

And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.

It’s a relatively brief verse, and fairly easy to skip over. But let’s see what digging a little deeper might show us.

Right away, we can see that God is caring for them, providing for their needs before they even know them, and before the needs arise. At this point, Adam and Eve are still in the Garden of Eden, but in the next verses, we see that God sends them out from there. We also see God doing this at the expense of the life of an animal. It points first to the sacrifices that will take place and ultimately to the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. In the aftermath of Adam and Eve’s sin, we see God’s mercy being poured out. In providing for them in spite of their sin, God sets the pattern for the rest of His interaction with humanity.

He cannot ignore sin, because He is just. Because of His mercy, He will not leave us in our sin, because He is love. Even before we could begin to comprehend what it would cost, He had in the works a plan for our salvation.

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God clothed them.

And He clothes us.

We’ll explore that more in the coming week…in the meantime, I’d love to hear in the comments below about your favorite article of clothing and why.

I’ll go first: I love sweaters; they are very comforting to me. In Texas, I don’t get to wear them all year, so for the few months that it’s chillier, I’m so happy to be able to snuggle into a cardigan with a cup of warm coffee or tea and a favorite book!

PS Sorry this post is a day late! Look for today’s post later today! (Thank goodness they’re short, yes? ;))

Creativity in Vocation

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Yesterday, we talked about God taking the broken and ugly and messy, and bringing something beautiful from it. Today, we’re picking up where we left off.

Let’s look to 2 Corinthians 5:16-19 for the “after” of this “before and after”. Read it in your Bible, follow the link, or keep going to read it in sections with my thoughts in between. 😉

Whew! That’s quite a bit, and so packed with wonderful grace and motivation and creativity. Let’s unpack it a bit.

Verse 16 – From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer.

This is about perspective and how we see things, and more importantly, how God sees things. And isn’t creativity so often about seeing what isn’t plainly visible? Let’s turn to 1 Samuel 16:7 (but keep your finger or a bookmark in 2 Corinthians 5…we’ll be coming back in a moment!). This verse sits in the middle of God showing Samuel who He has chosen to be king of Israel after He rejected Saul. Samuel is expecting someone whose presence will command respect and authority. But God tells him that “man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart.”

We can’t see into one another’s hearts, like God does, but a key component of creativity is seeing beyond the obvious. God’s vision extends beyond what we can see or sense or imagine on our own. By the Holy Spirit, we are able to see a little like God does. And what does He see? Let’s read on…

Verse 17 – Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Here’s the key to all of this, what clears our eyes and cleanses our sins: Christ. Christ is what God sees and Christ is what we see in others. Christ is acting through us to help others and acting through others to help us, in what we call vocation. Whether it’s the vocation of mother or father, sister, brother, friend, or neighbor…whether it’s your profession, your volunteer position, or something else. Any place that you serve others is really God using you as His hands and feet to serve those people.

Vocation is where creativity finds excellence in purpose.

Do you remember talking about purpose the other day? It’s what drives creativity. Why do we do what we do, whether it’s thinking creatively about a problem to solve, planning the front flowerbeds, choosing the colors and stitches of a blanket we’re crocheting, or deciding how to design a greeting card for someone. Is it to share beauty? That’s certainly an excellent purpose. Is it to show caring? That’s also an excellent purpose. Is it to share Christ? That is the most excellent purpose, and the purpose given the Body of Christ.

Read Luke 19:10, to see why Jesus says He came. Well? That’s pretty clear. And in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20), He shares that mission with His followers, with us. This is pretty exciting and humbling stuff, isn’t it? Being called to this mission. And yet we remember that it isn’t us that will change hearts, but God. Let’s keep reading.

Verses 18-19 – All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

What comfort! It doesn’t depend on us. God provides it all. Read 1 Corinthians 3:6-7 to see how Paul says that “it’s all God”. See? The new creation, the changing of hearts, the reconciliation, the skills and the willingness and the heart for ministry. He’s doing it all, but choosing to use us, poor, weak human vessels that we are, holding the greatest gift that could ever be.

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Creativity for the sake of creativity is great. It’s beautiful and wonderful and amazing to see what people are capable of coming up with. What an excellent thing, though, when our God-given creativity is put to work for the Kingdom of God: visual art and song and crafts and more, as tools for Kingdom-work and sharing the Good News with one another and with a hurting world.

In the comments below, I’d love for you to share with me either how you use your own craft for the Kingdom-work, or how you might begin to. And if you don’t have a craft, maybe consider how one that interests you could be used for the same!

The Fall and Creative Redemption

To be up-front: today’s study is going to be a bit shorter than the last two; in posting every day, my goal is to make shorter studies than the last one, but we had a lot of ground to cover when talking about creation…

We’ve touched on the effect of sin on our creativity, but we can learn a great deal more by looking at God’s action in response to the Fall.

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Digging right in, please read Genesis 3, the whole thing. We knew it was coming, because we aren’t living in Eden now, are we? The world around us is broken, crying out for restoration and healing. Easter was a week and a half ago, and being Easter people – Christians – we know the great lengths God went to for our restoration. But there’s still the fact that we’re living in a now-and-not-yet reality, where we’ve been forgiven, cleansed, and restored…but still struggle with sin, still find that we can’t do everything we’d like to, still struggle against the devil, the world, and our own sinful nature.

What message of the Gospel, the good news of salvation, can you find here? Let’s read Genesis 3:15 again, together:

I will put enmity between you and the woman,

and between your offspring and her offspring;

he shall bruise your head,

and you shall bruise his heel.

It’s really a portion of poetry, which when set inside the prose of the previous portions, makes us sit up and take notice. It’s different…dare I say, something new? And, of course, it’s also God speaking…so that should also draw our attention.

To whom is this portion of Scripture addressed? You may need to glance up in your Bibles, or scroll up on the online source.

God is talking to the Serpent. So really, it isn’t being delivered as good news for him. Perhaps Satan felt the icy fingers of dread close around him at this time. Perhaps he was too arrogant in his pride to recognize that in this, his fate is sealed. Either way, what is delivered as a foretelling of what would happen to him, translates to Gospel for us.

Isn’t that just like God? To take something ugly and nasty and awful and turn it into something beautiful?

And when we consider the details, the intricately-woven plan, of our salvation, we can’t help but be in awe. Like when considering the creation of all things, it’s amazing. From the prophecies throughout the Old Testament concerning His birth, His life, His suffering, His death, and even His resurrection. And then we look to the ways that all of these things come together for us, to bring us back into a close relationship with God Himself… who could have imagined these things, but God Himself, the Creative Creator and Re-Creator?

Let’s look at Isaiah 43:18-19. In this passage, God is addressing Israel, who is again being disobedient. But He is talking about bringing hope to hopeless places. This happens repeatedly throughout the Old Testament, as the people’s disobedience carries them to hopeless places, and God goes in and rescues them.

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He takes the ugly and nasty and awful and turns it into something beautiful. It happened in Eden in the shape of a prophecy. It happened at Calvary in the shape of a cross. It happens today in more ways than we can count, as He is still active in our lives, working and renewing and re-creating.

In the comments below, please share either your favorite “re-creating” moment, or share your favorite project that starts with something old and turns it into something new (colloquially known as “upcycling”).

Made to Make

This study has been a long time coming. Before I recognized what “creativity” was, I enjoyed it. Some people are wired that way. When not actively using their creativity, they don’t feel fulfilled or feel that something’s missing. Others don’t consider themselves a “creative sort” because maybe they can’t draw or don’t have a good sense of what colors work well together when decorating a room. And there are still others who just don’t enjoy it, who would rather work with numbers than a paintbrush or read about past historic figures than experiment with flavors in the kitchen.

Even so, I would contend that creativity is at least a part of each of us, made in the image of the Creator. It just manifests in different ways. This doesn’t necessarily mean being able to make something brand-new that will amaze anyone who looks at it. Let’s take a look at Ecclesiastes 1:9-11.

This passage states a basic truth that, if we apply logic, we will come to the same conclusion that Solomon did. Nothing is new. Whether we’re looking at a tree or a color or a meal…we aren’t doing anything new with our crafting. The tree, even when a sprout, came from a seed that another tree dropped. We cannot invent a new color. Food, while able to be prepared in a variety of methods and combinations, is still the same things that have been used for ages.

So what’s the point? Why pursue creativity?

Because it’s a part of how we are wired. Read Genesis 9:6. It’s couched in a passage about God blessing Noah and his family after the Flood, and God tells them that while eating animals is acceptable, they need to not eat animals before the life – the blood – has been drained from it. Further, man’s life is of greater import and God will require a reckoning from the one who spills the blood of man. Why? Because man is made in the image of God, the end of the verse tells us.

What in this verse stands out to you, whether in relation to creativity or in relation to life in general?

Not only is this verse a clear statement of the value of human life, but it also is a reinforcement of the fact that we are indeed stamped with the image of God, with the image of the Creator. This is why our lives have such value, because of whose image we bear. This is also why we are creators and makers. Because God is. Plants and animals and the rest of creation is beautiful, but it is not creative. It doesn’t make things in the same way that we do.

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Let’s hop over to Colossians 3:9-11. As you read, remember that right before this passage, Paul is reminding the Colossians that they must put away the things of darkness, of sin. This is the other side of creativity—it isn’t used just for good. Sinful humanity’s minds can come up with a lot of ways to dress the sins of pride and selfishness. But as followers of Christ, who have been called by Him, we are called to put away those practices and to put on the new self, the restored image of our God, that we bear.

My good friend, Heidi Goehmann of I Love My Shepherd, recently authored a video and book Bible Study on Song of Solomon called Altogether Beautiful. It’s available today, from Concordia Publishing House (yay! I’m so excited for this, and love how beautifully it fits with our study today!) One of the central themes of her study centers around the fact that because of sin, our ability to see beauty rightly has also been broken. But we are beautiful, each of us, in and out, because God made us, put His image on us, and redeemed us in Christ.

Creativity is about beauty. Maybe not visual beauty always, though often it is. But remember, even the broken is beautiful. A mosaic is comprised of tiny, broken pieces of glass or stone. Yet these are some of the most amazing works of art, possibly because they take something broken and create something lovely.Spring Sale (1)

Creativity allows us to see something in a new way. For those of us who don’t feel very creative most of the time, I encourage you to try exercising your creativity in a small way. Color a picture in a coloring book—it’s a great stress-reliever. Try a cross-stitch kit—it tells you exactly what to do! We’ll be having tutorials in the coming weeks, geared toward people who aren’t experienced in each craft. Give them a try. And if you don’t like it, don’t worry—there are plenty more to try!

Tomorrow, we’ll dig more into the Fall into sin and God’s creative answer to that. In the meantime, I’d love to hear about what creative endeavors you’d like to try, or that you tried and just couldn’t get into. We can’t all be experts in everything, and that’s ok. Until tomorrow, dear friends.