Where Creativity Flourishes

By September 17, 2009 culture, faith, language No Comments

Breath for the Bones Book Club: Thoughts on the Introduction

Two questions were raised by Luci Shaw in the introduction of her book Breath for the Bones—Art, Imagination, and Spirit: Reflections on Creativity and Faith:

How does faith inform art? How can art animate faith?

Shaw lingers over these, reflecting upon them through the lens that sees faith specifically as Christian faith. She proposes that Christian faith informs art in a distinct way. And I agree that it should.

By God’s design, I create with words and phrases, thoughts and ideas. And because I know God, what I write flows out of what I know of Him thus far. Over the course of time, what I create should produce an increasingly clearer reflection of Him. Shaw says:

Growing that given seed of trust in God, or art, requires the care and feeding of the imagination and the spirit. Both must be fertilized and cultivated. (xviii)

Every Christian, not just the so-labeled artist, must fertilize and cultivate “the care and feeding of the imagination and the spirit” to reflect God better. [To encourage this care and feeding, I’ve launched the Creative Stretch post series—hope you’ll join in!]

Believers who fail to fertilize the imagination with beauty and feed the spirit with Truth starve themselves thereby depriving the world of seeing the glories of God within their creative offerings.

This collective, others-focused mentality is rare here where individualism reigns. But the worship of self has no place in the Body of believers. Jesus calls us to deny ourselves and lay down our lives, to move toward an others-centeredness.

What if we, as Christian artists, saw art as another avenue through which we might die to self? Can art be a way for us to serve the Body, to edify and nurture it?

What if our art is the like grain of wheat that Jesus referred to when He said, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24)? If the art and the artist are connected, together they must die for fruit to be borne. Shaw explains:

Because we are residents in the house of faith, we are accountable to the community and its resident director and must shape our gift responsibly to perceive and penetrate to the heart of the matters we address, and to reveal their true shape and significance to the human community as well. (xiv)

This is the high and holy calling that comes with the privilege of knowing the Lord. If I neglect my imagination, then my writing will be limp and lifeless; if I neglect my spirit, my creative call will be hindered because I will fail to treasure Jesus Christ above all else. My neglect is a disservice to others.

How do I invest in my imagination and spirit so that I treasure Christ in and through my art? It’s not the pursuit or refusal of any one thing, I don’t think, but it’s the accumulation of how I live my days and how I spend myself.

For example, will I choose to engage the world—or cloister myself away? Will I feed my soul with nutrient-laden activities—or snack on the junk food the world offers? Will I say no to my flesh that chooses laziness and say yes to the soul that longs for the hard work that bears life through death?

My flesh tells me I can’t put parameters on art, that I can’t schedule the creative session, because creativity cannot be managed, controlled, demanded or forced. And this latter part is true.

But creativity is only free to come forth when I do not crowd it with the things that dampen my creative juices and hinder God’s inspiration.

Creativity is wild, but fragile. If I am to grow in it, through it, I must be willing to lay down some things (self, the easy road, fear) in order to choose others (Christ, a legacy, love).

In art, death is unavoidable. It’s either death to trivial living to make room for art . . . or death to art by clinging to foolish things. Art and creativity come at great price.


Meet the Club! Read Other Breath for the Bones Introduction Posts
Queenie at Rancho Ruperto

Join our book club discussion each Thursday.

  • http://ranchoruperto.blogspot.com Queenie

    It’s a powerful upset that you propose: our art is not our own. This is another manifestation of Jesus’ upside-down kingdom. Where the world sees artists as individualists whose goal is to express themselves, Christian artists know that their talent and time come from and belong to not only God but also the community of faith.

    This idea deserves a lot of exploring as I ponder the implications of it. The first thing that pops out at me is my responsibility to invest effort in the creativity God has given me. To simply bury it is not wise, as the servant in the parable discovered. However, personally I struggle daily with how to balance my duties as an at-home mom with what I believe is a God-given desire to write. I definitely know I am called to the first. How much time can/should I give to the second? Divine wisdom is needed. . .

    Queenie—The balance is a struggle for me too! I’m thinking it is a faithfulness issue of using the time I do have well; not every moment can be dedicated to creative pursuits directly . . . for example, even the time you spend snapping photos of your kids must feed your heart and build up the well of inspiration so that when you have a moment to actually write, you are full and ready to go. If we creatives are to see so that others can see, then maybe it’s more a matter of awareness and taking it all in? What do you think? —es

  • http://ranchoruperto.blogspot.com Queenie

    Yes, life is all a seamless piece. The “non-creative” seen with creative eyes becomes the creative. Open our eyes to see more deeply, Lord! May we see your love in everything, for then it is your love we will be able to share.

  • http://www.practicingjoy.blogspot.com Leah

    New to pursuing writing as anything more than a hobby, I can really identify with the struggle for balance Queenie is talking about. My to-do list as a mom is long and never done…when is there time to write? I’m thankful for this opportunity to think about why and how to capture in words the things God whispers in the ordinary, mundane tasks of life.

    I was encouraged this week by taking a look at the life of the apostle John. He was a very quiet man, and you can almost count on one hand the times he is recorded as speaking in the gospels. Yet at the end of his life, after spending years meditating on the words and work of Christ, he penned his gospel. It exposes Jesus in a way the narrative gospels did not capture. John certainly looked beyond what was seeable and captured for Christendom the person of Christ in a way that others had not seen or had not yet been able to articulate.

    I hope that as I attempt capturing a few words on a page during these busy years as a mom with young children, I can store up in my heart meditations that one day, like Mary’s perfume, spill out to spread beautiful fragrance to my Savior and those who are around to breathe in the offering.

    Leah—Your thoughts of John and how that could relate to us is really encouraging. I’ve been thinking that more than wanting to be a writer (or artist, creative, whatever), I want to be able to say confidently that I *know* Christ. As time passes and I come to know Him more, there should be more in the inspiration well to draw from, to proclaim Him even better. Over the course of my life, then, like John, I will have much to pour out. (Even one work, if done by God’s prompting for His glory would be a thrill!) Thanks for sharing this. —es

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