Creative Play

Oh, friends, it has been awhile and we are long overdue for recess… Do you remember watching the clock during your own elementary school days, waiting for playtime? Some days the minute hand seemed to be ticking backwards and I couldn’t help but fidget in my seat. Life has felt a little like that recently, so I’m grateful for my friend Sara urging us back out to play, to enjoy the time to stretch and run free and just go for it. Our simple creative efforts come from the heart, after all. Let’s spread some love and joy!

re:create recess #6: Sara Pantazes

I never thought of myself as a creative person. I was the kid who always colored within the lines rather than one who relished the completely empty pages of a sketchbook. As an adult, I continue to struggle to be creative when my kids want to “play” (a problem my children never seem to have!). But when I read the prompt for this blog series, I realized there are two activities I periodically make time for which challenge me to be creative, and that these activities have become my grown-up play times.

The first creative activity I got into as an adult was scrapbooking. I fell into this hobby somewhat begrudgingly: it is a project that is never completed and is super hard to do with young kids around. But it is those young ones who make this creative activity so worthwhile, because my sons love looking at our family scrapbooks.

My creative process involves ordering tons of pictures, laying them out along with the cards or ticket stubs or whatever else I saved that go along with the pictures’ events, and deciding how much can fit on each 12X12 page. Then I pick out the background paper and embellishments and decide what words to write on the page.

The scrapbooks have become the stories of our family, which my kids “read” and enjoy. They “remember” things their brains were not developed enough to have formed memories of, but they have looked at the pictures and heard the stories retold often enough that they know their family history. My creative play has resulted in tangible objects that help my children know themselves, those who love them, and the seasons of their lives.

The second creative activity I discovered in more recent years is making cards. I freely admit that I struggle with how homemade my cards look and that they lack the eloquent sentiments of Hallmark cards. Yet I enjoy the process of creating them enough to continue doing so. I enjoy looking through Pinterest for ideas and then interpreting those designs to make them work within the boundaries of my own supplies.

I tend to create simple designs but I am okay with that because simple is an expression of me. I hope that the family and friends who receive my cards see them as the expression of love that I intend them to be. I also appreciate all the blank space inside the cards. It challenges me to write words that matter to the recipient and gives my children space to make their own 6- and 4-year-old marks on whatever occasion we are recognizing.

Scrapbooking and card making play a back seat to nearly everything else in my life; I don’t get to “play” with them often. When I do have time, I still find that being artistic and creative does not come easily to me. Yet I have learned to appreciate the challenge these creative play activities present and how it refreshes my brain to engage in something so different from my norm, something so creative. The blank pages still unnerve me, but I no longer avoid them. Bring on the card stock, stamps and inkpads, fancy scissors and washi tape—I have some playing to do!

Sara is wife of Tom and mom of Ben and Matt. Their family life started in Williamsburg, VA but they now live in a beautiful rural-suburban corner of southeast Pennsylvania. When she is not having all kinds of mom fun, Sara is working to earn a Master of Arts in Christian Education.

 

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.

100th Post: Pay It Forward

Guy bought a car last week since our household now claimed three drivers and two cars. We swore we would not buy a car, but this deal was almost too good to pass up.

We almost passed it up anyway. The car was older and bigger than Teen wanted, had a lot of miles, and lacked a good speaker system. Older and bigger didn’t make for major considerations in our book since the price was right (better than, truth be told). As for lots of miles, Teen will drive it around our small community for about two years before he takes off for college with his bike; we don’t need it to last forever. The car had been kept in pristine condition, every service record on file, and in fact, most service done by the local mechanic selling the car on behalf of the owner. The mechanic had his reputation on the line; he wouldn’t sell us a lemon.

Guy figured: this is a reasonable cost for increased freedom, both for Teen and his parents.

teen driverBut, no speaker. There had been one, but it had been removed. Bummer.

Guy did due-diligence, checking the service records and asking the mechanic to do one more once-over. And dragging his feet a little, as suspense does wonders for a teenager’s motivation.

When they finally went to seal the deal and purchase the car, lo and behold, a subwoofer had been installed. Teen was so excited he might as well have been driving on the moon! He admits: the sound system makes the car.

The next day we told our co-workers about the purchase. And that afternoon a co-worker went to have her hair done the next big city over from our small town.

(Not a random fact. Hang in there!)

As our co-worker sat in the stylist’s chair, chit-chatting the afternoon away, Stylist told her about the new car he’d just purchased (same make/model, different year, as the car we purchased). And the car he’d just sold (same everything). He told her that the mechanic who had serviced his car, who had sold his car for him, had advised him to remove the subwoofer because he could sell it for a lot (close to half-again the price of the car). So he had the subwoofer sitting on his kitchen counter. Taking up space.

When the mechanic told him that a dad was “seriously interested” in buying the car for his 16-year-old son, Stylist felt guilt-stricken. What teenager wants a car without a good speaker system? Would he really ever get around to selling the subwoofer? Did it matter to him all that much? Didn’t a kid’s happiness matter so much more?

He decided to pay it forward. He immediately packed up the subwoofer and drove it back to the mechanic’s shop and helped to reinstall it in the car. And he turned down two full-price offers over our lesser offer because we had expressed interest first.

By then our friend had figured out the catch in this story: she knew the car’s new owners! She knew the happy Teen beat-bump-beating down the streets. Small world, great story.

As soon as Teen got his driver’s license he hyper-focused on trying to find a car in a reasonable price range. He got excited, and hopes dashed, over and over. We said: God will make it clear which car you’re meant to have. And He did, as we receive this story as confirmation that God has been behind-the-scenes.

bloggingThis is my 100th post on this blog, and this milestone deserved a good story. We all deserve good stories, and we all live good stories day-in and day-out. Even when our stories are uncomfortable, even painful, they can be hope-filled and redemptive as we seek miracles in our mundane.

Writing this blog has been redemptive for me. I have enjoyed the discipline of regular writing and reflection; I have thought differently, lived differently, as a result, which is exactly what a discipline should do: change you, preferably for the better. I hope my writing has improved with practice, and I know my life has changed as I’ve felt happier and increasingly centered in all the right ways.

And I feel as though I am contributing something new to the world as I share my stories, my small attempt at paying it forward. From time to time (at least), I hope you feel like this blog is my gift to you. Because it is.

Just over a year ago I went to Donald Miller’s Storyline Conference with this blog on my heart – I just didn’t know it would be this blog. The theme of the conference:

What will the world miss if you don’t tell your story?

I bought the coffee mug. And I began writing.

I meet so many people who tell me they can’t write, and yet they have stories to share. And, honestly, I’ve read plenty of writing that shouldn’t have been written. But whether or not you think you can write, we need to hear your stories. Please, tell your stories. Let someone else write them down if need be. The world will be a better place as you pay it forward.

what is your story question

Scripture: Our Map

7-2-11 006

This picture has always struck me as an accurate portrayal of my relationship with my mom – the two of us snuggled up, enjoying a book together. Mom read with me all the way through high school, and even when I was in college she sometimes read the books I was assigned. She loves to read, I love to read, and one thing I know for sure I’ve done well as a mom is pass on that passion to my children.

I love stories, written stories and life stories. My story and your story. And God’s story, the written version of it found in the Bible, and the living version we play out everyday. I grew up going to church and I knew the kid-versions of Bible stories. But when I got to be a teenager people kept telling me I needed to read the Bible on my own, except I didn’t know how.

Let’s be honest, the Bible can be fairly intimidating! It was written in different times and cultures, with different languages and different uses of language (literal, figurative, descriptive, prescriptive, poetic, etc). And that’s even before you get to all the translations (NIV, NLT, NASB), study Bibles or life application Bibles, or even the question of where does one begin to read? At the beginning? At the beginning of the Old or New Testament, or at the beginning of any of its 66 books? And then what? You might feel, as many of us have, like the Bible belongs to certain people, whoever they are, and remains a big mystery to you, that some people ‘get’ the Bible while others aren’t qualified to crack its cover.

In our mid-20s Guy and I were married and working at a church and, while I regularly read books about the Bible, books that guided me in what the Bible said, I didn’t often read the Bible itself. Until someone showed me these verses in 2 Timothy 3:16-17:

“All Scripture is God-breathed [other translations read “inspired”] and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that God’s people may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

“Teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness…” not big words but they don’t easily roll off the tongue. And what do they really mean?

Know. Stop. Change. Do.

God wants to use the Bible to speak to you about what you should know, stop, change, and/or do. So you read this Book, God’s Story, filled with incredible stories of God at work in the lives of some very ordinary people, all the while enjoying a conversation with God Himself about what He wants to say to you through His book. The “know, stop, change, do” paradigm changed everything for me.

I didn’t immediately shelve my stack of devotional books. I didn’t stop attending worship or my small group Bible study. But with this simple tool I didn’t have to rely on someone or something to help me understand the Bible. Instead of reading about the Bible I could read the Bible itself and come away changed because I’d read it. Because, while reading, I recognized that I was in the presence of God.

Still, where to start? I recommend using a Bible reading plan. I particularly like One Year Bible Online. Click on today’s date and it pulls up today’s Bible reading – Old Testament, New Testament, Psalm and Proverb. I don’t necessarily read all of each day’s readings, but the beauty of a reading plan is I don’t guilt myself if I miss a day or even a few days; I just go to that day’s reading and start fresh.

Recently a friend asked me about the Bible. She didn’t understand the basics: Old and New Testaments, the various books of the Bible, the chapter and verse markings. I was so grateful she asked, for two reasons: 1) she trusts me to guide her, and 2) she reminded me that the Church takes for granted that people understand the Book we revere as our authority for life and faith. So to you, dear Readers: if you need help understanding the Bible, find a trusted person to ask your questions; and if you’ve been around the Book a while, don’t assume that others get it. It’s up to us to help them find their way to Jesus, the Living Word.

Connect
What is your favorite book and why?

Study
Read 2 Timothy 3:14-17.
From whom did Timothy learn the holy Scriptures? (see 2 Timothy 1:5)
Using this passage, how would you explain the Bible to someone who hasn’t read it?
What benefits result from reading Scripture?
Read James 1:22-25.
Put James’ mirror analogy in your own words and explain what it says about Scripture.
What does it mean to “look intently” into Scripture and “continue” to do so?

Live
Who has been influential in helping you learn to read and apply Scripture to your life? How have they influenced you?
What are your practices for hearing the Word? For example, do you have a set time and place to read Scripture? What tools have you found helpful?
What are some strategies that have helped you be a “doer of the Word”? (i.e. How do you keep Scripture in mind throughout the day?)
What do these verses tell you personally to know, stop, change and/or do?

Pray
Pray that God will actively speak to you through His Word and that the Spirit will guide you to continue in it.

Experiment
Read Bible stories with children, or read a children’s story Bible. My favorite is The Jesus Storybook Bible.
Use One Year Bible Online and read for at least five minutes five days this week. As you read, have a conversation with God. What does He want you to know, stop, change and/or do?