Creativity as a Birthright




09060402~ click here for audio




It seemed a little ironic that when preparing a sermon on creativity I was immediately struck with writer’s block. Go figure. There goes the Holy Spirit having a wholesome laugh with me. I’m still working on letting go of my desire to be witty and bright and have all the right things to say, because creativity is about so much more.


I was raised to admire creativity but not to claim it. Perhaps you were too. It always seemed that others were brighter, funnier, more artistic. The teacher never held up my picture as an example to the other students! Uff-da, do you remember those moments? The moment when your creative work was measured and compared and somehow found lacking? Somewhere along the line our culture has made creativity competitive, but comparison is antithetical to creativity. Comparison tells us we need to measure up but not be too different. What would it take to give yourself permission to be creative?


It’s artists who tell us again and again that success is growing up without growing inflexible, without growing stale and old. Don’t grow up! They say, It’s a trick! There is some part of us that recognizes a fully embodied creativity as vitality, as a life fully lived and shared with the world. There is a well known poem about a young child being socialized into ‘normality’ at school, perhaps you know it:


Flowers are Red Lyrics

“Flowers are Red” was written by Chapin, Harry F..

The little boy went first day of school
He got some crayons and he started to draw
He put colors all over the paper
For colors was what he saw

And the teacher said, “What you doin’ young man?”
“I’m paintin’ flowers” he said
She said, “It’s not the time for art young man
And anyway flowers are green and red”

“There’s a time for everything young saw
And a way it should be done
You’ve got to show concern for everyone else
For you’re not the only one”

And she said, “Flowers are red young man
And green leaves are green
There’s no need to see flowers any other way
Than they way they always have been seen”

But the little boy said
“There are so many colors in the rainbow
So many colors in the morning sun
So many colors in the flower and I see every one”

Well the teacher said, “You’re sassy
There’s ways that things should be
And you’ll paint flowers the way they are
So repeat after me”

And she said, “Flowers are red, young man
And green leaves are green
There’s no need to see flowers any other way
Than they way they always have been seen”

But the little boy said
“There are so many colors in the rainbow
So many colors in the morning sun
So many colors in the flower and I see every one”

The teacher put him in a corner
She said, “It’s for your own good
And you won’t come out ’til you get it right
And are responding like you should”

Well finally he got lonely
Frightened thoughts filled his head
And he went up to the teacher
And this is what he said

And he said
“Flowers are red, and green leaves are green
There’s no need to see flowers any other way
Than the way they always have been seen”

Time went by like it always does
And they moved to another town
And the little boy went to another school
And this is what he found

The teacher there was smilin’
She said, “Painting should be fun
And there are so many colors in a flower
So let’s use every one”

But that little boy painted flowers
In neat rows of green and red
And when the teacher asked him why
This is what he said

And he said
“Flowers are red, and green leaves are green
There’s no need to see flowers any other way
Than the way they always have been seen”


We are all created in the image of God, in the image of the most magnificent, creative, artist ever! I, you, all of us, created by a loving, artistic, over-the-top, playful being, that we might express fully our nature as creative, loving, playful, joyous beings. Creativity is our birthright.


I love our text from Exodus today. God insisting that the artisans bring the best that they can and that they teach. Share the beauty that is within you, not only with the finished product but by teaching others. And this creativity, this sharing, is all done to the glory of God. It’s a beautiful thing. This text speaks directly to God encouraging our creativity, asking for it. It’s a beautiful thing.


There are none of us who are not creative, only those who live more or less into the unique, creative gifts that God has given. When we are invited to drop our habit of comparing ourselves and our work to others, our creativity is allowed to play, to take risks, to dance, to do all those innocent, dangerous and wonderful things that enliven us.


When was the last time you did something innocent, dangerous and wonderful? When was the last time you felt really, truly, fully alive? And what keeps you from that aliveness? What gets in the way? Georgia O’Keefe is quoted as saying, “I have been terrified my whole life, but I never let it stop me from doing anything.” Isn’t that a beautiful quote? Creativity invites us into the new thing that God is bringing forth and as such it is wild and uncontrollable. It is inspired if it is alive at all, the word inspiration literally meaning breathed into. Breathed into just like God breathing into Adam, the touch of God’s breath on the back of Adam’s throat is called in Hebrew the Nephesh, the seat of the soul. Breathing new life into our creative works is to allow the Spirit to move right through us and bless another. It is to surrender the expected outcome and let our works take on a life of their own.


This is the innocent, dangerous and wonderful aspect of creativity, that when we really let go and let the Spirit move through us, we don’t really know what the outcome will be! It is to live with fierce boldness and a certain surrender. Behold I bring a new thing! Do not look to the past, don’t look to all that you have known, this is something new!


Isn’t that amazing? I suspect that often when we hear this passage, most of us get a little excited in anticipation that God is finally going to do the one thing we have been waiting for! Finally, God is going to get on with it, bring the new thing that will fulfill all my expectations and hopes! But…that’s not what our text tells us. Our text simply says behold I bring forth a new thing, so perhaps we ought to be sitting on the edge of our seat with anticipation and a certain trepidation! This Spirit blows where it will and there is no containing it. There is a wideness and irreverance in the artistry of the Spirit. Nothing is quite safe.


But we are called to be creative, to speak fully that truth, that uniqe insight, that unique way of being and share it.


When I was a kid I used to think about the shetland ponies feeling jealous of the long legged Arabian horses. I would think how silly it would be if they were to look longingly at them, sighing, if only I were so tall and lean, and perhaps the arabs would look at the ponies and think, if only I were so petite and cute, meanwhile the draft horses…well you get the idea. Imagine a red, red, rose looking up at a mammoth sunflower and thinking, if only, if only I had your broad face and could turn to watch the sun all day, but no, I’m only a little red rose, all curled in on myself, I’ll never be good enough!


But we are prone to just such comparison and it steals our joy, it silences our truth, our unique way of being, the gift that we are!


So, how’s your voice? That piece of you which speaks to the world and shares the one truth, the unique expression, that God has given you? How does your truth want to be expressed and lived into? The whole world waits with bated breath, anxiously waiting for your participation! We dare not bury our talents, because our lives and the lives of those around us will become smaller and dull if we do. Our hearts long for the grand expansiveness of God’s grace and love; our souls long for the brightness of being fully awake and aware of God’s presence. We must not bury our talents and creativity because it is exactly our participation and willingness to show up fully that invites us into a full expression and experience.


Creativity is about creating meaning, is about learning to write your own story and live fully into it, with zest and vigor. Creativity is about giving voice to the yearning of your soul, of all that you have to offer the world, whether it is a whole body laugh, or the wringing out of a bitter tear of recognition. Without it our lives become dull. Without it we live only on the surface and something within us longs to dive deep and long into these creative waters.


I worked on this sermon for days this week. It lingered in the back of my mind while I cleaned up the beauty shop rebuild. It stubbornly refused to speak while I moped all around College Station, looking for that one piece of insight, that one courageous conversation that simply must be spoken. I was waiting for and beseeching inspiration, without which this sermon would be dry and dull and lack depth. The last thing we need is another speech telling us what we need to do, but a call, a call from the heart and soul, one which entices and enlivens, which provokes and expands, now that’s a sermon.


What words do I have to convince you that creativity is your birthright and is as necessary to a life fully lived as sunshine and laughter, as tears and rain? What do you need in order to give yourself permission to live a rich, creative and passionate life? So many voices in your past may be telling you that flowers are red and leaves are green, but what does your heart tell you? What does your soul tell you?


It is my hope that when you leave here today you will be determined to engage in some act of creativity on a regular basis. Perhaps you will pick up pen and paper and write a poem, or pull out those craft items purchased so long ago but never used, and do something. And if when you look at the finished product a wave of shame begins to crawl up your neck because it isn’t good enough, you’ll notice that you are comparing again and that comparing your work to anothers makes no more sense than a fierce strong draft horse wishing it could be tiny and petite like a pony, or a rose wishing it could cover a field like dandelions.


What is the courageous conversation that you long to have? Go on and do it! Speak your truth, even if your voice shakes, and then do it again! The whole world waits for you to show up, to be exactly who God created you to be, as vibrant and creative and fully you as you can be. Dr. Suess probably said it best, there is no one who is youer than you. You are the best you there ever was. So speak your truth whether it is bright vibrant paints, or the rhythms of poetry or music, but speak it. Creativity is your birthright and the birthplace of meaning. Go on and create and let’s see what shows up! Behold I bring a new thing.

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