Creative Affirmations

Julia Cameron put together a marvellous workbook called “The Artist’s Way.”  These Creative Affirmations encourage us to be aware that we are  co-creators of beauty with the One who made us for Himself.

      1. I am a channel for God’s creativity, and my work comes to good.
      2. My dreams come from God and God has the power to accomplish them.
      3. As I create and listen, I will be led.
      4. Creativity is the creator’s will for me.
      5. My creativity heals myself and others.
      6. I am allowed to nurture my artist.
      7. Through the use of a few simple tools, my creativity will flourish.
      8. Through the use of my creativity, I serve God.
      9. My creativity always leads me to truth and love.
      10. My creativity leads me to forgiveness and self-forgiveness.
      11. There is a divine plan of goodness for me.
      12. There is a divine plan of goodness for my work.
      13. As I listen to the creator within [God’s Spirit], I am led.
      14. As I listen to my creativity I am led to my Creator.
      15. I am willing to create.
      16. I am willing to learn to let myself create.
      17. I am willing to let God create through me.
      18. I am willing to be of service through my creativity.
      19. I am willing to experience my creative energy.
      20. I am willing to use my creative talents.

For more on being co-creators of beauty see, “Creative Impulse.”

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The Heart breaks and the Word falls in

A Hasidic tale is told by philosopher Jacob Needleman about a Rabbi and his disciple discussing Deuteronomy 6:6 (see below):

A disciple asks the Rabbi: “Why does Torah tell us to ‘place these words upon your hearts? Why does it not tell us to place the holy words in our hearts?”

The Rabbi answers: “It is because as we are, our hearts are closed, and we cannot place the holy words in our hearts. So we place them on top of our hearts. And there they stay until, one day, the heart breaks and the words fall in.”

Recorded in Parker Palmer’s “On the Brink of Everything: Grace, Gravity & Getting Old.”

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.

Deuteronomy 6:6

It is a humbling reminder that even when, or especially when our hearts are closed to God’s word, placing His word “on” our hearts sets the stage for when our heart finally breaks so the words can fall in.

It also speaks to the notion that God’s Holy Word can only enter into a broken heart – that our brokenness approaches the wonder of His holiness in ways that our [self] righteousness never could.

As a mere novice student of the Scriptures these many years, I have experienced the mystery of how God brings His word to mind from a heart on which His word had rested dormant until the right time.

What is your experience of God’s word on your heart?

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These are the Days

These are the days

by van Morrison

These are the days of the endless summer

These are the days, the time is now

There is no past, there’s only future

There’s only here, there’s only now

Oh your smiling face, your gracious presence

The fires of spring are kindling bright

Oh the radiant heart and the song of glory Crying freedom in the night

These are the days by the sparkling river His timely grace and our treasured find

This is the love of the one magician Turned the water into wine

These are the days of the endless dancing and the Long walks on the summer night

These are the days of the true romancing When I’m holding you oh, so tight

These are the days by the sparkling river His timely grace and our treasured find

This is the love of the one great magician Turned the water into wine

These are the days now that we must savor And we must enjoy as we can

These are the days that will last forever You’ve got to hold them in your heart.

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Pacing the Cage

Pacing the Cage by Bruce Cockburn

Sunset is an angel weeping
Holding out a bloody sword
No matter how I squint I cannot
Make out what it’s pointing toward
Sometimes you feel like you’ve lived too long
Days drip slowly on the page
You catch yourself
Pacing the cage

I’ve proven who I am so many times
The magnetic strip’s worn thin
And each time I was someone else
And every one was taken in
Hours chatter in high places
Stir up eddies in the dust of rage
Set me to pacing the cage

I never knew what you all wanted
So I gave you everything
All that I could pillage
All the spells that I could sing
It’s as if the thing were written
In the constitution of the age
Sooner or later you’ll wind up
Pacing the cage

Sometimes the best map will not guide you
You can’t see what’s round the bend
Sometimes the road leads through dark places
Sometimes the darkness is your friend
Today these eyes scan bleached-out land
For the coming of the outbound stage
Pacing the cage
Pacing the cage

Source: LyricFind

Songwriters: Bruce Cockburn
Pacing the Cage lyrics © Carlin America Inc

Lyrics that include “Sunset is an angel weeping” – to – “Sometimes the best map will not guide you”, remind me why I am a perpetual fan of the songbook of Bruce Cockburn. Brian Walsh of Huffpost writes,

These lines, from Bruce Cockburn’s hauntingly beautiful song “Pacing the Cage,” have been my constant companions as I have been reflecting on the year that was and the year that is to come. As the sun sets on another year of violence on the battlefields of war and urban conflict, another year of ecological despoliation coupled with economic greed, another year of political duplicity and media distraction, you can see the blood everywhere…

There is a world weariness to it all. One damn year of violence after another. When you’ve seen so much blood over the years, and you are either too confused or too numb to make any sense of it, well, “you catch yourself / pacing the cage.”

… [This] is what Walter Brueggemann calls “a prophetic imagination.” A vision that goes beyond what is seen to the naked eye. A vision that discerns the spirit of the times, the deep dynamics of history, and maybe even the movement of God.

Such prophetic vision is often found in the poetry of song and Bruce Cockburn’s art is suffused with a prophetic imagination. Cockburn’s art is prophetic in Brueggemann’s sense of the term because it nurtures, nourishes and evokes “a consciousness and perception alternative to the consciousness and perception of the dominant culture” (“The Prophetic Imagination,” p. 3).

What is your prophetic imagination?  How do you hear the One who made us for Himself?

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Shipwrecked at the Stable Door

Here is the confluence of a Bruce Cockburn song (released 1988), and an excerpt from Brennan Manning. Manning begins the last chapter of his book “Lion and the Lamb: The Relentless Tenderness of Jesus” (written 1986) with these words:

Do you think you could contain Niagara Falls in a teacup?  Is there anyone in our midst who pretends to understand the awesome love in the heart of the Abba of Jesus that inspired, motivated, and brought about Christmas? The shipwrecked at the stable kneel in the presence of mystery.

God entered into our world not with the crushing impact of unbearable glory, but in the way of weakness, vulnerability, and need. On a wintery night in an obscure cave, the infant Jesus was a humble, naked, helpless God who allowed us to get close to Him…

As Bernard of Clairvaux wrote, “Only he who has experienced [His love] can believe what the love of Jesus Christ is.” You could no more easily catch a hurricane in a shrimp net than you can understand the wild, relentless, passionate, uncompromising, pursuing love of God made present in the manger.

This Christmas, may you be shipwrecked at the stable door.

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Without Love where would you be right now?

Without Love, the 1973 hit written by Tom Johnston, lead vocalist and songwriter with the Doobie Brothers, draws you in from the first chord. It begs you to sing it – to answer the recurring question, “without love where would you be right now?”

Down around the corner, half a mile from here
See them long trains run, and you watch them disappear
Without love, where would you be now?…

Recently I came upon the reflections of an unknown teacher talking about what she sees in her kids (her students).  I haven’t verified the source or the authenticity, but I like much of the sentiment as she (I assume) puts milestones (success) into the perspective of love:

When I look around my classroom I couldn’t tell you who crawled first, who walked before one of spoke in sentences by 15 months. I can’t tell you if their parents breastfed or boatel fed. No clue if they still wear pull-ups at night, because I’m sure many do! I don’t know if they potty trained at 18 months or 4 years old. I don’t know if their mom ever left them to cry it out for a few minutes or if they strapped them to their bodies 24/7.

You know what I can tell you when I look at my kids? I can tell which families value kindness and manners in their homes. I can tell when a child feels loved and secure at home (and at school which sadly isn’t always everyone’s school experience!) I know who has pizza and movie Friday nights and which mom reads in different voices for bedtimes. I see how kids handle  scary situations like thunderstorms. I can see who has a solid routine at home and who has chores and responsibilities. I can hear how you speak to your children by how they speak to others.

When I look at my little friends I don’t see their milestones, I see who they are: their heart, their actions, their inner voice, their struggles and triumphs, and I see you; and all the love you pour into them. We are always supposed to talk about testing and benchmarks and data during parent-teacher conferences and I had a mom last time look at me and say, “I don’t worry about all the reading and math, she will get there. I want to know… how is she, as a person? Is she kind? Does she include others?”

That took my breath away and is something that will always stick with me!!!

Go easy on yourselves mamas, just love your little ones… it’s all they need.

Author Unknown

Is love all they need?

As parents, we know it’s not simply the either/or of success vs. character; it is the both/and of life.  We want our children to succeed, even if we haven’t articulated to ourselves what is “success” – and – we want our children to grow in a wider sense of life, to be persons of character and kindness.

Indeed success takes on nuance as we come to know and accept our child’s personality, personhood, and aptitudes. I am not sure love is all they need… but without it where would they be now? Without love nothing else matters.  Without love nothing else succeeds in the wider sense of that word.

From the ancient text we read:

If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Jesus put success into perspective when He said,

What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?

So I ask, “without love where would you be right now?” Or to put it differently:

“Because of love where are you right now?”

For more go to “Quia Amaste Me“.

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A Relic of Anguish

Christoph Büchel’s Barca Nostra, Arsenale. Getty Images

Kelly Grovier, culture critic with the BBC, “trawled through the artworks on display at the 2019 Venice Biennale” to pick out highlights including this wreck of a cargo vessel. This is what caught my attention:

The most haunting work in this year’s Biennale is also the one that’s causing the greatest stir. In a bold move that has divided opinion, the Swiss Icelandic artist Christoph Büchel has transported to Venice’s ancient shipyard, the Arsenale, the salvaged wreck of a cargo vessel that sank in the Mediterranean in 2015. The tragedy claimed the lives of around 800 migrants who were trapped in the ship’s hold. The rusting and lacerated hulk, which Büchel has christened “Barca Nostra” (or “Our Boat”), was recovered from the bottom of the sea along with the remains of many who perished. Others were lost without a trace.

The battered boat wedges its way, like a static glacier of unending suffering, into the psyche of everyone who passes it, admonishing us, as if from another world. So raw and unflinching is the work’s intolerable power, some visitors may feel blindsided by its un-metaphorical frankness (this is after all, not an artistic interpretation of anguish but a real relic of it) and object to the repurposing of the doomed vessel as a fleeting installation in an ephemeral art festival famous for its gewgaws of glamour and glitz.

There is something about the distant plight of modern day refugees that would cause us to pause. For millennia people have been nudged, moved, pushed, or otherwise displaced by the bullies of force. Has there ever been a time when we have not been part of going with or receiving a diaspora?

Kyrie, eleison.

For more go to “A Prayer for Refugees.”

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