Let the Creativity Flow

You know what the enemies of creativity are? Thinking too much about getting it "right" and about what other people will think of the product and about how it measures up to other people's work. Forget all that--just make stuff. It can be so super fun and joyous to create when I have freedom from those oppressive voices.

Last night I had a wonderful time with my friend Jason. I went over to his place with some of the songs I had written, and he played them on the guitar and offered suggestions and new musical arrangements and stuff. It was so great! Because I enjoy writing lyrics, and making up tunes, and I can sing the hell out of some songs, but I am not a good guitar player at all (I know like 10 chords, and for the most part all of my songs have some kind of D-G-A thing going on...). But Jason is awesome, so I would sing the song for him, and he could make up arrangements and say, "Hey, you should repeat that word here" or "This song should just have minimalistic guitar in the background" and stuff like that. It was great! My songs sounded better than I ever thought possible. Really exciting. And I feel comfortable enough with Jason that I didn't worry about being impressive or whether he thought my lyrics were stupid (okay, there were a couple lines he said were stupid, but it didn't bother me) or anything like that. It's so fun just to go with the flow and experiment and try things and feel free.

Then, my roommate and I are wanting to redecorate our living room a bit. One thing this requires is taking the four little art prints we have on the mantle, hanging them somewhere else, and replacing them with one big piece of art. We were discussing which artists we might want to put there, when we had the idea to make one ourselves. We're going to get a big canvas (or something--we have never painted and are extremely open to suggestions) and split it vertically down the middle, and we are each going to do something with one side. AND, we are not going to be able to see the other person's creation until ours is done. So who knows how it will turn out? It's exciting. (If anyone has ideas on what paint to get, how to do this as cheaply as possible, please share.)

Yay for unbridled creativity and freedom.


Today's the Day.


Daily Devotional Miracle

For a while, I was really into those daily devotionals--you know, where there's a Scripture text to read for the day, and a little paragraph reflecting on it. In college and after I used that one called "Our Daily Bread" and found that God would often use it to speak to me about exactly what was on my heart. I got my mom into these too, but at her church they offered "Christ in Our Home" instead, so she used that one. (In terms of these daily devotional things, in my experience the best one is the one put out by the Upper Room that I can't remember the name of. I am not a fan of "Our Daily Bread" anymore, but the one my mom reads seems pretty cool.)

Anyway, whenever I come to San Diego to visit my mom (which is where I am now), in the morning we get some coffee, sit in the living room, and she reads me the biblical passage of the day and the reflections from her daily devotional. Also in the one she reads ("Christ in Our Home") there is a line at the end that says "Prayer concern: XXXX" and the XXXX is always some random group of people that is loosely connected to the reflection (e.g., food service workers, gardeners, pastors, people struggling with debt, people who enter dog shows, etc.) So she'll offer some spoken, earnest prayer for them at the end of reading the devotional.

Well, yesterday we didn't do this devotional ritual, because my mom went to have cancer surgery (hence, me being here in San Diego) and we had to leave the house at 4am to go down to the hospital. She had the back corner or her tongue removed (it went well, she's home and recovering).

Anyway, as I wake up this morning and go into the living room, my mom (who cannot speak right now from the surgery) starts gesturing at her devotional book. I walk over to her and she points to the date at the top of the page, and it reads yesterday's date (December 19, 2006). Then she runs her finger to the bottom of the page and it reads: Prayer Concern: Those struggling with cancer.

You go, God.


The Book Above All Books.

Looking at the title you might think I am talking about the Bible, but I am not. Yes yes yes, the Bible is truly THE book above all books...but there's another book that's just a nanometer below it: The Brothers Karamazov (fyi: the z in Karamazov is pronounced like in zoo, not in Mozart). The thing about this book is that not only is it truly amazing from a literary standpoint (not to mention just gripping and enjoyable), but I am convinced that there is something about reading this book that actually transforms the reader.

I am just beginning to read it for the third time, but in a translation I haven't read before. My roommate (who is a serious translation snob), as well as several major critics and literary folks, contend that the only translation worth reading is the Pevear/Volokhonsky translation. I read their translation of Crime and Punishment over the summer, and it was great. So we'll see how their translation of The Brothers Karamazov stacks up. Bottom line: I am looking forward to seeing how this book shapes me this read-through.

As I read, I might blog in some brief, little sentences that I like. We'll start with a couple lines that I enjoyed from the end of the very first chapter (after describing how Fyodor Pavlovich responded to his first wife's suicide):

In most cases, people, even wicked people, are far more naive and simple-hearted than one generally assumes. And so are we.


How to Pray for Others

Last night at a meeting of people wanting to talk about how to increase and form deeper community at church, we briefly were on the subject of praying for others (like, during a church service, when people are invited to come up to a designated person/people if they need prayer for something) and it raised an issue that I find both very interesting and difficult to fully decide how to handle: the issue of how the moral/spiritual convictions of the person praying impact what is said and how a person is prayed for (and how they should).

Someone related an incident that occurred during one such prayer time, when a person (who was in a committed relationship with another person of the same gender) came up to him asking him to pray that God would give them a baby. Now, the pray-er has strong convictions that romantic same-sex relationships are wrong, and was opposed to them having a baby. So this person prayed for the situation generally, but not for the specific request of them receiving a baby.

Now, regardless of whether the specific situation above would be something difficult for you to pray for, it made me think that there could be times for any of us when we are asked to pray for something that goes against our deep convictions. Maybe for you it's not issues of sexuality so much as issues of money ("Please pray God helps the escrow on our $5 million vacation home to go through.") or issues of race ("Please pray that our country club stays race-specific, it's becoming really uncomfortable there and I really need it to remain a place where I can feel comfortable and safe in my life.") or whatever. The point is, we all have convictions that would make it difficult for us to pray for certain things...and that in itself is just a reality. It's not good or bad, it just is. The question is how to deal with that.

So, in a situation when a stranger is approaching me for prayer, there are a few things I try to keep in mind:

1) It's not easy to come up and ask a stranger for prayer. In that situation the person often feels vulnerable and is really putting themselves out there to ask for help. They are exposed.
2) I have been hurt in these situations before when I have really wanted prayer for something, and the person instead prayed for the situation on their terms (meaning: they did not pray for what I had asked, and redirected what they thought I should really be praying for). I felt like I wasn't heard; and I felt judged, frustrated, and deeply unaccepted. I felt worse than before I went up there.
3) I am not the gatekeeper of prayers. If someone has a certain desire, request, situation they want to bring before God, is it my job to tell them they cannot? Is it not in the very act of communing with God that we are often making space for God to transform our hearts and our desires?
4) One of my favorite quotations, by CS Lewis, goes like this: We must bring before God what is in us, and not what ought to be in us. In other words, be honest, keep it real. God knows what's in your heart anyway--what's the point of keeping stuff back or putting on a show?
5) God cares deeply about the person, no matter how broken they are, or no matter how silly their request may seem to me. And God takes them very very seriously.

Anyway, I have no answer to this issue. Overall I guess I think that honesty is the best policy. Like, instead of saying I will pray for someone about something and then slyly leaving out the exact thing they asked me to pray for, I would be open to dialoguing with them some more about it. Also, I might ask if they want to express their requests to God, and that I would stand with them as they do it. I don't know, I'm still thinking about this. How would you guys deal w/ it if someone (you don't really know well) asked you to pray for something that you felt was totally misguided?

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Advent and Spontaneous Fun

In case any of you have been DYING for an Advent Devotional Guide, yours truly was asked to write the one for my church. They even put it online for easy access at http://www.hollywoodpres.org/adventdevotion.htm Enjoy.

Advent is such the red-headed stepchild of the church year though, don't you think? People (including me) get all riled up for Lent...but Advent? not so much. It really wasn't until I wrote this guide that I really even began to get a sense of what an important season it could be--not only in my own personal life, but in the lives of communities. There is something powerful about anticipating together, y'know?

Today at Trader Joe's, where my friend and I went after walking around the Rose Bowl (where we saw mounds of trash left from the UCLA/usc game yesterday...GO BRUINS!), we were joking in line about Advent. We were offering entertainment to the other waiters-in-line with our sarcastic hilarity.

Me: Do you want me to buy you one of these Advent calendars?
Friend: Uh, no thanks.
Me: But how can you adequately prepare for the coming of our Lord without a small piece of chocolate for each day?
Friend: That's a good point. Chocolate seems like an excellent way to prepare.
Me: Yes, that's the way Jesus would want us to prepare for his coming into the world.
Lady in next line over: I agree. Chocolate is good. Chocolate with wine is better.
Me: That's true. Let's make an Advent calendar with a bottle of wine for each day.
Lady: And maybe some cheese.
Me: (thinking: c'mon lady? cheese? for Advent? what is wrong with this lady?) Yeah.

I love hilarity at the grocery store/cleaners/Target/etc. Honestly, don't you think common errands like that, when done with lighthearted friends, afford such excellent opportunities for spontaneous fun? I'm all about that. I knew it was over with my last boyfriend when he asked to go to the store with me and I didn't want him to come with me. Laughter and fun in the everyday is so crucial.

There, that's the Advent message of the day.

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