Challenges lead to creativity

The problem with much of our lives is that we become comfortable. It’s quite easy to stay where we are, do what we have always done, and not try something different, new or creative. To many of us can run from the creativity within us. But cretivity is sewn into the fabric of our being by a creative God. We run because everything is “fine” where we are.

We can often dwell on the cost of stepping out of the comfortable. Maybe it’s financial. It could be relational. It might even be the pure stress of the matter. No matter the excuss, we find one, good or bad, and lean on it with all our weight.

While this manifests itself in our personal lives and corporate lives, the church has not been exempt. After all, the church is people and people like comfortable. More often than not, it takes an event to move us in creative directions. It is like the company that is on the verge collapse and has to sell cereal just to stay afloat, like Air BNB. Or like the person who has to find time in their already busy schedule to exercise after their doctor gave them bad news regarding their health. In both crises, it is the challenges that force us out of the comfortable and into the creative. I would argue that it is perseverance in moments like these that cause us to grow as people, and I believe perseverance takes creativity.

Think of the human body. Exercise causes the body to go under stress, which causes the muscles that you’re working to break down. It’s the stress that creates growth. Here’s the thing, if you always do the exact same thing, same weight, same exercises, same exertion, you will never grow. Your body learns what to expect. It has a memory. You have to be creative with your workouts if you want the full benefit. You must do lifts and twists, different weights and reps in order to get the full impact.

To come back to the church, it can feel like we have to fight an uphill battle when it comes to creative change within the church (or any change for that matter). It’s like how we seek comfort personally, so too do our congregations and institutions accept their happy and comfortable existence. However, just like the body needs stress to grow, so it is with our congregations.

In the wake of Covid-19, I have been able to see something amazing. The stress of not being able to gather with our congregations has compelled churches to become creative. For many, this has meant trying out live feeds of their service or sermon on social media. This is a massive step for some congregations, and I’m proud of you. For others, they have become creative on how to reach out to their communities in the wake of isolation.

Challenge is forcing creativity.

My encouragement is for you to keep pushing to find new ways to show who Jesus is through good, bad, and ugly times. If this infectious disease goes away soon, don’t let the creativity fade along with it. Don’t settle back into the comfortable. We must keep pushing ourselves past the comfortable and into the creative. After all, we were made for creativity. It’s a beautiful place that though challenging, is real and stretching and the place of growth.

Let’s open up our hearts to the Holy Spirit. Let’s allow the divine creativity to flow through us. Let’s, in a paraphrase of Acts 1:8, receive the Holy Spirit and be God’s creative witnesses in our cities, our municipalities, to people we don’t like, and even to the ends of the earth.

Rejecting fear: Embracing others amid COVID-19

Toilet paper and bottled water are flying off the shelves as if it’s December 1999. As a parent of three asthmatic children and the spouse of someone who might be a verge hypochondriac, the threat is real. 

As Facebook fills with articles on the severity and memes that give perspective regarding other health issues, casual readers are left with conflicting voices that pendulum in our minds. When it comes to leaving our homes and going out in public, The Clashes famous lyric is flipped upon its head, if I stay there will be trouble, if I go there will be double.

Safety and hygiene are essential. However, I’m not qualified to comment on best practices or give health advice. My role is to remind us that there is a difference between fear and safety.

We have entered a time where sports teams have told players not to high-five fans and school boards are temporarily closing schools; it seems each decision is a roll of the dice in a true to life game of snakes and ladders. We either slide down the snake of fear or climb up the ladder of safety.

While safety is important, what I fear is that our fear drives us away from meaningful connections with others as we allow fear to drive us toward isolation and increased stereotypes.

Mitch Albom, in his book, The First Phone Call From Heaven gives an accurate commentary on fear when he writes,

Fear is how you lose your life…a little bit at a time…what we give to fear, we take away from…faith.

When we give in to fear piece by piece, we disappear. We become the opposite of who God created us to be. Fear causes us to become insular and reject love—both giving and receiving.

In 1 John 4:18 Jesus disciple John writes,

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”

What I fear is this,

I fear that we let fear control us. As media uses fear to drive us to our screens to see the latest updates, I can’t help but notice a society that is allowing Covid-19 to drive us away from loving each other. Have we rejected the orphan and widow? Do we no longer take in the strange? Is it no longer worth visiting the shut-in?

Like John states, fear has to do with punishment. We punish ourselves and others for what might—possibly,—maybe—happen if we reach or step out of our Lysol sanitized bubble.

Of course, we must be smart. Yes, precautions are probably wise. Saying this, the question we must ask ourselves is, are we not doing something right because we fear what might happen to our family or us. Smart, yes. Negligent, no! We must weigh the risks of our particular situation and make a smart decision that we weigh in love. 

While there are parallels to various situations, the Covid-19 situation seems to be putting people on edge. We must ask ourselves, how would Jesus show love in this situation? As Erwin McManus states,

“We are not free from the emotion of fear, but we are free from its control and paralyzing effect. Our course is guided by an internal compass of convictions fuelled by passions.”

God has not given you a spirit of fear. God has sown creativity, compassion, and intelligence in you. As we approach a possibly dangerous, contagious virus, let’s reject fear and use the gifts that God has given us to respond to both ours and others fear and show that love and connection can and will endure. It may not look the same, but we will not be siloed. We will not be prejudice, and we will not stop helping because love endures no matter what happens, God still reigns on the throne.

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