What can Doctor Who teach us about appreciating art?

So I admit it… I’m a nerd. I like Star Trek, Doctor Who and all those TV shows that explore the fantastical with the scientific. One episode of Doctor Who in particular caught my attention. It shows the impact encouragement makes.

My passion is to love and support artists and creators of various kinds. In this particular episode The Doctor travels back in time to visit Vincent Van Gogh – arguably one of the greatest artists of all time. What I like the most is the end of the episode (click here for 3 minute video clip). The Doctor and his companion Amy take Vincent to an exhibition of his work in modern day Paris. The effect on the artist is beautiful. The words of encouragement spoken by the art historian have a profound affect on Van Gogh.

So my charge to you is this… Go and encourage an artist in your life. Do it frequently. Write a fan letter to a musician you love. Call up your friend who is struggling to get her work out there and tell her you see her and what she is creating.

Just a few words of encouragement have a deep impact on those who create, those who pour their lives and hearts into making beauty and sharing it with us. Go on… Encourage someone today.

Settling In

I have lived in Edmonton for a little over a month. Midterms are coming up, and I found a church. It has been exhilarating and exhausting settling into a new community. It is amazing how quickly time flies. On the same hand, how easy it is to fall back into old routines, some good and some bad.

Spiritually and creatively, this relates to setting time aside for God and for art. Since I have a major project I am working on it has been relatively easy to make time for art. I also, started carving time in my schedule before I moved.

However, taking time with God has been harder. Being more aware of his presence in everyday moments has helped, but I still find it difficult to set aside time specifically to meditate on his Word and be in his presence. I always find it a struggle to maintain an organic and interactive time with God. I tend to pendulum between a legalistic rigorous schedule and no planned interaction, both of which are spiritually exhausting. Maybe an artistic component will help with this, as well as, giving myself the freedom to not be perfect.

Is there anything new in your life? Has it changed the way you relate to others and/or God? Or is the change only external and you are the same internally? Are you happy with the changes or lack of change?

naming our strengths

I was bewailing my latest poor job interview to my mom over the phone.  Like any good parent, she listened, gave me some tough love about how I could do better, and then said something that was encouraging.  One way to get better at interviewing, she said, is to know yourself, and in particular, your strengths.  And it makes sense: if I want a job that allows me to do what I’m best at, a) I should know what that is, and b) be able to show/tell prospective employers so.

It’s not like I haven’t thought about this before.  I’ve always known that I’m a quick reader, that I’m not frightened of numbers (or big words, or strange ideas, or really anything you might find in a university class), that I relish thinking.  I know that these gifts make me unique.  But it was a surprising shift to think of those qualities as valuable, not just “I can (_insert gift_)” but “I can (_insert gift_) and it is good!”

Creativity is one of those gifts.  My expression of creativity is different than other people’s, and yet I’m coming to realize that I can bring a creative spin to projects…and that is a good thing!  Thinking about other creative friends (artists, writers, cooks, homemakers, pastors…), I wonder how much we let ourselves own and value our own creative gifts, instead of taking them for granted.  It’s hard to silence that voice of self-doubt, self-criticism, claiming that you aren’t really creative, or if you are, it’s not something that actually has value in this harsh “real world.”  But when I stop and think, I know that dreary voice is absolutely wrong!  Living creatively is what makes it possible to thrive instead of just survive in this “real world”: in the storytelling that speaks out against oppression, the art that heals wounds, the meals that bring together, the songs that speak our hearts, the thoughtful use of resources to make the world a better place.

I want to keep naming my strengths, not as a way to diminish others or deny my weaknesses, but as a first step towards giving them away in service to others.

Transforming Weakness

I have started using the calendar on my computer. I still have a paper day planner, but there are a few things I have entered in my computer. Two of them are my monthly writing club and my tri-weekly blog post. It is handy having an automatic reminder every third Tuesday or the second Saturday of the month. Unfortunately, life is not always as precise as technology. Of the eight months since I entered my writing club, this month, which happens to be the last month, was the first time that it was on the day I had planned.

In a similar vein, yesterday, when I got my reminder for this blog, I was annoyed. I didn’t want to write a blog. I’m moving in two days, I have a test in three, and my family has come to visit. The last thing I wanted to do was blog. However, tonight, I opened my computer and caught up on reading the two blogs that I follow. This one and Whispers of Encouragement. It was interesting to see that both of them talked about life being overwhelming and God being sufficient.

I was encouraged. I know that life can be hectic and we should not be slaves to our schedules, but I also think that sometimes it is good to have deadlines to strive for. Like Christine has been doing with Ignatian examen, I think that routines are important to stability. At this point, most of my routines have to do with writing and learning Japanese, but I would like to find more creative spiritual habits that help me grow.

One of the disciplines I do try and maintain is listening when my computer reminds me every three weeks that I need to blog. I don’t always need the reminder, and sometimes I look forward to it. I usually, even read Christine and Jill’s thoughts on their weeks, but there are times when I am just not interested. However, every time I do sit down to write, I find I have something to say. Whether, it is profound, or simple, at least once a month I take the time to think about my life, creativity and my relationship with God.

What are you dreading, that you should maybe do anyway?

sleeping with bread

I’m not feeling very creative today.  I don’t feel full of passion or positive motivation.  Most of what I feel is fear – fear that I’m behind in the work I’m supposed to be accomplishing, fear of future decisions, fear that my housemates and I won’t be able to find a place to live by September 1st.

“But I have to write a CreativiTea blog entry today,” I thought as I walked to the kitchen to refill on tortilla chips.  “Well, I can write about how I’m trying to cope with all these things.  That may not be about creativity, but it is surely about faith.”  So here it is.

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending a prayer retreat led by Susan Phillips where we explored the examen, a practice of Ignatian spirituality.  Broadly speaking, the examen is a method of examining your life and seeking the truth that it reveals; more specifically, a common way of practicing the examen is to sit down at the end of the day and ask yourself what you are most and least grateful for in that day.  Susan recommended a book called “Sleeping With Bread” as a good introduction to the practice, and I’ve bought it, read it, and am trying to do the examen every day now.

The title “Sleeping with Bread” comes from a story of children orphaned in World War 2; the children were having trouble sleeping until someone hit on the idea of giving them a piece of bread to hold as they slept, a reassurance that there would be food and shelter for them when they woke.  And I have found the examen to be that in my life so far.  Doing it as a ritual every night has provided a safe place to decompress at the end of long, busy days.  It has also helped me stay balanced between despair and denial by forcing me to confront what was hard about the day, but also by reminding me what was good and joyful.

Besides being a helpful practice on its own, doing the examen has shown me the importance of having daily (and weekly and yearly) rituals, not only for their inherent stability, but their ability to sustain us in all aspects of our lives – spiritual, mental, physical, and definitely our creative lives.

What rituals do you have that support and sustain your (creative – spiritual – emotional – etc.) life?  

Should age be the factor in mentorship?

I recently came across an online forum that crowdsources and refines ideas to make life better. The site is called OpenIDEO. My interest was peaked by a recent challenge on the site: How might we inspire and engage young people to support older adults through mentorship?

I appreciate this upside-down thinking where age is not the determining factor in who has something to give.

There are some wonderful contributions to the question. I love the idea of youth partnering with older adults to map memories of places to boost conservation in cities (submitted by Kate Machtiger). Or the “reverse summer school” where young people use empty school classrooms to teach skills to older adults during their summer holidays (submitted by Mathieu Chevalier).

In considering how we might support our aging population innovative and creative ideas like these will be needed.

How can young people in your area support older adults?

Preparing for Transitions

In September, I’ll be going back to school. I’m really excited, and a bit overwhelmed. Last week, I stayed with a friend for the few days before she left for school. It was wonderful, because she’s amazing, and moving to Tennessee, but it was also exhausting. It reminded me off all the things I need to get done before I go. I’ve already started studying for a placement exam. I’m working several days a week. I have to pack and move. Moving didn’t seem like a big deal, until I remembered that I needed to bring furniture, which means coordinating help, and taking a bigger vehicle. I’d also, like to get some of the projects I started in the last few years done, before I go to school.

Thinking about all this, I starting to regret the five day vacation in the middle of August. It would be five more days of studying, packing, etc. However, reading Christine’s blog from last week reminded me that not only is getting everything ready, making money for school, etc. important, but taking a break is an important part of preparation.

The idea of Sabbath rest is something I have always treasured about the Bible. Spending most of your time working, but having time set apart for rest has always made a lot of sense to me. It also makes me feel special, that God did not create me just to slave away. He created me with gifts and he expects me to use them. Work and learning are both part of his plan, but he also created me for relationship, rest and pleasure.

In the Old Testament, the seventh day was set apart as holy, it was the day that the Israelites were to do no work. Instead, they were to rest, just like God did during Creation. I am not sure what the Israelites did or didn’t do on the Sabbath. How they rested, or if they gathered in the temple, but I think that the idea of setting time apart for rest is very important even today.

Over the years, I have had many jobs where I had to work weekends. Sometimes this meant that I always had Mondays and Tuesdays off, and other times it meant that my weeks varied. As long as I took one day completely off within a week or so, it did not seem to make a difference. However, one of the things that I like about school, is there are no classes on Saturday and Sunday. I am looking forward to once again having every weekend off, or at least one of the two days off from studying. Hopefully, during this time of preparation, I will be able to find a healthy balance between work, rest and saying goodbye.

Have you found a healthy work, rest and relationship balance?