The Beginning // Creatives of the Bible 1.1

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” *

God is the original Creator. He began creativity. In the creation story, His art form was science. He crafted bright flowers to weave into His tapestry of colors in a grassy field, a shade in His knitted landscape of jutting mountains and sloping valleys, a mere swell on the mound of clay He formed into “Earth.” He looked at His creation and called it “good.” And it was good. A small reflection of the unending beauty of its Creator.

And God said, “Let there be light.” And there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light form the darkness.”

God tore the dark to reveal light. At his hand, the dry land ripped through the water and pooled it into seas. He coated the earth in green. Plants that could continue the creation process, sprouting seeds and fruits to mimic His first creative act. God pierced the darkness with lights great and small to remind His creation of the great Light always watching. He created living things that breathed and moved, marrying science with art, beauty for beauties sake like the colors in the bird’s feathers.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him, male and female he created them. And God blessed them.”

We are art inspired by the Creator, imprinted with His likeness, cast in His mold. We are masterpieces signed by the Artist.

His creation fits perfectly together. He created light to illuminate and personify His righteousness. He formed the earth as His base, His easel. The plants as a blanket, the sun to charge them, beasts and birds and fish to feast on them and populate the earth, and man to bear His image and rule the animals in His stead and use them and the fruit as fuel.

As His image-bearers, we also create. We design buildings that tower like His redwood trees, we paint the sunsets that He smeared with His brush of sky, we the write words He places in our minds that He wove. When we create, we become a shade of His reflection.

God has many qualities, all the qualities, in fact, that are right and true. He divvies them out among His creation; we all bear traces of Him in our framework. For some, it may be His compassion, or His leadership, or His organization. As image-bearers, we all have God’s imprint. We each have a purpose in His Kingdom. And creativity is one of those gifts; art is one of those purposes.

For if there wouldn’t have been art, the Psalms wouldn’t exist. If art wasn’t important to the Kingdom, the gospel of John wouldn’t be as rich.

God created art. He values art and uses art. Shouldn’t we, as well?

 

 

*quotes taken from Genesis 1 in the Bible, English Standard Version

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Creatives of the Bible

I’ve been thinking a lot about creativity and God’s purpose for it. Where does it belong in our Christian walk? Is it merely a useful tool, or is it a calling? As the very act of artistic expression is a reflection of God the Creator, surely He must have a purpose for such emulation in our lives.

Some Christians dismiss creativity as a frivolity, or a secondary concern, especially when it comes to serving the Kingdom. However, this isn’t the way it used to be. Consider Michelangelo and his exquisite sculpture of David or the monks that transcribed and illustrated scripture, or even the many Bible stories told through the colorful stained glass windows in ancient cathedrals.

I believe creativity should be cultivated and treated as a blessing from God. Art is an avenue to express our love to God and to share His love to others.

But what does the Bible say about creativity? Who were the artists of the Bible and how did they use their art? In the past few months as I’ve flipped my way through the scripture, I’ve happened upon Biblical creatives, from the talented artisans who worked on God’s temple in Exodus, to Tabitha, the woman Peter raised from the dead in Acts, who was known for the countless garments she crafted for others. I want to chase these artists down and explore what it is they add to God’s larger narrative. Why do their gifts bear mentioning in His word? How did their creative endeavors bring Him glory? I plan to track down references to creativity, from the original creation in Genesis, to David playing praises on his harp, to the apostle John writing about the life of Jesus in his gospel.

As a creative, I desire to learn God’s plan for my work by observing how He has used others’ in the past. Starting in Genesis and slowly working my way to Revelation, I want to record the stories of the Bible’s creatives and what we can learn from them.

Stage Fever

Most days, I wake up a writer. I go about my day dreaming up stories in my head and attempting to get them out on the page.

Last weekend, though, I stepped back onstage for the first time in over a year. I starred as a (fictional) famous Hollywood actress who had been subpoenaed by HUAC in 1947. It was a great role. Sharp, distinct, meaty. As an added benefit, I got all dolled up with red lipstick and retro waves and a 1940s navy dress that screamed vintage glamour (a dress that had been hanging in my closet for just such an occasion).

I love being under the lights. The audience’s gaze makes me come alive. Backstage I may keep to myself, but I light up onstage. Theatre gives me a voice, in a way that is different from writing. It’s more raw and immediate, and thus, more authentic. I can feel the reactions of the audience; I can commune with them in a way I can’t with pen and paper. There’s a certain energy that pulses through me, a dose of adrenaline that I don’t feel anywhere but the stage.

After a glorious show, I walk offstage and wonder, am I a writer? Is theatre truly only a hobby for me?

Recently, I discovered that one of my favorite writers had had a similar struggle in her youth: Louisa May Alcott.

I grew up on L.M.A. An Old-Fashioned Girl. Little Women. Rose in Bloom. After writing four papers on her work in college, I started reading her journal, and have been surprised at how much I relate to her 19th-century, 20-something struggles. I was shocked to see that at 25 years old in June 1858, the prolific children’s author wrote: “Perhaps it is acting, and not writing, I’m meant for.

I’ve uttered similar phrases, feeling like less of a writer and an actress because I can’t settle on either title. Instead of zeroing in on an all-encompassing passion, I keep “several irons in the fire…and try to keep ‘em all hot as Louisa wrote in March 1857, for I know that “nature must have a vent, somehow.

In the past, my love of acting has kept me from writing. I started writing stories at age 8. Not long after that, I discovered I could act out stories, too (and for an actual audience, rather than just dressing up with my friend and playacting in our bedrooms). My seventh grade year I took a drama class, which culminated in an end of the year play. I loved it. I stepped on that stage and was hooked. Baptized with my first waves of applause, I was further validated by a teacher who told me I had potential. From 7th grade through my sophomore year in college, I acted in a stream of plays and musicals, loving it a little more each time.

In choosing my college major, I decided that the (professional) actor’s life was not for me. I would instead focus on writing. However, I spent community college in every show possible. Even while at university, I couldn’t keep myself from driving 1.5 hours to play Cosette in my community college’s production of Les Miserables. After that show, brimming with compliments and flattering feedback, I had, as Louisa described it, “a stagestruck fit.

It happens every time I’m in a show, or even when I watch one.

It happened this weekend.

Can I, like Louisa, work off “stage fever” by writing a story? Or is it harder for me to shake than that? In the height of my fever, I wrote this blog post, after all. But hours after I had completed the first draft, I went back onstage and performed.

L.M.A nearly became an actress. Her chance came when she was living in Boston in June 1858:

“Saw Charlotte Cushman, and had a stagestruck fit. Dr. Willis asked Barry to let me act at his theatre, and he agreed. I was to do Widow Pottle, as the dress was a good disguise and I knew the part well. It was all a secret, and I had hopes of trying a new life, the old one being so changed now, I felt as if I must find interest in something absorbing. But Mr. B broke his leg, so I had to give it up, and when it was known, the dear, respectable relations were horrified at the idea. I’ll try again by-and-by, and see if I have the gift.”

That summer, she seemed ready to leave writing behind if success could be found on the stage. How might her life have been different had the show worked out? If theatre had been as socially acceptable as it is now, would she still have kept writing?

In any case, by age 26, Louisa had settled into herself as a writer. She wrote in November 1858:

“I feel as if I could write better now, more truly of things I have felt and therefore truly know. I hope I shall yet do my great book, for that seems to be my work, and I am growing up to it.”

Perhaps therein lies the key. Louisa lived, and then felt as if she had something to write about. Her experiences in the theatre provided fodder. Her books are filled with amateur plays put on by the March girls, trips to the theatre like the one Polly and Fanny make in An Old Fashioned Girl, and even characters like Josie in Little Men who dream of becoming actresses. In the last book she wrote, Jo’s Boys, the middle-aged Jo (modeled after Louisa herself) writes and acts in a play that is performed for the community. Even though Louisa found much greater success in writing over theatre, it kept popping up in her stories.

I can be no different. Theatre feeds my creativity. It makes me a better writer. Writing, in turn, has made me a better actress. Creativity doesn’t have to be restricted into one channel, for they overlap, branch off each other and swell stronger as a result. I’m not going to pick between theatre and writing and cut the other off. I’m going to keep chasing after the things that fire me up. I’ll keep plugging away, working toward my dreams and “see if I have the gift,” as Louisa did. Maybe my passions will meld together in an unexpected way (playwriting, perhaps?). Or maybe one dream will be left behind as success comes in the other.

Regardless, I will continue to claim both titles and create on.

(Quotes taken from The Journals of Louisa May Alcott by Louisa May Alcott, edited by Joel Myerson and Daniel Shealy, with Madeleine B. Stern.)

Dappled Musings

I’m a perfectionist. Clutching at perfect, I cringe at every typo and every sentence that could’ve been stretched further or whittled down, fearing the slice of criticism.

The fear of failure goads me more than I’m even aware.

I’m done with it. I am not perfect, and I never will be.

Oh, I’ve tried. Putting my heart into too many papers, plowing through the entire reading list on the syllabus and marathoning homework on the weekends instead of Netflix, I kept my goal GPA and graduated with honors. I thought the best way to shut up my demons was to stomp them out with success. But that only rubs makeup over deep scars. Now – a mere month after grinning onstage as I was handed my diploma cover – my success feels hollow. I may have slayed college, but the dragon that is adulthood looms ahead.

I have this mental checklist of how soon I need find a job or move out or get published or whatever and if I don’t, then I’m a failure. When I listen to Perfect, she demands immediate success with no false starts. Strive for money. Recognition. Affirmation, she says. And you better not mess it up, because one wrong move could land you in perpetual unemployment, so don’t you dare take risks or entertain whimsy.

Praise God for Grace, who tears into Perfect’s lies! Grace reminds me to take a deep breath and take one thing at a time. He reminds me that yes, it’s a weird, scary time of transition, but it is also just time – that can be wasted, or used for His glory. I believe He has called me to write. I don’t know who for or even what, exactly, yet. My job right now is to show up and do the work. I’ll never be a writer, or a blogger, as long as I worship Perfect. So I’m just going to post, under the cover of Grace. Imperfect posts on an imperfect blog by an imperfect girl who will still try to act otherwise.

During winter break, I stumbled on a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins, twice. He was a poet in the mid-nineteenth century who also served as a Catholic priest. His poem Pied Beauty struck me with the truth that there is beauty in imperfection. The spotted trout, the torn landscape, the color-speckled skies:

“All things counter, original, spare, strange; / Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?) / With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim; / He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change; / Praise him.

Gerard Manley Hopkins proclaims: “Glory be to God for dappled things.” He praises God for the mottled, the mussed and the marbled. The wildflowers that pop up on a manicured lawn. The single spot of brown on a kitten’s milky fur. A sinful, yet surrendered soul who is willing to fail as many times as He wills.

Like Gerard, I can praise God for making me imperfect in order to show His perfection and His strength in my weakness. I am dappled, but He still desires me. Praise Him for the reminders He leaves all over nature – that although His creation is good, it is flawed. Only His Grace, in the form of His perfect, pierced Son on the tree, can cover our imperfections.

Dappled Musings will be flawed, but it will chase truth and seek to glorify the perfect Creator. It will be a testament to God’s goodness and a hat tip to GMH who wrote the Truth into his poetry.

Glory be to God for dappled things –

For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;

For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;

Fresh fire-coal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;

Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;

And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;

Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)

With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;

He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:

Praise him.

– Pied Beauty, Gerard Manley Hopkins

The First Week of School: A Stress Story

The first week at a university is just rough. You’re hit with the semester’s lofty goals and crazy professors and from your vantage point, there doesn’t seem to be any way that you’ll get it all accomplished. I’ll be honest: Stress hit me pretty hard.

I started the week fresh and eager. It’s senior year, baby. I’m going to make it count. I’ll take more credits than I’ve ever had and try to still do theatre. I’ll join a campus ministry, I’ll work on my writing and I’ll even start a blog while I’m at it. Yeah, no.

It’s that time when the insecurities come up to bat. They slam into you just when you think you’ve got your footing. All the time you’ve put into banishing them and choosing to believe in yourself seems to be for naught.

Exactly one year ago, August 21st, 2013, I had a meltdown. It was barely a week after I had moved out for the first time and transferred to a university. I had graduated from my community college Suma Cum Laude. Well-liked by all my English professors, I had also starred in the theatre productions and even did a little tutoring. Coming to a university was A. Reality. Check. I went from feeling smart to feeling stupid, in pretty much all areas of my life. There was so much new. Even the positive changes were just too much for my poor introverted brain to handle all at once. The last straw was my Spanish class. I had taken two semesters of Spanish my first year at community college. They weren’t difficult and I sailed right through. University Spanish, however, was the real deal. I was technically ready for the third level, and so I enrolled in it despite the fact that it had been a whole year since I had spoken a word of Spanish. I walked into class and immediately wanted to sprint back out the door. The syllabus was jammed packed with difficult assignments and exams, and I could barely croak out a coherent sentence in Spanish. By the third day, my professor spoke almost exclusively in Spanish, and I could hardly understand any of it. I called my mom in tears.

“What am I supposed to do? If I drop this class I’ll be so behind!” I wailed. “I don’t know if I can do this!”

My mom talked me down with reason: “Check the registration site. Maybe there’s an opening in the lower level class. It’s just a class, Katie. God knows what He’s doing. Trust Him.” She also encouraged me to take a nap. “Life will look brighter after you’ve had some sleep.”

After a nice nap, I did feel better. But I knew I needed more than just physical rest. I picked up my Bible. In that past month, I had been working my way through Isaiah. The next chapter in line was Isaiah 43:

But now thus says the LORD, he who created you: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers; they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through the fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you…Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored and I love you…Fear not for I am with you. Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

Isaiah 43: 1-5, 18-19 ESV

In my prayer journal, I wrote:

Thank you, Jesus. Today was a terrible day. I felt completely inadequate in my classes and questioned my major and my own intelligence. I felt hopeless and homesick and terrified. Seeing this chapter today was exactly what I needed. I needed to be reminded that You have a plan for me. That I’m where I’m supposed to be. That I have to get through these first few weeks before it gets better. And that there is a better to aspire to. I need to remember HOW MUCH You love me – so much that you DIED for me. I am treasured. I have value. My worth is not measured by how smart I feel or the grades I get or my success. My worth is who I am in You. And You just told me You love me and that I am precious. Thank you, Jesus. I love you, too.

The next day, I checked the registration page, and there was one opening in the 11:00-11:50 Spanish II class. The exact time slot I needed. I dropped the upper level class and switched to the lower level, praising God.

This semester, I have no Spanish woes. I’ve taken both levels in the past year. But I still fell into the dangerous trap of worry: What if I can’t take the pressure of five classes plus extra activities? What if my grades suffer? Should I even be in a show this semester? I was caught in the turmoil of indecision and doubt.

I knew that God could give me rest. Hebrews 4 was my daily chapter:

And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Hebrews 4: 13, 16 ESV

The message is similar: God loves me. He knows me. He sees my sinful core and still desires me. He longs to take my burden from me and grant me grace to face this semester with His peace. No matter what this semester may bring, I have a rock that I can continually rely on. He will guide me and strengthen me.

Every first week, when I freak out and nearly choke on stress – God pulls me through. He graciously reminds me of His power and perfect all-knowing. He assures me: “Katie, you don’t have to face this semester alone. I am here. Trust that I am enough.”

Lord, I do.

The Mess

I’m a creative mess.

I have few career goals but a passel of interests and dreams.

I love Jesus, but I fail Him daily.

I write, sing, act, craft and collect, and these interests pull me in too many different directions for me to know which is truly my passion.

My future stretches before me like an abstract painting, and I struggle to find the meaning in the chaotic colors.

This blog is a stab at the mess, a search for direction in the midst of uncertainty. It’s a move to be more productive and intentional. It will give me a reason to write and help me to become more disciplined about it.

Dapled Musings will be my outlet for all things creative, and I can’t do that without pointing to the One who has blessed me with the drive to create. My attempts are only a paltry reflection of the ultimate Creator and I want my blog to worship Him through all that I create.

I will write about faith, writing, college, theatre, singing, DIY, fashion, and whatever else inspires me. Perhaps my blog will grow more focused and simplified, but for now, I’ll let my muse take me where it wills. As long as I’m writing and growing and exploring my interests, I’ll be tackling my mess, and that is enough for now.