The Creative Call by Janice Elsheimerc

So good. I return to this book again and again. For reminder. For inspiration. For encouragement.

I’ve read The Creative Call three times. The first time in 2004. I was taking classes at the time and wanted to reignite my passion to write and somehow fit my writing into a busy life of being a wife and a mom, with a full time career in the Navy.

I picked it up again in 2012, wanting to return to my passion again after and during many changes and challenges: hurricanes, retirement, launching children, moving, parents with illnesses. All the things in life that teach us, grow us, take us to the depths of our souls and back.

And I picked it up again this year, in the midst of writing, when I felt the Lord leading me to conduct a writer’s workshop. I was learning so much I wanted to encourage other would-be-writer’s to pick up the pen and write.

In The Creative Call, Elsheimer walks creative spirits (we the artists, whether painter, writer, musician, gardener, etc) through our obstacles, arguments and frustrations and leads us to a place of inspiration. She provides places in the book to write our thoughts, our reflections, our answers. The exercises in the book provide me an interesting look back to where I was and where I am today. Some things have changed, some have stayed the same and some have come into fruition. At the end of the book, Elsheimer also gives ideas and suggestions for hosting an artist’s retreat. It definitely makes The Creative Call worth revisiting again. Anyone interested in an artist’s retreat next year?

Quotes

  • …even as a child I felt that these gifts were from God, that they were not just something he gave to me but something that came through me.
  • Creative people know that not only are they missing something important when they aren’t exercising their creative gifts, but they are also shrinking from the responsibility they have to develop those gifts.
  • Our gifts are not from God to us, but from God through us to the world.
  • In the end we come to know this:  We can’t do a thing about the past, but to some extent we can and do have control over the present.
  • Perhaps you have always thought it was just too arrogant to believe you have talent worth sharing.
  • Instead of hoping that finding ourselves will result in practicing our art again, we need to realize that only through losing ourselves and becoming reliant on God can we discover how to use those gifts the way he wants us to use them.
  • …unlocking your creativity is action: simply doing the next thing that needs to be done.
  • Through the Word, the process of creation began. And through God’s Word, our creative renewal will begin as well.
  • The want to either discover or more fully use their talents because they know that if they don’t, they will be leaving something important undone.
  • …practicing your art is a form of worship, a way to use your talents to draw closer to God.
  • We are here to do his will, not gratify our own egos.
  • Being time is the time when we cease to strive. It is about placing ourselves in a state of expectation so that we can hear what God, the Creator, has to say to us, his creation.
  • We do not write in order to be understood, we write in order to understand. – C. Day-Lewis
  • Artists, especially writers, often just have “too many words.”
  • It is instead our responsibility to realize that God gave our talents to us for a purpose, his purpose, and it’s not important that we understand what that purpose is before we start becoming productive artists. What is important is that we accept the talents God gave us, develop them, honor them, use them, and not bury them.
  • God does not give us overcoming life–He gives us life as we overcome. – Oswald Chambers
  • Inspiration far more often comes during the work than before it because the largest part of the job of the artist is to listen to the work and to go where it tells him to go.
  • That fact that artistic encouragement is so rare might explain why many of us did not believe that if we dreamed, we could become it.
  • Encouragement often comes when we least expect it.
  • I began to see my writing as a pathway to a closer relationship with God, not as a glorification of myself.
  • I began to see writing as a way to glorify him.
  • Our art is not necessarily Christian in content, but it is centered in the truth that the Holy Spirit reveals.
  • …wherever you are, to take in… a “healthy diet of sense impression. We must absorb the world around us and learn to see that world anew…
  • We must make up our minds that, just as in any job we are paid to do, we will attend to the work at hand.
  • …doing the work of becoming an artist is important, so important that sometimes other things may not get done.
  • Remember that as a creative person, the important thing is to create. Who sees what you make, where it goes and what it does is a secondary consideration; the first is to exercise the talent God has given you.
  • It is ironic that when we adopt a servant attitude, which seems to imply bondage, we are actually set free to create something greater than ourselves, something that results from a collaboration between God and us.
  • Whether you feel inspired to create or dry and uninspired, you must make time to practice your art.
  • It’s not that we don’t have time for our art. It’s just that we sometimes make unwise choices about how we spend the time we do have.
  • Too many worthy activities, valuable things and interesting people. For it is not merely the trivial which clutters our lives but the important as well.
  • The truth is — listen carefully to this one — other people really can get along without you!
  • Saying no to other people is saying yes to God’s desire for us to develop the gifts he gave us.
  • It is the place artists go when they are so caught up in their art that the worries an cares of the day have ceased to exist for them.
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Re: Regrow

My husband and I planted a butterfly/hummingbird garden in the spring. We selected plants that were either native to our area in the Texas Hill Country or did well in our climate (heat and drought tolerant). We also tried to choose plants that were somewhat deer resistant. Because the deer, especially the young ones, will try almost anything.

We selected the area on our property, a place where the ground sloped away from an extension of our driveway. We built a rock wall along the slope to make the bed somewhat level and most of it raised. We then had a load of soil delivered and dumped in the area. Once prepped, we began planting.

I surrounded the rock wall with creeping rosemary, hoping the smell would deter the deer. Then we added several varieties of lantana, along with esperanza, pride of barbados, mexican and jerusalem sage, butterfly bush, and a couple kinds of decorative grasses.

I set up a mister system to help water during our long periods without rain. And, just before we left for an extended trip, my husband and I put up a quick fence, hoping to deter any curious deer. The fence wasn’t very secure. It was made of plant netting and stakes shoved into the ground.

During our trip, we received a text from our neighbors. The deer easily knocked down our fence in several places and routinely enjoyed the salad bar we set out for them. Sure enough, when we returned, about half of the plants provided a feast for our four footed friends. The plants they didn’t care for flourished. The others, not so much.

If we wanted to provide food for butterflies and hummingbirds, rather than the deer, we’d have to improve our garden defense. We cemented the posts into the ground and wrapped the area in wire fencing. So far, so good. The deer are a bit miffed because they can’t get in.

The nibbled on plants are now regrowing, flowers are reblooming and the butterflies are returning.

Our hearts are like the flower garden. Quite tempting for the world (the enemy) to come in and slowly gnaw away at us, taking big chunks of us, stunting our growth and beauty, and ultimately hindering the purpose for which God created us.

Often, we erect our own fences, feeble, frail and usually ineffective. The enemy easily tramples down our weak defenses and feasts on our lives.

But God has something more effective in mind. He provides a sturdy fence, real protection, and the enemy cannot infiltrate.

– God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1
– I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Psalm 91:2
– So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10
– But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one. 2 Thessalonians 3:3

Sometimes the law, God’s word, his Torah, may seem restrictive, legalistic, and oppressive. But that’s not his intent at all. He has given his knowledge, his instruction, his guidance for our protection. When we follow it, it’s like a solid wall, and strong defense for our hearts.

For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He holds success in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones. Then you will understand what is right and just and fair—every good path. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you. Proverbs 2:6-11

As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him. Psalm 18:30

I take precautions to shield my plants so they can abundantly grow and display their beauty. In the same way, I want to allow the Lord to shield my heart, so it to can abundantly grow, displaying the beauty he has planted there.

 

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Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life by Henri J Nouwen

Reaching OutNouwen takes the reader on a journey through three spiritual “movements,” each one dealing with a different aspect of our relationships: to ourselves, to others, and to God. The first movement involves our relationship with ourselves, moving us from a place of loneliness to discovering the joys found in solitude. The second movement joins us to our fellow human beings, moving us from hearts bound in hostility to hearts equipped for hospitality. The third and final movement encompasses our relationship with God, moving us from our illusion of Him, to understanding Who He truly is through prayer. Nouwen then intertwines the movements, weaving the act of waiting, our need for community, and intimacy with the Father into a beautify symphony of prayer and expectation.

  • To live a spiritual life we must first find the courage to enter into the desert of our loneliness and to change it by gentle and persistent efforts into a garden of solitude.
  • Go into yourself. Search for the reason that bids you to write; find out whether it is spreading out its roots in the deepest places of your heart, acknowledge to yourself whether you would have to die if it were denied you to write. This above all – ask yourself in the stillest hour of your night: must I write?
  • …because in our world we are constantly pulled away from our innermost self and encouraged to look for answers instead of listening to the questions.
  • “It is the Christ in you, who recognizes the Christ in me.” “Yes,” he said, “He indeed is in our midsts,”
  • But slowly we can become aware of the possibility of making our human encounters into moments by which our solitude grows and expands itself to embrace more and more people into the community of our life.
  • …but in our innermost self the place can be formed where they (friendship and community) can be received as gifts.
  • In solitude we can pay careful attention to the world and search for an honest response.
  • When hostility is converted into hospitality then fearful strangers can become guests revealing to their hosts the promise they are carrying with them. Then, in fact, the distinction between host and guest proves to be artificial and evaporates in the recognition of the new found unity.
  • When we have seen and acknowledge our own hostilities and fears without hesitation, it is more likely that we also will be able to sense from within the other a pull toward which we want to lead not only ourselves but our neighbors as well.
  • Hospitality, therefore, means primarily the creation of a free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy.
  • We are so afraid of open spaces and empty places that we occupy them with our minds even before we are there.
  • …how we ever can expect something really new to happen to us if our hearts and minds are so full of our own concerns that we do not even listen to the sounds announcing a new reality.
  • …we cannot force anyone to such a personal and intimate change of heart, but we can offer the space where such a change can take place.
  • Looking at hospitality as the creation of a free and friendly space where we can reach out to strangers and invite them to become our friends, it is clear that this can take place on many levels and in many relationships.
  • Healers are hosts who patiently and carefully listen to the story of the suffering strangers. Patients are guests who rediscover their selves by telling their story to the one who offers them a place to stay.
  • Real honest receptivity means inviting the stranger into our world on his or her terms, not on ours.
  • Real receptivity asks for confrontation because space can only be a welcoming space when there are clear boundaries, and boundaries are limits between which we define our own position.
  • When we want to be really hospitable we not only have to receive strangers but also to confront them by an unambiguous presence, not hiding ourselves behind neutrality but showing our ideas, options, and life style clearly and distinctly.
  • …it belongs to the core of Christian spirituality to reach out to the other with good news and to speak without embarrassment about what we “have heard and… seen with our own eyes… watched and touched with our hands.” (1 John 1:1)
  • Receptivity without confrontation leads to a bland neutrality that serves nobody. Confrontation without receptivity leads to an oppressive aggression which hurts everybody.
  • Only in a free space can re-creation take place and a new life be found.
  • Poverty of mind as a spiritual attitude is a growing willingness to recognize the incomprehensibility of the mystery of life.
  • …learned ignorance makes one able to receive the word from others and the Other with great attention.
  • With poverty of heart we can receive the experience of others as a gift to us.
  • When our unfulfilled needs lead us to demand from our fellow human beings what they cannot give, we make them into idols and ourselves into devils.
  • When we move from illusion to prayer, we move from the human shelter to the house of God.
  • So, the paradox of prayer is that it asks for a serious effort while it can only received as a gift.
  • The movement from illusion to prayer is hard to make since it leads us from false certainties to true uncertainties, from an easy support system to a risky surrender, and from the many “safe” gods to the God whose love has no limits.
  • When our heart belongs to God, the world and its powers cannot steal it from us.
  • Prayer, therefore is far from sweet and easy. Being the expression of our greatest love, it does not keep pain away from us. Instead, it makes us suffer more since our love for God is a love for a suffering God and our entering into God’s intimacy is an entering into the intimacy where all of human suffering is embraced in divine compassion.
  • Just because prayer is so personal and arises from the center of our life, it is to be shared with others. Just because prayer is the most precious expression of being human, it needs the constant support and protection of the community to grow and flower.
  • In the community of faith… we can affirm each other in our waiting and also in the realization that in the center of our waiting the first intimacy with God is found.
  • Since our desire to break the chains of our alienation is very strong today, it is of special importance to remind each other that, as members of the Christian community, we are not primarily for each other but for God. Our eyes should not remain fixed on each other but be directed forward to what is dawning on the horizon of our existence.
  • Therefore, the Christian community is not a closed circle of people embracing each other, but a forward-moving group of companions bound together by the same voice asking for their attention.
  • While living between the first and second coming of the Lord, the Christian community finds its meaning in a patient waiting in expectation for the time in which God will be all in all. The community of faith always points beyond itself and speaks its own unique language, which is the language of prayer.
  • But when prayer is no longer its primary concern, and when its many activities are no longer seen and experienced as part of prayer itself, the community quickly degenerates into a club with a common cause but no common vocation.
  • Without community, individual prayer easily degenerates into egocentric and eccentric behavior, but without individual prayer, the prayer of the community quickly becomes a meaningless routine.
  • When we reach out to God individually as well as in community, constantly casting off the illusions that keep us captive, we can enter into the intimate union with him while still waiting for the day of his final return.
  • We do not have to deny or avoid our loneliness, our hostilities, and illusions. To the contrary: When we have the courage to let these realities come to our full attention, understand them and confess them, then they can slowly be converted into solitude, hospitality and prayer.
  • …invite all who share our life to wait with us during this short time for the day of complete joy.
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Re: Replenish

Revisiting the books I’ve read in the past and posting them to my Saturday Featured Books blog provide me an unexpected blessing: replenishment.

As I flip through the pages and reread the quotes, I am filled again with the truths, the inspirations, the takeaways of the books. Each one challenges me, prods me, and forms me.

I feel as if ‘m the pool of water at the bottom of a waterfall, taking everything poured over the edge. But, truth be told, I have a filtering gate at the top, because I don’t let just anything pour over. I’m very selective in the books I read, because they become a part of me. I want my pool to be replenished with true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy things (sound familiar?). I chew on the words, I question them, I wrestle with them. And I want them to be worthy.

Typically, I choose books by the season I am in.

A few years ago, I read through a stack of books on prayer (literally and figuratively, as some were on my kindle) because I wanted to wrestle with this thing called prayer. What is it? How do I do it? What should I expect?

Did I find any answers? Maybe? Mostly, I spent time in the questions.

When we lived in Mississippi and the Lord had us working with marginalized people, I poured over another stack of books, that time on poverty and racism and homelessness because I wanted to understand, I wanted to be effective, I wanted to make a difference.

Did I find any answers? Some. Mostly, I spent time in the questions.

Recently, as I’ve pursued my passion, my dream, my call of writing, I’ve plowed through some of the best books on the craft of writing because I went to tell engaging stories, powerful stories, life-changing stories.

Have I found any answers? Hopefully. Mostly, I spend a lot of time in the questions.

I’ve also pursued great fiction to read. I’ve started many novels, but only finished a few. Because time is precious and I don’t have time to immerse myself in a story that doesn’t grab me and pull me like a captive into its world, its adventures, its dangers. Quite possibly, as I continue my Featured Books, I will present some of my great fiction finds and rather than quotes (I rarely highlight fiction – although I have a few scenes that are life-transfomingly amazing) I will hopefully give enough of a tease to make readers want to dive in.

As I peruse each of the one books I’ve read in the past, I’m stirred to reread them. But then I look at the stack of books I have waiting. And the stories I have still yet to write. And I know I must press on and allow the fresh ideas and new insights continue to replenish my pool at the bottom of the waterfall.

How else can I search for more questions to spend time in?

 

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Breakthrough Prayer by Jim Cymbala

Breakthroughs. Something we all want. In our lives, in the lives of those we love, in our neighborhoods, our churches, our cities. We long to see changed, transformed lives.

Jim Cymbala has influenced my prayers for years, starting with Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire; Fresh Power; Fresh Faith; When God’s People Pray and also Breakthrough Prayer.

As always, reviewing the quotes I highlighted in the book brings awesome reminders. First and foremost is absolute necessity of intimacy with my Father. Without it, are my prayers anything more than throwing wishes into the wind? With it, I’m grounded in his promises, aware of his will, and filled with strength and wisdom for his purposes. In this place, I can experience the breakthroughs I desperately want to see.

Quotes:

  • God’s blessing is invincible against all the powers of earth and hell.
  • …we are to ask in prayer for an outpouring of God’s favor.
  • …effective praying often involves more than just saying the right words.  Seeking God with our whole heart is the kind of Bible praying that secures not just answers but the blessing of God that we all need.
  • A tremendous blessing awaits each of us every day in the Word of God!  When we read with a sincere desire to hear God and take his truth to heart by faith, we will receive favor from him.
  • God’s blessing is reserved for those who long with all their would to walk in his light and holiness.
  • God is waiting for us to obey by faith the leadings and promptings he so often gives us.  As we obey, untold divine resources and grace will be provided.
  • Compassion and concern for the downtrodden, then, is not merely part of a “liberal agenda,” but is rooted in the very heart of our Creator.
  • …most of us still live with only the slightest understanding of the most ancient, dynamic source of power there is – the power that comes from prayer.
  • Prayer for conversion is important and it is true that only God can save a soul.  But unless his servants boldly proclaim the gospel, how will the kingdom of God be extended.
  • But when the Lord’s method for accomplishing his purpose includes you and me, then it is both a wonderful privilege and a sacred responsibility for us to respond with faith.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask God for great things.
  • …this who seldom ask receive in proportion to their little faith.
  • Our struggle is to slow down long enough to spend time with God to do two things: ask and listen.
  • The world has yet to see a Christlike, victorious, and fruitful, believer who was not a person of considerable prayer.
  • How often do we spin our wheels, talking and worrying, while the Lord of the universe waits to be invited into the fray?
  • Though we acknowledge that God has plans for us and that his promises reflect his grace and mercy, we don’t realize that he wants us to petition him for the very things he promised.
  • Purpose, promise, prayer
  • We need to realize that the promises that overflow our Bibles will overflow into our own lives only as we appropriate them through prayers.
  • Instead, we are told that prayer brings us before the throne of grace as children seeking the help of their heavenly Father.
  • First… humbling… Second… believe… Third… pure heart… Fourth… assurance.
  • It’s easy to ask God for the things we want and need.  But it’s not so simple to adjust our hearts and lives to his Word.
  • Of course it’s important to hear sound Bible teaching, but the real truth about God should lead people to a life of asking and receiving.
  • But rather than allowing our mountains, however massive, to become obstacles to prayer, we can turn them into opportunities to learn valuable lessons about our level of spiritual maturity and our need to go deeper with God in prayer.
  • Sound doctrine that yields faithless living and no prayer is no doctrine at all.
  • … he is always ready to help those who call out to him in believing prayer.
  • The only indisputable proof that God’s grace is at work in us is the spiritual fruit we produce.
  • Without love, every form of religious observance is worthless.
  • The sign of God’s presence is always love.
  • The greatest deception of all… is the idea that we can represent and preach Christ while being strangers to his heart of love.
  • After we pray or step out in obedience, things may get worse before they get better!
  • Often, standing on God’s promises involves more than we bargained for.
  • We act on his promise, and the testing begins.
  • When we hold on to God’s word, we will always witness a day when the Lord says, “Now you will see what I will do!”
  • … how beautiful they can become as Jesus begins his work in them.
  • Only the Holy Spirit can inspire us to pray effectually and he uses various means to accomplish his purpose.
  • … serious prayer is born out of a sense of need, out of the knowledge that we must ask God to intervene.
  • This is the process the Lord often uses – working out his plans through weak human beings who feel compelled by their need to pray.
  • Follow the Spirit’s leading and ignore everything that discourages you from trusting the Lord.
  • These are some of the mysteries of prayer that God never fully explains.  Still he gives spiritual insight to those who spend time with him at the throne of grace.
  • We should pray for spiritual renewal across the land not so much for the blessings it will bring us, but so that God’s name may be exalted.
  • Lack of prayer translates into lack of peace no matter how knowledgeable we are about the Bible.
  • …regular praying costs something, but the cost of not praying is much higher.
  • Just because God loves the world doesn’t mean he has lost his holy hatred of sin.  Let’s pray for a spiritual revival that will clean the church of unholy practices!
  • Isn’t it a solemn matter to consider that what some call “tolerance” God judges to be high treason!
  • …the great majority of God’s promises have conditions attached to them.
  • …the fulfillment of God’s promises often depends on our walking before him in sincerity and truth.
  • An attentive, willing heart is the great need of the hour.
  • The enemy knows that the best way to breach your spiritual immune system is by attacking your faith.  Once your faith is undermined, you become an easy target for a variety of spiritual maladies.
  • We constantly hear about the need for solid teaching and proper leadership in a church, but when was the last time the “gift of encouraging” received its proper due?
  • …it is a real  blessing to have fellowship with believers whose faith is so vibrant that it rubs off on me.
  • “What has the Lord given you lately from his Word?”
  • When sermons, teaching,s and exhortations don’t build up people’s faith, they are not from God, no matter how many Bible verses are quoted.
  • …intercessory prayer touches God with one hand while reaching out to those being prayed for with the other.
  • Encouraging others through prayer is both a privilege and a responsibility.
  • We have an abundance of teachers, singers, musicians, worship leaders and administrators, but a critical shortage of those who will devote themselves to this sacred calling.
  • Folks who have little appetite to be with other believers have, in fact, little appetite for Christ.
  • …fear and timidity are never God’s will forms people.
  • Not only can God protect us from danger, but he can also rescue us from the nagging fear of what might happen to us.
  • “Trying harder” to do the right thing is not what’s needed. Instead, we must have faith in what God can and will do for us.
  • When it comes to being led by the Lord, there are no simple formulas that apply to every situation.
  • If we are going to break through into new power in prayer and service to others, we must make a deeper acquaintance with the Holy Spirit of God.
  • Without being Spirit-led, we cannot possibly live victoriously for Christ.
  • …nothing produces spiritual results like being led by the Spirit.
  • When is the last time you heard someone pray, “lord, fill me with the joy you promised me”?
  • Many people plod through their days with a sour, irritable spirit that is corrosive to themselves and others.
  • Real joy is not mere “happiness,” a feeling that fluctuates with our circumstances. Rather, it is a deep inner delight in God that only the Holy Spirit can produce.
  • If we are going to walk victoriously by faith, we must maintain a daily spirit of joy in the Lord.
  • …those who live closest to God are the most joyful people on the planet.
  • When we are full of God’s joy, eery ordinary day becomes a happy celebration of his goodness.
  • …we must rejoice in the Lord in everything we put our hands to.
  • As you open your heart to compassion and mercy, God will do exceedingly beyond what you can ever ask or think.
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