God Creates All Things New

My niece in Arizona had her first day of kindergarten recently.  I was moved by pictures of her first day of school. Such an innocent, fresh, excited look on her face!  Everything around her was new– new clothes, new school bag, new school, new teacher.

One of my favorite lines from the bible is found in the book of Revelation, when God says:  “Behold, I make all things new.” (21:5)  Although the context is about the end of the world and the forming of a new heavenly reality, I think it points to a deep reality about God:  God is Creator.

God did not merely create the earth in six days and then set his creative talent on a shelf until human history comes to the end of the world.  God is Creator, and God is still creating today in many ways. God planted traces of his own creativity in the creation: just look at how the seeds develop and mature, how life continues among animals with the birth of little pups and kittens, how the calendar of the earth time cycles around and begins again.

Our own lives can be instruments of God’s creativity when we try new things on for size.  We may try a new recipe, paint a room a new color, overhaul an engine, or show new skills to a young child.  We may reach out to a coworker and discover a new friend. Perhaps we travel to a new place or try a new way of volunteering.

Sometimes trying something new coaxes us out of our comfort zone. It can feel a little awkward and we may be a little tense (am I doing this right?).  But in stretching us a bit, the Holy Spirit seeks to re-create our lives into something new. We may make mistakes along the way, but that is part of the learning process, God creating new awareness within us.

As we enter into a new season of the year,  let us pray to the Holy Spirit to guide us and to re-new us.  We ask that the Holy Spirit to deepen our prayer lives and show us each how to use our unique giftedness to serve others. Let us pray for one another as we continue to move forward into this new chapter in our faith community. Let us put our hope and trust in God to re-create us.

What I did this summer

Oct 2014 Lunar eclipse--photo by Julie McCarty

You have made the moon to mark the seasons; 
the sun knows its time for setting. . . .
O Lord, how manifold are your works!
(from Psalm 104: 19, 24)

When I was growing up, “What I did this summer” was the standard theme for writing assignments when we returned to school. Since this summer, I haven’t been blogging here, so I thought I’d fill you in on what I’ve been doing.

Minnesotans love to be outdoors in the summer (especially after this past winter!), and I am no exception. The summer here is filled with all the outdoor work on the home and garden that you can’t do the rest of the year. More importantly, we Minnesotans just like to enjoy being outside in the summer. So I spent lots of time nurturing my vegetable garden, taking long walks to practice nature photography, and enjoying time with summer visitors from out of state.

Veggies from garden--Julie McCarty

(click on photos to enlarge)

In September, my husband Terry and I spent two weeks exploring Manitoba, Canada and Thunder Bay, Ontario. We enjoyed hiking and practicing photography in the wheat fields, zoo, Riding Mountain National Park, and Whiteshell Provincial Park.  I hope to write more about that enjoyable and soul-nourishing trip sometime in the future.

Manitoba entrance

One of the highlights of this summer was digging deeper into my volunteer coordinator role of another blog called “Easter Prays / Easter Praise!” This reflection blog is a joint effort of many people from our church, Easter Lutheran.  I’m so blessed with what others are sharing: personal reflections, original prayers, tips on praying and spiritual practices, and stories of God’s work in our everyday lives.

This week, Terry brought in the last of our garden: carrots. (Carrots can survive longer into the fall, as they are protected deep in the ground.) With the turning over of the garden soil, my mind turns indoors and inwards, in anticipation of winter… to the writer side of me… and the newly developing artist studio in my basement…and all the potential those reflective, creative activities hold. My mind also returns to this blog and the plan to post reflections more frequently again

So, as the last few leaves scurry across our lawn, I wish you a happy November (the beginning of autumn, perhaps, for some of you), filled with every blessing from above.

Until next time, Amen!  

Nature, creativity, and Creator God

I hope all of you are enjoying summer this year.  Here’s a photo I took of a monarch butterfly who kept flitting around the sandy beach.  I had fun adding the quote about Creator God.

Butterfly on sandy beach with Apollonius saying--Julie McCarty

Creativity often benefits from a playful attitude. In order to be creative, one has to let go of the critical self (writers call this “inner critic”), at least in the beginning, lest the new creation be crushed even before it’s out of the cocoon. It often helps to approach a new project with the spirit of childhood play.

I wonder if God would have created us, if his divine mind was filled with worries and fearful “what ifs” … What if they sin too much? What if the humans hate me? What if they hurt each other–or kill each other? What if NO ONE returns to the Garden of Eden (heaven) to be with me?

The creative energy just doesn’t flow with this sort of thinking. If God had been tangled up in nervous “what-ifs,” we might not even EXIST at all.

When I say this, of course, I’m really preaching to myself. In order to be creative, one has to silence the inner critic–at least in the initial stages. The inner critic can suggest improvements later, when it is time to edit or improve the work in progress.

May God bless you with a creative and re-creating summer…May your inner critic take a vacation so you can create something beautiful–be it sermons, recipes, vacations, work projects, art, photos, or simple messages on greeting cards. . . And may all you plan and create be filled with the wisdom, love, and Spirit of the Ultimate Creator.

Until next time, Amen!

(For more spiritual nuggets, visit Spiritual Drawing Board on Facebook.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creating things anew with God’s help–a look back, and forward

Some of you may remember that I selected the word “co-create” for my spiritual word for 2012. The spiritual word provides a theme or focus for one’s mind and heart over the course of time, an idea I learned from Christine Valters Paintner, the “online abbess” at the website Abbey of the Arts.

For me, “co-create” means to cooperate with God’s grace in making the world a better place. I found the word helped me to focus on trying new creative things, such as practicing nature photography and learning watercolor painting.

Downy Woodpecker underneath branch--photo by Julie McCarty, Eagan MN USA.
Downy Woodpecker underneath branch–photo by Julie McCarty, Eagan MN USA.

However, as so often happens when one takes up a spiritual practice, I was surprised at how many other, often deeper, meanings and ap-

Julie with her "Campfire" watercolor painting at Instructor-Student Art Exhibit --BTAC
 Julie with her “Campfire” watercolor painting (above) at the Instructor-Student Art Exhibit –BTAC
 

plications to “co-create” arose in my mind over time. These new understandings came to me through reading, talking with others, and thinking about my life experiences in journaling.

For example, when grieving the loss of my dad, the creative activities often consoled me as something new being “born” in my life. When waking up in the morning, I would find myself asking God, “What will we co-create together today?” As I did housework (something I dislike), I began seeing chores in a fresh light, as something that re-creates a beautiful, wholesome environment. While weeding the garden, it occurred to me that growing vegetables is also creating something good with God–good for me and good for others. 

From this year's garden
From this year’s garden

The year 2012 will be over soon. In fact, for Christians at least, the new liturgical year has already begun with Advent. I find myself wondering… hmm… what will be my “spiritual word” for 2013? What does God have in mind for me?

I invite you to ponder the same question with me. Is there one word or short phrase you would like to be your spiritual focus for 2013? Let us pray, asking the Holy Spirit to reveal a wise word to each of us for the good of our spiritual growth and service to others.

May the Good Lord bless you this holy season.

Until next time, Amen!

For more pictures from Julie’s watercolor class and other spiritual nuggets, visit Facebook’s  Spiritual Drawing Board by Julie McCarty.

Spiritual Drawing Board Page now on Facebook

Looking for a short spiritual nugget to brighten your day? A reminder that God’s divine presence is with you, even on a “bad day”? Something motivational, thought-provoking, or creative?

ImageSpiritual Drawing Board now has a Facebook page of its own. I’ll be continuing to write here, on this WordPress blog, but now you can also receive little spiritual nuggets on the Facebook page “Spiritual Drawing Board by Julie McCarty”. 

Expect to find encouragement to pray or meditate, to love others, to seek wisdom, to go beyond politics and “group think,” and to learn from famous spiritual figures.

To find the link, log on to your Facebook account and search for this:

“Spiritual Drawing Board by Julie McCarty”
(click on “like” to start receiving in your news feed on FB)

And, while you are there, I hope you will share your own inspiring thoughts or questions you wrestle with. The spiritual journey includes community focus–and I would love to hear from you, on the FB page, in the comments on the blog, or via e-mail (see contact page for e-mail).

Please, do spread the word. Share what I post on SDB on FB all you like. The world has enough sin and hate. It is up to Spirit-filled people to spread the message of  compassion in whatever ways they can.

Until next time, Amen.

P.S. For those new to Facebook:  If you “like” Spiritual Drawing Board FB page, you will receive “news” from the page, but your personal posts will not come to me unless you choose to put something on my page or message me directly. I will not see the messages you send your FB friends unless I’m already one of your friends on FB.

Sumi Painting, Chi, Creativity and the Spirit

 

In the past year or two I have been digging into my artistic side by taking watercolor classes. Last fall, I signed up for a workshop called “Sumi and Soul” by Yuming Zhu, a professional artist who was born in China and currently lives in Seattle, Washington. I received so much from the experience that I signed up for another two-day workshop this spring with the same teacher.

Artist Yuming Zhu at Sumi painting workshop, 2011, Bloomington, MN--photo by Julie McCarty

Painting in the Chinese or Japanese way is quite different from the European style. In sumi painting, one holds the brush differently, and uses materials that more closely resemble ink and tissue paper than oils and canvas. Rather than painting with just your hand or arm, it is more as if your whole body is painting, from your own “center of gravity” someplace deep in your body. The philosophical or spiritual underpinnings are different as well, something the teacher mentioned in a gentle way, here and there, without harping or preaching.

Julie trying out Sumi painting at Yuming Zhu's workshop at the Bloomington Art Center in Minnesota--2011

My experience of the workshops with Yuming was very positive. As a writer, I am often too tense or perfectionist, which blocks the flow of words onto the paper. The Sumi workshop helped me to view my writing in a different way, to open up myself to letting the creativity flow more freely without fear of making “mistakes.” This fear is a real block to creativity, and “Mary Francis” (what I call the “good little Catholic girl” inside me) needs to let go of these fears.

 One of the many things I learned about in this workshop was the Chinese concept of chi, a word that means something like “energy” or “life force” in English. Here’s what About.com says about chi:

Ch’i (also spelled Chi or Qi) is a fundamental concept in Chinese philosophy and culture. Found in Chinese traditional religion but especially Taoism, Ch’i literally means “air” or “breath,” but as a concept it refers to the energy flow or life force that is said to pervade all things. (Read more here or also here.)

On the second day of Yuming Zhu's workshop, students arrived with energy--photo by Julie McCarty, 2011

The concept of chi intrigues me. Because I follow Christ, the idea of chi made me think of the Holy Spirit. God’s Spirit moves, creates, and breathes in us. In fact, in the original bible languages, the word “spirit” is the same is the word “breath.” It was “spirit” that God “breathed” into the first human in one biblical Creation story.

 
Too often, Christians think of God as rigid, stable, unchanging–and I’m sure there is certainly the element of stability and permanence in the best sense in the Divine Being we Westerners call “God.” I don’t deny that truth. However, on the other hand, the Spirit is called Creator Spiritus, the divine Spirit that Genesis tells us “hovered over the waters” during the creation of the cosmos. This Spirit of God is alive, dynamic, moving, active. Jesus compared the Spirit to the wind: you do not see it, or where it is going, but you know it it there.
Yuming Zhu's painting demo, Bloomington Art Center workshop, Spring, 2011--photo by Julie McCarty
I wonder what would happen if Christians of today took Creator Spirit seriously, that person of God known for movement, action, creativity, and breath. Would the Creative Spirit bring about something new? Something beautiful? Something prophetic, that is revealing truth and compassion?

I wonder, dear reader, what good things might the chi within you or me, our inner energy, want to create today? What newness of life might the Spirit of God want us to bring to birth this week, this year? How might we live the Resurrection of Christ, that image of energy, bursting out of the tomb, right here, right now in this moment?

Note: To view artwork by Yuming Zhu or find workshops, visit his website http://www.yumingfineart.com/about.htm  or on Facebook, http://www.facebook.com/mypainting