Posts Tagged ‘creativity’


Occasionally things happen in life that call us to pause. If we heed that call and pay attention, we often realize that we’ve been privy to something really special. That kind of thing has happened to me over the last several weeks.


Murdock the owl

We live in an ordinary suburban setting in West Lafayette, Indiana – nice front yard with neighbors a little over a driveway width away on either side. When we arrived in 1993 our back yard was lovely but our neighbors were in plain sight – no privacy whatsoever. In the years since, we’ve planted wisteria vines and built a pergola and our back yard turned into what our children have come to call the secret garden.

During good weather, we eat many of our meals under the pergola surrounded by wisteria and trumpet vines. A few weeks ago, as we were eating with friends we noticed a bird nestled in the wisteria – not the kind of bird we were used to seeing. It was a young screech-owl, about 12 inches tall, who had apparently been watching us for some time. We watched each other that night, and the next, soon naming him Murdock (after my grandfather who would also watch quietly, occasionally dropping some gem of wisdom or wit) and regularly checking for his whereabouts in the branches of the wisteria. Until one day he was gone.

That was a sad day.


Oscar the Owlet

But then another evening rolled around and John and I were out enjoying dinner in the shade of the pergola. John looked up and thought he saw Murdock! But no, it wasn’t him. It was a small owlet, so new he (she?) still had his fuzzy just-hatched feathers – and he had been watching us. So we named him Oscar (I’m not sure why) and began watching, checking every day to see where he might be nestled. Oscar lost his fuzzy feathers and fresh new, grown-up feathers took their place. He watched us and we watched him. And then Oscar was gone too. Another sad day.

But that’s when I realized that I had been privy to something special – nothing miraculous mind you, but definitely special.

Kim Reisman

Kim Reisman

An ordinary part of nature – owls – opened my eyes once again to the amazing glory of God’s creation. And it reminded me not to take things for granted, but to pay attention. So I am. Deliberately. Because I don’t want to miss meeting those who share my garden.


Then God said, “Let the waters swarm with fish and other life. Let the skies be filled with birds of every kind.” So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that scurries and swarms in the water, and every sort of bird—each producing offspring of the same kind. And God saw that it was good. Then God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply. Let the fish fill the seas, and let the birds multiply on the earth.”

…Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good! 

Genesis 1.20-22, 31



Lil Buck and Yo Yo Ma

For anyone who’s been tempted to pigeon hole another person or group of people (read: this is for all of us), here’s a little something that will give you reason to pause.





Sing edited by Julie Tennent

Sing, edited by Julie Tennent


Edited by Julie Tennent

Each year Asbury Theological Seminary produces a daily scripture reader. This year’s edition, Sing, begins February 6, 2012 and runs through the Day of Pentecost (Feb-May). Edited by Julie Tennent, Sing teaches us to sing our way through the Psalms as we journey to the cross and onward to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Tennent has put together a masterful  collection of Psalms with singable melodies and accompanied by daily readings which give deeper insight into the psalter. Psalms were written to be sung and this is a perfect opportunity to rediscover the practice. This resource is being used by large and small communities alike to orient their lives around reading a common text. It also works well for individual or small group use. There will also be a creative range of online features via Asbury’s mobile reader app.

Click here for an index of singing the Psalms.

You can download a PDF version of Sing for just $.50 at Asbury’s Seedbed website

Click here to read Julie’s thoughts about using hymns for worship.


Laughter is great medicine. Enjoy…




This weekend was wonderful – great Easter celebration, family all home at the same time – no agenda. Lots to be thankful for.

My son, Nathan, is a musician & very creative. While he was home he played us a piece he’d created on the computer. I’m not sure if you’d really call it a musical piece (although that’s bound to spark some philosophical discussions about what constitutes a musical piece). It’s more like performance art & the depth of meaning to it was really amazing (I know I’m biased, but really, it was very cool).
As I was listening I wondered if Nate realized all the levels there were to this thing. That’s the way it is with any kind of art really – music, visual, literary, whatever – all kinds of different levels of experience. The creators of the work put themselves into it, what they want to say or project, what they hope people will get out of it, all of that. Then they put the piece out there & it takes on a life of its own – people who interact with it come at it from different places, with different expectations & experiences. That’s what’s so cool about it.
My father’s been a prolific writer during his career in ministry & a while back his publisher put together a little volume of sayings collected from his writing over the years. It’s called Let Me Say That Again – a line he’s said at least once in every sermon he’s ever preached.
Nate has always loved that little book & a lot of the sayings provide the content of his piece. His choices were significant, here are a few examples:

Most of us prefer the hell of a predictable situation rather than risk the joy of an unpredictable one.

On the road of life one of the most serious violations is to ignore the signal to stop, look & listen.

Life is life by the choices we make.

There’s never a road so long that there’s not a bend in it.

We should never let yesterday rob us of tomorrow.

We know that all of us are going to die. But do we live as though we know it?

The measure of life is whether you’re fully used up when you die.

It’s impossible to adequately describe the piece, but it’s worth trying. Several different voices say the various phrases as a range of other sounds rise & fall. Sometimes the voices are prominent, sometimes the sounds take over; sometimes the voices echo or overlap; sometimes they’re louder or softer.

As I listened, I felt like I was moving – like life was moving & swirling all around me – like the noise of the world was coming at me from all sides. And in the midst of it all were these voices – sometimes louder, sometimes softer, sometimes clear, sometimes muffled – but always with a message. And as I listened I wondered if I was missing it. There were times when I had to try really hard to hear the message; & there were times when I couldn’t get it at all because the sound of the ‘world’ got in the way.

It was a powerful experience, hearing this piece. Not just because as a mother I was proud that my son had created something so provocative; but because this piece provided me with a metaphor & left me a question.

The world swirls around us, loud & blaring, filled with its own language & messages. And the church is in the midst of it, but how much? The voice of the church is heard, but how much? Is it loud enough? Or is it an echo? Is it understandable? Or is it garbled by the competing sounds of the world? The world’s pace is rapid, life is moving. As the body of Christ, are we keeping up? Or are we a relic from a distant time? The motion of the world is relentless, an unfeeling churning & lurching. Are we providing safe haven from that relentless, faceless motion? Or do we contribute to that cold churning & lurching despite what we profess?

Nice questions for contemplation. But as a Christ follower, what am I going to do? How am I to be in the midst that loud & swirling motion? What’s my next step?

Yesterday was an amazing day! Historic. So many vivid memories it’s hard to process. There’ve been plenty of people dissecting all the symbolism so I won’t go there. But two images stand out for me. They’re not profound really but illustrate for me this feeling of ‘new day’ that so many people have been talking about. The first is Little Sasha giving her new president dad a thumbs up after he took the oath. The second was the sea of cell phones & digital cameras that lit up the room as the President & First Lady entered the Youth Ball. For me, those two images round out the whole new day concept pretty nicely.

As I return to the routine of my studies & work, the words of Elizabeth Alexander’s Inaugural Poem, Praise Song for the Day, stay with me.

Praise song for the day.
Each day we go about our business,
walking past each other,
catching each others’ eyes or not,
about to speak or speaking.
All about us is noise.
All about us is noise and bramble,
thorn and din,
each one of our ancestors on our tongues.
Someone is stitching up a hem,
darning a hole in a uniform,
patching a tire,
repairing the things in need of repair.
Someone is trying to make music somewhere
with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum
with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.
A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky;
A teacher says, “Take out your pencils. Begin.”
We encounter each other in words,
words spiny or smooth,
whispered or declaimed;
words to consider, reconsider.
We cross dirt roads and highways that mark
the will of someone
and then others who said,
“I need to see  what’s on the other side;
I know there’s something better
down the road.”
We need to find a place where we are safe;
We walk into that which we cannot yet see.
Say it plain, that many have died for this day.
Sing the names of the dead
who brought us here,
who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges,
picked the cotton and the lettuce,
built brick by brick the glittering edifices
they would then keep clean
and work inside of.
Praise song for struggle;
praise song for the day.
Praise song for every hand-lettered sign;
The figuring it out at kitchen tables.
Some live by “Love thy neighbor as thy self.”
Others by first do no harm,
or take no more than you need.
What if the mightiest word is love,
love beyond marital, filial, national.
Love that casts a widening pool of light.
Love with no need to preempt grievance.
In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air,
anything can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp — praise
song for walking forward in that light.

On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp – anything can be made, any sentence begun. For this to truly be a new day, it will have to be about more than President Obama. It will have to be about each of us. What will we make? What new sentence will we begin?