Pretty good pencil drawing of a cat

You have to be willing to be bad at it

Earlier this year my 6 year-old came home from school with some pretty AMAZING cat pictures. She showed them off, and we all oohed and aahed over her talent.

The next day, however, I found another picture from a few days earlier, her first attempt at a cat. It was languishing crumpled at the bottom of her bag, but this picture made me even happier: it was a CRAPPY cat picture.

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Picasso Quote

Disciplined creativity

It sounds like an oxymoron, right? “Disciplined creativity”. When you think of “discipline” you imagine other words like “effort,” “sweat,” “rules,” “constraint”; but “creativity” brings up ideas of “freedom,” “flow,” “art,” and “expression”. But believe it or not, consistent creativity requires some measure of discipline.

Now, I’m no artist. My biggest form of creative expression is writing, and apart from this blog, that writing is heady academic stuff. But still it is an act of creation. And as I discipline myself to do it I often remember something a friend who was an actual artist said about how she had to discipline herself to sit down at the easel like a regular job if she wanted the creativity to flow.

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Small acts of rebellion

I am not a dog person, never have been and probably never will be. But still, I think that at some point in the future I’m going to get a dog. Not soon, mind you – so don’t anyone dare tell this to the kids. They would love one, but right now, I suspect that the responsibility of a dog added to everything else would tip me over the edge. Whenever the kids ask for a dog, I tell them we had a baby instead.

Why no dog? They’re so darn high maintenance! Now cats, you can leave town for a couple of weeks and they’ll just eat their biscuits, or whatever they catch in the field, ours at least will.

But dogs, you have to do so much work, and for all that work they’re so UNPRODUCTIVE.

Totally not a dog a person.

But down the track I think for me getting a dog could be a spiritual practice; a small act of rebellion to push back against my personal brand of neurosis that idolises productivity, control, and neatness.

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Getting what you want won’t get you what you want

Last night in a moment of self-awareness I decided to scroll through my Instagram. Now normally I turn to Instagram to dull any flashes of self-awareness–I find it to be a pleasant and effective distraction from any nudges towards personal growth. But in this case, instead of flicking through my feed, I looked through my own posts, the beautiful highlights of my life, to remind myself how much I love it.

I did it because I’d realised that I’d gotten stuck briefly into a mindset that just focussed on the things I didn’t like about the stage of life I’m in – I was viewing everything through a narrative of constraint: the things I can’t do because of the little children I have, the freedom I don’t have to determine my own schedule etc etc. If you’ve been there, I bet it’s familiar.

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Adam meeting Eve C12 art

“Flesh of my flesh!”: Seeing yourself in the other

Often my academic theological work can seem (note the emphasis) kind of, well, useless. When you’re spending your days speculating about the future resurrection, you’re quite open to the accusation of being “so heavenly minded that you’re of no earthly use”. And I’m the first to admit that it’s a luxury to live in a society where this kind of work can be deemed “work”. But often the insights are profound and meaningful for everyday human life. So I’m pushing pause on my work this morning, to share this thought prompted by Bernd Wannenwetsch’s writing.*

In Genesis 2, when Adam first meets Eve, he joyously cries

“This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.”

Genesis 2:23

While he doesn’t look so thrilled about it here, no one seemed to be very happy about anything in Byzantine art. They all had a serious case of resting bitchy face, God included.

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The season sets the standard

I am terrible at being a sick person.

It’s not that I’m an awful patient, with a little bell at my bedside to communicate my constant requests for hot lemon drinks and more tissues (honestly, I prefer to be left alone). It’s more that I have a hard time of letting myself be sick.

Instead, I tend to try my best to just keep going at the normal pace and get the things done. Although inevitably I don’t get the things done very well, I’m grouchy, and occasionally the weariness means I do some very silly things – for example, this week I accidentally stuck my fingers in the ceiling fan while leaning out from the stairs to gesture at my mother. Yes, it hurt; no, I did not chop my fingers off (the kids were surprised).

Why not just snuggle up in bed and let the world pass me by until I’m better? Well, four kids… enough said. But that’s just a cover, really the issue is that I struggle to switch to the mode of sick person.

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When God isn’t who you thought He was.

Some mornings over breakfast the girls and I look at my phone together. There are two types of things we look at: it’s either that week’s celebrity best & worst dressed (don’t judge me), OR it’s bible study… maybe they balance each other out?

The bible reading app I’m currently using, Read Scripture, occasionally has videos that go with it. While they’re certainly not aimed at kids, they are a MOVING IMAGE, and therefore my children must each watch them in turn.

A couple of weeks ago I was starting the book of Mark, and the overview video hit home as it explained the disciples’ confusion around who Jesus was. Yes he’s the Messiah, they got that, but the Messiah they were expecting was a victorious military leader who would set them free from Roman oppression. However, the Messiah they got was the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53, and that just did not compute.

Sometimes the God you get is different to the God you were expecting, because sometimes God just isn’t who you thought he was.

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God breastfeeds?

Well, not literally. But as I’ve said earlier, all language about God has got to be metaphorical. We just can’t get our head or our words around all of who He is, so we describe Him by coming at Him from different directions, each new perspective offering a metaphor that somehow all adds up to show a better bigger picture of who He is.

And breastfeeding is one of those metaphors.

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How to manage a million tasks

OK, I can’t promise you that, but I have got a principle that can help.

If your home is anything like mine, there are a million little jobs that need doing, and they just keep on coming. We can try and manage all that by just chipping away at them here and there, multi-tasking, squeezing in jobs wherever we can… but that’s exhausting.

Multi-tasking is a myth by the way – it doesn’t make you more productive, it just makes you feel more productive. Really you’re constantly switching between tasks, and all that switching takes mental time, and a lot of mental energy. (Not convinced? Read more here or here.)

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What a friend we have in Jesus

All our sins and griefs to bear! / What a privilege to carry / Everything to God in prayer!

Are you singing along in your head?

The old hymn talks about the friendship of Jesus in the solace he provides, the comfort in trials, and the courage in temptations. But this year I’ve been thinking more about what the friendship of Jesus might involve by reflecting on what my exclusively human friends are like.

There are a whole pile of images of God in the bible that help us understand what God is like. Because, let’s be honest, He’s pretty hard to get our heads around. So these images function as metaphors to help us understand the transcendent and the immanent aspects of God’s character.

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