the parable of the creativity

Today I have been creative. Well, I think I have been creative. I have put together combinations of letters to form words that I believe make some sort of sense when I put them together. I have put images with words to illustrate them.

I have sent some of the creativity to other people for them to use, adapt, change or delete. And some of it has been prepared for later consumption and I hope that they will be helpful there too.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABut after launching this creativity out into the world I am no longer able to control it. I have to wave goodbye and watch it leave home. I can’t control how it is received. I can’t demand that people look at it or read it a particular way. I can’t make people like it. I run the risk of being misunderstood, misrepresented and having my creativity misappropriated.

Perhaps the best way would be if I could somehow be present when people read the words and see the images and then I could explain to them what I meant and help them to understand. But that’s not possible. Is it?

Perhaps there is a parable here?

In the beginning was the Creativity…

Be blessed, be a blessing

context

fistRegular bloggists will know that I have been following a series of 40 readings from Dietrich Bonhoeffer. In case you have missed the previous thoughts I have shared, let me remind you that he was a German pastor who was arrested (and executed) for being an outspoken critic of Nazi Germany. He wrote this:

Words and thoughts are not enough. Doing good involves all the things of daily life. “If your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink” (Romans 12:20). In the same ways that brothers and sisters stand by each other in times of need, bind up each other’s wounds, ease each other’s pain, love of the enemy should do good to the enemy. Where in the world is there greater need, where are deeper wounds and pain than those of our enemies? Where is doing good more necessary and more blessed than for our enemies?

In prayer we go to our enemies, to stand at their side. We are with them, near them, for them before God. Jesus does not promise us that the enemy we love, we bless, to whom we do good, will not abuse and persecute us. They will do so. But even in doing so, they cannot harm and conquer us if we take this last step to them in intercessory prayer. Now we are taking up their neediness and poverty, their being guilty and lost, and interceding for them before God. We are doing for them in vicarious representative action what they cannot do for themselves. Every insult from our enemy will only bind us closer to God and to our enemy. Every persecution can only serve to bring the enemy closer to reconciliation with God, to make love more unconquerable.

How does love become unconquerable? By never asking what the enemy is doing to it, and only asking what Jesus has done. Loving one’s enemies leads disciples to the way of the cross and into communion with the crucified one.

They are powerful words, but the context in which they were written make them even more remarkable. His ‘enemies’ were people whose ideology was diametrically opposed to his. His enemies were far more powerful than he was. His enemies could (and did) destroy him almost without thinking.

It puts our petty squabbles into perspective doesn’t it?

Alongside the wisdom and depth of what Bonhoeffer wrote, the context speaks almost as loudly and poignantly. And context makes all the difference. Someone striking someone else in the stomach could look like an assault. Or it could be that they are trying to dislodge some food that is choking the victim. A shaking fist can indicate anger or victory. It’s one of the classic plots in TV dramas – someone sees or overhears something when they don’t know the whole context and draw the wrong conclusion. The outcome can be tragic or comedic and the consequences are worked out.

But when it is real life we would do well to pause and ascertain the true context rather than jumping to conclusions. When we do we may find that those whom we thought were our enemies actually are people in need of God’s love expressed through us.

Be blessed, be a blessing

 

you say tomarto…

I had a giggle this morning when an interview went a bit wrong. Chris Evans (BBC Radio 2 Breakfast Show) was interviewing the American author of a Txt Dictionary and decided to ask her what something meant. I will transliterate so it makes sense. The phrase he asked about began ‘two bee zed…’ (2BZ)

This rather flummoxed the poor lady on the other end of the phone and on the other side of the Atlantic. It was only after an uncomfortable pause while she tried to work out what was being said that one of the team on the Breakfast Show realised the problem. What Chris should have said was ‘two bee zee…’ ie ‘too busy’.

The confusion was comical.

It reminded me of a time when I was in Washington DC and a friend had taken me out for brunch after church (what a wonderful idea!). I was amazed at the range of breakfast / lunch items available in the restaurant and decided to sample lots of them. There were breakfast cereals, different types of bread, cold meat, hot buffet, and a counter where they were making fresh omelettes.

Red Ripe TomatoesI went up to the counter and the young lady behind the counter politely asked me what I would like in my omelette. I replied, “Bacon, cheese, ham and tomato please.” The young lady looked at me quizzically.

“Pardon me?”

“Bacon, cheese, ham and tomato please.”

She still looked blank. At that moment I realised that there was a problem with my pronunciation. I was saying ‘tomarto’ not ‘tomayto’. I tried ‘tomayto’ and she smiled knowingly. Then she said, “Say it again.”

“Tomarto.”

She called her colleagues over. “Say it again.”

“Tomarto.”

Eventually it felt like the whole restaurant was listening to me saying ‘tomarto’.

My friend remarked that if an average English preacher* came to the USA as a pastor they would fill their church each week because people would come just to listen to the accent!

The problem was that I didn’t think I had an English accent. I spoke normally. I was used to the way I spoke and did not think it to be out of the ordinary at all.

How often do we do that in other ways? We become comfortable with and used to our own mannerisms, language, attitudes and so on and consider them to be normal. But to someone else we might appear to be abrasive, flippant, unpleasant, rude or uncaring.

It is important for us to try to be aware of how we come across to others and how what we feel is ‘normal’ might be received differently by others. And we also need to be cautious about the way we receive communication from others. We might receive something far more negatively or of little importance to that person when they have communicated in a way that they consider to be normal. When I was at school I was constantly told not to worry – but that was just my face: apparently I looked worried when I wasn’t.

When we read the Bible I think we need to be aware of those issues too. We have words to read, but we read them through our own cultural lenses and experiences. In our mind we might make Jesus look and sound like us. We might apply 21st Century concepts to 1st Century culture and misunderstand or misinterpret. One of the things I think we miss if we do that is Jesus’ sense of humour. That’s one of my passions, but that’s for another time.

For now, be blessed and be a blessing!

*I might one day be good enough to be average!