Thursday, April 30, 2015


I have been thinking about creativity lately. Mostly because a number of people have told me they are not creative. One way to wind me up it to tell me you are not creative. It brings out the snarly encourager in me. I will fuss at you and if I know you well enough we will figure out what you create. It may be chaos but by golly you created it! In the first chapter of Genesis we are told we were created in the image of God. Think about that we reflect God in our makeup, in our being. We can't help but create.  Why do you think so many people long to create something? In thinking about writing this blog post three points emerged over time. One, society has so classified what is and is not creative that we no longer understand or appreciate creativity. Two, creativity is like a muscle and three, creativity is work.
There is a lot of creative thought in things we use every day. I mean think about it. Someone had the idea for a spoon and made the first one. Back then it was new and exciting; people thought, “Wow! That guy is so creative! How smart/weird is that?” Today it is just something in a drawer. The point is creative thinkers are problem solvers. We tend to think of activities like dance, drawing, painting, singing, playing an instrument and so on as creative. We ignore or downplay amazing feats of creative thought and application. I am writing this with a computer program. When I was a kid someone said to themselves, “How can I make a bunch of ones and zeros translate into letters on a computer?” Then they turned that creative thought into reality. Then (Thank God!) someone else invented spell check and grammar check so people like me could write cohesive sentences. We tend to discount linear thinkers and yet they conceive most of the truly helpful things in the world. Most of the concepts begin with the questions like what if I or what would happen if? Then comes a lot math and science from that medicines, medical devices, computer programs, and more and more are invented. You cannot hang them on wall but they are no less creative than a painting.
Back when I had to put all my stuff in storage I put my creative life on hold. I stopped reading about jewelry making. I stopped imagining projects. I shut it all away in the back of my mind for later. One day I needed to solve a problem and I could not imagine a solution. I realized my imagination had atrophied from lack of use. The creative mind like so much about us needs to be used or we lose it. We need to be exposed to new ideas and new things to keep our imagination sparking. We need to other creative thinkers in our lives to keep us asking, “How can I apply or misapply that?” People don’t create in a vacuum. Something or someone inspires us to make or to do. Even the most internal artist needs an audience for his work.

Which leads to the third point, creativity is work or maybe it is learning. (Maybe it’s both) The majority of people don’t just start drawing or painting on their own; they learn from another person, a book, or a video. For most of us in the beginning learning means copying someone else’s method or technique. Once we have learned the basics we find our own style or voice. Finally we begin to make our own projects. Then there is the nitty-gritty of getting it done. Dancers don’t just show up and dance, someone choreographs the moves.  There is a lot of practice until it is right. Costumes and a venue are chosen. Finally the performance takes place. The process of learning doesn’t stop each project is a learning experience. We learn new techniques. We learn to see mistakes as possibilities and not disasters. We learn what works and what doesn’t. We ask ourselves what would happen if I did that….   

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Using Disposable Tablecloths for Plarn

I have been working with plarn for a little over two years now. I have mostly been using grocery sacks but almost any plastic bag will do. Lately someone I know who sets up public events has been saving disposable tablecloths for me. So I thought I would pass along the information on how I cut them for use as plarn. When I first used plastic tablecloths as plarn I cut the plastic into strips and tied it together with an overhand knot. That works fine but depending on the length of the strips it can mean a lot of knots. After some thought during chair yoga a diagram I had seen somewhere or other popped into my head. I tried it when I got home and the cutting plan works great. Now I am going to try to explain it to you. First fold the plastic in half lengthwise. Fold again so that the tablecloth is now quartered. The tablecloth I used in the photo was cut from a roll so the ends were not even. I trimmed it so it was more or less even. Now fold the plastic into a flat pad leaving the last three inches or so unrolled Keep in mind that the plastic is slick and you will be cutting through all the layers. Don’t roll it too tight. Holding it firmly against the table begin to cut it into strips leaving the last two to three inches uncut. When you reach the center fold keep in mind that that strip will be twice the width you cut it when folded. Now cut a strip loose at one end follow it to the join at the other end and cut every other strip loose. I have tried to illustrate this with a sheet of printer paper. I have drawn the lines to cut on either end. You should have one long strip. I used a piece cut for a five foot table. It did not occur to me to measure the strip until I had wound over half of it up but it was over 150 yards long. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Random Thoughts at Almost Midnight

I was just looking at a photo of a family celebrating their Grandmother’s ninetieth birthday; that made me think of my Grandmother, Ruth Carlisle. She has been a role model for me. Even though she is no longer here I continue to learn from her example. I have this inner vision of her as the runner from Hebrews 13. For some reason I have always envisioned that race as a relay race. Maybe a Sunday school teacher used that analogy when I was a kid. It occurs to me now that that is a false analogy because my Grandmother never put her baton down and stopped running. She passed the baton of the gospel over and over again and continued to run. I think about all the people I know of that she impacted through her actions that she prayed for and prayed with. I think of all those people passing on the gospel to others and running their race until Jesus comes again… 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Being Inspired By Versus Aspiring Too

When I was a in the 4th grade I got sent to a class that was supposed to make me have more self-esteem. To be honest I thought it was all a bunch of hooey. But there were puppets, so that was ok. One of the things the instructor kept pushing us to do was to choose a hero. Of course being me I asked, “Why?” Why should I pick a famous person to copy? (Looking back I was either a really strange kid or a really smart one.) What the teacher was encouraging us to do was engage in hero worship. What I was objecting to, in my limited way, was worshiping another person instead of God. Just an aside, you may not think your kids are listening at church but they are.

As a society we have been teaching our children to worship heroes. We encourage them to do the things those heroes do. To be like their favorite baseball player, rock star, or gamer. What is wrong with that? First, there is a little matter of the second commandment. Exodus 20:3 You shall have no other gods before me. Second, people will always disappoint. You can never really know a person fully, and some days people just mess up. They are rude. They have secret failings. They do all manner of bad things because they are people and therefore broken. So what is the answer; how about we teach our children to be inspired by people instead of aspiring to be those people?  When I aspire to be someone else I study their lives, copy their dress, and mannerisms. I stop developing as the individual God created me to be. When I am inspired by someone who they are is largely irrelevant. It is what they do well that inspires me to change for the better and I am still free to become the person God made me to be. I have been following Noah Galloway on Dancing with the Stars. I catch clips on the internet. He inspires me to get more exercise. I am inspired to improve the person God made me to be. I do not aspire to be someone else. 

Friday, April 3, 2015

Witness Cones II: Waiting on God Together

I have been writing this blog post in my head all day, but whenever I start I get distracted by how awesome God is and then I just have to worship Him.  Since February third I have been praying for a family I have never met. Courtney and her baby, Eli, are the catalyst for this post. I have spent the last few days trying to think how to put into words the wonderful mystery of being part of God’s family. Over nine thousand people have prayed for this woman and her baby. Think about that; we have never met but we are bound into the family of Christ by his grace. We are not just wishing them well. We can ask the creator of the universe to help them. I just can’t get over that, nine thousand strangers waiting together on the God of the universe praying for His plan to come to fruition. Waiting with a family we do not know. And God, the creator of the universe- Answered.     

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Becoming a Bag Lady

It all started with Wal-Mart bags. About two years ago I crocheted a bag out of Wal-Mart bags. Then I discovered Target bags and I was sunk. I realized I was in real trouble when I saw a Dollar General bag being used as a trash can liner and thought, “What a waste!” I started coveting other people’s plastic bags. One day I went into a store and asked for their loose bags. I got some really weird looks! What can I say? They are pretty. Yes everything from soft tan Jerry Lee’s bags to bright blue Best Buy bags, even Wal-Mart bags have their place. I want your bags! (Well... maybe not your Wal-Mart bags.) Friends started saving me bags. I eagerly open them and look in and say things like, “Oooo! A Hobby Lobby bag!” Hobby Lobby bags have so many nice colors and they are a “rare” bag. Then there are the treasured bags from other countries. I love foreign bags! I have discussions about the relative properties of plastic bags, how they cut and act when crocheted with.

Then it happened. Last week at church I hear, “Hey! Bag Lady!” and I answered….