The Best Christmas Is Yet to Come!

Several years ago, my parents sold their home in Texas to be closer to their grandchildren. The first Christmas with the family together was glorious; we ate, played, and shopped nearly every day. One afternoon, I picked up my five-year-old daughter Elise after a fun day with Grandpa and Grandma.

I noticed she was looking out the minivan window, a sad expression on her face. “What is it, hon?” I asked.

“It’s Grandpa and Grandma. I just feel really sorry for them,” she whispered.

“Why?”

Elise sighed. “I was just wondering, aren’t they ever going to have kids of their own?”

I chuckled all the way home.

Children can know the facts without understanding them. Sure, Elise knew that her grandparents are also my parents, but she was not yet able to comprehend the full meaning of that fact.

She had a shadowy understanding that children grow up to become adults and one day have kids of their own. Of course, my daughter will know, just as her grandmother and I do, that childhood is only the beginning of a great adventure, and the sweetest surprises—not to mention the deepest sorrows—in life come with time.

I do wonder if I’m like Elise in my understanding of Christmas. Every year, I set out the same crèche. I bake the same cookies. I sing old hymns and carols, light white candles, and wrap presents. I understand Christmas so very well…or do I? Do I know the facts but lack the ability to grasp the greater implications?

What if Christmas is a mystery we will only truly comprehend much, much later? What if this Christmas here on earth is only a dress rehearsal for something far more wonderful?

Are the deepest joys still to come? I believe so, though I cannot comprehend them yet.

One day we will wake up in our Father’s House and discover that the real Christmas morning has arrived. We’ll be surrounded by family and friends, feasts and laughter. I believe I’ll also be awash in dog hair and slobbery kisses. There’ll probably be a horse sharing my hot cocoa and peppermint stick, too, but I won’t mind. In heaven, my horses will have impeccable table manners.

I cannot comprehend the mystery of Christmas, but there is one thing I’m sure of: the best is yet to come.

The Art of Helping Others

Want to know what fuels the creative fire of one of the most gifted visual artists I know? Read on…

I’ve been reading an advance copy of THE ART OF HELPING OTHERS by Douglas C. Man, IVP Press, and it’s powerfully good. Mr. Mann believes that art can be a form of social justice, and both can be powerful expressions of faith.

I’ve known Doug for several years, and his art is thought-provoking and stunning…so I was excited to read this “behind the scenes” work on how he creates, and why. He views art as a form of incitement:

“The world is not clean, nice and orderly, tailor made for our own creative expression. It is in a perpetual state of formidable disarray. Yet many of us imagine it to be well and good and fit to suit. And then we wonder why life doesn’t work out, why we suffer. It takes creative people to see the world for what it is, to discern the human condition. To practice creativity is to be more keenly aware of the complexity of the world, to recognize its fragile, fractured soul. It takes creative people to awaken that awareness in others. Creativity can beget creativity.”

I love that idea; that we must keep our creative fires going, in part, because we keep the world’s creative fires alive. Wanting to know more about how Doug creates, I asked Doug what his one tip was for operating at peak creativity. Here’s what he answered:

“I believe it’s pushing myself to move into others lives, even those that aren’t so lovable in order that they enter into the discovery process of my faith.  It’s the art of conversation, the art of helping others, which leads to the art of story. As a writer, it’s also equally important for me to have time to allow for alone time – to dive deep like a swimmer diving down to retrieve a pearl from the ocean floor, and eventually resurfacing with something to say.”

Loving the unlovable leads to the art of story. Wow; as a writer, he’s onto something here. I am loving the book and I recommend you get your own copy here:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Art-Helping-Others-Artists/dp/0830837507/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1390944323&sr=8-1&keywords=art+of+helping+others

Habits of the Highly Creative: Clarity

Everyone wants to identify their special talents and abilities and discover how to best use these gifts. But often, a Highly Creative person will have multiple gifts. You must then choose which of these gifts will become the focus of your life’s work. Clarity about your primary focus is essential because you must know where to direct your resources. But clarity is not, necessarily, a judgment of worth between your talents.

Let’s start by defining our terms.

When we speak of choosing a life’s pursuit, we often refer to it as a “calling.” If you are especially talented in one area, is that gift the same thing as your calling?

Maybe. Maybe not.

How can a Highly Creative know the difference between a gift and a calling?

First, please remember that when I speak of your calling, I’m referring to your work, not your identity. Your work simply expresses the truth of who you are.

But to discern a gift from a calling, there are three important clues to look for. The first is passion. Perhaps you enjoy teaching, but the work doesn’t keep you awake at night, your mind racing with new ideas. You are even content to set it aside during busy seasons of life. A calling, however, comes with a greater degree of passion. The task is always on your mind and heart.

Our passion for the work is one clue.  The second is our choice of activities when we just need to relax. A gift is what we often turn to when we need temporary relief from pressure. We find solace when we bake, or paint, or write, but we don’t feel angst over our lack of mastery. If we enjoy an activity, and have no obsessive, burning need to learn and improve, we’ve probably uncovered a talent, not a calling.

We will have pleasure as we pursue our calling, of course, but much is demanded from us. We often experience enormous pressure. The work will seem too great for us many days, and yet we will be compelled to keep going. We will be forced to confront our limitations, and push on.

This, then, is the third clue to know the difference between a gift and a calling: look for a change in character. For example, let’s pretend you enjoy baking as a hobby, and you’re quite good at it.  After you’ve passed around the platter and cleaned the kitchen, is there much difference in your character? Have you struggled to rise above your limitations? Or did it all come easily? Being gifted can hinder the humility necessary for deep artistic growth. A true calling commands complete humility.

There are important reasons for needing this humility. The process of following our calling will always reveal our character flaws. First, we will recognize that our natural bias is often an enemy to our greatest work. A calling may also involve tasks we don’t especially enjoy. We will procrastinate, grumble, and blame….until we resolve to push past the resistance and do the work.

The process is not pretty. And only a true, deep calling can push us to do it.

A final word: although a calling seems to be greater than a gift, we cannot judge between them. We want clarity between our gifts and calling so we can best use our time and resources. But we cannot know the impact any little fleeting choice will have on the world.

It’s not always great art that strengthens us at our weakest moment…it is the kindness of others, expressed through their own gifts and callings.

So, an important habit of a Highly Creative is this: seek clarity for yourself, but know that any of your gifts can impact the world. Whether it is a gift or a calling, it all matters. Every gift, every talent, every moment….

and every one of us.