You’re likely familiar with “Breaking Bad”, the TV series about a chemistry teacher desperate to secure his family’s financial future, after his devastating cancer diagnosis. Facing the reality of death does funny things to people.
Even if you’ve never watched Breaking Bad, apparently most of America has. The series quickly became a national sensation and rendered a new buzzword, “breaking bad” for when someone good suddenly changed character.
If “breaking bad” is slang for “defying expectations” then “breaking bud” is a crisp turn–of–phrase for “just kidding, the weather has a mind of its own”. Out of the brown and crinkled tan shades of left-over winter, buds are due. The milk of flowers is already rising through pale green rose stems.
Fine, with this springtime tease, we’ll don a warm jacket today, a light sweater tomorrow, carry a pair of boots in the car for just–in–case.
Spring waltzes in sideways, full of bluster and drizzle, followed by little sunny intervals of calm. Throw in a late snow squall for good measure, and you have springtime in Northwest Pennsylvania: Unpredictable, moody, playful, and perplexing. But we always tolerate the irregularities of spring because it holds promises: Birds returning, leaves unfurling, windows are thrown open to let in the breeze.
We’re starting to hear the spring peepers, those tiny chorus frogs that give usloud concerts every night for a fortnight. The early flowers are already pushing through soil, declaring forgiveness for winter’s icy grip. Something shifts in the air. There’s a mix of earthy smells, a giddy kick of anticipation.In spite of all the challenges we’ve endured, there is this one thing: Spring is “breaking bud”.
I had the honor of proofreading the book, BEING CREATIVE, by Laura Bartnick this spring. Her thoughts on creativity simply jibe with my feelings about springtime’s empowerment. I’m declaring new explorations this year. Did you know. . .
God calls all of His creation His servants, because He has a purpose for our existence. He is the Re-namer, and Redeemer, and Re-purposer. When we walk with the LORD, the possibilities are endless. We can search for Him—though He is not far from any of us. Coming closer to our Creator, we can accept His call to be cunning and skillful. We can even become His friend.
“Anything can become the next exploration. Even those creatives who want nothing to do with being a child of God often find their best material in Scripture and in the church. God can use the imagination of anyone to teach us.
“Your own skill is a learned thing. Wisdom takes time. You may not yet understand this when you begin to write about a tragedy causing a family to become displaced, all their treasures to be lost. What you are really going to discover and write about is the greater gift of creativity from loss, the value of new relationships, and community—finding other treasures in hidden places. This story may require much prayer, wrestling with God for the blessing, and many edits to test and strengthen the wings.”
Spring is going forward and gathering steam, hurtling headlong into backyard picnics, flip-flops, beach time and road trips.
There are ten little rules of creativity listed at the end of each chapter in BEING CREATIVE. There is also the suggestion to keep a journal nearby. I have practiced this invitation of capturing the wonder of my days, of God’s creative invitations to life in my own way. This is where the gift book series, BREATH OF JOY, was budded and flounced. SINGING SPRING announces this season of life burgeoning from death. It celebrates wonder with yellow daffodils, with purple lilacs, and with perfuming pink hyacinths.
Crops are going in this spring, and before we know it there will be rows and rows of sweet corn. That’s what I love about seasons. They simply show up. Regular as a heartbeat, as welcome as the friend you haven’t seen in quite a long time. Springtime is roguish, breaking bud and being mischievous in all the best ways.
I found one of my favorite quotes in chapter four of BEING CREATIVE:
Experience allows us to follow the dots into the unknown. We learn from intersecting paths along the way. We learn to improvise.”
I just love this! I want to lift it out, highlight it, then repeat it for emphasis!
Unconcerned about vaccines, politics or March Madness, the season is a joyful riot of mud puddles and sudden bursts of color, chasing away the landscape’s last edges of grays and browns.
“Well, I wanted to catch you on your morning walk. I woke up wondering whether the chorus of spring peepers was singing around the lake yet.”
“It’s not quite warm enough. It’s only supposed to be 63 degrees in Erie today. Maybe next week.”
“Really? We’re supposed to have another blizzard this weekend.”
“Well, that’s a Rocky Mountain springtime for ya. Once we hear them, we will have three more freezes – then, it’s truly spring!”
“The coming of the peepers foretells three more freezes?”
“Oh yes. There’s the onion leek melt, the sweet pea melt, and one more – I’m having a memory melt right now.”
“Ah, ‘Singing Spring’ comes in notes and melts, like your book.”
“None too soon.” I’m huffing and need to hang up on this conversation in order to accomplish this morning’s walk.
“Hey, I woke up in one of those post-dream phases, the phase where you’re not asleep but not quite awake, either.” But, my friend also has to go. We say our ‘goodbyes,’ and my thoughts turn inward, dredging up memories, I mean, really distant memories – from lifetimes ago. Mostly good ones. These memories came from this morning’s dream.
A recent National Geographic study polled people around the world—including more than 600 featured in just one study—who say they experienced a new phenomenon: coronavirus pandemic dreams.
Science has long suggested that dream content and emotions are connected to well-being while we’re awake. Bizarre dreams laden with symbolism allow some dreamers to overcome intense memories or everyday psychological stressors within the safety of their subconscious.
The study concludes,
The virus is invisible, and I think that’s why it’s transformed into so many different things.”—Deirdre Barrett, Harvard University
I agree with Deirdre. The virus is invisible, and I think that’s why it’s transformed into affecting our dream state.
I keep hearing about the virus. I have lost friends to it. But, we never really see it, do we? Most of us are prevented from seeing the worst of it, even with our loved ones.
This next season of social isolation comes with a promise of a new vaccine. It’s a trade-up.
So as I was saying, I was dreaming of my childhood lunchtime trade-ups. I was in one of those post-dream phases where you’re not asleep but not quite awake, either: the best time to rein in the edges of your dream and frame it before it is erased by cornflakes and coffee and morning light.
I remained as still as possible to capture the details.
We were all back in elementary school. As dreams rarely make sense, my classmates included pint-sized versions of people I have known throughout my lifetime, even my grandmother.
No matter that she was in grade school a full 60+ years before I was; dreams are like that.
So as dreams go –
We were out on the playground. It was recess and lunchtime and a cluster of us were sitting cross-legged in a circle near the swing set. I remember there was a teeter-totter there, too.
We were trading lunches.
Two Twinkies for a homemade cookie.
Bologna for a PBJ.
An apple for a Hershey Bar … (is that a fair trade, really?)
A kid named Robert was in the circle, and he had a liverwurst sandwich. This detail rang true – there really was a kid named Robert in the first grade whose mom packed a liverwurst sandwich nearly every day. Maybe his mom had told him how the iron in it would make him grow up to be a muscle man, but Robert seemed to like it and rarely traded it out. He probably wouldn’t have very many takers, anyway.
I mean, liverwurst.
It was only a dream, but it had real slices of reality sandwiched in.
Maybe you, too, shared lunchtime negotiations back in the day.
You got rid of those vegetables and Mom was none the wiser.
We are almost always alert to something better out there. Trading.
Those murky-dream-drenched lunch swaps – snippets of real memories rising to greet me during the Great Sequester of 2020 and continuing through the springtime of 2021 with the promise of a trade-up. Is there a better vaccine to conquer our isolating fear of the real thing?
Trading lunch is metaphor-speak for what many of us are actually doing these days.
Opening our lunch pail, assessing the situation, and looking up to see what tastes better on that day. Negotiating a trade, pooling our resources, helping each other survive the “liverwurst” of life.
What if we traded sorrows for singing with a chorus of peeps?
Worry for watching the patterns. What is God doing?
Anxiety for trust in the available flavors and coming flowers.
News grazing for cloud gazing.
Swollen ankles for walking the dog.
Despair for Curiosity.
Trading trauma for a sweet pet whose fur accepts our tears.
These are good swaps, life-giving, even.
Switching out the bologna for iron-rich blood, if not liverwurst, then ribeye; trading the mundane for the moment you will savor and return to for a tasty reminder during a day of scarcity.
There’s a song lyric from a favorite musical that goes like this:
The clouded sun shall brightly rise,
And songs be heard instead of sighs.”
What a glorious swap!
A chorus of songs rising up to conquer the gloom – a goofy, ravaged, joyful mix of imperfect voices rise in natural praises every day.
Gathering momentum, drowning out the cries and making sense of the sighs.
I know the swampy spring peepers will lay bitsy eggs, attaching them to vegetation in shallow waters. They may hatch in four short days. Their dream state will end in an energetic wetland chorus.
I rouse myself from my sleepy knowledge-memories to walk amongst the happy spring peepers, now camouflaged, who are not beleaguered by any virus. Their chorus will come melodiously and noisy overnight, regardless.
Crisp late-winter Lake Erie air has done its job. My lungs are woke. My stomach rumbles.
Do you know that 24 hours before the Spring Peepers are singing under the tell-tale ‘X’ marking on their backs, they are wee black tadpoles swimming underwater? Full metamorphosis takes an uncanny 24 hours!
Oh, Get ready!
We will wake from this dreamlike state one day, looking to each other for guidance into the light of a New Normal. We will add our voices to the chorus frogs.
Pass me the Corn Flakes, I can hardly wait.
Kathy Joy is the author of Singing Spring, one book in the Breath of Joy seasonal coffee-table series. This month, her children’s picture book released to the public, Will You Hold My Story? This Shell Silverstein-esque story features the adult idea of listening to a child’s tales in a Mister Rogers-esque neighborhood.
My legs are sticking to the seat again. I squeeze my eyes shut and peel my thighs off the black vinyl. They make a sucking sound and I think of the algae eater on the side of our fish tank at home. I see its large, fleshy mouth cover a round portion of the glass. It moves along from one side to the other, cleaning and polishing its distorted picture window.
Michael stares out the windshield, miles away from here, miles away from me. His mouth is clamped shut, locked against anything conversational or intimate. The algae eater is more intimate. Does the world look as perverse to him as it does to me? How is it the sun can burst through thick white clouds? How can it color the day with that brilliance dripping over every tree, oozing over every car, and shining the casement of every building we pass?
This time together in our vehicle is dark, dreary, and foreboding. We’re on a weekend trip to save our marriage. The sky should be in silent mourning, holding back its cool breeze, waiting for the end to come.
I release the pent up air in my lungs and glance sideways.
Michael has a piece of Juicy Fruit between his teeth. His mouth moves up and down as he chews. The movement is comforting. It looks similar to the motion a mouth makes while talking. Perhaps he will speak to me and feed me a few morsels of his soul. My soul continues to starve.
My stomach rumbles and tells me the Cheerios I fed it two hours ago have dissolved and made their journey through my bloodstream.
“Let’s get something to eat,” I suggest, suddenly buoyant with the sound of my own voice. Silence can become so thick and heavy. Michael continues to stare at the highway ahead. I follow the direction of his eyes and squint to see if there’s something out there I’m missing. Sun, trees, shiny, expensive cars, a hint of smog against the blue sky….a typical weekend day in Southern California.
The question comes unexpectedly. My dazed gaze slams against it. My eyes refocus on Michael. “Where what?”
Deep furrows stack up across his forehead. “You said you wanted to get something to eat. Where do you want to go?”
I shrug. “I don’t know.” I can tell without looking that Michael is rolling his eyes. Michael doesn’t know our marriage is coming to an end. He doesn’t realize how important this trip is. His annoying little wife is going to leave him if something doesn’t change. “Sushi.”
The furrows dig deeper into Michael’s forehead. “Sushi what?”
“I want sushi for lunch.”
“Oh yes. Of course, you would want sushi; especially since I hate it. Why do you always do this?”
“Oh, now comes the puzzled look. That’s all part of it, isn’t it?”
I enunciate each word. “A part of what, Michael?”
“This game you play. You announce you’re hungry. I ask where you would like to go and you pick something that you know I hate.”
I prop my bared foot up on the dashboard and wiggle back into my seat. I’ve assumed the battle position and I’m going in for the kill. “No,” I shake my head. “I don’t know, because you don’t talk to me. You don’t tell me anything; not even what you like to eat for lunch.”
“I’m not participating in this discussion.” Michael’s knuckles turn white as he grips the steering wheel. “I already know the outcome and I refuse to make excuses for who I am, Sam. You knew I wasn’t much of a talker before you married me.”
My eyes are rolling. I wiggle my head back and forth. “That’s such a lie. You did talk to me when we were dating. The first year we were married you told me what you were thinking and how you were feeling a lot.”
“It’s easy to talk when life is sweet.”
Michael continues to stare straight ahead. I wish he would look at me. “What are you saying, Michael?” I almost hope he’ll ignore my question. He does sort of.
“You see that man on the side of the highway?”
I turn my head and look out the window in the direction Michael is pointing. A guy who looks like he could be Michael’s age carries a large, orange trash bag. He walks and stoops down, picking up pieces of trash that lay scattered along the highway. I shrug. “What about him?”
“I’m just like him.”
Now I’m wondering why I ever wanted him to speak. He’s not making sense and I’m starting to feel depressed. I let out another sigh. “The air is getting stale in here,” I reason while rolling down my window.
Michael slams the air conditioner switch off. There’s another mark against my name today. First sushi, now rolling the window down while the air is on. “You’re not like that man at all.” I’m hoping to divert his attention from my most recent offense. “That man is doing community service for some crime he’s committed. He’s probably on his way to jail.”
“I’m already there.”
I can’t read him.
The side of Michael’s face is a blank. “What’s that supposed to mean?” I prop both feet on the dash, hoping to appear unshaken. I feel a quiver start at the center of my stomach and ripple against my ribs. I really need to eat.
“My life is a prison, Samantha. I may not have committed any crime but I’m still in jail just the same. ”
He pauses. Nothing more is said. That’s it?! That’s all he’s going to say?!
“You see why I don’t talk, Sam?” This time he looks at me with a smug little grin scribbled on his face. I wish the algae eater were here to suck it off.
“Forget lunch,” I say, turning my head towards the window. “I’m not hungry.”
“Are you kidding me?!!” Michael starts to yell. The car is slowing down and he pulls over on the side of the highway. The tank is sitting on empty. “We’re out of gas! I thought you got some this morning!”
Gas. The one thing I forgot. Great! “I’m sorry, Michael. I forgot.”
“Well, this is just wonderful!”
He won’t talk to me after he calls the Uber ride. He tells the driver he has to get a container of gas from the nearest gas station which he’s already located on his cellphone. It’s only a few miles away. I wander around the embankment on the side of the road for awhile and then sit in the car with the passenger door open, waiting.
He is silent after he returns with enough gas to get us to the station. I notice his jaw clenching for miles.
Our gas tank isn’t the only thing on empty.
By the time we reached our hotel on the beach, our relationship is dry as a southern wind.
The world looks so small from the fifteenth floor of this Holiday Inn. I am right now, standing carefully on the balcony of our hotel room. This must be how the world looks to God. We’re a bunch of ants fighting over the crumbs of life. Maybe if I threw all my problems off this balcony, they would become as small as the dotted people and cars below me. Maybe they would just disintegrate from the force of the fall.
Michael is in the shower. He’s trying to cool off. Things got pretty heated after we passed the man with the orange trash bag. Then, of course, the car ran out of gas.
That was my fault. At least in Michael’s eyes. I think he sees one version of me all the time-a screwed up. I was supposed to get gas yesterday. I didn’t. Lisa called, and I got distracted from my errands. Michael could care less that Lisa was in a crisis. All he knows is that we have now missed our cruise to Catalina Island.
I still say it’s partly his fault. He didn’t check the gas gauge when we got in the car this morning. I know he was tired and grumpy. I know we were running late and that I should have gotten out of bed sooner. Still, I wasn’t the one who kept him from checking.
I suppose it doesn’t really matter anyway.
I’ve decided I’m going to leave Michael. I don’t really have any other choice. If I don’t leave, I’ll go crazy. Life is just hell when we’re together. He works at the bank all day. I talk for eight hours to cranky people who won’t pay their bills. We come home, eat dinner and stare at the T.V. until it’s time to go to bed. Then we get up and do it all over again. Nothing is fun anymore. See what I mean . . . hell?
We used to like each other. We even loved each other, I suppose. It’s hard to believe with the way things are now. We’ve joined the rest of the world and we’re fighting each other for the crumbs.
Michael used to write “I want you” on the bathroom mirror with toothpaste. We took some long showers then. Some mornings he would sit straight up in bed and grab my arm. “You!” he would say. “It’s really you. I thought you were just a dream!” I would laugh and smile at how good those words felt.
I can see the ocean from where I’m standing. It’s so grand. So is the sunset. It makes me sick to think of how this beauty is being wasted. How can I watch the sky burst into flames and feel cool, ocean air on my skin when my marriage is ending? I won’t look at the ocean. I’ll just watch cars and people from this isolated perch.
My eyes follow a stream of cars into a large parking lot.
To the right of the parking lot, the red and yellow neon lights of a Tilt-O-Whirl blink on. Then I notice the flashing white lights of a roller coaster and the bright green and purple sign for The Zipper. A carnival!
I don’t think about what I’m doing. I grab my purse just as Michael shuts the water off. “I’m going to a carnival,” I yell at the bathroom door.
“What!? What carnival?”
I don’t answer. I slam the hotel door shut and keep walking down the carpeted hallway. I smile. It feels good to leave him hanging. He deserves it after saying that nonsense about being in jail and then claming up for the rest of the trip.
I’m breathing heavily, partly because I’m walking so fast and partly because I feel so free. Exhilaration claims me like I’ve just been let out of a dark, musty closet. Maybe Michael and I are both in prison.
The air is cool and salty. My skin tingles and I walk even faster. I’m smiling at everyone I pass. Little girls, little boys hopping and skipping. Teen flocks. Young lovers. Older couples hand-in-hand. I’m still a few blocks from the carnival, but I can already smell the salty-sweet mixture of hot dogs and cotton candy. My stomach cramps and growls. We never did eat lunch today.
There crowd grows-the little kids now with sticky, cotton candy mouths and wild eyes, tired parents clutching balloons and stuffed animals, couples with hands locked together or arms around shoulders and waists.
I stop at a hot dog stand and take my place in line.
Plump, juicy links rotate slowly on a wheel at the left side of the metallic counter. Ten people wait in front of me. I feel impatient so I look around, trying to take my mind off my hunger. My eye catches a glimpse of a giant Ferris wheel off to my right. Bright red, blue, and yellow lights wink on and off, outlining the spokes of the wheel. I step out of the line and walk towards it. The hot dog can wait. I love Ferris wheels. They’ve always been my favorite ride at carnivals. When I’m at the very top, for an instant, I feel like I’m flying unleashed.
There’s another line, not as long as the hot dog truck’s, for the Ferris wheel. Dinner time is the perfect time to catch a ride. I step up.
“Can I ride with you?”
Michael is standing beside me. His hair is still wet from the shower and his face is flushed. He must have run all the way from the hotel. His light blue eyes seem even paler against his red skin. I smell the spicy musk of his aftershave. Surprisingly, every inch of me is glad he’s here. He remembered to check my favorite ride to find me.
“Yeah, I think that would work.”
We don’t look at each other. It’s like we just met and we’re both feeling shy and awkward. It’s kind of exciting. Out of the corner of my eye, I see him looking at his hands or his shoes-anywhere but at me. I feel a chuckle rising in my throat. “So what made you come? I didn’t think you liked carnival’s anymore.”
Michael clears his throat. “Well, I don’t but I couldn’t see any point in sitting alone in that stuffy hotel room all night. I mean, we drove all this way. It would be stupid and a waste of time.”
Why can’t he say he wanted to be with me? Why does it have to be about wasting time or not wasting time?
The Ferris wheel stops. We climb into a bright blue carriage with a little umbrella swinging overhead. I slide to the middle of the seat and wish I could slide over a little further. I don’t want to be next to him but I don’t want to look like a child. Michael slides in next to me and rests his hands on his lap. At least he isn’t putting his arm around me. Somehow, this makes me even angrier. “Don’t forget, Sam,” I coach myself, “he’s only here so he can avoid wasting time.” The carriage lurches forward and we’re off the ground.
The cool, evening breeze is stronger and colder above the beach, the waves of the Pacific. I try to focus on the bright lights of the carnival below, on the moonlight bobbing in ripples on the waves of the ocean. I can’t distract my mind from the fact that I’m a bundle of nerves, and freezing. Goosebumps give texture to my arms and legs. I should have put something warmer on before I left. These shorts and tank top aren’t made for an evening out by the ocean, what was I thinking? Michael notices my bumps and asks if I’m cold.
No, your presence just thrills me so. Another unspoken thought. “Maybe a little. I’m all right though.” Michael’s tan arm slides across my shoulders. I’m tempted to wiggle a little closer. The warmth of his body feels uncomfortably good but my anger still feels too right to let go of just yet.
“I’m not in prison because of you, Sam.”
This catches me off guard. I lose focus of my anger. “You’re not? I thought that’s what you meant, that our marriage is like a prison.”
“No. It’s just life. There’s so much pressure.”
Our carriage is moving backward, descending to the ground. The pull of gravity, along with Michael’s words, makes me heady. My anger evaporates with the sea spray. I see myself tossing a few problems off the balcony at the hotel though I remain silent, almost holding my breath. Maybe he’ll keep talking. He does.
“I don’t like who I am anymore, Sam. All I do is work and complain about how awful everything is. And, I hate what’s happening to us. All we do is fight.” I slide closer to him and press against his side. His hand squeezes my shoulder.
“I swore things would never be this way when we first got married. I made a promise to myself that I would not live a mediocre life like my family and friends. So far, this weekend places us square in their camp.”
“We’re just living like a couple of algae eaters,” I say looking up at him.
Michael smiles. I’m wishing I had my camera so I could take a picture of his face. His smile is so beautiful and so rare anymore. “What do you mean by that?”
“We’re viewing life through our four algae-covered windows, like our fish tank. And it’s always distorted.”
He nods his head. “So how do we change the view?”
We’re at the top of the wheel again.
“Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.” Michael smiles, remembering the self-help book we read together months ago.
“We are products of our past but we don’t have to be prisoners of it tomorrow.”
I nod in agreement. “We change tomorrow’s view by what we’re doing right now,” I answer. “Wow. The world looks a lot different from up here, doesn’t it?”
“If we threw our problems off the side of this carriage at the top, they would seem a lot smaller.”
“You’re a strange one, Sam.” Michael is smiling again. I love his smile even more than Ferris wheels.
“I know. That’s why you’re so madly in love with me.”
Michael scratches his forehead. “Yeah, I’ll buy that.”
We ride the bumper cars and eat greasy hot dogs. Michael kisses me in the funhouse in front of a mirror that made our heads look like bloated ticks.
It’s after midnight before we make it back to the hotel room. Michael is wide awake. Hanging the tiny stuffed bear he won for me from his ear, he dances a strange male dance and manages to peel his clothes off, somewhat awkwardly, at the same time.
The only thing I can say for the rest of our little trip is that we didn’t quite make it to Catalina. Missing our cruise turned out to be the best thing that could have happened.
We’re on our way back to the real world today.
I’m driving. I’ve decided not to leave Michael. Tomorrow is Monday but I don’t think it will be the same as every other Monday. In fact, I don’t think our life will be the same. We’ve made a new vow to change our view at least once a week.
I’ve got a strong craving for sushi and Michael has agreed to try it again. He’s talking about the things pressuring him. I’m listening. Together, we’ll break down the pressures of life with a new perspective from a higher viewpoint. Things have definitely changed. We’re entering a new age, a fresh season and this time, our gas tank is full.
Charmayne Hafen is a contemporary issues author with Capture Books. Typically writing on faith issues for teens, her youth books and children’s books are clean reads, full of adventures, compassion, and mystery. Hafen’s writing displays empathy and redirection for marital health and the welfare of children. She holds an MA in group counseling and obtained her B.A. in Journalism from John Brown University. She is currently working on her first adult novel.
I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run, I feel his pleasure.
– Eric Liddell
I’m a great admirer of Eric Liddell. I grew up repeatedly watching Chariots of Fire, a movie that follows Eric’s strenuous journey to the Olympics and a tough, God-honoring decision he made when he arrived there. The movie fed my interest in this man and I devoured any books about him that I could find. The above quote quickly became a favorite.
Why? Because it takes something physical, something of this world, and attaches spiritual significance and eternal joy to it.
Eric knew God had called him to be a missionary–something anyone religious would consider to be a holy, spiritual calling. But God had also given Eric a great physical ability to run fast. Because both had been given by God, Eric considered them both to be holy. He knew that when he exercised his talent, it brought spiritual pleasure to the Giver of it.
The idea that a physical ability possesses a spiritual significance, pleasure, and outcome could be applied any number of gifts and abilities. This truth can be seen from the story of creation, where God created physical bodies, mind, and nature and called it “good” to stories and instructions about physical prowess.
In the Bible, when the young King Solomon humbled himself and asked for righteous attributes, God granted him amazing natural gifts of administration, art, architecture, poetry, favor of other kings and queens, love, and wisdom. His father, King David, was a musician long before anyone else heard him play. There in the fields outside of Bethlehem, he played his harp for the sheep and sang for the lambs. Never could he have suspected in those early days that God would call upon him to use this gift to calm a distressed and angry king.
The artisans in Exodus were gifted and practicing their crafts long before God called upon them to create the priestly garments and form the elaborate embellishments of the temple. Did they have any idea, in their early days, that God would one day use their skills as a visual representation to draw people to himself?
What Does the Bible Mean When it Says, “Whatever”?
Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.”
Colossians 3:17 (NASB)
Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.”
Colossians 3:23-24 (NASB)
“Whatever you do” offers a wide and non-judgmental appeal to what pleases you to do. Your personal choice and desires are honored by God because of the unique way He fashioned you. You have space to experiment and try what is on your heart and mind.
People often ask, “What is God’s will for me?” Yet, God’s will often lies within the intimate designs of our bodies and minds, in our relationships, current commitments, and interests. He says, “whatever you do in word or deed, go in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.”
In context, “whatever you do” also means “whatever is not in opposition to God’s principles and statutes.” It would be nefarious to say I’m committing adultery or slandering someone because Colossians 3 says, “whatever”. Yet, scripture called Tamar righteous and not Judah, when she deceived him in order to gain her legal rights and benefits.
We don’t have to contort our personal essence into something else.
We can trust in His goodness. Inside nature’s limits is how He created us to be.
He lays out our paths forward, some say naturally. Some say spiritually.
The Lord chooses to anoint our work for a special purpose like He did with David’s music, Solomon’s wisdom and skills, and the other artisans who built the temple and later rebuilt Jerusalem in Nehemiah’s day.
Our physical gifts and abilities begin within. They are given by God, create another connection with him, and bring him joy. God is our first and primary audience, long before anyone else is aware of the passion that burns within.
When I first began learning to play the guitar, I did so only when nobody else was around. I lifted up my voice and played and sang for myself and God alone. Once I could reasonably play a few songs, I occasionally invited my family to join me. After a while, I began seeking out others who enjoyed playing for the purpose of learning from them and enjoying the fellowship that came from a shared interest. In spite of my busy high school schedule, setting aside time to sing and play was a soul necessity.
My love for writing began with childhood stories and developed upon the pages of secret journals that not even my parents were allowed to see. By the time high school came around, my enjoyment of it, my need to engage it, were so great that I sought out any opportunities to do so. This included writing for our school/county newspaper and even taking an independent study course with news writing during my senior year. Although the articles were of a less personal nature, the fact that I was able to write brought me great joy and a greater sense of connection with God.
When God gives us a gift, and a passion to exercise that gift, we can’t help but to engage with it and God. There is no shame in this. In fact, it may even be a necessity for our souls to do so. It may be done without an audience or shared only with a small group of like-minded individuals as we slowly and quietly develop and improve in that which we’ve been given. Like David and the artisans in the Bible, God may one day call upon us to display our gifts in a more public forum. But until that day comes, if it comes, we quietly and steadily work at it for God, delighting in the pleasure it brings to both him and us.
Jenny Fulton is a wife, mother, children’s book author with Capture Books, YA fantasy author, blogger, and freelance writer with a B.S. in Bible, a B.S. in elementary education, and an endorsement in K-12 ESL.
Her debut children’s story, Princess Lillian and Grandpa’s Goodbye is released 2021, in hardcover, paperback, and ebook.
ENDORSEMENT: “A poignant child’s perspective of the last moments of a beloved grandfather’s journey on earth. Lillian’s guardian angel accompanies her and guides her as her mother and father share with her the glorious truth that his story is not over, but only just beginning. Death itself is treated as just a stepping stone to a perfect forever home with the “Great King,” and the trappings of death, illness, and pain are mentioned but not dwelt upon. Ideal for children dealing with or learning about the death of a family member.”
Child therapists, parents, or ministers can use this book as a tool to explain heaven and what happens when a loved one dies.
Find more Biblical studies and celebration of the arts by Jenny Fulton HERE.
“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.
Nothing exists without this Word.”
Just imagine, in the beginning, God announced the news, “Hey, watch the beginning of EVERYTHING!”
SUNRISES! SUNRISES AND SUNSETS COMING! SUMMERTIME SWIMMING IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER! WHEELS ON THE DUSTY ROAD AHEAD! FRESH PEACHES IN THE NEWS TODAY! CHERRIES, LAUGHTER! PLUMS, KISSES! TUNES, HARMONY, AND RHYTHMS! DEBATES ABOUT ENGINEERED SEEDS! STEEL AND IRON HIDDEN FOR SKYSCRAPERS! GREEN LIMES! GRASS FOR THATCH! EYES TO READ, FLIRT! EARS TO WHISPER INTO! POMEGRANATES! ROMAN NOSES! CHEDDAR AND CARAWAY!”
God announced everything with the Word of life.
Did you know that Christ was already in the beginning, not created by God, but being fully God, this God? Jesus, the Christ, is not only the Savior, but was this Logos Who summoned it all into existence. Colossians 1:16-18 explains that in Christ all things were created, things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities. All things were created through Him and for Him. Christ is before all things, and in Christ, all things hold together. He is also the Head of the Church, the first to rise from the dead so that in everything, He has the preeminence in and for Life!
His most clearly executed point of argument for Himself and His message to Earth was made in the flesh, the personification of Himself, the person of—
JESUS—WHO WAS, AND IS THE LOGOS!
WATCH FOR HIM.
I can see it now: God the Father and God the Word breathed, in the beginning, which light appeared on the waft of the Holy Spirit. Three Persons, One Front, so unified that They could only be separated for one sacred purpose. And, even on that painful separation, They were agreed.
His Word didn’t fall with gravity from lips as we understand lips. But lifted by the experience of creating our planetary spheres including Earth’s own boundaries, He planted objects. The Word began to fill up the void with the sound and the activity of an announcement breeding results. God’s own language began to shine. To find life, ongoing life in a myriad of defining ways.
Notes on the page began to sing their tones, their lengths, their harmonies, and together they scattered upward into the heavens, a choir.
The waters of the heavens were layered for God’s purposes by another word and they began to flow. The sea was then separated from the dry land. Animals were created––each after their kind––on another breath, another heavenly word. The seeds and leafy vegetation began to spring from the earth and curl into patterned whorls on another spiritual exhale, another word of inspiration. Then, God formed flesh. In God’s image, both male and female.
I’m curious, though. How did God breathe His full expressive Self into the flesh of Christ thousands of years later? And, how did God insert the Logos into a living, written Word that lies published on a coffee table, bookshelf or on a desk seemingly inert, or in the pockets of so many? Was God’s language only a verbal expression, “The Word?” Or, did it include physical energy flung like stones into a pool, some physiological forms of communication as well?
Referring to “The Word” in a biblical sense is a mystery to Earthlings. We search our alphabet for symbols and references of connotations to the “Logos” because it is so difficult to understand the term, the God-breathed WORD.
I just love word definitions and following their connotations through. So, when I looked up the term, “word,” the meaning of this verse invited me in for a deeper look.
The Word, translated, does not mean an English language noun. It does not mean that the Word existed only after Gutenberg’s first publishing of the Bible. It does not mean that God generated His impressions only to the left side of the human brain, which tends to control aspects of language and logic, or to the right side of the brain, which tends to handle spatial and visual comprehension.
The LOGOS, in its essential definition, means the Essential Point of Expression or Argument.[i] In this case, the biblical author, John, uses the Logos creatively by applying it to the greatest argument for the living God, as the incarnation of God, begotten Son, best human, fully lit up for all to see.
“Word” is actually an incredibly bad translation of logos.
The specific term, logos, in Greek philosophy, means “the central, defining principle or idea of an argument or philosophy.” In fact, it is the hub upon which all else within the system turns![ii] Logos is a term that would have been commonly known among the people to whom John, the disciple of Jesus, was writing.
So, “in the beginning,” as the beginning relates to Earth, our Father God and God the Son expressed what the Godhead wanted the world to know by:
1) personally mingling, walking, and talking with those created in His image,
2) lavishing on them a perfectly-created universe and the human form with perfectly working systems, expressions, and a will to act bodily, and
3) offering a unified form of necessary imagination and communication to people: the elegant and sword-like word of God full of history, math, law, natural science, prophecy, injunction, psychology, mercy, testimony, and justice. “Word” was the argument passed from generation to generation tucked inside image, song, drawing, story, human example, nature, and writings.
The Word then, in every other sense of creative expression, is everything else—all the bits and pieces—that God wants us to know about Himself. From the gifts of music which evoke rooted emotions without lyrics, to ever-changing projections of His hand-eye coordination in nature. From the heavens and the Earth, to the comical animals and the fierce, to the fragrant and shady foliage, in diverse human abilities made in His image and imagination, and in the continuing recreation of this world’s cycle of each day and night. The heavens declare the glory of God. His harvests provide food for hungry mouths, showing the Father’s care. In the expression of God’s law, ordinances, statutes, poetry, drama, and peace in a variety of testimonies, stories, and letters of love contained in the Bible that the oil flows. All of this is God’s intentional Word to us.
How safe are we as co-creators, as copycats of Christ, since He is the Head of the Church[iii], since He goes before us in every creative aspect and since He also sits as the preeminent Judge of all?[iv] When I discovered this truth, my insecurities about my desires to create, the process of creating and researching whatever I was creating, the editing of what I’d created and the length of time it took to express myself properly, the space taken up in my room, the messes, I stopped apologizing. Instead, I focused on how to make everything I do, write, eat, drink, sing, love, or serve is to glorify God.[v] Artists are not necessarily lazy. We live amidst the tensions of the unknown, distractions of creating, sin, and glory.
I often interrupt a creative process to answer the phone or doorbell, to do something more pragmatic, more pressing, more fun, or more financially necessary. I have turned off my music when a friend or family member joins me in my own car. I am a conflicted soul. Aren’t most maker types this way? Some are more defiant in protecting their creative interests. But if someone asks me, “Whatcha doin’?” I’ve been known to say, “Oh, nothing. What are you doing?” as a means of deflecting attention away from me having to explain my art, my source of reflection, my songwriting, or my poetic process. What about the priority that God Himself puts on making things and creativity in the beginning?
FIRST ISN’T EVERYTHING, BUT FIRST IS PARAMOUNT
In the beginning, God revealed Himself by creating. Apparently, this was His heart’s desire. To create things, to be creative! The Father and Holy Spirit did this with the best form of persuasion.
I see that pattern of firsts because the phrase, “In the beginning”[i] is combined with, “God created” meaning His first entrepreneurial acts.[ii] These phrases are found in the first book of the Bible. First, first, first. The first book of the Holy Bible. First in our time (beginning), and first in God’s activity on our behalf (He is First). God’s Word was effectively creating (wording, speaking, breathing, expressing) light into the cosmos, going forth from the corporate office of the Godhead. God’s creativity skillfully set the stage for your personal salvation.
You could argue that creating was first more of a necessity than a priority. But an author sets the rules of His created world, and in the case of Earth, God’s rationale was to create first, and the finest creativity was set into a pocket of belonging to Him. He is our Creative Hub. Knowing Him is the beginning of learning His secrets.
The Father and Holy Spirit did this with the best form of persuasion. By offering His creative subjects a place and a time, growth and purpose, and a genetic footprint and bloodline, God gave every living thing a place to belong. God’s creative joy mingled with the first humans, almost as though a writer had entered into his own plot becoming a character in his story.
In the beginning, there was, and is, The Being. There was, and still is, The Being’s energetic self-expression. Creating. Persuading. Through His artistic activity in nature, through many varied forms of communication, the revealed Logos welcomed human beings. He expressed Himself as their place of belonging. He offered this belonging to anyone in the world, for God so loved the world.[iii]
SO WHERE DO WE FIT? ARE WE IMPORTANT?
In one extraordinary move, God said, “Let’s make someone like us.”[iv]
He differentiated this living human being from his high ministering angels, from the low minerals of Earth, from all the flora and fauna, from breathing-yapping emotional animals procreating after their own kind, and from the asexual sun, moon, singing stars, and orbiting planets, by anointing the first man and woman with a measure of His own creativity. “I want family!” God declared.
Hebrews 2 tells us that Jesus calls us brothers and children. He is the One Who set us apart, and the ones set apart are of the same family. With a breath of His inspiration, humanity received layers of First Adam gifts: inspiration, imagination, the ability to love, to learn in complexity. “Belonging” was defined as an ability to know Him personally, to be with the One who knows all things, to walk, work, and play in His gifts. Then, Christ died to redeem us from sin’s domain.
Creativity came prior to salvation, to evangelism, to preaching, and teaching.
The Son, Jesus, was God’s creative power expressing His heart for a story and a place of belonging for all life. If you study it, the gift of creation, sin, and plan of salvation makes little sense to us. When this plan is fulfilled, it proves God’s creative excellence.
In the beginning, the incomprehensible Being expressed His attributes and benefits to us via the incredible architecture of His ongoing universe. With particularly, He measured and engineered systems so that this world became a place of belonging for us.
Without God’s wisdom in creation, nothing exists. Yet, creativity is ongoing.
When we work along with God’s inspiration, He offers us authority for this world and into the next. We’ve inherited enough of His legacy, enough purposeful cunning, and His Holy Spirit to help us understand and implement aspects of the Logos together.
When we express our own innovation with God’s blessing, we can differentiate a new species, discover a new form of things. New combinations of ideas and skills rise to divine inuendoes under His guidance. We join with Him for contemporary or future purposes.
Focused, thinking analytically, we can understand and implement science and physics well, write new books, design new designs, find new markets. We express more joy, broader peace, deeper concern, a purity, a true meekness, and wondrous self-confidence by accepting God’s mysteries. Let’s look for His ironical purposes, shall we?
Here’s one. Seek to become a more righteous character from day-to-day.
Here’s another. Exemplify sheer delight by writing around the secrets as you explore them yourself.
Here’s yet another! Write until intrigue infuses itself, beckoning you to spin off from the worn path, exploring the mysteries.
The Logos created the human mind to capture and direct paths of electricity, velocity, biological genes and viruses; to make engines, imagine wheels, design homes, plumbing, a space shuttle. In other words, God gave us each a measure of His own creative intelligence.
Throughout the day, can you imagine bits of the Creator’s glory breaking off like bread crumbs, dropping a trail of joy in our processes, leading us on to the big Shivoo? Joy is the present assurance of the glory to come.
However, The Lord’s own particular glory is reserved for Himself. We can only sense hints of this glory in the feats of God’s miracles.
God often communicates through natural wonders to which adults become accustomed. It is the child who asks, “Why, how, who, and what?” Adults try to analyze wonders away scientifically as if these explanations substitute for the deeper truth that God designed physics. At some point, many a child will cease to wonder and accept others’ limited explanations about nature’s wonders. Yet, some adults continue to experience these wonders in human awe.
When the father of the prophet, Sampson, was first visited by the Angel of the Lord, the father asked, “What is your name?” The angel said His name was beyond understanding, secret and wonderful. Then, while the parents were offering a sacrifice, the angel ascended in the smoke of the fire (Judges 13:17-20). Recognizing that only the Angel of the Lord could rise into the air with the smoke and disappear, the parents fell on their faces, freaked out. Wouldn’t you be? The Lord’s mysterious events on Earth are wonders to us because they come from the Wonderful One and from a different heaven, say, a different dimension.
Magic removes the Wonderful One from the equation by mimicking the wonder with a sleight of hand. Cutting these cords between the wonder and the Giver may feel fanciful, but the illusion is empty, leading to dead ends.
It was only when Adam and Eve broke confidence with their Creator[v] that the wonder of God’s Spirit separated from them. This is because God is Holy and cannot mingle with sin.[vi]
In love and goodness, the Lord devised another means of expression through connective blood and tissue in His covenant with us.
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