Just Do It
- Friday, July 19, 2002
People sometimes think of creativity only in terms of exploration and inspiration. Moments of curiosity and discovery are fun, and it's thrilling to suddenly become aware of new ideas. But concentration? That can seem like too much work, or too boring to bother with when you're trying to be creative.
Concentration is actually a lot of fun, even though it might not seem so at first. Once you actually begin working with your creative ideas, you can start to experience the excitement of seeing them come to life before your eyes!
Dealing with emotions
Plunging an ice scraper into my car's windshield one wintry morning, I grew increasingly frustrated. It was demanding more time and effort than I would have liked to clear the ice, which sparkled beautifully in the sun, almost as if it were taunting me. Some hard blows broke the scraper, sending chips of plastic flying, and I groaned in dismay. But the same blows that broke the scraper also cracked a huge chunk of ice, sending it sliding off the car in defeat. I was thrilled to finally see a clear view through the windshield.
A creative idea may excite you as much as if it were sparkling in the sun. But when you start to tackle the hard work of pursuing it, you're bound to experience a myriad of emotions. The concentration process can elicit excitement, fear, frustration, satisfaction, disappointment, joy and every emotion in between.
Before plunging into a creative endeavor, ask God when he would like you to begin. This will help you avoid acting too soon out of excitement or procrastinating due to fear. Then entrust the results of your work to God, who will accomplish the purpose he intends for your creative idea. "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (Rom. 8:28).
God doesn't just hand you a map for your journey to pursue a creative idea-he serves as your guide, walking alongside you every step of the way. If you trust him with the details of your journey, you can experience the power of his presence, as the Hebrew people did on their exodus out of Egypt. "By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people" (Exod. 13:21-22).
Knowing that God will be with you while you're working can give you the peace you need for the tasks ahead. Search and rescue team member Shawn McPherson, who I interviewed about his work responding to disasters worldwide, draws peace from God as he concentrates on helping victims. "It gives me a sense of calmness to perform my tasks to the best of my ability because I know that God is watching over me and the other members of my team," said McPherson, who traveled to Turkey twice in 1999 after its two deadly earthquakes, and to Oklahoma City after the 1995 bombing of an office building there claimed many lives.
In the face of such tragedy, McPherson strives to have a positive attitude-rooted in his faith in God's goodness-so he can concentrate on the work God has given him to do. "Things happen for a reason," he said. "You can try to rationalize them, or you can realize that sometimes God's perspective isn't our perspective. I always focus on the positive. There are many, many negative things that go on in the world-some caused by man, some by other things-but it's important to be positive. I don't have to understand the ultimate reason, but I do have to do my best to be faithful to do what it is that God wants me to do at the time. With every call, you go out with a clear mind and optimism in your heart."
God will enable you to concentrate on your creative work as you trust him, no matter what emotions you experience. "`Be strong, all you people ... and work. For I am with you,' declares the Lord Almighty. ... `my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear'" (Hag. 2:4-5). ...
Choosing the important over the urgent
Dave Fried and Charlie Demers weren't likely candidates to spend six weeks bicycling across the United States. Dave was 63; Charlie was 50. Both men had full-time desk jobs, and faced many pressing responsibilities from those jobs, volunteer work, and full schedules of activities with family members and friends.
But God inspired the two to ride a tandem bike from Oceanside, California to Virginia Beach, Virginia in the spring of 2000, to raise money for charities and "leave the presence of Jesus with people we meet along our route by showing them unconditional love," said Fried, when I interviewed the friends for a story on their trip.
Concentrating on the creative idea God had given them meant putting many urgent things-other activities that seemed to shout for their attention-on hold. The important tasks at hand-activities that would help them fulfill their creative inspiration-were many. Fried and Demers devoted many hours to planning the trip over a two-year period, marking out a route, choosing stops at monasteries, searching for the right charities to support, creating an interactive Web site for people to check their progress during the ride, and more. During that time, the men logged more than 6,000 miles of bicycling time training for their approximately 3,240-mile trip. "It's very important to us to be attentive to the Spirit of God," Fried said. "Through prayer, we want to listen to what God has to say, to discern how God wants us to spend our time and how we should respond to the circumstances he brings our way. We live in such a controlling culture, that one of the most challenging things for us to do is acknowledge that it's God who is really in control of our lives."
During their journey, the men devoted the first hour of each day's bike ride to centering prayer, a form of silent prayer that focuses on preparing one's spirit to cooperate with God's leading. "One of the things that's key about centering prayer is humbling yourself to open yourself up to what the Holy Spirit wants for you," said Demers. "It's very humbling to see the Holy Spirit bring us everything we need to follow where God is leading."
The voice of the urgent often seems to be louder and more persistent than the voice of the important. Caving into pressure from urgent activities is easy to do when so many seem to follow you around, yapping at your heels like a small dog seeking attention-checking e-mail when a long list pops onscreen, running to the grocery store when you run out of something, sorting laundry piled up high, filling in for a volunteer who cancels at the last minute.
Sometimes you must deal with genuine emergencies. But most of the time, urgent activities aren't all that important. And they can often wait until later.
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