Sunday, November 22, 2009

Going for Good

I saw Michael Jackson’s This is It! twice.

Now, I recognize that in this economy you may be saying, “What? Twice? Really?” Let me explain.

It’s not so much that I’m a die-hard Michael Jackson fan. In fact, the first time I saw it was only to be with my two younger sons, and they all but had to drag me. But after seeing it, something about the film touched me. I thought about it for days, hence the second viewing with my sister, who I knew would get the movie the way I did.

What was the impact?

The music was great, of course. I grew up with Michael in the 70’s and early 80’s, and then went through a second round of MJ fever when my sons discovered him in the late 80’s and 90’s. But what hit me about the movie was more than the music; it was watching the man himself, a master at work. From his natural talent as a child, Michael developed his craft, pushed the limits, and was, for many, a genius. But first and foremost he was a man committed to living out his creative core with passion and excellence.

I left the movie feeling profoundly inspired and motivated to excel in my own creative endeavors. I’m not a musician, entertainer, or an artist, but I do have a creative core that longs to find expression. I think we all do. It is part of being made in God’s image. He created and, with joy, declared it good. And deep down, we long to do the same.

When I say creative core I’m not just talking about the arts. I’m talking about any activity where we lose ourselves imagining and inventing ways to develop it, or make it, or write it, or organize it, or promote it, or present it, or assemble it, or plan it . . .

Whatever the “it” is, if the end result is something that was not in existence before, we created it. And if we are passionate and find joy in the creating, we have tapped into our creative core.

But for it to be good takes work.

Even in the biblical creation account, Genesis 2:3 says on the seventh day God “rested from all the work of creating he had done.” Now God would not have been physically tired, so this was probably more about modeling for us. But the point stands. Creating that which is good takes work.

And here lies the rub. We want the good without the labor! We’re usually not that eager to commit to studying, practicing, researching, working with mentors or coaches, failing and trying again, or doing whatever it takes to be good.

This is why people like Michael Jackson are so inspirational. You can’t watch his artistry without an awe-filled sense of what it took him to get there. Remember what Thomas Edison said about genius? It is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. We don’t like to sweat.

Yet, my heart is lifted when I see passion and commitment like Michael’s. How can I dare offer God anything less with the passions, gifts and abilities He’s given to me?

But too often, unfortunately, I’m just not willing to go there.

I’m reminded of a Plaster of Paris sculpture I did in junior high. As other students were finishing, I wanted to be done, too. When I turned mine in, my teacher said she liked what I had done so far, but wanted me to keep working on it.

We had a battle of artists’ wills for awhile, where I would do a little more, only to have her say, “This is coming along great, keep going.”

Finally, I held my ground to being finished, even though I could tell she wanted me to do more.

Now, more than 30 years later, when I look at that sculpture, I see exactly what she saw. I see where I really did stop too soon. It was okay, but not good.

Perhaps back then I needed more inspiration, a rest from it, or maybe I was just too lazy. I don’t know.

But I do know when I see models of passion and commitment today, and resulting fruit that is truly good, my creative core leaps. I want to create; no, I must create, to the best of my ability, that which is good, too. Just like my heavenly Father.


Genesis 1:31
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good…

Friday, November 6, 2009

Letting Go

You got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away, know when to run ….

Those lyrics from Kenny Roger’s “The Gambler” have been playing in my mind all week. And boy, are they true!

Sometimes, I’m guilty of ignoring or missing God’s direction, but other times the opposite is true. I’m trying to hear God and be proactive, but I’m torn about what to do. Usually, I’d like a change, but I try to hold on and be patient for the right time.

For example, I am working on a new laptop computer and I love it! But the aggravation it took to get me here was ridiculous!

For three months, my old laptop had been having intermittent hiccups. That is, showing an error message and then cutting off. For most of this time, it seemed I was able to give my computer the “water” it needed, because after some tweaking, it would work fine. Then the hiccups turned into coughs and I took it to Geek Squad.

They didn’t find any viruses, and suggested a more complete diagnostic. But this would have meant being without computer access for days, which for my work would have been hugely problematic.

My husband had been saying for months that I needed a back-up computer, but it was hard for me to accept this. In addition to the expense, having two perfectly functioning computers in my home office seemed extravagant.

He would just shake his head. “You’ve got to be able to work,” he would say.

After my Geek Squad encounter, I thought I had arrested the problem because the computer was hiccup-free for weeks.

Then, last week, they returned, quickly followed by violent coughs. Five minutes on, cough, cut off. None of the things I had done in the past worked. I resigned myself to the fact I would have to be without a computer for awhile.

“Why don’t we just buy another computer? “ My husband asked again.

The thought was tempting, but I couldn’t get past the fact that it felt like my computer issue was minor. A tweak or two and we would be back in business. Should I really spend the money on a new one? Yes, it was an old model. Yes, I did have a business to run. And yes, it could become a back up. But buying a new one?

My husband walked away shaking his head again.

About 30 minutes after this conversation my phone rang.


“Hi, Dad.”

“How are you?”

“I’m okay...”

“You don’t sound okay…”

“Well, it’s just that I’m frustrated with my computer.” And I went on to tell him the whole sorry tale.

“Well, Honey, all the time and aggravation you’ve spent so far is costing your company money.”

My Dad always knows how to get to the bottom line. “Not to mention the headache!” He added, and I felt myself beginning to cave. “It’s just not worth it,” he continued. “Why don’t you go and pick up a laptop at --”

“That’s the same thing Al said,” I cut in as the light bulb came on. “Did he ask you to call me?”

“Yes,” he said laughing, “but he didn’t tell me what store to say.”

(God Bless, Al. I know he’s frustrated with me when he appeals to an older authority for support!)

So that’s when I finally folded. They were right; enough was enough.

Hindsight being what it is, I've had to admit that this is an area of struggle for me. I can hang on too long, trying to make something work that I should probably let go; be it a material item, situation or even a relationship.

It’s not just that I’m a creature of habit. I really want to be sure before God that I’m not letting something go too soon. I want to be sure that I’m practicing patience, good stewardship, kindness or commitment, and that I’ve done everything possible before I say enough.

But I believe God is trying to show me that often he's released me long before it clicks for me to let it go.

Sometimes stepping back, I can see more clearly and know what I need to do. But other times, I’m too close. As they say, it’s hard to see the forest…

Thank God for those special ones he’s placed in my life who can see the forest AND the trees, and who can affirm with wisdom and confidence, “It’s time….”


Ecclesiastes 3:6
…a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away,…