The Creative Lifeby Alice S. Bass
Discover God's creative design for your life!
God created people to be creative. Not just self-described "artists". Everyone. Even you.
But to enjoy the creative life God intends for you, you must free yourself from creative blocksinhibitions, fears and patterns of sin. You must open yourself to Christ's inspiration. In The Creative Life Alice Bass
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Discover God's creative design for your life!
God created people to be creative. Not just self-described "artists". Everyone. Even you.
But to enjoy the creative life God intends for you, you must free yourself from creative blocksinhibitions, fears and patterns of sin. You must open yourself to Christ's inspiration. In The Creative Life Alice Bass provides insight, encouragement and experiential exercises to help you identify and overcome your creative blocks. She shows you how to establish an environment that nurtures your individual creativity. Through journaling, Scripture studies, reflection, and a wide array of imaginative activities she inspires you to give your talents to God and allow his creative spirit to transform every aspect of your life.
You can use this book on your personal journey or with a small group who want to grow together. The Creative Life will give you the tools you need to live creatively and wholeheartedly for God.
- InterVarsity Press
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Read an Excerpt
Creative Foundation: Restoring the Divine Connection
Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him."
We all have a snapshot in our mind of who is creative and who is not. Under the "not" category we secretly put businesspeople, mothers, computer specialists, telemarketers and Christians. In this way we limit our definition of creativity to artistic expression. Creativity is a necessary ingredient of art, but it is also required for life. How much imagination does it require to get through a job interview? Or listen to coworkers' complaints? Or explain to your kids why they can't watch HBO after nine o'clock in the evening? What about being in this world and not of it? We all need tons of creativity, and creativity is available to all of us at all times.
The foundation for our creativity is our Creator. Because we are made in the image of God, our creativity and our faith are intertwined. To enjoy a creative life we need to be free to experience more of Christ's inspiration and less of our own inhibitions, fears and sin patterns. We live a creative life in response to the Lord Jesus as he is revealed in the Scriptures and by the Holy Spirit.
Watching my women's group break for coffee, I was fascinated by how carefully each of the women chose just the right cup. It was as if they were thinking, Which one expresses me right now? Who am I today, the tailored tan teacup with an elegant black stripe? Or the 70s earthenware with a single rose? Maybe the cobalt blue with gold stars.
The image of the eternal in us makes us want to express ourselves in the details. We were made for heaven, and once we get there, our joy will be complete. The pleasures of heaven will take us beyond our five senses and fulfill all of who we were created to be.
But even as we are reaching for the perfect cup, we pull back our hand. (Did someone see me? I shouldn't express myself with a cup! How silly.) We stop wanting to express our uniqueness because we are trapped in our flesh. And yet it is the eternal One who has encased us in these bodies. Imagine the pleasure of our heavenly Father when we delight in choosing a coffee cup. He must love it when we experience the richness of his world, a world that will fade. We will not need to choose the right cup in heaven because we will be fully expressed, fully known. But that does not mean our life here is for naught. We are his creatures and he delights in us. So go ahead, choose a cup, touch a smooth stone, sing joyfully off key!
Let's look at the nature of God and our relationship to his creativity.
 Read Genesis 1:26-27 and 2:19-20. How was humanity created?
 What was the model for humanity's creation?
 Describe the events of Genesis 2:19 as if you were in Adam's place.
 What do you think the task of naming the animals required of Adam?
 Now compare those verses with Job 39:13-18. What is beautiful about the ostrich?
 What is unique about her?
 What is she lacking?
 How do you feel about the ostrich after reading this passage?
 What is the difference between God's relationship to the ostrich and his relationship to Adam?
 When have you felt that you were in close communion with God?
 How is creativity part of your relationship with God?
Creativity is part of our nature; we, not the ostrich, have been given the ability to create. God breathes life into our dusty forms. His Spirit hovers over us, calling to the depths and leading us into abundant living. We are creative because we are made in God's image.
Imagination is part of our nature: we solve problems, we relate to others, we come up with ideas, we make guesses, we are resourceful, we dream and fantasize. Close your eyes and imagine Adam's process of naming the animals. He was not randomly picking names out of a hat. Names and language did not previously exist before Adam began (and he probably did not have a hat). Adam made those names up by looking at the animals, assessing them, seeing how they related to each other and what they did. Adam was not alone; he was in perfect communion and conversation with God. It was not Adam's idea to be the namer of the animals; it was God's desire for Adam to be involved. Once he was invited to name the animals, Adam looked very deeply into the character of each one before he labeled it and sent it away. Close your eyes again and try to picture God bringing Adam the tall, funny bird that runs faster than a horse, and Adam crying out "Ostrich!" What a scene.
When you use your imagination, you are putting into play your experiences, personality, abilities and intuition. Your relationship with God gives you insight into his purposes and his creative process. Your creativity is a link to the living God.
I was in my early twenties when I recommitted my life to Christ, and I immediately placed tremendous pressure on myself to conform to my image of a Christian woman. I thought my hair would need to pouf and my Bible would need to sprout lace, and I hoped that I would be overcome by the urge to wear a pinafore. I knew what a Christian woman looked like, and I didn't look like that.
Describe your image of the perfect Christian.
My perfect Christian man wears glasses, of course. Just this side of computer nerd, he is neat and looks freshly scrubbed. He has short hair, he wears a plaid shirt, and his hand is extended, ready to shake. His Bible is unobtrusive but at the ready. He looks like he doesn't have a care in the world.
My perfect Christian woman wears a blue floral dress with a pressed white collar. She does not have graham cracker handprints on her skirt, even though she does have a toddler by the hand (homeschooled), a baby in a backpack (breast-fed, on a schedule) and is picking up her elementary-school child from the private Christian school. Her shiny brown hair is neatly pulled back, and without a bit of makeup her face is radiant.
Stereotypes put pressure on us. They stop us from thinking and imagining the possibilities. By examining a snapshot of how you think you are supposed to be, you can break through that creative block.
Because of the stereotype that I held when I recommitted my life to Christ, I struggled with my creativity. How could my two worlds possibly come together? I struggled with doing plays that weren't about Jesus. I even worried about working in the drama ministry with my husband. Just how creative should I be when I write a script or act in a sketch? Surely as a Christian I should be listening to God instead of using my imagination.
But what if our imagination is a gift from God? And if it is, what if using our imagination is away to hear from him?
In order to continue in my vocation I had to know what God says about imagination. Not just for me but also for the nonbelievers I was working with in the theater. I wanted to tell them that God is interested in them, that he values their creativity and their artistry. And I wanted to tell the people in the church who were struggling with their originality and imagination that their expression is as valuable as that of a famous artist. Being creative is part of our nature as human beings.
Recovering the Design
When I was in college, I read books telling me to recapture my creativity by harnessing my inner child; after all, it was said, children are so creative, and they have no inhibitions. I remember in my childhood bouncing between fanciful play and hiding out in the school clinic every time an oral presentation was due. Sure, I was more willing to tap into my creative abilities when I was a child, just as my fears and inhibitions were equally available to me.
If as children we were all free to be creative, then why as adults do we think that creativity is only for certain people? From the beginning we have been connected to God and to each other; from dust we are made in his image, his breath bringing us life and bone from bone relying on one another. Creativity should flow through us like that breath of life. Then why do experts say we need to go back to being childlike to recover our creativity? Because we did lose our creativity; we lost the original design for our communion with God and each other.
 Read Genesis 2:15-16, 25; 3:1-6; and 3:21-24. From 2:25 describe the relationship between Adam and Eve.
 Looking at these verses and at Genesis 1:28, do you think Eve did not know the command recorded in Genesis 2:16-17? Why or why not?
 In Genesis 3:3 how does Eve describe God's instructions?
 How have you been like Eve in the way you hear and interpret God's instructions?
 What is recorded in Genesis 3:6 about what happened next?
 Skim chapter 3 of Genesis and record the results of the man and woman's disobedience. In 3:21 how did the Lord respond to their situation?
 What did Adam and Eve lose as a result of their disobedience?
 What did they retain?
We need everything to be redeemed. Both Adam and Eve were well aware of God's design for their lives in the garden. They were responsible to act on what they knew, and they chose to ignore that responsibility and to take what seemed pleasing. Because sin entered the world, all that we are and have is under the curse of sin. Our creative abilities are tainted. But they are not taken away. In Genesis 3:20 we are told that Eve would become the mother of all the living. In 3:16 we read that God told her of the pain she would experience as a result of sin, but he did not take away her ability to give birth, to participate in the creation of life. In Adam's curse, God predicted the pain of toil but promised that he would eat as a result of his labors; in toil Adam would continue to produce.
The Life of the Creature
Our creative nature is under our fallen human nature. This beautiful gift of God is under a curse of toil, pain, dust and shame. It is not surprising then that we experience pride and fear about our creativity. But there is hope. Our creative nature can become a creative life through the redeeming work of Christ. The difference between our creative nature and a creative life is redemption. Our creativity, like everything else in our nature, is redeemed by Christ.
From the Genesis passage we learn that sin bears the curse of death. From our lives we know that this is true, that there is not only physical death but also decay and death in our hearts and spirits. But Peter, Jesus' disciple, says that because Jesus bore the curse of sin and death, we do not have to die. Instead, our sin dies, and we can live for righteousness. We also know from our lives that living for righteousness is impossible for us. Think of your imagination and your creativity. Why have you tried to squelch it in the past? Perhaps because it led you to immorality, hurt, fear, shame or embarrassment, but not to righteousness.
I love the phrase that Peter uses about Jesus the Overseer of our souls. When you come to Jesus, he oversees your soul, your thoughts, your actions, and yes, your creativity. But life in Christ is a not merely a matter of having a good manager checking our work. It is a life in which the sin that had flowed through our veins is replaced with the transfused lifeblood of Jesus.
Your creativity is not something to be discarded because you have experienced sin in it in the past. Rather, your creativity is damaged and it needs to be exchanged. Your creativity will not save you. Saying "I'm an artist" or "I'm creative" will not purify you. Everything in us needs to be redeemed by Christ, including our creativity.
If you have received Christ, dedicate your creativity to him by praying this prayer aloud:
Almighty and eternal God, so draw our hearts to thee, so guide our minds, so flu our imaginations, so control our wills, that we may be wholly thine, utterly dedicated unto thee, and then use us, we pray thee, as thou wilt, and always to thy glory and the welfare of thy people; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. (Collect 61. A Prayer of Self-Dedication, The Book of Common Prayer)
If you are not sure whether you have invited Jesus into your life, if you cannot remember a specific experience with him and you are beginning to see that you need him, you are right. Knowing Jesus is the most vital thing in your life. To recognize God as more than just a big entity high above us, you need to acknowledge that Christ is the Savior and that you need his saving grace. Pray:
our sins are too heavy to carry,
too real to hide,
and too deep to undo.
Forgive what our lips tremble to name,
what our hearts can no longer bear,
and what has become for us
a consuming fire of judgement.
Set us free from a past that we cannot change;
open to us a future in which we can be changed;
and grant us grace
to grow more and more in your likeness and image;
through Jesus Christ, the light of the world. (The Book of Common Worship)
Receiving Christ means confessing that we are sinners and asking him to purify us. Then he will come and live in our hearts and change us.
A Warm Room
I had been a Christian for four years when my counselor told me that I didn't like to "share my heart." Well, I was furious. I stomped out and was sure I'd never talk to the counselor again. What was he talking about? I shared my opinion all the time, and I had friends. Two or three friends. Only one of them really knew me, and sometimes I surprised her with my dreams. "I would never have guessed that about you" was something I heard often.
The next Sunday during worship, I asked God to show me my heart. An image popped into my head of a room in which the ceiling, walls and floor were made out of hardwood. The wood was light in color, and it was varnished so that it shined. There were no windows, and the room was so empty that I could hear the click of my heels echoing as I walked. I knew from that sound that I was in my heart's room. It was such a sad sound to me, heels clicking. Sad but familiar. In school my friends had dubbed me "student actress on the go" because I was on so many committees. I was always running from one thing to the next, never allowing time for interaction, just accomplishment. I knew that my counselor was right: I didn't share my heart.
I could tell that Jesus was in that room because it was warm and inviting. But the room was closed up and empty, save for the presence of my dear Savior. Who else but he would sit in an empty room waiting for his beloved?
"Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and he with me" (Revelation 3:20).
After you read this verse from Revelation, close your eyes, relax into your chair and take a deep breath. As you breathe in, feel that breath going into your shoulders and arms, allowing tension to be released. Breathe in again, and think on the Revelation verse. Imagine that the door is the door to the room of your heart. Now picture your heart's door.
What does it look like? Is it made of wood, and does it have a latch? Is it a screen porch door? Or a stone door with a peephole?
What does it feel like to the touch?
What would it feel like to approach the door from the outside?
Now, open the door and describe the room.
What are the colors and textures in the room?
Is Jesus there? If so, is he comfortable? How has he made himself at home? Has he rearranged the room at all?
You can end your heart-room imagining by singing one of these hymns:
"Open the Eyes of My Heart"
"Just As I Am"
"Create in Me a Glean Heart"
Or try personalizing John 15:5 and making it your prayer this week. "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."
If you have Jesus living in your heart, that means the creative spark, the Word, is in there! The creative life is Jesus. With Christ living in our hearts we have access to abundant creativity. We do not create out of nothing as he does. Instead we are grafted into him, and our creativity comes from him and produces eternal fruit.
Excerpted from The Creative Life by Alice Bass. Copyright © 2001 by Alice Bass. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
What People are Saying About This
Steve Brown, Bible teacher on the national radio program Key Life
Karen Lund, associate artistic director, Taproot Theatre Company
Joy Sawyer, author of Dancing to the Heartbeat of Redemption: The Creative Process of Spiritual Growth
Meet the Author
Alice Bass is Author Development Manager with HigherLife Development Services. She is also an actress, writer and creative consultant living in Florida, and can currently be seen with the Epcot Acting Company at Walt Disney World. She has performed in professional theaters across the US. Many of her scripts can be found at dramaministry.com. She is a graduate of Rollins College.
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It is about time someone had the courage to write a book like this. This book completely changed my way of creative thinking, it is bold, funny, inspiring and isn't afraid to challange the reader to think for herself. Hooray for Alice Bass.