Category Archives: the arts

Please stop using “creative” as a noun.

I don’t know exactly when or why this began, but people are now using the word “creative” as a noun to describe themselves and others. As in:

“I’m a creative.”

“We provide marketing solutions for creatives.”

And so on.

I get what it is they’re trying to say. Maybe you work in an artistic field, such as writing, or film-making, or design, or photography, or dance, or whatever. You do artistic things – perhaps you do them for a living, perhaps it’s a hobby (or an obsession, let’s be honest) – so you call yourself “a creative.”

But this use of the word “creative” is bad theology, pure and simple.

We are all, as humans, created in the image of God. That means we are all imbued with certain inherent qualities, such as dignity, worth, and yes, creativity. God is a Creator God, and He made us all to be creative, too, just as He is creative.

To claim the title of “a creative” implies that people outside of the arts aren’t creative, but nothing could be further from the truth. It takes enormous amounts of creativity to be a software developer, an engineer, a mathematician, a parent, a teacher, a businessperson…the list could go on. For many people, it takes a lot of creativity just to get through life.

Words matter, and the way we use words often reveals our beliefs about ourselves and God. Our theology around the word “creative” matters, too. Over the past few years of leading the arts ministry at our church, I’ve heard this sentiment too many times:

“Oh, I’m not creative. I’m just a ___________.”

“I wish I were creative.”

“I’ll leave that to the creatives – I just do ________.”

And so on.

How much we miss when we don’t believe that we are each creative! Exercising our God-given creativity is one of the most satisfying experiences we can have in this life. (And it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the arts. Hint: not everyone’s an artist…but everyone’s creative.)

Not only that, but when we flex our creative muscles in whatever manner that we were each uniquely created to do so, then we start to become who we were meant to be, which means we begin to flourish. And when we flourish, we help the people in our lives to flourish, too.

Don’t buy into the idea that some people are “creatives” and some aren’t. It’s an adjective, not a noun, and it applies to each of us. Yes, some of us exercise it more than others. Some of us apply it in ways that appear more obvious than others.

But don’t belittle your own creativity and giftings. You are creative because you were made in the image of our Creator, and only YOU can fulfill the purpose that you have here on earth. We will all be the richer for it when we each embrace and express our own creativity.

Beauty will save the world

Empty hands. Full heart.

I just spent a weekend away, making music, creating beauty, and it was rich and glorious and beyond wonderful. I returned home yesterday afternoon, feeling fulfilled in a way that few other experiences can offer.

But the thing about making music is that I have nothing, no product, to bring home and show my husband and my children.

I have nothing to give them – no evidence I can display and say:

“See this beauty, look at this art I created while I was away for three days, while you cared for our children without me, while I spent our hard-earned money, while you missed me and I missed you. This is what I created; isn’t it beautiful?”

Music is a living organism. Unlike a painting or a novel, which is set down on canvas or paper for the viewer to come and experience over and over, the making of music happens once, and then it is over, and afterward it lives only in our memories. We can record it for posterity, but the experience of the music as a living thing will never happen in the exact same way again.

And because of that one singular life, the music becomes all the more precious, not only for those who listen, but also – and perhaps, especially – for those who make the music.

We have become a family, our little choir. We come together in Dallas twice a year, from all over the world, having learned our music on our own. We rehearse and we share meals and we laugh and cry, and we savor the wonder of not only what it is we are attempting to do, but the fact that we are actually doing it.

We are creating beauty, and people are coming to listen to this beauty – paying money to do so – and we have even spent our own time and money to be there. And every one of us believes it is utterly worthwhile. If we didn’t, it wouldn’t be happening.

At one point in the weekend, our beloved director said, “How I wish we could do this every week.” We all nodded our heads longingly in agreement.

And yet I think there is something about the scarcity of our time together that makes it all the more special. If we did it every week, would we really value the enormity and rarity of this gift that we’ve been given?

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Near my home here in Austin, a friend of a friend painted the words, “Beauty will save the world” on the backside of their fence, quoting from Dostoyevsky’s novel, The Idiot. The words face out onto a busy arterial street, in a part of the city that struggles with gangs, drugs, and prostitution, full of strip malls, pawn shops, and payday loan offices; in other words, it is the opposite of beauty.

I love this fence. It’s a subversive, guerrilla act of love and faith in the midst of something ugly and broken. We were driving past not long after it went up, and I pointed it out to my daughter Molly, age six.

Ever the literalist, as most children are, Molly screwed up her little face in confusion. “Beauty will not save the world. God will save the world!” she exclaimed.

“Yes, but what is God? Who is God?” I asked slowly, pointedly, mentally willing her to connect the dots.

Her frown faded as her eyes widened in delight, her dimples deepening as though she had just discovered a secret. “God IS beauty,” she said happily, and I smiled. Yes. Yes.

I have nothing to show for my time in Dallas – no product I created, nothing you can quantify or measure. I have only empty hands and a full heart.

But during those two days together, my choir created beauty. The people that came to listen to us participated in that beauty. And whether in large or small ways, every one of us was changed afterward for the better. And that is why we do it. That is why it is utterly worthwhile. Beauty will save the world.