Begin Again

“Creative Chaos,” © Lynn Abbott Studios. Used with Permission.

© 2015 Lynn Abbott

Paint brushes, canvases, frames, picture wire cluttered my studio this past weekend.

I scattered my work everywhere.  My Labradoodle hates it when I work.  On more than one occasion, he has bumbled into a leaning picture frame, and leaped to avoid it as it toppled.

He knows a danger zone when he meets it.

If you had stopped by to visit me, you certainly would have done well to watch your step.  The mess was such that even I tumbled and nearly destroyed my work.

Stepping back to get a better view of the piece currently on my easel, I almost put my foot through another painting that lay waiting its turn in my framing queue.

Yup.  My studio exemplified absolute chaos on Saturday and Sunday.

Were she still alive, my scientific and well-organized mother would certainly object to my studio’s condition.  After all, she kept an orderly nest for her entire life.

In fact, my Dad also followed prescribed routines and methods for ordering everything from health to dirty dishes.

He once alphabetized my spice cabinet for me. I jest not.

For this reason, you would think that my genetics would predispose me to order my work space.

I do my best to tidy.  Honest, I do.

And if you were to call ahead before your visit, for your sake, I would scurry to make my studio presentable.

However, I have given up trying to disguise the fact that my creative process appears disorderly.  All my paintings begin as a messy wash of unexpected colors and seemingly illogical brushstrokes.

I call it creative chaos.

And though you would not likely guess it, my studio chaos actually has a pattern.

Hmm.  Appearances can be deceiving.

I know my work space is secretly both organized and controlled despite how it might initially appear.

I’m a “Columbo-like” artist.  Full of surprises. Or happy accidents, if you prefer.

However you describe me, this one thing is sure: I have a plan, a vision for every piece.  Despite my studio’s disarray, I not only pursue beauty and order through my creations, but I also follow a strict, self-imposed,  time-table for each project.

But in the beginning, my work often means turning everything upside down.

Indeed, as my work progresses, paintings frequently get even messier before coming together.

I hold my breath.  I wonder if the compositions will take shape.

I regularly ask myself, Will the risk pay off?

It’s tough to live through the chaos.  Yet, any new creation seems to require some upheaval.

Perhaps, this is true because creativity often ushers in change.  And change frequently includes turbulence.

Quite frankly, when I confront change, I feel as though I’ve jumped from a plane with only a parachute to slow my high-speed hurdle.

Change is like that.  And that’s probably why most people dislike it.

If you have ever moved, you know what I’m talking about.   Boxes everywhere signal a major life transition.

Even if the move is a happy one, the interim pandemonium drives me crazy.

Nevertheless, the excitement of something new generally keeps my perspective positive.  After all,  all the disarray will ultimately lead to the desired outcome.

It’s a shame I don’t remember this general rule when I face life’s tsunamis.

But when turbulence blows in, I typically bury my head in warm safe sand.

And that’s probably the reason that the Holy Spirit recently gave me a gentle nudge.

In my “Read-the-Bible-Through-From-Cover-to-Cover” effort, I made considerable progress.   My best friend marveled that I had even tackled the book of Revelation.

She knows me well. Given my ostrich tendencies, that was indeed a major feat.

I hung on for dear life as I read through John’s apocalyptic vision.   In light of the described turmoil, I prepared to run for my “hobbit hole.”

I’ll play it safe, I promised myself.

But Abba responded in terms I could fully understand.

John records, “And He who sits on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new,'”(Revelation 21:5).

As John’s book of upheaval comes to a close, our Sovereign Shepherd makes this promise.

Well, that’s some comfort, I thought.  And I closed the book.

But the Holy Spirit wasn’t finished with me.

As I returned to my reading plan on the following day, I began again with the book of Genesis.

As you will surely recall, there, in Genesis 1:1-2, Moses writes,”In the beginning God created the heavens and he earth.  And the earth was formless and void…”

And I caught my breath.   At the heart of who Abba is, creativity dwells.

My heavenly Father is not only the Creator, but He is the Creator both in the beginning and the end, Alpha and Omega.

His creativity is ongoing.  Eternal.

So, it shouldn’t surprise me that at times there appears to be tremendous chaos in my life.  Or even in our world.

In fact,  chaos signals that our Creator is in the house, so to speak, and that He is at work.

He’s not a distant God.  He’s  “hands on.”

And when the creation doesn’t go as planned, He’s ready to rework the canvas or begin again.

By virtue of His very essence, Abba embraces creativity and all the organized chaos that accompanies it.

For this reason, when life appears most chaotic, I can be sure that He is creating again.  Something new waits in the wings.

Yup.  The Holy Spirit whispers Truth.

That morning that I spent in Genesis chapter 1, He graciously reminded me that burying my head in the sand does not fulfill Abba’s plan for me.

Following God means that I must embrace His creative chaos as well as His completed masterpiece.  In times of seeming turmoil, our heavenly Father works,  pulling all the creative elements together to complete His spectacular composition.

And as I meditated on this, I suddenly recognized that Jesus did not tell the parable of talents to simply prod an active work ethic or commitment to stewardship, but rather He longed to take His cautious children deeper.

The focus isn’t just to encourage us to use our abilities for Him.  Nor does it solely address how we invest our lives and gifts.

The parable actually addresses the very foundation of my faith:  my understanding of who God, the Creator, is.

Interestingly enough, the parable begins with change.  The regular rhythm of life at the manor is disrupted. I imagine the change unsettled those who served there.

Jesus tells us that the master called his servants together, and announced his intentions to leave on a journey.  In addition, the manor lord gave each monies to invest during his absence.

“Do business with this until I come back,” he said.

It seems like a relatively easy assignment.

However, the commission involved risk.

Jesus sets the stage, giving us a glimpse of the difficulties that the servants faced: “But his citizens hated him [the master] and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us,'” (Luke 19:14).

The forecast certainly looked turbulent.

Whatever the master pursued, the general population opposed …apparently on general principle.  They simply resented his right to rule; they rejected his sovereignty.

As a result, everything they said about the lord of the manor was colored by rebellion.

For this reason, doing  business on behalf of the master would prove difficult if not impossible. In the master’s absence, the citizens would undoubtedly delight in raucous self-rule.

The servants truly faced enormous obstacles.

Roadblocks and upheaval would meet them at every turn.

Of course, you and I know the end of the story.  The first two servants invested wisely.

One doubled the original 10 mina and the other, although given less to initially invest, also made good return.

Indeed, both men received high praise.  They had braved the unknown; they stepped out courageously; undoubtedly, they endured countless insults from the local citizenry.

Yet, they persevered on behalf of the master.

For this reason, the master generously promoted both men.   The first servant governed 10 cities; the second ruled 5 cities.

Unfortunately,  the third servant did not fare so well. The task and its accompanying turmoil overwhelmed him.  He hid in his “hobbit hole.”

He probably sat in the village square and listened to the dissenting voices.  He may have feared the disapproval of his master’s opponents.  As he observed the conflict, his faith faltered.

Evidently, the social and political unrest frightened him because rather than embracing both time and responsibility, he retreated.  He buried the sole mina entrusted to him.

His rationale?  “…for I was afraid of you, because you are an exacting man; you take up what you did not lay down, and reap what you did not sow,” (Luke 19:21).

Given the good fortune of his fellow servants, his audacious excuse strikes me as particularly obtuse.  After all, his colleagues not only succeeded in their quests, but they also received generous rewards for their efforts.

And I have to ask myself, “Who in the world got to that third servant?”

Despite his privileged household position, the third servant seriously misjudged his lord.

The village gossip obviously colored his perspective.  Despite the fact that his master proved both gracious and generous, the third servant couldn’t see it.

His perspective had been clouded by the naysayers, the disgruntled outsiders, the wind and waves…

He had exchanged the truth of his daily experience for their embittered bias. Thus, in the midst of tumult, he wavered.

He allowed the outside world to blur his understanding of the master.  He bought into hearsay.

And so, the third servant did not experience the full blessing of his master’s new beginning.

Focusing on the chaos, he hid.  Played it safe.  Stood on the sidelines.

He dwelt with the master, but did not fully understand his lord’s heart.

Uh, huh… “Little Miss Much-Afraid” definitely needed that nudge.

It’s easy for me to focus on the creative upheaval that surrounds Abba’s work.  My faith sinks in the mess.  I frequently allow the turbulent voices of Yahweh’s enemies to discourage me.

Not surprisingly, I long to hide. At times, I fail to embrace my heavenly Father’s creative process. I observe from the sidelines rather than rejoicing on the field.

I’m grateful for His grace.  He holds this sometimes fearful child close even when I bury His gifts of grace.

And despite my failings, His new creation arrives…Out of the seeming chaos that I so anxiously wish to avoid.

And His Spirit reminds me again and again:  before the dawn comes the dark;  before the masterpiece comes the messy middle.

From beginning to end and to beginning again, Yahweh creates and renews.

He has promised.

“Behold I am making all things new…”

And despite what some might say, Abba is full of grace and love for His child.

He actually invites me to participate in His, albeit sometimes tumultuous, creative process.

In light of Jesus’ parable, then, the question I have to ask myself is a relatively simple one: Who will I allow to shape my understanding of my heavenly Father?

Will I throw up my hands, throw in the towel, and cry, “All is lost. The sky is falling”?

Or will I smile and say with a knowing nod, “Once again, the Creator works in His studio.  A new creation takes shape” ?

When I take a step back from the easel and look around me at our Creator’s infinite portfolio, I recognize that His creative masterpiece more than makes up for the initial chaos.

Yes, our Sovereign Shepherd and Creator hovers over the deep.  And without a doubt, He brings forth beauty when all seems void.

“‘And He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying or pain; the first things have passed away.  And He who sits on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new,” ~ Revelation 21:3b-5a