Creativity As Beautiful Waste

As part of our series on ‘Beautiful Waste’, Crystal shares some thoughts around the beautiful waste of creativity.

Creativity – it’s one of those words that everyone has a different understanding and definition of and a very different relationship with.
The concept of creativity excites some, bores others and petrifies those who don’t see themselves as “creative.”

Yet we would all agree that creativity has great purpose and plays a very special and important role in our world. We can all appreciate that it is creativity that has given us great music, striking art, incredible buildings… and the list goes on. The greatest gift that has come to us through creativity is Creation itself.
And scientists and psychologists can tell us how the product of creativity is good for our health and well-being over-all, especially when we get out into creation.

Yet, if we are not careful, creativity can be relegated to “usefulness” where we begin to begin to view it only through the lens of what it can accomplish. And when we do that, the richness and the subtle power of creativity wanes and is even lost.

God is the ultimate Creator. We create – whether that be in the realm of the arts, in science, problem-solving, the medical field, etc. – because we are created in His image.

But what do we see in God as Creator? Much of what he created has great purpose and usefulness , this is true. But how much of what he created could essentially, be viewed as waste?

When we think of the variety of mammals and birds, or more questionably, of insects and reptiles – not all is needed really. When we think of the variety of landscapes and climates, or types of bodies of water. How about the staggering variety of colours? And why do snowflakes need to be each one completely unique and different to the other?

And then there’s us – humanity. Not one of us is made exactly the same. Wouldn’t it have been easier to just simply clone us?

I would suggest based on the evidence, that God delights in “waste.”

And this is the beauty of creativity in prayer. Yes, creative actives serve a beautiful purpose in prayer of helping us connect with God at a deeper level. Creativity in prayer helps us focus, gets us past the distractions within our minds and past the walls we put up in our heads and hearts. Creativity in prayer is like a key that unlocks the door of our innermost being, our true heart, our most vulnerable places. And it teaches and permissions us to pray in many ways in any place.

A beautiful example of this is when I was asked to do a session on prayer and set up some creative prayer “stations” at a ministry in the northeast of Scotland that seeks to help provide community and support for women from a particular council housing estate. One of the ladies tried out “Letting Go,” an activity where we give God our worries by dropping a stone in a bowl of water. She shared with us all how much peace she felt after doing it and how she was now going to throw stones into the sea on her daily walks as a way of continuing to release her worries to God!

But prayer rooms and prayer weeks are filled with creativity that is essentially waste.
Whenever I am responsible for a prayer room/prayer week I face the conundrum of what to do with all the artwork on the walls, the lovely origami prayers that people have painstaking folded in to a bird… and all the other signs of prayer through creative activities.

And more often than not it all goes into the bin (recycling of course!).

It could be seen as waste. But God delights in it. His Father’s heart rejoices when his people not only take the time to meet with him, but express a part of themselves that looks like Him with no other intention than connecting with Him. And because He is worthy of it.

He sees it as beautiful waste.

Wasteful Worship

This is Part Two in our series on A Beautiful Waste.

“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10: 38-42

I remember the first time I heard a worship song that had the phrase “we waste it all on you” in the chorus. To be honest, I was a little offended by it. “Worship isn’t wasteful, worship is purposeful!” I said to myself while determining not to listen to the song again. Reflecting on it a few years on, the reality is, there is something wasteful about worship… isn’t there? Particularly if we time-sheet our day and keep productivity diaries. (Who does that? Definitely not me… ….)

We are, more than ever, living non-stop lives. As a society we glorify the self-made leaders who sleep less that five hours a night, have a 5am daily two hour workout routine and have made their first million before they reach thirty years old. We so often celebrate that kind of success, but at what cost?

What do we lose in our endless pursuit of such a goal?

Here’s a good measure.

Compare that pursuit of success with spending ten minutes telling God he is a good, good, good, good Father. How does it feel? Like a waste of time? I mean, He is God, so He definitely knows that already! We don’t need to tell God that He’s a good, good Father do we? In which case, surely we’d be better getting on with the stuff of life! That is what worship really is anyway right? The whole of life stuff?

Yes, worship is about lifestyle, the way that we serve God in our daily lives, offering our bodies as living sacrifices.

And yet, there is something distinctively different and of eternal importance in choosing to give our time and our attention to focus on Jesus. To sit at His feet as Mary did (Luke 10:38-42), to sing to Him in His presence, to delight in Him and remind ourselves of his loving kindness towards us. Even when we know that there is work to be done. Especially when we know there is work to be done.

Why?

We were made for these moments. Moments of intimacy, knowing God and being known, reflected in the very nature of God as three persons.

We find perspective in these moments. When we stop, the world doesn’t fall apart. In fact, more often I find that I become more aware of where God is at work around me when I set my attention on Him.

And ultimately, it’s for him, not for us. He is absolutely so worthy of all of our worship!

Words by Zak Robb, the gatherings, worship, and creative leader for Central Church in Edinburgh

The Prayer Course: More than a Formula

“…it taught my non-praying church to pray… More than a formula – through Pete’s discussions – it assisted people in having permission to pray.”

This is what Church of Scotland minister Nathan McConnell had to say about 24-7 Prayer’s The Prayer Course (prayercourse.org) after running it in his church Downfield Mains (https://www.downfieldmainschurch.org) in Dundee.

Nathan told us how he went into The Prayer Course a bit wary. He thought it could potentially be a good supplement for the Alpha Course which they had recently finished but he was concerned that another video series might bore people, or just not feel relevant to them.

However, his concerns were soon dispelled as people gathered one night a week to watch the video sessions, coming from outside of the church as well. And for those who engaged with the course, it made a significant difference in their prayer lives.

“Honestly, we didn’t know how to pray as a church,” Nathan admitted. “The Prayer Course laid a foundation”

One example is a young man who, at the start of The Prayer Course, confessed that he just couldn’t pray out loud but by week 4 was praying in tongues!

A highlight for Nathan was when they had a joint time of prayer with other churches they are networked with across the globe. Not expecting a large number, Nathan organised an on-line prayer gathering in his home with these other churches and invited anyone who want to join in to come along.
Forty-five people turned up to pray for 1 1/2 hours with and for complete strangers in other nations! Packed into the living room, sitting on the floor, yet happy to be there.

People have grown in their confidence, praying for one another and sharing prophetic words with one another. And they now have time in their worship for prophetic prayer ministry and healing prayer where they have seen God answer their prayers and heal people!

We asked Nathan if he would recommend that others do The Prayer Course. His response?
“Do it! And, pastors, take it seriously. If you want to move your people forward, The Prayer Course will give you a platform.”

The Prayer Course has been downloaded over a million times and just this week, 24-7 Prayer launched the new, fully updated, free, downloadable Prayer Course!
There are eight sessions, leaders guides, thirty different accompanying prayer tools, and it follows the same format as Pete Greig’s newest book How to Pray so that the Prayer Course and the book can be used side by side if so desired. For more information go to prayer course.org.

A Day with International Justice Mission: A Beautiful Waste

  • This is Part One in a series on Beautiful Waste as prayer.

    “While he [Jesus] was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head. Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly. “Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me.” – Mark 14: 3-7

    As 24-7 Prayer Scotland, one of our closest partners is International Justice Mission. We love the work that they do as an organisation around the globe and in Scotland; their passion to see an end to injustice and freedom for those facing exploitation. It was therefore a privilege to work alongside IJM last weekend for their Pray for Justice conference at Queens Park Baptist in Glasgow.

    Around the world there are roughly 1,000 member of IJM staff who each spend an hour of their working day in prayer. This totals up to around 5,000 hours of prayer a week, and approximately 260,000 hours of prayer a year! That’s a big chunk out of the staff’s working time. A lot of time not spent on busy and important things each member of staff have to do that day, but frittered away talking and listening to God. In light of this, the whole conference day centred on the theme of “A Beautiful Waste”, adapted from the story of perfume being poured on Jesus in Mark 14. IJM is leading the way in the global fight against slavery so stopping to pray could feel like a waste of time – but the work of justice begins at the feet of Jesus.

    This theme was fleshed out in the main sessions by our very own Crystal Cryer, the National Coordinator for 24-7 Prayer Scotland, and Benson Shamala who flew over from IJM’s office in Kenya. This theme of a beautiful waste was put into practice in the space given for workshops centring on different expressions of prayer, and in the afternoon we spent hours praying for different regions where IJM are working. This blog is simply the first in a series on prayer as a beautiful waste and some of the themes from throughout the conference shall be explored in further weeks.

    Every part of the day was focused on the truth that regardless of the desire, passion, and urgent need to stand up for those who do not have a voice, it is beautiful and powerful to waste our lives in the presence of God. Setting aside our productivity, passions, and fights to posture ourselves first and foremost towards Jesus.
    The rally cry for the day by IJM was that we can be modern day abolitionists, but we should be dependent modern day abolitionists, dependent on God. And that our pursuit for justice at its heart – above everything else – should be to glorify and worship God, because he is worthy to be glorified, just as the woman in Mark 14 shows us. It is very likely that the alabaster jar of nard would have been the woman’s entire inheritance. And yet, still she poured every last drop out on Jesus’ feet, anointing him. She understood even before the cross that Jesus was worthy of such an extravagant waste. A waste that resulted in her giving up her earthly stability, but a waste she still saw as necessary.

    Prayer can sometimes feel like a waste. Why am I sitting here? Why am I not out there? There is so much to be done and so little time, so why pray?

    I guess the simple answer that I took away from being with IJM and the example of devotion in Mark 14 is that it is because God is worthy.

    He is worthy of the sacrifice of our time, patience, and activity. He is worthy because he gave up everything for each one of us, because he loves us unconditionally, and because without him at the centre of everything that we do it’s just not going to work. Our strength and wisdom will fail quickly, but God’s strength and wisdom is infinite.
    So I guess my question back would be why not rely on God? Why not take an hour, or more, every day to worship him? Why not waste your life for the one who hand-crafted you, the one who intimately knows all the injustices of this world and whose heart breaks for those who are exploited and manipulated?

    Isn’t it a waste worth pouring out? A waste that is beautiful.

    Words by 24-7 Prayer Scotland intern