Category Archives: creativity

Udo Middelmann: Creativity and work

“Only in creative activity do we externalize the identity we have as men made in the image of God. This then is the true basis for work.” — Udo Middelman, of Francis Schaeffer’s old guard, in his book Pro-existence

Is this Erich Fromm quote true?

“Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.” — Erich Fromm

I think I would have to be careful about the word “certainties” and how it is deployed.

In one respect, I would bet that most of us live with something more like “probabilities” or “assumptions” than absolute certainties.

Or, maybe, most people live with a few certainties and a lot of uncertainty.

But how do certainties get in the way of creativity?

How does the courage to walk, figuratively speaking, into the dark ultimately help creativity? Maybe it’s something like this: “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).

If something is hoped-for and not-seen, can it be a certainty?

Then again, is a reasonable human certainty constituted only by precise measurement or air-tight logic?

Affirmations? Rebuttals? Clarifications? Please comment.

Creativity in worship

I am still surprised when one of my daughters brings me a drawing and says, “I made this for you.” It’s a pleasant surprise to find out — despite my feeling that I don’t give them enough attention — they love me and were thinking about me.

My three daughters express themselves in different ways. I don’t necessarily expect one of them to do the same as the other.

Our desire to worship God is a gift of grace, but maybe our way to expressing that desire will be as different as our fingerprints.

If God is our heavenly Father, and we are adopted into his house, and he gives us a heart to worship him, then that leads me to think that he will smile warmly on the expressions of his children, no matter how well those expressions were done.

Kind of like when 3-year-old Sadie gives me a mess of colored crayon on paper. I love it.

Defending or expressing?

I thoroughly enjoyed this honest, heart-felt interview with a fellow who, after years of evangelizing, Bible college, and ministry, has left the faith.

The following excerpt from the interview exposes a tendency in certain circles.

For me, the route to unbelief was solely intellectual. I made a conscious decision to be open-minded, to read the “opposition,” and go wherever the truth lead me – even if it was away from God. It doesn’t seem like many Christians are willing to be that open-minded. But I think it’s very important. Otherwise, through cognitive dissonance, we only see what agrees with our worldview, and reject and explain away what contradicts it. The beauty of reason is that we can consider any proposition and attempt to figure out whether it’s true or not. But religion already has the truth. It’s not seeking it. It’s defending it. That mindset has to be overcome.

Note that tendency he identifies: The tendency to circle the wagons around some part of the truth and make the sole purpose for living defense. Offense is no more desirable. It seems like healthy, constructive expressions of the truth would be better. Consider the Parable of the Talents. The best way to defend something is to bury it.

The worst way to use something is to turn it into a hammer, so everything else is approached as if it is a nail. The best way is to find constructive, creative uses for that something, whatever it is, and keep seeking new understandings of how to use it even better.

Identifying the crossroads: The purpose behind

I spent Monday morning at the tiny All Saints Episcopal Church in Avenue, Maryland. I was there for the funeral of my grandfather, Col. Colin F. Burch, Jr., a flight instructor in WWII and an early engineering hand in the space program and Ballistic Missile Early Warning System. Many of my ancestors are buried in the churchyard. Today, I was thinking about tombstones as crossroads between our lived experiences and our memories, between the seen and the unseen. Tactile memorials usher into our minds incorporeal images of the past. In the process of remembering, we reclaim and reevaluate and reinterpret the past, and perhaps, create new, meaningful works for today.

-Colin Foote Burch

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Creativity: Madeleine L’Engle, 1918-2007

It has only been within the last two weeks that I finished reading Madeleine L’Engle’s Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art. When I heard about her death on Thursday, I choked up and whispered a “thank you” to her. Walking on Water is one of the most life-affirming, creativity-affirming, and art-affirming books I have read.

Only my two-year-old was with me, sitting at the kitchen table on which I had my computer, which I used to view the news stories and the Wikipedia entry about L’Engle. Although I never met L’Engle, I think I said something like, “One of daddy’s friends died,” and my face briefly contorted toward a cry, but little Sadie laughed, thinking I was clowning. Childlike laughter might be the best way to remember L’Engle.

L’Engle proved that childlikeness can be intelligent and broad-minded. Like comedians, children’s writers are often overlooked in the intellectual realm, yet they have both serious and playful minds. Here are some of the passages I underlined in Walking on Water.

Our work should be our play. If we watch a child at play for a few minutes, “seriously” at play, we see that all his energies are concentrated on it. He is working very hard at it. And that is how the artist works, although the artist may be conscious of discipline while the child simply experiences it.


When I am working, I move into an area of faith which is beyond the conscious control of my intellect. I do not mean that I discard my intellect, that I am an anti-intellectual, gung-ho for intuition and intuition only. Like it or not, I am an intellectual. The challenge is to let my intellect work for the creative act, not against it. And this means, first of all, that I must have more faith in the work than I have in myself.


…I try to take time to let go, to listen, in much the same way that I listen when I am writing. This is praying time, and the act of listening in prayer is the same act as listening in writing.

And this fragment, which could be a life goal:

…accepting the discipline of listening, or training the ability to recognize something when it is offered.

I did not recognize what was offered soon enough. I began Walking on Water years ago and put it down, distracted by the parts of life that do not involve being quiet and listening.

Now that I have recently finished it, I want to read her children’s books, none of which, I am ashamed to say, I have read. I eventually recognized Walking on Water after it had been offered for a long time, and now that I have read it, I am eternally grateful to L’Engle. May light perpetual shine upon you.