Monday, January 27, 2014

In Favor Of Disorder

By Carla Foote

Like everyone else, I cleaned my office on the first weekend in January, sorting, filing, recycling, shredding and generally creating a clean environment for my work. I am a fan of clean spaces and organization.
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It only took until Monday afternoon of my first day in my clean office to feel like I was grasping for ideas and creative energy. My productive morning of editing and scheduling content morphed into an afternoon devoid of ideas. A problem that order couldn't solve.

So I took a break from work to exercise and do a couple of errands, and all of a sudden I had more creative energy. While I was walking my brain was hopping around to various ideas related to my recent reading. When I got into the car for my errands, the random ideas coalesced into better ideas. I jotted notes on a gas receipt so I wouldn't lose the thoughts. My afternoon provided energy that the clean office couldn't.

As my brain was mulling over the relationship between organization and creativity, or the divergence between those two concepts, I wondered about true geniuses. People like Einstein. A picture of him popped into my head. On the outside, he looked pretty disorganized - the hair definitely gave that impression. I googled a picture of his desk - definitely disorder there.

Perhaps our quest for organization is actually squelching our creativity. The more I thought about this, the more I realized it might be true.

Breakthroughs and great ideas come from divergent thinking. Otherwise, checklists and project management would have solved all the world's problems already. A bit of irony here, because I teach workshops in project management, and I do believe in systematic processes and a smooth schedule. But within the overall plan, we need space for creativity to flourish, or our outcomes will be boring and repetitive. Even the nature of God speaks to both system and open-ended, as we see the order of God's creation and the unpredictable work of the Spirit.

I wrote this blog post early in January, but I held it to the end of the month, because those of you who love organization might not have believed my plea for a bit of disorder, especially right after you spent all that time getting everything in order. Now
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I feel ready to share, because you have tried order for a month, and maybe you are craving some creativity.

Maybe February will be a better month for creative energy, because our desks are
now a little less organized, there are sticky notes with ideas stuck to our monitors, and there is a chocolate holiday smack-dab in the middle of the month. Something definitely lacking in January.  

Carla Foote recently gave up the structure of an editorial job with a ministry for freelance work. She is the blog manager for FullFill and also works with a variety of clients at She is always seeking the best way to meld creativity and order. She alternates time at her desk with time outdoors.

Monday, January 20, 2014

The January Self

By Jennifer Grant
January gets its name from Janus, the god of beginnings and endings, omens and auspicious occasions. The ancient Romans depicted Janus with two faces. With one, he saw the past; the other looked into the future. Hundreds of years before the birth of Christ, a temple was consecrated to Janus, and his image was imprinted on Roman coins. Ancients made him offerings of honey at the start of the year in hopes that the year ahead would be sweet. 

I hate to confess it - both as a person living thousands of years after his coins went out of circulation and especially as a believer in Jesus- but my own thinking has often been just as magical as a Janus-worshipper.

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Although I've never offered honey to mythical gods, how many times have I worked to craft the right resolutions, to make a purge of unhealthy habits, and to gather up the right kind of momentum (emotional, relational, spiritual) for the new year in hopes that it will be a good one for me?

Scripture doesn't concern itself about how satisfied I'll feel this year, whether my Klout score or number of "followers" is going up, or if I feel appreciated or understood by those I love or wish to impress. Instead, again and again, it's about detachment from self. We're supposed to count others more significant than ourselves (Phil. 2:3). We're not to insist on our own way or be resentful (I Cor. 13:5). We're supposed to "decrease" (John 3:30).

Most of all, we are invited - urged, actually - to love.

It's hard to detach, let go, and love when we're addicted to the stories we tell ourselves about our lives. We feel owed something. We want to be "seen." We want to feel fully loved.

Resting Place
Have you read our "Resting Place" article from our latest issue Forgiveness?
But we're disappointed, always, because - to quote country singer Johnny Lee - we're "lookin' for love in all the wrong places." Author Richard Rohr has said that when we don't understand God's unconditional love, we go to each other "begging and demanding rewards that only God can give."

Why, we wonder, are some of the most joyful people on the planet those who have experienced great scarcity or loss? Maybe it's because they are not obsessed with the self. You'll never find this sort of person offering honey to the gods in return for happiness. Maybe, in their place of exhaustion, silence, or detachment, they have come to rest, gratefully, in God's abiding love.

May we all come to do the same.

Jennifer Grant is the grateful mother of four, author of Love You More, MOMumental, Disquiet Time (forthcoming, 2014), and 12: A Daybook (forthcoming) and is online at

Monday, January 13, 2014

Out of My Shell

By Elisabeth K. Corcoran

When we hear criticism, we are given a list of ways to handle it. All good ways. All ways I've tried. Things like look to God to define you. Done. Zero in on what he's placed in your life to do. Check. Get yourself around people who love you and know you. In spades. Put yourself back out there. So desperately trying.

I use all these strategies regularly. I'm a writer, so my life is in the public eye, for BADanyone to see and comment on. And I'm divorced, so this leaves me susceptible to harsh words of disapproval.

But recently I found myself stuck in a place that these strategies for handling criticism didn't work. The criticism I was receiving was based on my own wrong-doing.
I said some hurtful things about someone I cared about. I was reckless with my mouth and with this person's heart. I have been paying for that five-minute mistake for months now. Because what came out of that was a tongue-lashing that I cannot move past no matter how hard I try.

I did mess up.

But I also did every step of the amends process that I could think of. And though I was told I was forgiven, harsh words and consequences came that have left me branded and benched in one area of my life. Probably not shockingly, those labels have followed me into every other area of my life as well.

I can't just shake these things off and chalk it up to the other person being a critic who doesn't count, or being a stranger who doesn't know my heart. No. This person knew me pretty well. And this person said things and made some decisions that have scarred me.

I have done all the steps I know to move on. I have asked forgiveness from God, numerous times, and from this person, more than I probably needed to. I have asked Jesus what is true in all of this. I have actively made changes in my behavior. I have asked Jesus who he says I am, how much he loves me. All of that and more.

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My concern is that though I have moved on, I have moved on as a timid creature, dragging behind me the haunting shell of those words that were proclaimed over my life. I have moved on, but as a ghost. I have moved on, but my heart is still back there and so bruised and cowering for shelter.

If I am waiting for that person to give me a second chance, I will be waiting forever.
If I am waiting for Jesus to give me a second chance, he already has. Again and again and again.

So it looks like my next step is now squarely on me. I need to choose to accept God's forgiveness. I need to choose to let this go and surrender it. I need to choose to move on, leaving the shell behind.

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But in this small moment, dark and cold and grey outside ... dark and cold and grey inside ... I can't just yet. I am open. I am so very ready. I can't tell you how desperately I never want to think about this again. So while I'd like to say I'm bravely doing more, I'm not. I do what I can: I beg Jesus to move in and heal this part of me that is so wounded it feels like it might not recover. So come, Lord Jesus, come, I am begging you.

Elisabeth Klein Corcoran is the author of Unraveling: Hanging Onto Faith Through the End of a Christian Marriage, speaks regularly to women's groups, and is a member of Redbud Writers' Guild. She now focuses her attention on women who are in hurting marriages or find themselves divorcing. She lives with her children in Illinois. Visit her online at or