• Shanley McConnell

Devotion: Creativity & The Art of Paying Attention

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I listened to a Ted Talk by widely regarded actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt today about how craving attention can make us less creative.


"If your creativity is driven by a desire to get attention, you're never going to be creatively fulfilled."


It is not always easy to maintain one's attention on one thing. It takes practice, dedication and an enthusiasm for the process itself. When we crave attention, we create as a means to reach an end.


When we pay attention, we create as a way to respond. In this response, art becomes collaborative. Other creators become collaborators, not competition. And when we surround ourselves with others with the same focus, we create a cohort of people shielding one another from distractions. Being creative is about paying attention.


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How does this relate to my verse of today? Ephesians 4 reads: "Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ has also forgiven you," v32.


When we focus on God (on the way he loves, forgives and sees the perfection of his Son in those who dedicate their lives to him), it becomes easier to reciprocate this. To keep our attention attune to the things that matter most------the continue in eternal effect.


Sometimes people say and do things that hurt others in their attempt to gain attention. I'm sure I have done this many times myself, over and over again. And I know, I know how receiving such treatment can hurt. How easy it is to feel discouraged by negative competition.


Most of the time though, I wonder if people, in their pursuit of gaining attention, respond inconsiderately without the intention to do so. If this becomes second-nature. Selfishness existing in conversation unseen by its speaker.


When we carry the hurt of how others treat us, we begin to feel vulnerable-----closed. This detachment can cost us the beautiful openness that comes with engaging fully with the world around us. With creativity.


This is why paying attention to the divine Creator and the restored nature of his creation is what gives us the ability to not only overlook hurt, but embrace it and forgive. Forgiveness redeems our experiences and enables us to connect closely with those who may or may not share in our personal creative pursuits.


♪ Whole Heart (Hold Me Now) [Live] - Hillsong UNITED.



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1st Chronicles 17: "And now it has pleased you to bless the house of your servant, that it may continue forever before you; for when you, O Lord, bless us, we are blessed forever." v27


In 1st Chronicles, the King of Israel, a man chosen and blessed by God has this desire to oversee the construction of Israel's first permanent house of worship. The prophet Nathan comes to him with the news that God had appointment David's son Saul to complete the task. Instead of responding with the disappointment he must have surely felt, David trusted God's timing and decision.


When I was a young girl we used to attend an outdoor PE that was run in Coconut Creek beside Butterfly World. There were a number of activities at PE: bow & arrows, tag football, soccer, to name a few. One such game was a sort of Olympic relay exchange of the baton. One kid would take the baton, run the quarter-mile, return, pass the baton to another teammate, and wait for him or her to do the same. This continued until every member of the team had run their part of the race.

Sometimes 'finishing well' can sometimes mean that one does not see the full end of what they began; but rather, stepping away so others can share in the victory of a race run well. As was the case with King David. Through God, his authority strengthened the people of Israel until they became an established Kingdom.


When David heard that Saul would oversee the Temple, he began to prepare. According to 1st Chronicles 22, David continues to collect materials, delegate craftsmanship, fund expenses and validate the authority of his son. He chose to prepare, equip and establish the one who would succeed him.


Our generation is called to pursue creative, heaven-inspired endeavors. To build places where God's Spirit can dwell. Yet, as we age, God calls us to explore new spaces. By moving forward (as is the case with many board games), a space is left behind.


We cannot do everything. There is a peace that comes with accepting this, and the responsibility to ensure that those who take on our previously responsibilities step into the roles feeling encouraged and supported. Examples of this exchange can be found in generational shifts, work forces and independent relationships. Delegation is vital to building a whole, holy, trusting community.


As I sit here praying I think about my own ambitions and projects-----is there one that I'm clinging to out of fear? I know what it feels like to be replaced, to feel unknown. Maybe this is people are so unwilling to let good things go, even if and when it is time to move towards more good things? Perhaps ask this of yourself today?


♪ Give Me Jesus - Steffany Gretzinger & Jeremy Riddle | Bethel Worship.


Maybe this leads to the idea of time? Consider Ecclesiastes 3: "To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven," v1. Jeremiah 29 reads: "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you," v11-12.


Maybe the good things you want to complete now are protected God for future moments? Maybe God is asking you to wait on his timing. To trust that he knows who you are and what you need to best succeed.


♪ Letting Go - Steffany Gretzinger | Moment.



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Both Exodus and Numbers tell the story of how God rescued his people from four centuries of bondage in Egypt. He led them towards an inheritance: "a land of milk and honey," Exodus 3v8. During this pilgrimage to Canaan, many of God's people chose to venture away from his path, taking a safer, more easily explainable route. They chose the route on which they felt more protected because the way towards the kingdom frightened them.


In order to reach this land rich with promise they would come to face armies rising against them.


In the end, only two of the original two million were given the chance to walk victorious Canaan's soil. Caleb and Joshua. What set them apart? "Their spirit." Numbers 14: It was different from others, v24. It wasn't simply that they didn't fit it, they didn't need to fit in. They didn't need to be liked. They knew that the approval of the men and women (even and especially the greatest leaders around them) was nothing compared to the grace and calling of God. These two, originally slaves in Egypt, found freedom in God's kingdom.


Kingdom-living is different. It is strange. Wild, offensive, and compelling to those who don't understand. To those who live in fear. Paraphrased, Proverbs 29 reads: "Faith exalts where fear enslaves" v25.


When we are afraid, we think of courage. But when I feel afraid, what I want most is to know that I'm not alone. I think courage comes from this. A confidence that someone else will understand my fear and protect me with a devotion we share. I think kingdom-courage is a sort of communion.


What gave Caleb and Joshua the courage to continue towards the kingdom of God, even when faced with opposition and internal betrayal, was the knowledge that their God was with them. He was with them "in the pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and the pillar of fire by night to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night," Exodus 13v21. He had already separated the sea to rescue them a life of slavery.


Let us, like Caleb and Joshua, remember all the times God has drawn us close. When we remind ourselves of these moments, we find courage to pursue heaven. Even and especially if it goes against the reality of earth.


When we remember the promise God made to never, ever leave, we know our way is secure.


♪ Tremble - Live, Mosaic MSC ----- Glory & Wonder.



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In Judges 6, the people of God were filled with a sense of confusion, disillusionment and fear. They were afraid of the Midianites. When we meet Gideon, he is "beating out wheat in the winepress to hide it," v11. Fear had long cast itself across Gideon's life, causing him to see himself as incapable and small. Like others in the land, his entire existence had been audience to a kingdom that had rejected its king. They had begun worshipping gold.


An angel of the Lord appears to him and says, "The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor," v12. Despite the fact that Gideon did not feel valiant, God saw this in him. And Gideon asked: "Please, if the Lord with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us, saying 'Did not the Lord rescue us from Egypt.'


I think sometimes we fear that asking a question might appear to demean our devotion? It is alright to ask questions of the Lord. In Matthew 7, Jesus says: "Ask, and it will be given you; seek and you shall find; knock and the door will be opened. For everyone that asks shall receive, and he that seeks, find," v7-8.


Gideon was genuine. "Where are you, Lord? How can I save Israel? My family is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house," v16.


And the Lord reponded: "Go in this might of yours and save Israel from Midian. I am sending you I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man."


God knew Gideon's potential, and he revealed it to his son. 1st John 3: "See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are," v1. This was God's chosen nation, and he was using one of the most unexpected characters to set into motion a change-----a catalyst (the burning of the altar for Baal) that would bring the Israelites "close to his heart," Isaiah 40:11. Into his forgiveness, redemption and peace.


God promised Gideon that he would be with him. "Peace be to you. Do not fear, you shall not die," v23. It was with this certainty that Gideon build an altar: "The Lord is Peace."


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It is easy to become overwhelmed and afraid. The world taunts us with all the things we should want, believe and/or be. The pressure to become like the world is dark, heavy and makes us feel even weaker than we already do. God is saying this, just as he did with Gideon (and so many other individuals in the Bible): Forget pressure, find in me your Peace. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28). Seek me, and you will find (Matthew 7:7-8) Courage, valor, strength, hope, eternity and peace.


♪ Atmospheres Live - Justin Jarvis.

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