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creativity and authority

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
So God created mankind in his own image, 
in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

Genesis 1:26-28

This passage reveals the link between creativity and the responsibility to care for what we create. Let’s explore a little:

God, the most creative Person in the universe, dreamt a dream and spoke into being all that we have seen, all that we currently see, and all that we will see in the future. The universe is a testimony to the greatness of God’s word and the depth of his imagination. He made stars. He made planets. He made oceans. He made prairies. He made fish. He made bears. And lastly He made people, forming humanity in his own image, he placed his indelible fingerprint upon every individual who has ever lived, as well as all those who will one day draw the breath of life from his mouth.

In addition to being creative, God is really generous. He perfectly crafted planet Earth, then–shockingly–he gave it all away! He gave it to humanity, which sounds utterly bizarre and borderline foolish, except for the fact that humanity carries his image, and that image includes the ability to rule all that was given.

Creativity produces responsibility and authority. God made the animals but didn’t name them–He left that for Adam. The moment Adam exercised his creativity in naming the animals, he effectively became responsible for them. That’s why creativity and responsibility go together. For example, when I was a young boy my father gave me a puppy. The puppy had no name, and my father left me the job of giving the puppy a name. I named him Bo, and after that he was mine: mine to feed, mine to water, and mine to care for. All of this was magnified a hundred fold when I became a father. As I held my first-born son in my arms, I named him River. He wasn’t just mine to name–he was mine to nurture and raise.

The same is true for our function in the church. As worship leaders, pastors, and songwriters we must continually embrace creative expression. Creativity is indivisibly linked to the image of God within us. We have the responsibility to rule by nurturing order and care in what we create. Anyone who has ever felt something so subtle and powerful as a creative idea, who has struggled to find the right words, knows this. As songwriters for the local church we have the opportunity to give people language for complicated feelings, to help nurture their love for God, and to indirectly communicate that indigenous expression is welcomed. Over time this will cause our churches to become loving “authorities” surrounding the arts and expression.



creation began as a dream

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
Genesis 1:1

Last spring my wife and I traveled to Chile and towards the end of the all night plane ride, as we were nearing Santiago, I awakened just in time to see the sun rise over the craggy spine of the Andes mountains. It was stunning. I was so lost in the moment that I forgot to take a picture – and the truth is, I didn’t really need a picture, because the sight of flaxen fingers of light flashing over the cold and unspeakably high mountains was so vivid that my usually foggy mind was able to capture and distill the memory into hidden images that are still clear, focused and present.

While flying and looking over the vast expanse of mountain range, much of which is so remote that it could only ever be seen from a plane, I became aware of the presence of God. I remember thinking – only God could do something like this. Sitting there in the plane, 30,000 feet in the air, I became even more convinced. My body wasn’t the only thing that had left the ground, so had my faith. Wonder filled the moment.

God is the most creative person in the whole universe – He simply loves to make things. He loves beauty. He loves to hide order inside of what seems like chaos. He loves to build things that take us thousands of years to begin to comprehend. He made mountains. He made oceans. He made stars. He made planets. He made gravity – invisible, yet effective. (I think He’s especially proud of that one) He made people, and fashioned us in his likeness.

The desire to create is one of the primary ways that we live out of our “God likeness”. We were all made with an acute attraction to beauty. We all have within us a desire to add something meaningful and lasting to life. We all want to make something. This is why a life driven by consumption dilutes and eventually kills – the more we take, the more we lose.

Before there was a mountain, or an ocean, or a star or planet, before gravity, before you and before me, there was a “time” when it was just God, and he was dreaming. He was dreaming about mountains, oceans, stars and people. He was dreaming about you and me. So much of what we see and so much of who we are began in the imagination of God.

Imagination and dreams are the very real, but unseen portion of what could be. Every great thing started as a dream. We were all designed to create. You and I were wired to dream and imagine what could be next. We all have the desire to do something totally new – it’s evidence that God is our father.

As songwriters, as artists and as human beings we must remain active dreamers – there is plenty waiting to be discovered, songs waiting to be sung, ideas looking to be set free. Creativity begins as a dream.



God is a poet

Genesis, the book of beginnings, is the poetic story of how the universe came to be. For us artistic, song-writing types this is really important. God didn’t begin with a lecture or an encyclopedic list of facts. He began with a poem. Each stanza beginning with “And God said…” and closing with the refrain, “and there was evening, and there was morning…”. If you don’t believe me, you should listen to James Earl Jones read these verses. It’s a poem. It was meant to be heard, not just read.

The medium is a powerful part of the message. Some subjects are just too potent and nuanced for any vehicle other than a song – meter and melody are the wings that carry life, death, joy and pain out of the dusty rubble of fact and into the transcendent stratosphere where we can get a meaningful glimpse.

As songwriters for the local church we’ve got to write and sing about the greatness of God. Jesus deserves a billion songs. I don’t see sermons around the throne, but i do hear songs. God’s goodness is too massive to be lifted by intellectual might alone. We’ve gotta write. We’ve gotta sing. We’ve gotta dance. We’ve gotta create. We’ve gotta show and not just tell.



jeremy riddle co-writing

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