Have you ever heard of art being "generative"? I know we often think of good art as beautiful or meaningful or maybe reflective of truth, but I only recently learned of this concept of generative art. It came up on an episode of The Habit podcast - in a conversation with Luci Shaw and Ned Bustard, hosted by Jonathan Rogers - when one of them shared about how good art is meant to inspire more good art. In other words, good art is generative.
If I see a painting and I not only enjoy looking at it but also feel inspired to go create my own art because of it, that is what it generative art is like. It could be a poem that inspires a story, or a song that inspires a drawing - the art forms don't necessarily need to be the same, it's just that one bit of inspiring art leads to the creation of another. Which ideally leads to the creation of another, and another, and so on.
I wonder if there are more examples of things in life that, when at their best, are generative. In his book, The Common Rule, Justin Whitmel Earley writes: "Any blessing that you try to hoard for yourself begins to sour. We ruin the goodness of blessings when we refuse to use them to bless others." Earley is talking here about friendship. He is making the point that we often mess up in trying to make our friendships closed and exclusive rather than open and expanding.
Our theme this year is "We are chosen", and I love the distinction Henri Nouwen makes about being chosen by God. He talks about how we often think that if I am chosen, that must mean that someone else is not. We think of being chosen as being exclusive rather than inclusive. But in God's economy, being chosen is also something that is open and expanding. He has already chosen us, we just need to accept His invitation. And there is no reason for us to try to hoard that invitation or keep it from others.
I guess it's something about our human nature that causes us to want to keep things for ourselves rather than sharing them. Maybe we're scared. Maybe we tend to think that by sharing something it will become less special, or that we'll end up losing it.
But if we look closely at how Jesus describes His kingdom, we see that things tend to be rather upside down. You want to save your life? Lose it. You want to be great? Be a servant to everyone. Jesus does not demonstrate a "get all you can and keep it for yourself" way of living. He gives generously and sacrificially and calls His followers to do the same.
This way of living is not always easy, but I do think it can be contagious. Did you ever read that children's book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day? It's about this kid who wakes up in a bad mood and throughout the story, what started out as one bit of meanness displayed toward another person keeps going from person to person, resulting in pretty awful days for quite a lot of people. It's generative but not in a good way! But if I remember right, the story goes on to show how when one person decides to show kindness, that too can spread and can even turn a bad day into a good day (or something along those lines).
I believe God has designed us to have a pretty strong effect on each other. Hebrews 10:24 says "Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds." Perhaps one way of doing this is by sharing the gifts God has given us, whether they are gifts of art or friendship or food or prayer. What gifts do you have right now that you can share? How will you share them?
As we go about our everyday lives, may we continually receive the blessings God gives us with thankfulness and with open hands, knowing that the more we share, the more the blessings continue to unfold. Like art that is generative, may the way we live our lives inspire others to live their lives extending God's love and grace to all.
Pray with me...
... God, thank You for demonstrating to us a love that is open and expanding
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:17-19
... Father, may the relationships within the ACSD community be ever-growing in love
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. Romans 13:8
... Lord, let Your love fill all of us and overflow to those around us
May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. 1 Thessalonians 3:12
Above: Here is a real-life example of generative art. When I shared with my 8-year-old daughter a video reel of artist Sally Greer (sallyeverafter) painting a beautiful sunflower (center), she was so enamored that she watched it over and over again and took great joy in creating her own version of a painted sunflower (on the right). Furthermore, the original painting by Sally Greer was inspired by a beautiful photograph (on the left) taken by Lylia Mast (lyliasphotography). Who knows what will come next?!
Thanks for taking the time to read this blog and pray for Alliance Christian School District! Lord willing, I plan to publish a new blog post weekly on Wednesdays throughout the school year. Feel free to subscribe (at the bottom of this page) if you'd like to be notified each time a new blog post has been published. We also have a prayer team that is always open for new pray-ers to join. If you'd like to learn more, email me at email@example.com.
~ Carrie Warner, ACSD Prayer Team Coordinator
Soli Deo Gloria To God alone be the glory