Tag: creativity


A Prayer for Imagination

God give me your eyes,
To see the potential of the world around me.
Help me to recognize that which is unfinished, raw, and “in progress”.
Give me the ability to imagine what could be,
To see “raw resources” rather than “finished product”.
Give grace to my flawed perspective,
That I in turn may give grace to all that I see.


gentrification.jpgHaving exited the suburbs into the urban core of Phoenix recently, I am discovering that being closer to recognizable need and exposed issues of city life is a really good thing.

One of the real issues in most US urban centers is gentrification. As I've mentioned this term in conversations with friends, more than a few have never heard the term and have been unsure of its meaning.  Here's a quick definition of gentrification (in my words):

"Gentrification is the process in which lower-income residents are pushed out of areas/neighborhoods due to rising housing costs, property valuation, and/or re-development"

for a fuller understanding of Gentrification – see wikipedia's article

So gentrification works like this (using downtown Phoenix as an example):

Lower income (usually minority) families who have lived in their downtown neighborhood for years (if not generations) rent a home, condo, or duplex.  These have become low-income and distressed areas of town because the middle and upper-class residents of phoenix long ago left the city center for the promise and luxury of the suburbs.  While not the pretty (and certainly not the sexiest parts of Phoenix) they have become home and a part of identity for many. Recently though, in Phoenix (and many other parts of the US) there has been a re-urbanization value among young people causing them to revalue the community, diversity, and cultural advantages to urban life.  Developers and city planners have long been trying to "revive" downtown Phoenix and it's finally working – people are moving back and it's once again being considered by many as a livable option in the Phoenix metropolitan area. ON a city development side – thing is great news.  Though from this type of development usually means dire circumstances for those who have lived in these areas for generations.  As developers enter into the scene with plans for profits, they often are willing to pay great amounts of money for plots of land not currently "maximized" in their housing value. In some cases, this means buying a few lots next to each other, demolishing the existing houses (often historic jewels of Phoenix) and building it their place modern, urban living spaces (condos, lofts, etc).  These developers, having built high numbers of beautiful units, can sell them each for a high price.  Happening at the same time, middle or even upper class homeowners begin to see these neighborhoods as developing and begin to buy, restore (or remodel), and either resell these homes at a high price or live in them now being valued much higher. As more and more of these types of projects happen, land and home values begin to rise, allowing landlords the option of either raising rents or selling these homes at a profit often pushing out the lower-income renter.

So with gentrification, there two things happening:

1.) low-income, often crime-ridden parts of a city are redeveloping, beutifying, and rebirthing

2.) low-income families and individuals are being pushed out of the neighborhoods they identify with, have grown up in, and have existing social structures within.

This creates a paradox for people like me who want to see his city develop, but to develop in a way that cares for and gives place for the low-income and working poor communities who call downtown home.

Without having a clear answer to this paradox, what is clear to me is that we need to advocate responsible (re)development of our urban cores.  Just as we give pause to development that causes irreparable harm to wildlife, we should too give pause to urban redevelopment that pushes out those who have found their identity and home within these neighborhoods.  Maybe it is idealistic to think that we can do both well – redevelopment with low-income housing as a part, but raising the white flag of defeat because we can't come up with creative possibilities doesn't sit right with me either.

My friend and Foundarts partner-in-crime, Jamie, sent me the following article a few months back.

Gentrification With Justice

This article offers creative approach and ideology to the issue of gentrifcation. As a person of faith, it's even suggests a theological lense with which to see this issue through. It is thought-provoking for sure and at the very least offers hope that we can indeed come up with creative and imaginative ways to view the real and deserate issues our cities face.

What do you think?


Rising Gas Prices and the Future of Phoenix


[image from a documentary entitled, "The End of Suburbia"]

Recently I've been thinking a lot about the rise of oil/gas prices here in the US and wondering what affect it will have on us long-term.  I (like many others) are convinced that high gas prices aren't going away anytime soon. Our economy is not so good at going backwards when it comes to pricing.  We will inevitably (and it is scary that this is so) adjust to the cost of $4/gallon gas and forget that we once complained that gas was $2/gallon or then $3/gallon.  

While this may be the case, high gas prices will certainly affect the future of the United States of America.  We are already adjusting and beginning to imagine life beyond the automobile, or least to life with less automobile. We are driving less, using public transportation more, and inventing new words like "staycation.  I personally am excited about the renewed value many are putting on riding a bike and focusing more on local consumption. But despite these new and creative ways we are getting by as Americans, we are still doing it with a sense of hostility toward high gas prices.  In other words, our negative postures toward these news ways of life imply that if and when gas prices roll back we'll return to our gas-guzzling car-loving ways. The implication is that we'll sell our new Prius for that SUV, allow our bicycles to grow cobwebs and dust once again, and return to our excessive carbon-footprint ways.

I want to suggest we take a different view to all of this.  Sure the pain of $70 tanks of gas leave us wondering how we'll stretch our paychecks to survive and we get less product for more money all the way around (high oil prices affect everything from food costs to electricity costs).  But maybe this is the best thing that could happen to our future as a people.  Maybe this pain we currently feel will finally force us to reimagine what it means to be an American. Possibly we will finally have the creative courage to look at other ways of living – one that are more responsible, other-focused,and ecologically-friendly.  I sure hope it will.

As I have been imaging the affects that this gas crisis might have on the US, I can't help but begin by imaging what a new Phoenix might look like as a result of raising gas prices.  Here are some initial thoughts:

– might residential development in Phoenix look more urban as opposed to the typical Phoenix suburbs.  Will this finally force us to value high density residential living and to see it's value as sustainable development in contrast to suburban development?

– will we finally take public transportation seriously? I am wondering how many of the numerous people who've told me that, "the Phoenix light rail project is the biggest wste of money" might be rethinking that perspective.

– might we move from automobile-driven development (high parking space per capita) to community-driven or sustainability-driven development.?

– we will finally take our existing urban spaces seriously and attempt to make up for the decades and decades we've neglected them?  Might new urban spaces emerge throughout the valley?

– will this all lead to the rise of an "ethos of the other" for those who call Phoenix home?  In other words, will we discover what it means to deeply share life and city with those our live on our streets?  Will we remember how to be neighborly?

– will we through all of this discover a new commonality as Phoenicians that bind us together into a city not of buildings, infastructure, and municipalities, but a city of people sharing a common identity of place, story, and common dreams.


I for one, sure hope so.


 BTW: I wonder how the crash of the housing market will play into all of this as well


Some Links:
"Downtown Phoenix sees benefits from the economic slump" from ABC15
"Is America's suburban dream collapsing into a nightmare?" from cnn.com

Filling the Margin of Life

About a month ago, I posted about the absence of margin in my life at the time.  I was simply filling the hours of every day with tasks and to-do's.  There was little time in my life to laugh, enjoy my family, appreciate hobbies, or to nurture my spirituality.  For me (as I suspect it would be for most), the fix has been an intentional one.  By saying "no" to things, slowing down, and being more realistic about what a balanced and "whole" life looks like, I've found some much needed extra space in my life. Here's what I've found myself filling my margins with:

The Garden –

Brewing my own Beer and Baking my own Bread –  
Bikes and biking as my primary mode of transportation –  
Making more time for the family –


The absence of margin

This morning while forcing some silence/refelection into my schedule, I realized my inability recently to create margin in my life for the things I most need (which happen to be intimately associated with the things most important to me).  I am finding little time for solitude, for spiritual practices, for reflection, and for creativity.  I am reminded when faced with this uncomfortable reality that those things which demand the most from us in the economy of our lives will get the most of us.  We have demands upon us, from others, from family, from those we work for and with, for those we wish to help, from those who we share life with.  These are good and normal demands.  But with much quieter screams, the person inside us beckons for life, for health, and for balance.  To nurture myself is vital to the ability to offer myself to others.  

I must change the economy of my life.


This week I had one of the most moving experiences of my life.  I am indebted to the power of art to evoke emotion, to remind, to tell story, to confront, and to recapture my imagination from the prison of the mundane.  I am convinced I need art to help me to see the beauty of the world again, to regain confidence in all of humanity as created in the image of God, and to appreciate the love I have for my wife, the gift of my kids, and the sharing of life with good friends.  Words can't begin to do justice to the experience and my words become jumbled, cheap, and useless when trying to share the experience with others.

What the art was that invoked this in me isn't as important as the acknowledgment of the power of art to speak into my life and to give clarity to the confusion.   I am convinced it is a primary way God speaks to our world.

chaos or creativity?

Last night, during the most recent Communitas Network event (an event focused on creativity and it's role in the Kingdom of God), my good friend Mike Ricker, who leads an inspiring effort to serve those without home in NW Phoenix, shared a phrase that has been challenging me consistently for the 12 hours or so since we were together.  

Mike said something to this tune in reference to the diverse and very different forms of church that many of us find ourselves a part of:

"Sometimes what we're doing seems chaotic, which many people see as negative – something that denotes a loss of control, but I see what we're doing instead as creative" 

Those who spend much time around me know that I often use the word "chaos" to describe the type of faith community I am interested in building and being a part of.  I am just realizing this, but I am all too comfortable using this word to describe something as beautiful as the church – the embodiment of God's kingdom here on earth.  In using this term, I have never meant to imply an out-of-control, anything-goes disfunctional group of Jesus-followers.  I am interested in an organic community where diversity of ideas, perspectives, and calling are valued and where control is held loosely.  I have often used the word "chaotic" to communicate this and the apparent messiness this creates when compared to the nice and neat controlled megachurch atmospheres I have experienced much of my life.

But Mike has provided an alternative to using this baggaged word in replacing the word chaotic with creative to describe what we are pursuing.  I rather like the idea.  Creativity is what we are after.  Creative communities made up of both creative-people and people-willing-to-be-creative pursuing God in new and creative ways, acknowledging the wild creativity all around them, and applying creative solutions to the dilemmas we face as people of justice, followers of Jesus, lovers of people, and everyday people.

The conversation at last night's event that this idea created was brilliant with most agreeing that creativity was a better adjective to describe us that chaotic and that creativity is chaotic at some level.  In some attempt to keep this conversation going (if anyone still reads this blog), I am wondering what some others think:

Is creativity what we are after?  Does it describe our hopes and dreams better than chaos?  Is creativity inherently chaotic?  Does chaos breed creativity or does creativity breed chaos?  Thoughts?


I haven't been up for blogging lately.  It's hard to struggle to do something you once found such joy and even healing in.  Blogging used to be a tool in which I could find myself in.  More recently it has become a tool for others to find myself in – a direction that has sapped my true voice and stolen my creativity.  I am sorry for this.

I feel as though I have been underground lately, jealously guarding time and energy for myself and my family that typically is spent on others and community.  It has been a time of rest and a time of rediscovery. The voice of God in my ear had become silenced by the much louder voice of others.  I have been relearning to hear God's voice and rediscover a sense of calling – that which I cannot do, which I cannot walk away from.  These (re)discoveries is what will occupy this space in coming days.  

Not for anyone else, but for me. Because I need to hear myself think and to see the crazy thoughts running through my mind on a screen.

Ear Snax

For me music seems to be a seasonal thing.  For months I can go without running across any albums I am particularly excited about and then all of a sudden a few albums come out at the same time and keep my ipod going non-stop.  Here's a couple albums you must check out:

Radiohead – "In Rainbows":

inrainbows.jpgThese guys have stepped out once again to record this album label-free and are offering it in download-only form on their website bypassing all of the bulls&@t that we seem to be hearing so much about within the music industry.  The greatest part, Radiohead has left it up to you to decide what their music is worth.  It's a risky move, but the guts of this alone should warrant you download the album. Download it here


By the way – the music is brilliantly beautiful.


Jimmy Eat World – "Chase This Light":

chasethislight.jpgAs I've mentioned before, I had the chance to hear pieces of this album throughout the recording process.  I also had a chace to hear them play some new tracks off this album a few weeks back at a show I caught in Flagstaff.  I have been a JEW fan for years, and was intrigued by some of the new sounds and directions the band was heading with this release. Now that it's officially out (as of yesterday) and I've had a chance to hear the whole thing a few times through – I am loving it. I am thrilled for this local Phoenix crew and as of this morning, "Chase This Light" was the #2 top downloaded album on itunes. Please support good music, Phoenix, a some good friends and check this album out.  I especially like "Dizzy", "Let it Happen", and the disintegration-esque "Gotta be Somebody's Blues".

Download it from iTunes here 

And as for the title of this post, "Ear Snax", it's what I once called our shared itunes library – good stuff.

unFOURgettable @ Windup tonight


I blogged about the guys of Windup Gallery before. The owners, Anthony and Lindsay, have become friends and are supporters of our fledging artist collective, FoundArts.  They've only been open a few months, but have put on some great shows that have brought some "never-before-seen-crowds" (at least in Mesa) to downtown Mesa.  Tonight they kick off another show from 7-10pm showcasing Four female artists that will be there in person (which should be killer).  I am excited to see the work of these artists (especially Shaunna Peterson who has a tattoo-art vibe I like) and am taking the kids tonight to check out the scene.  If you can make it, come on by to support the local arts scene, have some complimentary drinks on Windup, and breathe in the smell of an actual developing (non fine-art) art scene in downtown Mesa.

Link to the flyer's for tonight's show 

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