Column: Get into the Spirit of a new year

by Father Mark Goldasich 

In a certain town there were three merchants who owned shops in the same building. Times were tough, so the owner of the shop at one end of the building put a sign above his front entrance that said: YEAR-END CLEARANCE.

The owner of the shop at the other end of the building responded with his own sign that read: ANNUAL CLOSEOUT!

The owner of the middle store, after careful consideration, hung a sign above her front door. It said: MAIN ENTRANCE. (Adapted from “1001 Illustrations That Connect,” by Craig Brian Larson and Phyllis Ten Elshof.)

Gotta love that middle storeowner! She would certainly feel right at home as we celebrate International Creativity Month in January.

So, how has your 2014 been so far? Has it been a happy new year or have you settled back into old routines, ruts and habits? A few weeks ago, I wrote about the “happy” component of a new year; here, I’ll concentrate on the “new” aspect, which could promote and ensure the “happy” part.

When I’m feeling stale and “blah,” I pull out a little book to shake things up. It’s from 2001 and is called “Fanning the Creative Spirit.” Written by Maria and Charlie Girsch, two toy inventors, it’s packed with ideas to get your creative juices flowing. Are you creative? Take their one-question creativity test. Ready? OK, here’s the question: Were you ever a child? If you answered YES, the authors congratulate you and say: “You are a C, that is, Creative.”

The Girsches point to statistics “that show a shocking creativity decrease from 98% creative at age 5 to less than 10% creative by age 30.” While there are a number of factors for why this is, the authors want to reverse that trend.

One of my favorite ideas from the book is called “stretch-ercises,” meaning “a way to open one’s mind for creative risk taking” or “a fun thing to try.” Here are a few: “Practice telling what you like about an idea before expressing any concerns you might have”; “With your eyes closed, spend a few minutes visualizing a favorite getaway place”; “Turn on some favorite music and ‘direct’ the music with feeling and finesse”; “Spend some time with an old magazine, decorating people’s faces with glasses, mustaches, etc.”; and “Have a meal or take
a walk with someone who inspires you.”

Next, take a look at how your spiritual life shapes up, in terms of creativity. Do you attend the same Mass every weekend and sit in the same pew? And when praying, do you recite the same “rote” prayers that you memorized as a kid or only read “official” ones found in a prayer book?

If your spiritual life seems dry and boring, perhaps it’s time to be “inspired,” to breathe in the creativity of the Holy Spirit.

Some examples might be:

• Attend a different Mass this weekend, sit in a different place or take a drive to a different parish several times this year.

• Explore a new prayer style, like centering prayer, writing in a journal (with colored pens even), go on a retreat or parish mission or participate in a Bible study.

• Send cards to friends on their name day. (You know, the day in the church calendar when their patron saint is celebrated.)

• Go to a class or workshop on “lectio divina,” Pope Francis or his new apostolic exhortation, just to name some of the offerings in this week’s calendar on page 13.

Since so many of us are reluctant or frightened to think outside the box, the Girsches have posted a “permission slip” on their website: www.creativity- central.com. Print one out, write your name in the space at the top, and let yourself dream dreams, try new and different things, find quiet time, have fun and make more misteaks in this new year.

See, that’s the Spirit!

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