The Facebook invites were sent out weeks in advance. They’d been followed up on with emails, phone calls and text messages. Ten friends were coming over for dinner. I’d always loved the idea of hosting- few things are better than gathering people together over a meal.

After getting the final count, I spent hours searching for recipes, trying to figure out what I’d prepare for everyone. Everything I found was either too complicated or wasn’t appealing at all. As the day drew near, I started to get nervous about what I was going to cook. At one point, I even considered paying for catering- my friends might poke fun, but at least the food would be good. I resisted.

The day came, and still not having any idea as to what I’d create, I set off for the supermarket. Perhaps inspiration would come to me in the grocery store aisles. I traipsed from one side of the store to the other, through the produce section to the bakery, down the foreign cuisines section and through the corridor of frozen foods. Nothing appealed to me, until I came upon the butcher’s block. It was there that I realized beef was the answer to my problem.

I carefully pointed out steaks to the graying gentleman who was unfortunate enough to have to help me. I had them wrapped, then began scouring the remainder of the supermarket for seasonings and sides. Twenty minutes later, I paid for my groceries and made my way home.

I practically ran in the door and threw my purchases on the kitchen counter. I started mixing herbs to create a dry rub for the wonderful beef that I was planning to grill. I sliced potatoes, diced tomatoes and started throwing ingredients around like I never had in my whole life. I actually didn’t know what I was doing, but did what I thought seemed would not only be right, but original. My friends were to be treated to an arrangement of foods they never would have anticipated.

At a little before seven, the doorbell informed me that my first guests had arrived. I opened the door to hugs and a bottle of wine. It was the first of several of both. At a quarter after, everyone was seated and I carried out plates and bowls of the stuff I’d toiled over that day. It actually smelled good! “Jake, I’m pleasantly surprised!” said one friend, as she passed a large bowl of potatoes over the rolls. Before we started eating, I prayed for the meal and blessed the food to another friend’s body. He had other plans that night.

Conversation erupted as people passed bowls around. Everyone was shocked by my effort. I smiled as I listened to discussion from the kitchen, where I was hunting for my bottle opener. Out of nowhere though, it seemed as though everyone stopped talking. I imagined them all happily stuffing their faces as I opened and closed several drawers.

After I found it, I made my way back to the dining room and was shocked to find that all eyes were on me. Normally, I love attention, but the looks on everyone’s faces were not promising. Nobody was chewing. Nobody was laughing. Something was horribly wrong. I took my hint when my Buddy Scott ran off toward the bathroom.

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Understanding is the key to creativity.

This is true in cooking, English, art and even theology. It may be especially true of how we talk about God as we try to explain who He is and what Christ has done as we find ourselves in new situations. The Gospel may always be the same, but the world is changing, meaning that we’ll always have to come up with new ways to communicate the Good News to the rest of the world. But if we don’t understand ecclesiology, pneumatology, soteriology and the other ologies out there, new representations might be inaccurate or fail entirely. Therefore, the creative people have a great responsibility to educate themselves in these things.

Have you ever tried to create something,

only to discover that you had to study more, first?