I hope you don’t mind if I jump around a bit as I reminiscence about our trip. I promise I’ll cover it all eventually. Our last stop before spending seven days at sea was the city of Funchal, Madeira – a Portuguese island. Our captain wisely steered our boat away from the original stop at the Azores and hurricane Rafael to a safer port. We had never heard of it before, but it was definitely one of our favorite places.

White stucco houses with terra cotta roofs nestle on the hillside, contrasting beautifully with lush green foliage and numerous gardens. As we rode the cable car to Monte at the top, we noticed how many yards sported banana trees and neat rows of vegetables and flowers. They made use of every square inch. The sea view was spectacular as well.

Kelly and I toured the Tropical Garden there sprinkled with plants, fountains, ponds, waterfalls, walkways, and museums: one with African artifacts and another of rocks creatively displayed under black-light and artfully situated to look like they had formed in that very spot.

The people of Madeira get my vote for being the most innovative place we visited. Because we forgot to inform our bank of the change in itinerary, our credit card was denied and we didn’t get to ride their toboggans, but we watched others enjoy their ride and took a lot of pictures.

Apparently before the cable car, the residents of Monte built these wicker sledges around 1850 for a fast ride down to Funchal. It’s become a famous tourist attraction. Teams of two men dressed in white keep the wooden runners waxed and push each toboggan down the narrow winding streets, delighting and terrifying their riders.

Down in Funchal again, we shopped our way back to the ship and happened upon the redeemed red light district we had hoped to find. When they decided to outlaw this business opportunity, the city council declared the street an artisan’s alley; only artists are allowed to rent there. Each door is an amazing display of talent and ingenuity.

I couldn’t help but think about all the creative solutions of believers over the centuries. Like Martin Luther, who recognized that the common people needed to hear and read the Bible in their own language, so he translated the Bible into German. He also wrote original lyrics, rich with spiritual content, and set them to well-known bar tunes. These great hymns of the church have been around for centuries.

We serve a imaginative God, and it’s no surprise that His children display the same kind of delightful inventiveness:

·         in getting God’s Word into places where it’s against the law
·         to meet the needs of our communities
·         in financial, political, and social problem solving
·         to reach the youth of our generation
·         in the skills and know-how with which we each glorify God and find our purpose in life

Originality hasn’t always been welcomed in the Church, not even today. But I hope that like the people on this beautiful island of Madeira, we can appreciate each other’s ideas and innovative solutions as we work to solve the problems of our generation. The message never changes, but the methods we use should always reflect our Creator who is not limited to worn out ideas and established mores.

That gives the words of Galatians 6:4-5 in the Message a whole new meaning:“Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.”