We recently had the total joy of catching up with Joshua Luke Smith: pastor, poet, producer, founder of Orphan No More and brand-new author. We chatted to him all about life, God, and his incredible debut book- ‘Something You Once Knew’.
Trust, me- you want this book.
Anyway, grab a coffee and put yourself somewhere comfy; here’s the chat we had with the mighty Joshua Luke Smith.
First of all- CONGRATULATIONS on the book. Our first question for you is, because this is your first book, how does it feel to be a beginner at something again? How does it feel doing something so brand new? Did you have to face any new challenges or fears?
Ooof, that’s such a good question.
It feels very humbling and very exciting. All the way through writing it, those were to two senses I had. It’s humbling that I get to do this, that I get the opportunity to do this. And, funny enough, it felt like very little pressure! I kind of thought, ‘well I haven’t ever done this before’ and I’ve never gone out into the world saying ‘I’m going to be an author’- I just get to do this and so I’m just going to enjoy it.
And I really did.
The thing that I found most difficult was finding my voice, like as a writer. It felt really similar to hearing myself recorded for the first time when I didn’t like the sound of my own voice, it’s like it wasn’t what I was expecting to hear. And the same happened when I read what I was writing, so it was a journey of acceptance. Like- Oh, this is my voice as a writer. This is my flow. This is my sound on the page.
And that was tough, but it became really empowering. It was liberating.
And I loved having thousands of words, rather than three minutes, to really say something.
But being a beginner- it makes you feel like you’ve got nothing to prove, it means you can really enjoy it.
That’s such a great perspective! Seeing yourself through a new lens and accepting yourself as a beginner- that’s really great.
So, there’s a great part of the book where you smash down the idea that only some people are ‘creative’, can you break that open for us a little? How can everyone be a ‘creative’?
So, I always begin with this idea that every culture has an origin story, right? We’re kind of obsessed with them, we all want to know how it all began. I think within that desire to know our origin story, is this desire to know how something comes from nothing. And if you look up the word ‘create’ it literally means- something that wasn’t, that now is.
So, the definition of creating something is bringing something into existence that previously didn’t exist.
And when I look at our lives, I see that we’re constantly doing that.
I remember chatting to a woman after I did a seminar on creativity, and she was still really wrestling with the idea that she wasn’t creative. And it was based on the fact that there was nothing in her life that people appreciated as creative, as something she had created. So, I literally said to her- ‘tell me what you had for breakfast this morning? Why? Tell me about your outfit?’
We took it all the way back to the most basic things she had done that morning, and I just honoured that as a part of her creative flare, you know? You don’t have to have dressed for the MET Gala for you to tell me about your outfit. It wasn’t even 8am and she’d already created a lot.
So, the question isn’t ‘are you creative’, the better question is ‘how intentional are you with what you create?’ That, for me, is a much more interesting conversation. We need to get rid of the idea that there is some creative work, and some not creative work.
This morning I went and got a coffee and I said to the guy who did the artwork on top of it- ‘bro, that is stunning’. And he kind of looked at me like- aw yeah, I guess it kinda is. Maybe you’re going to get on a bus today and the bus driver is just going about his day, driving this three-ton-mechanical-beast around tiny streets, taking corners, slowing down to pick up grannies who he knows by name. He’s approaching his day as a creative act!
Yeah – I love that! So, would you say that it’s about understanding the creativity within yourself, but also learning to appreciate the creativity in others?
The more we’re able to celebrate what’s in someone else, the more we’re able to receive it in ourselves too. Celebration begets celebration.
So so good. So, moving from creativity to community; it’s really clear from the book that community – the real, gritty, beautiful kind- is central to your life. What would you say to those of us who are lacking/wanting/looking for the kind of community you write about?
The only way into it is vulnerability. And that’s not the easiest answer to give, but I just don’t see another way.
We have this deep desire in us (and man- I don’t think I ever felt it as powerfully as when I was a teenager) for belonging.
There are spaces like work/church/teams/clubs where you’re around people and you feel like you belong there because you all do the same thing. It’s a whole other thing to be able to say- ‘I belong here because of who I am’.
I have to let people know who I really am. Because I could be involved in something, I could be in a friendship group and actually feel really alone. I remember going through this when I was in school because I didn’t feel like anyone really knew me. And that wasn’t their fault, I was terrified of revealing who I really was!
And that can start with walking into school, or someplace like that, and someone asks you ‘hey, how are you doing?’ and you respond with an actual, honest, authentic answer. And that might feel like the smallest, most insignificant interaction, but it’s huge! Those are the embers of community.
It starts with yourself, a practice of vulnerability.
True community comes from a desire to truly belong, and that can only come when you present who you really are.
Wow. That’s simple but so powerful.
This is our final question for you- it seems really obvious from your book that you see and notice God everywhere. Literally. How have you cultivated that? How could we learn to see/hear/notice God in every place we find ourselves?
I would start by saying that I’m still trying and still learning. It sounds cliché, but the way I am learning to do it is by slowing down.
My wife asked me two questions on Father’s Day: what’s your favourite thing about being a dad? And what do you find hardest about being a dad? My answer to the first question, the thing I enjoy most about being a dad is being Eden, my daughter’s, dad. What I love is that I get to be her dad. And the thing I find most difficult about being a dad is going at Eden’s pace, moving through the world as slow as she does.
Kids are inherently curious. Inherently taking the time to observe things that we miss.
But it’s at that pace that I begin to notice God in all things. So, in the Bible there’s the story of Moses and the burning bush- it was a desert, it wasn’t uncommon for the brittle bushes to catch fire because of the desert heat. And yet, he realised that this was something very extraordinary in what seemed like an ordinary moment.
And that’s it. It’s about acknowledging that God speaks to us in the most ordinary parts of our lives. We have to walk slow enough to be aware of that. And that doesn’t mean we’re always getting somewhere late because we’re walking slow physically- but it’s about waking up in the morning and praying ‘here I am God, I’m listening. I’m ready for you to speak’.
It’s so simple.
You can get on a bus (I used to always get a bus, that’s why I seem to think about buses all the time!) and say ‘here I am, I’m listening. I’m ready for you to speak.’ Walk into a room full of people, maybe you feel some anxiety about being in that room- ‘here I am, I’m listening. I’m ready for you to speak’.
And then you get to the end of the day, and you realise, man, this day has been about more than what I’ve done- there have been things happening, there’s been a conversation going on, I’ve been leaning in.
Ah, there is so much gold here. Thank you so much for chatting to us Joshua!