Wednesday, September 30, 2009

the beauty of laboring {or laboring for beauty}

Yesterday I was talking with my friend Lori about all the things that were concerning me going into this weekend's big annual Art Show on Main at Union Center.  People are praying, work is coming together but still these anxious thoughts and legitimate concerns sit on top of my brain like unwanted squatters.  I say to Lori "I don't mind working and praying and even being tired.  But I don't want to miss the beauty of all that is going to happen.  I don't want to be walking around like a squinty-eyed grouch."  Lori laughed (God bless her), reminded me that it was going to be OK and promised to pray.

Fast forward to last evening.  I knew I needed a good night of sleep so I mixed up my best sleep-aid cocktail that involves smooth Canadian whisky, Sprite (because I'm a girl afterall), a shot glass and a lighthearted book.  I'm laying in bed reading a lovely, old Moss Hart autobiography my mother gave me and this sentence stopped me mid-page:  ...there is an old and fond phrase in the theatre which actors whisper to each other on opening nights: 'Eleven o'clock always comes'.  Well, there's comfort in that sentiment, I guess. That no matter what happens with the big, scary thing you're about to risk, the clock will keep ticking and, eventually you'll be able to slip behind the door of your private dressing room and move on with your life.  Well, I guess there's comfort in that.

So I say to myself, November always comes.  But it doesn't feel that comforting because I know that the temptation to close my eyes and hold my breath through the month of October is not the way to truly live.  It's not the way to be alert to the small beauties that come, no matter what.  I don't want to miss the graces of art and community that will happen this month.  I don't want to miss the invisible breezes of the Spirit caressing all that is good and difficult about our fourth annual Art Show on Main.

In the interest of walking through each moment with this kind of awareness, I'd like to share some of the small beauties I've already seen along the way.  There's far more that can be recounted here, but the discipline of writing even a few of them down is good practice in living and praying with my eyes wide open.  Alert to the ways God is showing favor on our labor.  Assured of the reward, seen and unseen.

Here's one for starters:

This past weekend I watched my friends' band play a corporate charity event at a local wing and beer joint.  I know they're my friends, but, really, they're pretty good.  They have been working together for a couple of years and play a few gigs each year.  Every once in awhile when I'm chatting with them, I hear in their voices the longing to know what they're supposed to be doing with this group.  Just have a good time every once in awhile?  Play a charity gig here, a benefit there, a church event in between? 

A couple of us were having lunch on Sunday.  On our drive back to our cars we got on the subject of their band and what the future holds for it.  What do they play?  Where do they play?  If they are supposed to be playing bars and such how do they  make a difference in the spiritual realm?  And I've heard and read it learned it before: that art is incarnational -- making the invisible visible -- and subversive.  That it is beauty and truth and goodness for the sake of beauty, truth and goodness.  That God is truth, goodness and beauty and when we participate in the creation of these things we reveal the very image of God.

I'd been reading Psalm 19 all week and, like words that never had been spoken before, but birthed just now by the Spirit in my mind and mouth I said, "It's Psalm 19."
The heavens are telling the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard.

Of course I couldn't remember all those words exactly like that right then and there in the parking lot, one hand on the seatbelt release, frozen in that spot by the sheer Spirit of the conversation, raindrops dripping on the windshield, car rumbling in idle.  "Lori, you guys are like the stars! They don't preach the gospel but they declare the glory of God.  You are subversive.  You surely revealed the image of God in that place last night.  The love and beauty and, really, just freakin' talent of you didn't have to be wrapped up in a gospel talk to be powerful."

Listen again: Their words aren't heard, their voices aren't recorded. But their silence fills the earth; unspoken truth is spoken everywhere.

So, I'm hoping that this group of friends and artists and Christ-followers will press on and write songs and reveal God's image.  I hope that my labors this month will give them one good sense of being led and loved on and encouraged.  That when they sit in the workshop with Brian Moss and Jason Harrod they'll know they are not alone.  That they can walk in the tracks of others.  That they can risk the longing that is pulling them.  The same longing I felt deep in the unspeakable parts of me as I listened to them Saturday night:  They are bigger than this.  And I don't mean the bar.

I leave this post with a video I stumbled on yesterday.  I politely ran across this guy's path at the symposium I attended last April.  I think he  probably knows what he's talking about.  I'm not sure why he's looking down into the camera the way he is.  I choose to picture us standing inside a huddle on the side of the field and I am warmed by his mid-game pep talk.  If I'd been there during the filming of it, I'd wanted to have him add that it can't be art by itself that will bring the kind of renewal he is cheering us with, but fully-formed artists as disciplined in skill and spirit and community.  (thank you, David, for this continual reminder)

Well, see for yourself (and what a joyous small beauty to discover that he's been thinking about Psalm 19, too!)

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