Monday, April 26, 2010

Monday Mixtape [the backlogged edition]

i made you a mix tape of all my favorites from this week!

That tag line should read: i made you a mix tape of all my favorites from like the past month or so!  It's been a little busy and intense around here lately as Brian and I continue to seek God's purpose for our lives through prayer and community.  We really have no idea what He's asking of us right now and, frankly, that makes me feel tired.  But, there is much truth and goodness and beauty to help me engage in moments of rest and celebration -- and, sometimes -- catharsis.
Here's some of the best I've enjoyed these past weeks:

I'm working on reviews for the IAM Readers Guild blog for the March and April selections: The Violent Bear It Away by Flannery O'Connor and Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry.  I'm also trying to finish reading and reviewing Saint Patrick by Jonathan Rogers for Thomas Nelson's BookSneeze.

In other news, I was contacted by Baker Books to read and write a review for Brett McCracken's Hipster Christianity sometime this summer.  Seems like a little pattern is forming here, eh?

If the book is anything like the blog, I'm looking forward to reading it.  In the posts Brett has written during the research phase for the book I've become aware of my own skepticism concerning "cool churches".  The more honest way to say that last sentence? I physically shudder when I stumble across websites, magazines, facebook links, et al, promoting cool churches.  Last week we just got a support letter for a new "cool church" plant in our area and my stomach started to hurt just reading the name of the church (one word, of course).  Typically, physical convulsions are not the sign of a mature thought process and I'm hoping Brett's research and conclusions will help me be more discerning about what's going on underneath the hip persona of the movement.  I'm guessing there's a lot good and a little bad and I'd like to know the difference.  Anything that develops compassion in me instead of suspicion is a good thing.  Without knowing him well, I trust Brett's work to do that.  I guess I'll be letting you know sometime this summer!


  • Color Me Katie wows me again.  I have a couple of friends like her (Macia) that kind of sprinkle cheer and fairy dust everywhere they go. 
  • I'm pretty sure I've mentioned it here a few times, how proud of my sister Kaley and her now world-famous-blog Cha-Ching on a Shoestring.  This post celebrates the hardship that launched the site.  You should read it and bookmark it for the next time you're in a hard place.
  • Filed under the same category of people I'm proud of, my friend Tracy's new blog: For Such a Time.  If you like to look at pretty, creative, crafty ideas, you'll like Tracy's blog.  Her gift of making beautiful things out of random, (and I guarantee you) inexpensive supplies has, among many other ways,  been formative in the way we celebrate Good Friday at Union Center.  Here's to many happy blogging memories, Tracy!
  • Remember my new friend Jason Harrod?  We thought we were pretty stealth "discovering" this guy.  Imagine my surprise when I read that author Cathleen Falsani's known him -- and his music-- for years!  Read her words about the musicians, but don't miss her words about the song.  My own words are that the song is gorgeous and full of truth -- both lyrically and melodically.  It speaks about marriage in not so much terms that say "I wish I was in love" or "I want to be married" but more like "Hey, you married people...we need you to work at this because it adds beauty to the world".  He says it way more poetically, of course.  (you can see why I'm not a songwriter!)  So, while you're at it, get the song, too:

Film & Television:
Over drinks and chicken fingers with friends this week, my friend Beau asked me what shows I'm watching right now. I was stumped.  I guess I've been enjoying Discovery Channel's Life (although I have a few complaints with it's overly-polished audio effects and sound-biteish script read by Oprah) and the family's been laughing along with ABC's Modern Family (I know. I'm as surprised as you are by that confession), there's not much else tripping my trigger right now.  We're starting over with West Wing on Netflix. Next time we have $200 laying around  unspoken for, we just might buy this series because, dang, I love the writing on that show!

Also I cried during this movie a couple of weeks ago.

Bright Star is the story of the relationship between Fanny Brawne and John Keats. It's about poetry and romance and chastity, and if that's not enough for you you've got to watch this for the beautiful dresses Abbie Cornish (as Fanny ) gets to wear.  Oy with the gorgeousness!

The Resurrection Letters, Vol. 2

I knew it would happen. And it finally has.  I've become a big fan of Andrew Peterson's music.  First, my friend Haley Ballast began sending me clips just because she's a wonderfully kind person that way.  And, then, my friend Laura gave me his Resurrection Letters for my birthday.  Sometimes, it takes me a while to climb into music (or a book or movie or artwork, for that matter), to really hear it, you know? Life is too busy, too noisy, too needy to be entranced by subtleties.  For example, I needed to listen to and read the lyrics of the song Hosea to really begin to get it.  Then, there's the whole step of letting the lyrics sink down into my soul and polish up raggedy and unformed parts of me.  As for the song Hosanna, I've not heard a better contemporary attempt to express the  meaning of the broken crowds shouting "Save, we pray" as they laid down palm branches to the Christ on a donkey's back.

Visual Art:
Once again, Erin at Design for Mankind has introduced me to something lovely.  This is the work of Kate MacDowell and I've enjoyed every piece of porcelain sculpture I've seen.  Don't you just love the idea of nests of birds singing in your lungs as you take breaths in and breathe breaths out?  Me, too.

And how could I not love the work of someone who begins her artist statement with these words by C.S. Lewis:  We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough.  We want something else which can hardly be put into words--to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it. – C.S. Lewis.

Click here to see the rest of her portfolio.

I close this week's edition with some words I was told by a guest speaker at our church this weekend: Nothing could be more biblical than to seek out the glorious ...  
(click here if you'd like to hear his whole message on the subject of Hope.)

Here's to a new week of seeking!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Liturgy of a Laity Lodge retreat [the word, part 1]

I've been using this pattern of the liturgy to explain my time at the Retreat for Ministers to Artists.  The structure made this feel doable.  Maybe that's why I feel passionate about an intentional liturgy in corporate worship, also.  It offers a container to hold larger-than-life truths about God and the world and us and the future -- a way to enter in and interact with the ageless epic.  Likewise, I needed a container to offer words for this retreat.  Even so, I've become paralyzed telling the meat of the story.  Life is full of disappointment and struggle and lovelessness and sometimes it just hurts to spend time in hopefulness, you know?

Having structured this in a liturgical framework leaves me unwilling to not finish the tale.  It's calling at me every time I turn around.  I can't write it perfectly or even recall it perfectly, but here's something, at least.

Luci Shaw shared a talk titled, "Thumb Prints on the Clay".  Pretty apt title for this group of artists, I'd say.  She is a feisty, intelligent, approachable woman and I pretty much want to be just like her when I grow up.  I wouldn't mind the shelf full of books with my name in the author's slot, either.  We'll see about that.

I would say that one way Luci (do I reference her by her first name or Mrs. Shaw? Ms. Shaw?  Dilemma...)  most influences me is that she talks the way she writes.  There is a conviction about the wonder of words and ideas that comes through her and makes me trust her as a wise woman.  I've been around people in my lifetime who think great thoughts and meditate on beautiful truths, but for some reason,  lose nerve when they talk, insisting on the safety of populist lingo and worn-out idioms.  Sometimes, I am that person.  This is not to say that Mrs. Shaw (I'll just rotate through the options here) doesn't exude a certain kind of tongue-in-cheek, everywoman quality.  It's a nuance she handles masterfully -- not unlike the same quality Eugene Peterson displays when he speaks.  

For example, one of my favorite statements from the entire weekend was this: (in response to meeting a retreat participant from New Zealand) "I've been to New Zealand and I've bungee jumped." [insert perfectly timed comedic beat] "...and got a senior discount."  Luci Shaw is a rock star.

Her talk wove concrete calls to action among pleasantly spoken paragraphs of artistic and theological beauty. Amid poetic descriptions of spirals, circles, fractal patterns and "bubbles of air trapped in a frozen mud puddle" she dropped toward us slanted hints of the discipline of paying attention.  The apostle John cries Look! and Behold!; Luci Shaw uses descriptions such as, swirls of smoke rising from a snuffed candle, obedient to invisible drafts of air, to remind us that Christian spirituality demands that we stop and pay attention to the thisness of things.  

While telling everyday stories of her friendship with Madeleine L'Engle, Luci taught us her thoughts about the "forensics of discernment."  While my mind was still reeling at the sheer genius of that phrase, she was schooling the room of whippersnappers in the importance of discernment groups, doubting faithfully,  seeking spiritual direction, joining writer's groups (or medium-specific fellowships), and nurturing creative friendships.  All the while confessing her own search for discernment with admissions like: (of her writers' group) "We tear each other's work apart -- it's sort of the slash and burn effect."  Forensics, indeed.

Upon conclusion of her talk, David Taylor remarked, "I love that we had to travel with you the whole distance to 'get it'!"  And a lovely journey it was.  She may have told the truth slant -- and inside out, at times -- but we heard her loud and clear.  I can already see where I'm failing the assignments she handed out like a twinkle-eyed school marm.  She'll probably never know me by name, but I sure don't want to let this woman down! 

After the talk, we broke into small groups to discuss.  The combination of both reminded me that I want to leave my mark as an artist and as a mentor to artists.  From the words I heard this particular morning at Laity Lodge, the disciplines are much the same:  writing as imprint/mentoring as imprint, paying attention by writing/ paying attention by mentoring.  So, hold me to it, dear creative tribe! Like my friend, Laurel, recently reminded me when she emailed and gently asked when I might be writing again?  After all, I want my thumb print to be unmistakably marked in this world, don't you?

[I'll be back soon with part two of this post, David's talk titled "Mentoring as Naming".  Writing it will likely be somewhat akin to scooping out my heart with a butter knife and scraping it across the page, but I'll do it anyway.  And, if you don't see it here soon, you have my permission to hold me to it!]

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Monday, April 12, 2010

Good Friday at Union Center

There's only one hour left in this Monday and, while I have a whole draft of good links and titles and miscellaneous mind-blowing items for this week's Mixtape Monday, I'm not posting that today...
I spent the time I had creating this.  It's two whole songs long, I realize.  But I couldn't edit the number of photos down for just one song.  My friends Andy and Hope did such a great job capturing highlights of the Road to the Cross experience and Tenebrae service that I had to include as many as possible.  Thank you, Andy and Hope!

And, thank you, to all the volunteers who served in all sorts of capacities to make this event happen this year.  May God get glory for Himself from our service of worship.
Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: Good Friday 2010

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Monday Mix Tape

i made you a mix tape of all my favorites from this week!

Monday was a vacation day and I spent it with my beloved friends, The Books...

This was a spontaneous I'm-on-vacation-and-I-want-to-read-something-just-for-the-fun-of-it-goshdarnit
A Season of Gifts
read.  I had actually given this to my mom for Christmas and saw it on her shelf on Easter afternoon.  Just totally fun and I finished it in about two sittings.  Still, and all, I wouldn't mind writing a book like this someday.  Something about those small-town quirky communities that connects to the inner bumpkin in me.  I think, perhaps, its in my genes. (and why I adore Garrison Keillor)
I would certainly start the list of characters with the delightful story of my mom taking my sister and me back to her hometown a year or so ago.  We met Freida and she was a hoot!  I'd totally put her character -- and the pack of cigs tucked into her bosom, just  underneath her whiskery chin -- into my book.  Whaddya say, Mom?  Want to co-author?

It was just one of those days.  I was exhausted beyond health and needed desperately to get my mind to a sound place.  Reading is, without compare, the best way for my head to relax.  Of course, it matters what I'm reading for rest to kick in.  So, I chose my books carefully.  I needed to be able to escape to places away from here, but also places that would recover some of the hopeful energy depleted through sheer physical exertion of work and ministry the past couple of weeks. This book nearly leapt off the shelf into my hands.

First of all, it had come up in a couple of different places lately; that's always a good sign.  Also, we'd picked up this beautiful Chronicles of Narnia set, published by Harper Trophy,  for the kids in one of our NYC trips last year and I hadn't really looked through it yet.  The books, themselves, are gorgeous -- glossy, thick white pages, sturdy bindings and lusciously detailed and colored illustrations by Pauline Baynes.

I ended up sitting with Brian on the sunny back patio (and later, in the front room under lamplight) reading the entire book aloud to him from 3pm - 9pm.  It was just that kind of day, and it's that kind of book.  Reading the last two chapters were the most difficult because I kept choking up at the images Lewis evokes of a new heaven and a new earth, where everything is more like the real thing -- yet somehow different, deeper, more wonderful, more like places in a story: in a story you have never heard but very much want to know.

And, when Jewel, the Unicorn  soliloquizes what all the characters had been trying to understand about this new -- but vaguely familiar -- land, I really could barely get the words spoken across the room to Brian:
"I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. The reason why we loved the old Narnia is that it sometimes looked a little like this. Bree-hee-hee! Come further up, come further in!"

Also, the part where Aslan and Lucy meet up:
"Then Aslan turned to them and said: 'You do not look so happy as I meant you to be.'"
"Lucy said, 'We're so afraid of being sent away, Aslan. And you have sent us back into our own world so often.'"

Yes, indeed, Lucy.  I totally understand what you're saying.

As we finished the last page (and, by now, Alex had joined us in the living room), I declared that last paragraphs to be read at my funeral:
"The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning."
"And as He spoke He no longer looked to them like  lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before."


  • Don Miller's thoughtful and refreshing post on the importance of pastors:  These words, from someone like Miller, blow a much-needed breeze of anti-irony into dry and arid cyber-lands.  I was intrigued by the number of PK's leaving comments and had to leave one of my own.  I included the link to a post I wrote a year or so ago about my own coming-to-healing as a bruised-up PK.  Sadly, it does not quite hit the same non-irony eloquence that the Miller post does.  Still, it is authentic.  (I continue to daydream about writing a PK-tells-all memoir.  Or, maybe a documentary? hmmmm.....)
  • Holy Week Around the World: a global survey (in photographs) of processions, prayers, performances and protests at  38 photographs worth your time -- some are beautiful, some grotesque, all intriguing.  This photo of an Easter service in the country of Georgia was one of my favorites.

  • OK, so I'm not much of a viral-video kinda gal, but my mom introduced me to this on YouTube and I've fallen completely and totally in love with this kiddo.  I want to be a fly on the wall in his studio and go to every one of his shows. He proves what all us Baptist kids were trying to tell our parents all those years ago:  I'm listening to the music, not the lyrics
This is true musical genius, right here (and don't let anyone tell you differently)...

    That's all I've got for this week, folks.  I'm working on the rest of my Laity Lodge posts and a recap of the Good Friday and Easter services at Union Center.  Plus, there's that ten-page paper I still have to complete to get full course credits (whose idea was that, anyway?)  When all I really want to do with this Spring Break is sit outside in the sun and read more books. Or, maybe sit and strum on a  ukulele.

    Have a happy first week of Easter!
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