2018 Favorites

I’ve gathered my favorites from 2018 and I’m locking them in, “final answer”. I tend to categorize and collect in life, and that may be reflected below.  But it’s also because I have such a bad memory, this list is basically a note to myself to remember later.  If you’ve liked some of these too, let me know!

Books | Movies | Podcasts | TV Series | Music

Continue reading “2018 Favorites”

The People are the Promises

Today we visited a church to hear a family we love play music.  Man, the music was so good.  Filling the small, high ceiling sanctuary were the organs of gospel music and the cadence of Americana.  The fat and tender guitar riffs drifted into my soul.   God was pressing on me, as he had many times before in worship.  It nearly always took the form of tears, and this time was no exception.

Though the music was modern, some of the hymns were not: we sang “Standing on the Promises”, familiar from my childhood days at small Bible Chapels on the east coast.  Back in those days, I’d memorized God’s promises from scripture through clubs like Awana: “I will never leave you nor forsake you”.  The promises were God’s, given to a different people at a different time, but we were taught to take them on as our own.

But today I heard the promises in a new way.  Continue reading “The People are the Promises”

Creative Tides

This is one of the most creative years on record for me.  First I had to allow myself to be bad at something long enough to improve.  Embracing failure keeps my perfectionist foot away from the brake pedal.  But working through that fear of failure was only the first part of my creative drive.

I still had to get the other foot to step on the gas. So what’s been driving that? Continue reading “Creative Tides”

Left to Right

I painted the above to express in simpler terms the many words I was chewing through.  Of course Bob Dylan would completely disown me for explaining a work of art, but sometimes growing up means going against our mentors : ) .

Consider the right panel:  the work starts with strict boundaries on the left – everything is clearly defined and of a solid color.  As we move across – like a timeline – we see what was once neat becoming blurred, less defined, messy.  Life still goes along, rich(er) with color, but no longer categorized as it once was.

Left to Right
Left to Right

If it’s no surprise to us in the present day that this piece is titled, “Deconstruction”, neither would it have surprised our ancestors.  It’s nothing new to discover the world is not as it seemed.  I’ve been finding friends through history, each of them deserving a more in depth look, Continue reading “Left to Right”

Cover Songs

In my songwriting group, we sometimes assign ourselves to “cover” a song – creating a new expression of another artist’s song – and in the process I find myself understanding both the work and the artist in a deeper way.  Listening to the song can be moving enough, but to write out, play, and sing it, is to enter in to another person’s experience, to take it on and take it in.  What were they seeing when they wrote this song?  Were they writing what they were feeling or what they wanted to feel?

When trying to create original music, covering a song might feel like a step backward, a waste of time.  But in doing so, our creative process is pushed forward:  first we duplicate (cover songs), then we imitate (write something that sounds like…), and then we create.  As we get behind the artist’s eyes, we begin to see not only their canvas but also their decision-making process.

First we duplicate, then we imitate, and then we create.

A writer I would like to imitate is Henri J.M. Nouwen, but he immediately points me to “cover” someone else.  Show me the Way, a book of Nouwen readings for the 40 days of Lent, has been in our family for over two decades, inspiring me year after year.  During  holy week, Nouwen recounts Jesus washing the feet of his disciples with the words, “I have given you an example so that you may copy what I have done for you.”

ShowMeTheWayWhen we hear Jesus tell us to love and serve, not just each other but the hurting and oppressed, we may resist – that would be an interruption to my life, my studies, my learning about God, for heaven’s sake.  Perhaps we could instead spend our religious efforts in doctrinal classes trying to understand more of God’s qualities.

But this would be like only listening to the song.

Listening to the song might have some effect on us, but we haven’t truly known the songwriter until we have sung their song.  To more deeply know Jesus, Nouwen says, we must follow in his steps by living a compassionate life.  Going beyond listening, we begin to serve others by looking into their eyes and allowing God’s whisper – “I accept and love you” – to speak itself into action.  Entering into the life of Jesus means entering into the life of his creation.

In other words, as we draw closer to the downtrodden, we discover Jesus there; as we draw closer to Jesus, we are drawn to the hurting around us.

In other words, the deeper we know the song, the deeper we know the songwriter; the more we know the songwriter, the more he encourages us to sing his song.

Nouwen himself lived this out – giving up his prestigious academic life to live and serve at the L’Arche Daybreak community for the intellectually and physically disabled.  Since I am currently writing from the comfort of my life, I will now (at last) hand the pen to Nouwen:

“Prayer and action, therefore, can never be seen as contradictory or mutually exclusive.  Prayer without action grows into powerless pietism, and action without prayer degenerates into questionable manipulation.

If prayer leads us into a deeper unity with the compassionate Christ, it will always give rise to concrete acts of service.  And if concrete acts of service do indeed lead us to a deeper solidarity with the poor, the hungry, the sick, the dying, and the oppressed, they will always give rise to prayer.  In prayer we meet Christ, and in him all human suffering.  In service we meet people, and in them the suffering Christ.” ¹

♦ weekendswell ♦

For another view of understanding each other, see Alone-ness.
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¹Nouwen, Henri J.M. (1994). Show me the way: readings for each day of Lent. New York, NY: The Crossroads Publishing Company