Posts in Category: blessing

Acceptance, Rejection, and Contentment

I have been greatly blessed the past few weeks, though I have been pressed to my limits at work. I have had a number of difficult situations at work with patients, insurance reviewers, and staff that have been quite distressing to me. But through it all I have been able to create beautiful art.

I had a very fortunate thing happen to me the other day. I was interviewed by the Grand Rapids Press and they ran a rather long article on artists serving the church in the RELIGION section of the paper which was a wonderful article. I will provide a link to it on the website for those of you who would like to read it. However, the article mentioned that my work would be a part of the Celebration Exhibit which opened this weekend at I United Church.

Well, wouldn’t you know it … the two artists interviewed for this article both were cut by the juror! It was ironic. But what was really ironic to me was that though it never feels good to be rejected from an exhibit, I was quietly at peace about the whole thing. I think the nice surprise of being in the paper more than made up for the disapointment of being cut from the show. The funny thing is, I have not sold anything for over two years now … and in my heart I know that I am creating some of my best work I have ever made. I don’t know what God is up to, but I am curious to see what comes next.

I wanted to show the painting here, because I TOTALLY love it, and it is hanging in my living room right now – just perfect for Chinese New Year. It is a metaphorical dream image of the parable of the lost coin, and I love the sense of movement and dynamism that I am exploring lately.

Beautiful Grace

Mei Yun 2009

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have been moved tremendously by grace this year. This has been a year I would not want to repeat, but one for which I am sure I will look back on as a year I grew tremendously.

This was a year that I struggled with depression, culminating in surviving unharmed from a patient who tried to attack me and broke through a door, leaving me shaken but unharmed. I needed some months to heal from this. But through the healing process, I rediscovered my longing to write about and publish one of my manuscripts on creativity and faith. It is my plan to begin work on the editing and submission process after putting together a show at Bethlehem Lutheran Church here in January 2010.  In rediscovering this dream (to write and hopefully publish), I have rediscovered a joy and a new purpose, which is giving me renewed energy.  I can’t wait to work on the manuscript for Art as Prayer.

This was my second year that I sold no artwork, though I believe that my work has grown in spite of it all. I am learning to be faith-full while being faithful to create art when there is no evidence to validate me for making it.  I am continuing to press on and create in spite of what is going on around me economically.  The local economy here in Michigan rose to 15%, and I feel fortunate to be working and not trying to make a living from painting sales. Galleries are closing in the city, and things are rough. We will see who survives this period.

This was a year in which I found a new passion: leading drum circles.   While I am no dancer, the pulse of making music with strangers is somehow incrediby appealing to me.  Drawing drum songs out of people is an art form I am just starting to see the potential for.  I am beginning to experiment with and explore how to take this music making format and use it in a worship context. I have people who mentor me now. My wife, children, and parents give me their support and encouragement, and I am blessed because of this.

My life has not been easy this year, but I have much to be thankful for. God has been good to me, and I experience his beautiful grace in my life. I am truly rich.

Beautiful Sadness

Snowy PineI am feeling so calm right now, like I am happy, and at the same time want to cry. Happy tears. Some kind of deep goodness has found a resting place in my heart.

Today for group therapy, my plans were not working out. I could not get the printer to work for some reason, and it didn’t feel like the kind of day suitable to lead a drumming group. The ground is covered with a thick blanket of snow, the wind is whipping up spirals of white powder and hurling them through the air. The earth seems still – even in the hospital.

So today I decided to punt.

I love punting. I believe that intuition is a beautiful thing – doing what feels right. The moment seemed like everyone was calm and I did not want to break this sensability. So, with the grey light of winter filtering the sunlight through the windows of the dining room, I and another staff put on a small concert for the patients in the hospital. I played the upright piano we have on the unit. I played a tender song, softly, but with feeling. No one moved.

We talked after I played about what their imaginations did while I was playing. They spoke about calm, peace, and one patient said that she heard beauty with a touch of sadness. Another patient said that she cried at one point.

This was all in response to spontaneous improvisational music that just poured out of my heart. I think there is a line in scripture that says “Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” My heart was overflowing into my fingers, and I feel that God used this.

It is so moving to me when these kinds of moments happen. I feel glad to be alive. I feel a kind of profound and quiet joy that makes me feel like being still.

Silent.

Beautiful.

My Heart is Changed

Chinese Character for Heart
Tonight as I write I have realized that my heart is in a new place. I am changing, and I think it is for the better.

I brought drums to church again today. Whereas before people needed to be called up to play along with the worship team, this time, all the footed drums were snatched up before the service even began. It was not long before all the frame drums were also taken. Something good is coming from this experiment in worship. Again, I had the privilage of seeing people from all walks of life playing together. My mother and my daughter came forward to play. There were two young children – a boy and a girl, and two men as well. Three of the church staff, including two of the pastors, came to play … and I get the sense that they enjoy this for what it is and not because they are doing it purely to be a support to me.

Tomorrow, I am preparing to lead another drum circle at church in the basement. I am ready to accept whomever comes – regardless of their age – and am looking forward to seeing who God brings into the circle. My job is to be there and serve the group. It is God’s job to bring whomever is supposed to be there.

God, thank you for shaping my heart.

This new space in my heart is manifesting itself in my artwork as well – as I have a new painting that I have begun which is a composition that is so exciting to me.  I can’t wait to begin the journey.

Blessing Others

Ashikos

I was asked by a friend to bring drums to church again on Sunday to play during worship. I told her some of the stories that I had about bringing drums to worship. She told me that I was being a blessing to others by continuing to bring these instruments every few weeks. It is a very humbling thing to bless others with something so typically foreign to worship as a drum.

But I think she may be right.

She told me that her husband, who was in a shoe store the other day, ran into a man who has been coming to my drum circle at church. He asked if the drums would be available during worship on Sunday. I thought this was wonderful, and quite moving in a quiet way.

God, help me to do what you want, and not what I want.

Conviction

 Drummer and children bw

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today I had something happen to me that I just felt I needed to write down.  Maybe I am writing this down more for me than for anyone (I have no idea if people even read this blog) …

… and I know this has been a blog about visual art, but I may need to have a moment to make an exception and talk about creativity and following God.  Because something very small and yet very profound happened to me that I do not want to fall outside my consciousness.  God is teaching me, leading me, and I almost would have missed it if I had been able to have my own way.

I started a drum circle at my church, intending to start an intergenerational drum circle.  We have met three times, and up until this week, it was a mix of both adults and children.  About 50/50.  And then this last week, I had a lot of parents drop off their children, using me as a babysitting service. 

Initially I was resentful, thinking that people were misusing me.  I wanted to be a part of an intergenerational music making experience, not a place for people to drop off their little ones.  And then I looked.  I was in a room of mostly 5-8 year-old children who really wanted to be right there in the circle.  They wanted to be a part of this.  They were quiet, attentive, and wanted to play drums.  I realized that my core group, the people who most wanted to make the drum circle a meaningful ministry were not the adults my heart craved to play with … they were little ones. 

I went home initially frustrated.  Then I felt ashamed that I did not appreciate those children for being there.  This has touched my heart more deeply this week than anything I have done in the past few years in volunteering at church.  I was moved by recognizing my own ingratitude and convicted that maybe God’s plan for me was not my plan, but something different and more meaningful than I had hoped to achieve by my plan.  My job is to show up with drums, an open heart, a loose plan and love.  I am recognizing, though I was nearly blind to it, that I  am actually a seed planter in fertile soil that will certainly grow … though it may be many years in coming to fruit.  Or maybe that is another thing I need to recognize – that the fruit may just be a different variety of fruit than the one I thought I was going to harvest.  I have so much to learn to see.

This morning, while dropping off my own girls for children’s church, I was greeted by the smiles of three of the children whom I now recognize from the drum circle.  They each greeted me, and one of them ran up to me to tell me that today was his birthday.  He was 8. 

I could have missed this if I had had my way.

Happy birthday, little man.

I did not set out to minister to children.  I intended to allow kids to participate as an afterthought, a way to get the adults to come if they could bring their kids along with them and have it “be ok.”  Now I am getting a little glimmer of insight that maybe this whole ministry, and my heart, may need to be open to being led in an entirely different direction.

I was playing drums with two friends tonight at a wedding.  We were making up rhythms and having a great time.  A little guy, only 2 years old, the son of a friend came up and wanted to play.  My heart is starting to see things differently now.  I knealt down so he could play on my djembe with me.  He too is a drummer.  I need to be open to being a role model for little ones, not a facilitator only to the adults.

God, help me to sense your guiding.  Light my path.  Guide my feet.  Touch my heart … and my hands.

Blessing of the Hands: for GR CIVA

hand1.jpgI wrote this for the meeting of the Grand Rapids affiliate of Christians in the Visual Arts which we had last evening.  This is the text of the small talk that I gave before we had a hand blessing for all the artists gathered at our monthly meeting.  

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  A few words before we begin the blessing of the hands ceremony.       //      As Christians, we are called by God to live as lights in a dark world – a world that sometimes does not even seem to notice anymore that it is in darkness.  To the world, the darkness has become normal.  Light, it seems, has become irrelevant, or something optional.  It no longer is seen as something needed to live the good life.  In fact, the very definition of what the good life is understood to be has changed from who we are, to what we have or are associated with.  The darkness has been re-imagined to be a complex, intriguing world, and the world revealed by the light has been stereotyped as sentimental and inapplicable to those who are accustomed to the excitement of the dark.    //     As artists, we are called by God to responsibly handle one of the more curious gifts given out by God.  Whereas many children find joy in creating, as we mature, society discourages many people from pursuing their creative gifts into adulthood.  Those who do, find themselves embracing their own inner sense of playfulness, wonder, and expressivity that may at times give them great pleasure, and at other times, a sense of isolation.  For some of us, our church homes have been places where these gifts have been encouraged to grow, and for others, our church homes may be places were we are discouraged in using these gifts.  Often, as with any relationship, there are times of both understanding and misunderstanding, calling us to reply to others with patience, grace, and humility when our culture may encourage us to respond out of indignation or heated anger.  But if we persist, we come to find that our creative voice becomes our private aesthetic language with which some of us preach, teach, and pray.  Many of us create works or art which aesthetically companion those walking in our dark world, reminding them of the light of life.    //     To be a Christian and an artist is to balance these twin callings – to be light bearers in a dark world while being faithful in learning to use a sometimes mysterious and unwieldy gift with increasing elegance and skill.  We each speak an aesthetic language, and many of us speak with divergent visual accents.  We speak with these visual languages at times in the community of light-bearers, hoping to touch some, and at other times take this language of the eyes to add our visual voice to the babble of competing ideas in the dark places of our greater communities, hoping to touch some.    //      We are called by God to touch some by being sensitive representatives of His teachings.  We are called not to have the same values of the world – to be known, to be wealthy, to be loved, or to be powerful – but to be faithful, humble, loved by God, and to be servants of the weak and powerless.  We are to be kind to those whom society has rejected, to take our visual language not only to the places where that language is understood, spoken and rewarded … but also to those places where the visual is forgotten, misunderstood, or seen as irrelevant.  We are called to be aesthetically generous to our neighbors.  We are challenged to find ways to honor God with our aesthetic “first fruits”, to tithe from our gifts to benefit others.  We are asked to serve “the least of these” with our art, and to be “like children” in the ways children try to please us with their own creations of crayons, finger-paint, and popsicle sticks.     //     We are called to stay involved in our church communities, even when these people hurt us as artists.  We are not to run away and hide our talents, our light, under a basket or stone the moment our feelings are hurt once again.  We are called to be a different kind of artist in this world, not only in the content of our art, but similarly in our character.    //     So we are called to speak visually to those around us who share our faith, who share our love of art, and even to those who share neither our faith nor our love of art.  We are especially called to love those whom the world, and sometimes even the church, has turned their backs on: those who may make us uncomfortable, those who are very different from us because of class, culture, or faith.  We are called to the poor, the helpless, and the strangers among us.  We are called to love with the language of art, the speech of our mouths, and the service of our hands.  We are called to do this in spite of the financial storms that whirl about us and have captured so much of our attention and anxiety.      //     And when these storms hit us, may we be mindful that we have a God who never leaves us.  He walks with us even when we do not feel Him near us.  May we be the tangible representatives of God’s love to each other as we are each others creative companions on this sometimes lonely road.  May we encourage each other to press on, to continue the race, and to persevere.     //     May we each have a  sense of God’s presence as we create.    //     May we sense Him smiling on us as we prepare to work.    //    May we feel the joy of creating when we begin to get sparks of ideas that light our imagination while we work.    //     May we have more moments in God’s presence when we lose track of time and are enfolded in the rapture of creation.    //     May we have a sense of God’s peace when we stand back from a finished work of art that brings a contented smile to our face.   //     May we remember to thank God for these times.    //     May we remember God, and not just think of ourselves.    //     May we remember God.        //     (pause)     //     As we prepare to anoint each other’s hands, do so by repeating these words while making the sign of the cross in each other’s outstretched palms:   —   “May God bless you, as you go and create.”    —