This has been a week of emotional ups and downs for me. I still remember that about a year ago I struggled with the beginning of a long period of depression that I am no longer swallowed by. I was talking about this with a friend this weekend, saying that I am noticing that my artwork is happy now – something that was not the case for a long, long time. He said to me, “I think it is the drum circles.” I thought about this and had to agree. Drumming has helped me to more frequently encounter a sense of joy. Yesterday, I saw a young woman who was quite distraught for many weeks in the hospital get up and dance twice during the drum circle I led in the hospital. She was jumping up and down, grinning broadly … it caused me to feel her happiness in my heart. I know that my heart is changed, and for the better. I am just bursting with joy that I want to share with everyone! God has brought me through depression, kept me safe when I was attacked, and gave me a reason to dance. But this is so much more elegant to express through paint.
God, I love you.
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.Â In rediscovering this dream (to write and hopefully publish), I have rediscovered aÂ joy and a new purpose, which is giving me renewed energy.Â 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.Â I am continuing to press on and create in spite of what is going on around me economically.Â 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.Â Â While I am no dancer, the pulse of making music with strangers is somehow incrediby appealing to me.Â Drawing drum songs out of people is an art form I am just starting to see the potential for.Â 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.
This entire month I have been seriously moved by my experiences drumming and painting in the presence of God. I am preparing for a show in January at Bethlehem Lutheran Church and am somewhat stressed about this as I always am preparing for a show. I am also quite interested in the way these shows always come together. I am already thinking of who will be in the space there, where their hearts will be, and what God may communicate to them through the pieces I have there. I am working on a quite sizeable piece on freedom in Christ that is taken from a story I heard about a dancing concubine who danced for a Chinese emperor on Lotus blossoms … which became the impetus for bound feet in time. I use the lotus as a symbol of resurrection, and am playing with the double meanings between the brokenness and the image of restoration there.
I also was quite taken by a man who came to the hostpial drum circle today. He is Native American and has told me on more than one occassion that he really connects with the drumming that I do in the hospital. He wants some day to be able to play the “honor beats” on the large drum at the pow wows he attends. Today, he selected a large frame drum and was beating the thing nearly to death. He was loud, and kept changing the beat up. I pulled the group to a halt, and in the assessment of what was going on in the circle, asked him how he was doing inside today. He was called out of the room a few minutes later, but he came up to me later and asked about this. I told him that I very much wanted him in the circle again, and that I wanted him to play that same drum. I told him that I was concerned, however, with the kind of energy that he was emitting through his drumming. I wondered where the state of his heart was today. The drumming is opening up opportunities for me to talk about real things with people … and I am becomming more comfortable with taking the step of faith to talk about these things with people.
God, what are you up to? I don’t know where I am going, but I know you are with me. Thank you for changing my heart to make me more like you want me to be.
I am becomming interested in seeing how the structure of the “Tabernacle Progression” we use at church to structure the worship portion of the sermon could be adapted for a drum circle format of worship. I think this is an idea that has some currency, and I want to pursue this and see if I can develop a protocol that would embody the ideas to create a method of non-verbal worship that connects people creatively to God.
If there was one thing I could do with my life, it would be to help people find creative connections to God, to be the people God designed them to be, expressing themselves in their own unique way to the God who made them each so differently.
God, please … grant me this desire if it is your desire too.
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.Â I can’t wait to begin the journey.
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.
Today I had something happen to me that I just felt I needed to write down.Â 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.Â Because something very small and yet very profound happened to me that I do not want to fall outside my consciousness.Â 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.Â We have met three times, and up until this week, it was a mix of both adults and children.Â About 50/50.Â And then this last week, I had a lot of parents drop off their children, using me as a babysitting service.Â
Initially I was resentful, thinking that people were misusing me.Â I wanted to be a part of an intergenerational music making experience, not a place for people to drop off their little ones.Â And then I looked.Â I was in a room of mostly 5-8 year-old children who really wanted to be right there in the circle.Â They wanted to be a part of this.Â They were quiet, attentive, and wanted to play drums.Â 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.Â
I went home initially frustrated.Â Then I felt ashamed that I did not appreciate those children for being there.Â This has touched my heart more deeply this week than anything I have done in the past few years in volunteering at church.Â 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.Â My job is to show up with drums, an open heart, a loose plan and love.Â I am recognizing, though I was nearly blind to it, that IÂ Â am actuallyÂ a seed planter in fertile soil that will certainly grow … though it may be many years in coming to fruit.Â 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.Â 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.Â They each greeted me, and one of them ran up to me to tell me that today was his birthday.Â He was 8.Â
I could have missed this if I had had my way.
Happy birthday, little man.
I did not set out to minister to children.Â 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.”Â 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.Â We were making up rhythms and having a great time.Â A little guy, only 2 years old, the son of a friend came up and wanted to play.Â My heart is starting to see things differently now.Â I knealt down so he could play on my djembe with me.Â He too is a drummer.Â 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.Â Light my path.Â Guide my feet.Â Touch my heart … and my hands.
Every Thursday I lead a drum circle in the hospital where I work.Â Participating in this form of guided spontaneous music-making is probably as theraputic for me as it is for my patients.Â How often do you get to pound something for joy?Â To take the tension of life and transform it into a dancable beat is a wonderful thing.
I think of drumming as the prelude to being quiet in the presence of God.Â The silence seems so much more profound followingÂ a joyful sonic rumble.Â It is only after this kind of full-body activity that I can hear the beating of my own internal drum.
So I found this symbol on the internet from the site “oracle bone characters” by artist Vikki Quill : oraclebonecharacters.com/detail.php?prod=GCHa…
The site read as follows:
Ancient Chinese character for Happiness, (Ch:Xi,Jap:yorokobu)showing a large drum on a stand with decorations reaching up. The lower element may represent either a singing/laughing mouth or a vessel for holding ritual prayers.
For me, this character captures my sentiments for drumming as a form of prayer exactly.