We breath shallow, we live shallow. Lets begin to breath a larger more robust life.
I pray in different ways. We say a few words of thanks before we eat our meals at home. We say a prayer after I read to the little girls at night. Sometimes we say the Lord's prayer together, their very sleepy voices just barely making it to the end. I think of the songs I sing as a sort of prayer and also the paintings and the drawings.
For me prayer is kind of like "going on line" to the supernatural. Some times it happens quite by accident and some times you want to and it feels impossibly dead like turning the key in the ignition of a car and all you get is a quiet little click.
Wanting to connect and stay connected to God is born into us and yet it sometimes the reality of this connecting seems to drift away like the radio station that begins to come in and out when your car is leaving the broadcast range of the station. I remind myself with the notion that regardless of whether the connection feels like it is there or not, it is there. It is always there and not dependent on how I may be feeling or performing at any given time. This truth is a great comfort to me.
What does prayer mean to you?
Photo of Rain Beerhorst by Pearl Beerhorst
Last night I watched the end of the movie Ice Age with Rain and Grace snuggled into the old goose down couch (rescued from the curb two years ago). After the movie and brushing teeth they got into their bunk bed up in the attic. I read one more chapter of Little House on the Prairie. It was the chapter when two Indian men come to the house when Pa is away hunting and Ma has to fix them cornbread. The dog Jack wants to attack them but he's chained up. Laura and Mary are terrified. The "wild men" smell bad because they are wearing fresh skunk skins to cover their private areas (which is all they are wearing). Eventually they leave and Pa comes home.
Having a bunch of children around all the time has shaped Brenda and my life into something very unusual and beautiful. It is often hard and rarely convenient but it is truly fetching. It is wonderful because the children lead us into the unpractical over and over again. They call us into the woods, cartoons and crayons and it is in these places where no money is made and the career does not go forward that God surprises us with a place for our hearts to become new again.
Failure-Lab is launching in Grand Rapids with it's first public event at the end of May. I got an early peek into this new start-up a few months back and felt an immediate connection with their vision. They hope to shift our city away from risk aversion towards a culture that is ready to embrace the possibility of a failure in the hope of new growth and innovation.
We are living in times where it is becoming increasingly obvious that we cannot just keep doing things the way we have always done them because if we are honest, a lot of what we are doing just isn't working any more. These are times to not just imagine a different future, these are times to gather friends, make plans and take those first shaky steps towards a possible better way. Failure-Lab is coming to help us cultivate a new way of framing the word "failure" and begin to see our failures as just the crooked path of true creativity. Below is a statement lifted from their web page;
'A group of West Michigan professionals believe that while success is a statement, failure is a conversation. Their mission to create a safe space to allow the vulnerability to explore mistakes and how we can learn from them will come to fruition May 23 at the first ever Failure-Lab. Hosted in the historic Wealthy Street Theatre (1130 Wealthy St. SE), Failure Lab will present six, diverse storytellers, five musical guests, and one dancer in a fluid 1.5 hour format devoted to screwing up, and how we can learn from it.
A one-minute interval between speakers will allow for the audience to reflect, storytellers will not be sharing lessons, it’s up to you. An after party immediately following the performance will offer a chance to mingle and share.
The “storytellers” represent a variety of arenas and look forward to sharing their worst. Humbling, personal, touching, and at times humorous, Failure-Lab hopes to cultivate a community that can share their struggles, challenge their perspectives, and move forward confidently from mistakes."
Drawing, Rick Beerhorst
The greatest and most important problems of life are fundamentlly unsolvable. They can never be solved, but only outgrown. -Carl Jung
Yesterday I reread the book Falling Upward by Richard Rohr. I love this book for the way he develops the idea of a life having two distinct parts, the first half and the second half. In the first half of our life we are all about defining our identity by striking hard boundaries for success and failure, in and out, us and them, who are friends and who are our enemies. The second half of our life is supposed to shift towards inclusion of everything. When we are able to make room for paradox and unsolved mystery our life becomes so much larger as a result. It is no longer about our team winning but having our eyes opened we begin to understand that we are all in this together. We began to touch the unified field, we become part of the great web of life.
Rohr is quick to point out that most of us stay in the first half. We choose to live our entire life with out ever a transition into the second stage where we could become a wise sage. This is because most people go on living their lives on a sort of auto-pilot and remain unconscious that they are actually living out of a false self (which is of course not really living at all). Usually there comes in our life, somewhere in our 40s (though it may happen much earlier of later in years), a stumble we don't ever fully recover from. We come across some kind of deep failure which has the potential to become our invitation in to the difficult task of dismantling the false self. As the false self is deconstructed we move into the discovery of who we really are and what is at the seat of our deepest desires.
Here is a beautiful excerpt from Falling Upward;
The ancients right called this internal longing for wholeness "fate" of "destiny", the "inner voice" or the "call of the gods." It has an inevitability, authority, and finality to it, and was at the heart of almost all mythology. Almost all heroes heard an inner voice that spoke to them. In fact their heroism was in their ability to hear that voice and to risk following it --wherever! Sadly, such inner comfort is the very thing we lack today at almost all levels. Our problem now is that we serious doubt that there is any vital reality to the spiritual world, so we hear no life changing voices-true even for many who go to church, temple, or mosque.
Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.
I have been thinking about this idea of "loving yourself" lately. I think the very idea of this seems to run counter to the way we are conditioned to think. It would seem socially acceptable to talk down who we are and what we are capable of as some version of humility. I don't think it is true humility and I don't think it helps others our ourselves one bit.
My notion is that God is working in us and through us. Kind of like we are all some version of that broken down potentially beautiful Victorian mansion that God has purchased, moved into, and is going about an expensive and painstaking complete restoration, room by room. The best thing we can do is now and then take a look at our self and say "Damn! this is amazing, look what I am becoming. I love it and thanks!"
This photograph was taken as reference material for a painting I have been working on for the past few weeks. That is Bear on the left and my daughter Pearl on the right. This image of a sheet being folded corresponds to a few other paintings where two figures are involved in a task of a game that can not be done alone.
This idea of how people are naturally social creatures and are meant to be in relationship to others has haunted me for a long time. Along with this recognition of my need to be in working relationship with other people is the notion that I can not reach my full potential with out those key people integrated into my life. You could push the idea one step further by saying that those people I am working with also need my input for them to reach out into their full potential as well. It naturally goes both ways.
Of course you can fold a sheet by yourself but it is not only easier done with another person but it becomes a beautiful gesture or even a dance when you share this simple task with a friend.
photo courtesy of Louise Hatchard
The pay off for meekness and Fear-of-God is plenty and honor and a satisfying life. Proverbs 22
Reading this the other day made me wonder about the word meekness. I felt like I did not really like that word and that made me wonder if I had the right understanding of what it actually meant. When I feel the need to re-examine the meaning of a word I tend to skip Wikipedia and go to my Noah Webster's 1828 dictionary. Webster has this to say regarding meekness;
Softness of temper, mildness; gentleness; forbearance under injuries and provocations. 2 In an evangelical sense, humility; resignation; submission to the divine will, without murmuring or peevishness; opposed to pride, arrogance and refractoriness.
So we are not talking about a mousey person unable to stand up for themselves. Think more of the person who has a powerful deposit of self-control and does not lose it in the midst of a hardship. This is the person that does not return an insult with an insult. This is about dignity and composure. A person who is meek is able to look beyond the present discomfort towards a meaningful reward.
We do things differently than most folks. We have dropped deep down into letting it get weird and not worrying about it too much.
Taking the stuff we have and making what we need. Taking old discarded things and giving them new life. Transformation power is released when you do this.
Making music, expressing yourself to the best of your abilities. Not X-Factor, Katy Perry or even Tom Waits, just you doing what you do and letting that stand for what it is.
This is a detail of the woodblock print Eating Outside is available here.
"Many people think that what's written in the Bible has mostly to do with getting people into heaven-getting right with God, saving their eternal souls. It does have to do with that, of course, but not mostly. It is equally concerned with living on this earth-living well, living in robust sanity. In our Scriptures, heaven is not the primary concern, to which earth is a tag-along afterthought. "On earth as it is in heaven" is Jesus' prayer." Introduction to the book of Proverbs by Eugene Peterson
I have read through the book of Proverbs over and over since I was in high school. I read these lines this morning;
Fear-of-God is a school in skilled living-
first you learn humility, then you experience glory.
Those lines just really ring true to me and come as a great comfort. Living a life where you are doing what you can to hang out with God, trying to see through Her eyes, letting your heart break with what breaks His heart, leads you into water way over your head again and again. Living this way brings you to many moments where the dominant feeling is "this is just too much for me" And it is in that moment, if you can close the door to another freak out session, you will hear the voice saying; Too much for you but not for me and that is the whole point! I am in this with you, we are going to do this together.
What happens in this walking with God process is you end up with a real relationship. This relationship is with a supernatural being that has your best intrests in mind. And not only that, God changes you in the process and at the same time becomes the benchmark for all the other relationships in your life.
This is about you are becoming who you where always meant to be, you becoming that person that fear had been so effectively blocking off for so long.
Creativity comes from trust. Trust your instincts. And never hope more than you work. -Rita Mae Brown
This business of trusting instincts is something I have been thinking about lately. It takes courage and faith to follow our instincts because we do not know where things are leading us and that feels like being out of control. Following instincts and hunches is not the same as not having a focus and just going willy-nilly everywhere at the same time. It is more like a blood hound that picks up a scent and keeps going 'till the coon is in the tree. The 19th century French painter Edgar Degas had said that all he wanted in life was "a little corner where he could dig assiduously."
The common mistake is quitting before we get there. We don't see the results we had hoped for and we just throw in the towel, 15 minutes too soon. My encouragement to you today is pick back up that thing you had started in good faith and gave up on. Go ahead and begin that thing that keeps pestering you to start. Give into that urge and step into your adventure.
Paper Houses available at the UICA Holiday Show
People do what they can until they can't and then they don't. -Herb Stein
We are all creatures of habit. We do today what we did yesterday, that is until we hit some kind of impasse that ends up being our wake up call. Maybe the car runs out of gas before we get to where we are going. Maybe we come home from work to find our spouse has moved out. Maybe we swipe our card and the clerk says "I'm sorry, do you have another card?"
We are all living in a time when a lot of the way we used to do things are no longer working. Church, school, work, neighborhoods, transportation, ecology..... The problem is we are pretending that they are still working and so we just keep going through the motions. We are simply too busy spinning in our little rat cages to recognize our true situation. We need to stop spinning, get out of the cage, take a good look around, get quiet and imagine a new response.
If there ever was a time for the creative visionary it is now. But the visionary is no good on her own she must be able to get in step with the practical person who understands how to implement a plan and work through the action steps that lead to knew developments. We really need to figure out how to work together and every front imaginable.
I bumped into this trailer today on Jody Pearls blog REinventing Fashion and I am so glad I did. The way these women talk about friendship, being a parent and failing, making art "stuck in second gear".... I love the gut level honesty. I can so relate to these struggles.
This is what it is:
Behind the domestic curtain of motherhood, where the creative impulse can flourish or languish, are four women determined to make a go of it. Filmed over seven years, Lost In Living, confronts the contradictions inherent in personal ambition and self-sacrifice, female friendship and mental isolation, big projects and dirty dishes. The complex realities of family life unfold in this documentary film about the messy intersection of motherhood and artistic expression.
Girl In The Blue Dress new to the online gallery
“There comes a time when the world gets quiet and the only thing left is your own heart. So you'd better learn the sound of it. Otherwise you'll never understand what it's saying.” Sarah Dessen
To become quiet is so important. I type these letters in order to remind myself because I love busy and full schedules for the way the give me the illusion that my life is full of important things. Unless I get quiet and make room for the empty spaces, my life is just full of shallow activity devoid of meaning. I want more than this. I want to go into the deep places that only quiet solitude can take me. That way I will have something to offer the hungry people that populate my life.
"You are most powerful when you are most silent. People never expect silence. They expect words, motion, defense, offense, back and forth. They expect to leap into the fray. They are ready, fists up, words hanging leaping from their mouths. Silence? No.” -Alison McGhee
Drawing in my sketch book helps me to be silent. I use too many words like most people do I suppose.
I have been thinking about expectations lately. How often we become angry or disappointed in a person or a situation when it does not meet up with what we carry in our head. We think it should be one way but it goes in a differnt way. It seems that these frequent disappointments often prove to be a kind of test that reveals miss directed motivations.
Inspiration is for amateurs- the rest of us just show up and get to work. And the belief that things will grow out of the activity itself and that you will - through work- bump into other possibilities and kick open other doors that you would never dreamt of if you were just sitting around looking for a great "art idea".
(I am not sure of the source of this quote but it may be Chuck Close.)