Monday, April 30, 2007

An Art Symposium for Pastors and Artists

So here it is finally. Hallelujah.
And now I'd like to experiment with a bit of guerrilla marketing; not like the guerrillas that I grew up around in Guatemala, the revolutionary kind, but the unorthodox.
Challenge #1: to get anybody who reads this to pass notice of it on to five people, and then those five to five others, and so on. How many times? I'll take five cycles. Five to the fifth power = 15,625 people.
Link it in your blogs. Post it on your myspaces. Emboss it on any web surface.
Challenge #2: that at least one person in every state of the US and every province of Canada would know about the symposium. That would give me a good laugh if it really happened. I'll also take at least one person on every continent. It'd be a headache of a journey across the oceans, but we'd be tremendously served by having non-North Americans in the discussion.
So there you go. We'd be much obliged for the guerrilla help.
Our work is driven by one thing: a passion to help artists by serving their pastors. And we can love their pastors best by providing them with an enriching experience of art in its relation to the GOSPEL, the PASTOR, the WORSHIP, the ARTIST, the DANGERS, the FUTURE, and the CULTURE.
Pass this on to pastors and ministers in your area. Invite artists to come out. Forward this on to as many folks as you think might be interested in such an event.
Artists as Agents of Grace. Pastors Rich in Imagination. The Church as a Patron of the Arts. A Winsome and Prophetic Renewal of Culture. Join the conversation.


David, for the Steering Committee

DATE: April 1-3, 2008.

SPEAKERS: Eugene Peterson, Jeremy Begbie, Barbara Nicolosi, Andy Crouch, David Taylor, John Witvliet.


AUDIENCE & PURPOSE : The symposium brings together pastors, church leaders and artists to discuss the Church's relation to the arts and to artists. If you are interested in exploring the ways in which we can encourage a more theologically informed, biblically grounded, liturgically sensitive, artistically alive and missionally shrewd vision for the Church and the arts, then we welcome you to join us for a stimulating and refreshing two-day conversation.


Substantial discount for pre-Jurassic early bird registration, but it shan't last long—just like the dinosaurs.

"When TIME magazine compiled a list of the one hundred most significant people in twentieth-century art and entertainment there were only five who had shown any public signs of Christian faith." ~ Steve Turner, Imagine: A Vision for Christians in the Arts

Monday, April 23, 2007

Beauty Better Save this Tired World

(Rummaging through old entries I stumbled across this thought about beauty and was strangely re-blessed by it.)

Beauty Will Save the World
Those are Dostoevsky's words, via The Idiot. His Prince declares, "I believe the world will be saved by beauty." Increasingly I am thinking of myself as a Christian because Christianity is that beauty. It is so much the Truth, yes, but I'm losing my appetite for a truth that is not also very beautiful. How sad and dull; mostly dull, dull and tiresome. The Benedictine theologian Joan Chittister hints at such a notion in a statement she makes in an article titled "Monastic Wisdom for Seekers of Light."

"Whatever the dullness of a world stupefied by the mediocre, in the end beauty is able, by penetrating our own souls, to penetrate the ugliness of a world awash in the cheap, the tawdry, the imitative, the excessive and the cruel. To have seen a bit of the Beauty out of which beauty comes is a deeply spiritual experience. It shouts to us always, 'More. There is yet more'."

I like the way that last line rings: "More. There is yet more." It makes me think of Aslan in The Last Battle. More gripping perhaps is the charge that she makes two paragraphs later:

"We cannot moan the loss of quality in our world and not ourselves seed the beautiful in our wake."

That is surely more truth. Unless we ourselves are creating beautiful things, surrounding ourselves and others whom we bring into our lives with beauty, making beautiful art, making our lives beautiful by holy obedient and aesthetically rich acts of faith--by difficult acts of justice, by quiet acts of kindness to our neighbors, by preaching and parenting and politicking that is well crafted and deeply good, by food that is lovingly made or sport and festivity that are freely relished as acts of shalom--we cannot complain that the world is going to rot.
The ugliness of this world, ethical or commericial or otherwise, will not be reversed by mere abstention from it, the "Christ against culture" behavior of Richard Niebuhr's analysis. It will be turned around only by gracious, generous, muscular acts of beauty.
We must act beauty out in the stuff of our lives. We must act it out even if it means looking foolish, like the very serious joker, in the eyes of a worldly wise society. We must act beauty out in order to give it a chance to reverse the imbecilic, poisonous effects of sin.
"And all this time I was educating Claudia, whispering in her tiny seashell ear that our eternal life was useless to us if we did not see the beauty around us, the creation of mortals everywhere; I was constantly sounding the depth of her still gaze as she took the books I gave her, whispered the poetry I taught her, and played with a light but confident touch her own strange, coherent songs on the piano."
~ The vampire Louis speaking to the vampire child Claudia in Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A Rumination on 35

(This is a note I wrote on Monday evening to a little band of friends who support me in prayer and otherwise during this season of my life. It became a reflection on the past year.)

April 16, 2007

Dear friends,

Today is the last day of my 34th year. Tomorrow I turn 35. I’m halfway to 70, a third to my life goal: to die at 105. In high school I liked watching the weatherman Willard Scott. He worked for NBC’s Today Show. During his early morning stint he would dole out an assortment of bad jokes and onsite reports from state fairs and small-town parades. My favorite part, though, was his daily tribute to centenarians. I thought, “One day, I want to make it on his show. I’m going to live to 100. You watch me, Willard.”

Granted, he’ll be long gone by that time and only God knows whether I will make it to my centennial birthday. But I like to think of my life in 2s and 3s, and 3 times 35 is a long time to live and worth shooting for.

I usually get melancholy on my birthday. I love life too much; it’s a hazard of my personality. I don’t like watching my face grow older--more white hair crawling out of my red beard, more river deltas stretching out from the corners of my eyes. Goodness gracious, nobody in my family is doing their job. They’re all letting Father Time pull them inexorably into old age, without a fight. Or mostly. My mother’s putting up a pretty good fight. She supplies the family with a yearly ration of pink, goopy elixir, the blessed Mary Kay cream. Take that, laugh lines.

And thank God for Dallas Willard. This morning he reminded me that I have no need to fear aging and death.

“At this present time the eternally creative Christ is preparing places for his human sisters and brothers to join him. Some are already there—no doubt busy with him in his great works. We can hardly think that they are mere watchers.”

The evangelist Dwight Moody also lends me a helping word:

“One day soon you will hear that I am dead. Do not believe it. I will then be alive as never before.”

So I guess you can say I’m the living dead and the dying alive and none the worse for it.

There is much goodness around me. I am engaged. Yes, I shall say it again, I am engaged. I am actually planning a wedding—to the very phine and phantastic Phaedra Wendler! I confess, some days it feels like I’m planning a wedding inside a Salvador Dali painting. Or maybe it’s that my hands are stuck inside the painting: the planning is inside the surreal, my actual life is in the real outside, and the planning is happening to someone who resembles me but isn’t really me.

All this to say, it’s a weird feeling to plan a wedding at my age when you’ve lived so long unregrettably, unreservedly and mostly contentedly as a single man. Now marriage. Now the burning furnace of marital love. And I can’t wait.

Other good things. I can walk 12 minutes to a coffeeshop from my house. I survived my Lenten anti-yeast fast. (I got mightily cleansed in the process.) And now I can eat dark chocolate again. I have a digital projector and gigantico screen in my living room, courtesy of my housemate Eduardo Tschoepe, on which we watch very big movies. This past weekend in preparation for my sermon on wilderness and vengeance (via 1st Samuel 24, 26) I watched "Gladiator," "Man on Fire," and "Jarhead."

I am marrying a woman who loves gardening, and I can’t wait to eat fresh vegetables and fruit. I love fruit smoothies.

I can get creamy jalapeno any time I want (a sauce for chips that the local Tex-Mex restaurant Chuy’s inherited from the ancient Aztecs). I can walk to work and protect the environment at the same time. I have a terrific discipleship group in the pre-dawn hours of Thursday morning with three remarkable titans of artisthood: Mike Akel, Jeffrey Travis, Todd Garza. Together we’re reading the book Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives, and hoping to recover exactly what the sub-title enjoins.

I meet biweekly with my beloved brother-in-law Cliff Warner to read through Dallas Willard's The Divine Conspiracy. I have a chunky-love nephew courtesy of my sister Stephanie and Scranton.

There are many good things. There are others, but these give a sense of the rhythm of my life and the things for which I’m grateful.

Meanwhile, I’m chronically worn out. I don’t sleep well at night. I struggle to not be driven by a need to achieve as a way to establish my worth. As an introvert, Sunday mornings are hard for me. Sometimes unconsciously I shut down when talking to people. One fellow yesterday told me, gently, that I consistently give him the arms-crossed, shut-out vibe. I received it.

I'm nervous about the transition out of Hope Chapel. Planning this summer’s arts festival has been harder than any other festival. I feel like I too quickly slot my family in to my relational schedule.

These are hard things. There are others. But these are the instruments of God’s work of sanctification in me. They’re my life. And they’ll be there tomorrow morning when I wake up as a thirty-five year old. It is what it is, as I say to Phaedra, or as Kurt Vonnegut sardonically once put it, “So it goes.”

Fundamentally I am grateful for my life. As I look back on my 34th year I see the grace of God sneaked in unbidden:

- an outburst by my eight-year old nephew Brendan (“Miss, uh, Phaedra, uh, um, aunt, no, miss, Phaedra—no!—uh—aiy-yai-yai!—I’m just going to call you aunt Phaedra because you’re marrying uncle David and that’s what you are anyway!”)

- the breakup with Phaedra in November that led me, later on, to sob for the first time since I was a senior in high school

- the free (à la mode) clothes that Stephanie and Scranton pass on to me that not only keep me from being fashionably stuck in the early ‘90s but become God’s material provision for me

- the no-wheat, no-gluten, no-sugar, no-fruit, no-vinegar, no-alcohol, no-dairy Lenten diet that injects a new compassion into my spirit for all the people who struggle with difficult food restrictions

On the eve of my 35th birthday I thank God for the good and the bad. I thank God for good books that remind me of the truth, for Dante’s Inferno and Willard’s Conspiracy, for Yancey’s Rumors and Chesterton’s Man Who Was Thursday. I thank God for those He has placed around me to support and keep me lovingly sane. I am intensely grateful.

As for the occupational parts of my life, here are a few updates.

We are about to go live this week with the website. Slowly but steadily we’re getting funding help from local churches and individuals. Our speaker roster is complete: Jeremy Begbie, Andy Crouch, Barbara Nicolosi, Eugene Peterson, John Witvliet, and myself. Larry Linenschmidt has proved to be a superb co-laborer. My dad’s kicking it with great advice. Samantha Wedelich is creating a beautiful website. Many things to be encouraged by.

While in Grand Rapids for the Visual Arts Summit I met with the editor from Baker Books. He encouraged me to keep plowing, not to give up, not to let myself delay too much as I might get stuck in an inertial delay. So my goal now is to send something to Baker by May, no matter what.

THE VISUL ARTS SUMMIT (back in mid-March)
Met with folks like Ena Heller, the director of the Museum of Biblical Arts in NYC, one of my favorite sculptors Lynn Aldrich from LA, Bill Dyrness out of Fuller seminary, the art historian James Romaine, Jaime Lara from Yale, Cam Anderson a board member with Christians In the Visual Arts, and various other museum directors, artists and educators. Very stimulating discussion, like a two-day mass brainstorm. . . .

Again, I am thankful for those who are walking with me through this little pilgrimage of earthly life. . . .

Many blessings,

(PHOTO: My two happy brothers-in-law and father on the occasion of our trip to San Antonio to see the Spurs play. Two out of three men had full stomachs. Good times.)