L'Engle, Pavarotti, Sigur Rós, King David

Lay up these words in your heart and in your soul. Bind them upon your hand, as a sign. Place them as frontlets upon your forehead:
"Ye shall be rejected but ye shall not be crushed."
Madeleine L'Engle's "A Wrinkle in Time" was rejected by 26 publishers before editors at Farrar, Straus & Giroux read it and enthusiastically accepted it. It proved to be her masterpiece, winning the John Newbery Medal as the best children's book of 1963 and selling, so far, eight million copies. It is now in its 69th printing.
So said the AP news report on L'Engle's death this past week.
If God has called you to be an artist, then He has also equipped and empowered you to fulfill your calling. Train yourself, hone your skill, acquire discipline (both artistic and spiritual), trust God, and be prepared to be rejected. The greats always were--Hemingway, Gauguin, L'Engle. Treat rejection as normal. One of my professors warned me kindly: "David, the road to publishing is strewn with pink slips."
We really need to get into our heads that rejection is not the end of the world, it's part of the world, our world. We'll be rejected for all sorts of reasons, some reasonable and others not, but we need to keep going. How do we "keep going" without stuffing down the bitterness into the folds of our hearts, without tucking away the anger for future use in self-protection against the "enemy"?
We go to where Jesus tells us to go: to the beginning of the beatitudes. Blessed are the poor in spirit, the humble. Blessed are those who mourn, who offer up their sadness and pain to a Shepherd Priest who knows our pain, takes it within himself, and frees us from its destructive toxicity.
We don't deny the pain of rejection. We allow ourselves to feel it deeply. We allow others to feel it with us, to share our burden. But we don't allow it to rule us. We allow it to shape us into something more resilient, more clear-headed and true-hearted.
Rejection is just another way of saying "No." We are told "no" all our lives, for good or for ill. To want a life of only "yes's" is to want the wrong kind of life--a life that looks like a spoiled, self-indulgent child who doesn't understand that self-control is his ticket to liberation from the tyranny of his flesh.
I'm not saying that we should go looking for rejection. If you're trying to make it as an artist it'll come soon enough. I am saying that we should keep perspective and be of good cheer. We're in a goodly company of men and women who felt that divine nudge to create and did so even in the face of repeated rejections--in L'Engle's case, 26 rejections by 26 publishers.
Keep it at my friends. To those of you who are faint-hearted I say, Onward ho.

Postscript: I have three semi-personal connections to L'Engle. First, in 1993 I wrote my first play, a medieval morality tale. I'd included the magical prayer that L'Engle had embedded within her Wrinkle trilogy (a prayer which later I discovered was simply a re-working of St. Patrick's hymn). I didn't want to perform without getting some kind of permission, so I wrote her a letter. Some weeks later I received a postcard in the mail. In silver glittery font permission was "delightfully" granted. I still have that postcard. Second, my pastor in Vancouver at Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Colin Goode, had just come from All Angels Church, L'Engle's home church in NYC. And third, if you're friends with Lucy Shaw you're going to get a story or two about the other sister, her kindred spirit.

Pavarotti's Last Cry
Is it just me or have too many famous people chosen to die over the past year--Gerald Ford, Lady Bird Johnson, Ingmar Bergman, Boris Yeltsin, Jerry Falwell, Kurt Vonnegut, Ruth Graham, Merv Griffin, Ed Bradley, Ann Richards, Robert Altman, so on and so on? Well I guess lots of famous people die every year. For whatever reason I'm noticing it.

Anyhoo, I came across a choice something Pavarotti once said when talking about his legacy.

"I think a life in music is a life beautifully spent, and this is what I have devoted my life to."

May it be so of us all.

The Sigeur Ros Movie Trailer.

A thing of beauty. His comment about "home" stirred my heart.

Other Bits and Bobs

This past Tuesday I attended a meeting of a new group that's started up in Austin, Austin Christians in Theater & Film. Good stuff there. One more effort to get connections happening across the city.

On Thursday Larry and I met with Colin Harbinson all afternoon. Colin, a fellow of British extract, recently held the post as Dean of the Arts at Belhaven College in Jackson, Mississippi. Belhaven is one of only twenty-four colleges and universities accredited in all four of the arts: theater, visual art, music and dance. For twenty-one years Colin worked with YWAM and was instrumental in the creation of the production Toymaker & Son as well as Dayuma.

I heard of Colin only recently when on the plane back from Calvin College in March I read the Lausanne document on the arts issued in Pattaya, Thailand, October 5, 2004. Titled "Redeeming the Arts: The Restoration of the Arts to God's Original Intention," the paper is a truly excellent summary of a Christian perspective on the arts, admittedly written from within an Evangelical context. In three "Acts" it traces the ideas of Education, Discipleship, and Transformation as they relate to the Church's role in the formation of artists and the stewardship of art. You can read here the introduction to the paper, here the entire text.

In any case, Colin flew himself down to Austin in order to meet us and see how his group, Stoneworks, could be involved with the Transforming Culture symposium next Spring. We had a great time!

Tuesday afternoon I had a conversation on the phone with a couple of guys in Jacksonville, Florida, who wanted to ask questions about how to start a film festival. They have money, they have a vision, they just need advice and a team of leaders, including a director. We talked a little over an hour. They're wanting to place it in Nashville, so if you know anybody interested and capable of leading/organizing/shepherding a film festival, now's your chance.

They asked how much I ran the Ragamuffin on. I said about $10,000. They chuckled. They asked how much I would have liked? I said $50,000-100,000. They chuckled again. They were impressed, I guess, with my frugality but they were also envisioning something a wee bigger. So there you go: You can always make the best of what you have but you sure as heck can make more of it if you have more.

Lastly, I had a lovely conversation with a woman living in upstate New York. She is her church's arts director and was wanting to chat through some questions and thoughts. I've asked her permission to reproduce here our email exchange. She graciously, and very courageously, said yes. I'll probably post it in the next week.

The Final Life of King David

This will make for a long, long, long post, but so be it. I only post once or bi-weekly. Here is a portion of the last thing I mentioned in my sermon preached last Sunday. It was our last sermon in our eight-month series on the life of King David.

Dear friends, almost 8 months ago we said that this series was going to be a tremendous adventure for us. It has been. What a rich experience. So let me end where we began, with the words of our guide and friend, Eugene Peterson.

“In the company of David we don’t feel inadequate because we know we could never do it that well. Just the opposite: in the company of David we find someone who does it as badly as, or worse than, we do, but who in the process doesn’t quit, doesn’t withdraw from God. David’s isn’t an ideal life but an actual life. . . . We read David to cultivate a sense of reality for a true life, an honest life, a God-aware and God-responsive life.”

This is the gospel according to King David, given to remind the saints that, yes, in the midst of all the earthiness of your life Jesus Christ shows up, offers you the exact kind of grace you will need, and invites you to follow Him into a holy life, fully alive, beautiful and blessed.


funny, when I read this I thought, "a woman in upstate NY"? that couldn't mean me?? i guess as a 36-year-old mom-of-four it's time to accept the fact that i am, indeed, a woman. : )
I promise. I thought about what to call you. Gal? Lady? Female person? Gal is great but it sounds very Texan. Lady sounds like something from a grim, perhaps crude noir film. Female person is technically accurate but utterly without style. So woman it is. 36 is a great age to be a woman. I congratulate you!
Rosie Perera said…
The URL to the full text of the Lausanne document "Redeeming the Arts" that you gave was wrong (dead link). The paper can be found here.

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