Two days after

I played golf today. 18 rounds. I needed it. Jeffrey Travis, Mike Akel and I stopped after nine and grabbed a burger and fries in the dodgy snack shop off the driving range. It was 70 degrees and sunny today in Austin, Texas. I stood on the ambrosial green grass in the middle of the fairway on hole 16, birds cooing, a breeze skating in between an oblong pond on one side and a skirt of woods on the other, a 7 iron in hand, Helly Hansen baseball cap low on the eyes, sweating, hands beginning to blister, reminding myself for the fiftieth time to keep my head down--and then I stopped. I stopped and looked up from the pock-faced white ball. I relaxed my body. I took in a deep breath. I exhaled it out. I took note of life quietly happening around me. For a fleetingest moment I experienced a holy zen, the restful peace of Christ, the pleasure of God over the work of his hands. All was well. It was going to be ok. I'm going to make it.
And then I wacked that ball and followed it with my eyes till it landed in the woods.

This entry is harder to write than I imagined. As an organizer I see everything that went right about the symposium and everything that went wrong. How do I write about it without sounding triumphalist or self-pitying?
My brain is still in a partial state of cream-of-wheat. I can't remember half the things that were said—from the stage, in casual conversation, even from my own mouth. My emotions are fickle. Symposia are hazardous to your health.
Phaedra and I are OCBs. OCBs are different from OCDs, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. OCBs are the kind of people who like their homes Orderly, Clean and Beautiful, not in any OCD way, mind you, just in a pleasant enjoyment of things being in their place, dust dusted away, fresh-cut flowers, Mexican-tiled mirrors, bookshelves with books whose bindings are all the color blue, a wooden-carved statue of Don Quixote, textiles from Indonesia and Guatemala draped this way and that around the house--everything in its place helping us to find our center. At home. This past week our home was crap!
Mostly, we just laughed at the mess. Sometimes we'd come home late at night, knowing that dawn was only a few hours around the corner, and we’d make the bed before getting into it just so we'd feel like sanity had not completely escaped the premises.
I'm truly sorry I didn't meet everybody who showed up for the symposium. I really am.
But we laughed a lot. I love laughing. Barbara Nicolosi was hilarious, and very, very spicy. I would meet people and think, "I know you. Where do I know you from?" I knew them from their registration. And they had a face! I loved meeting, for example, Tamara Murphy who didn't look anything like I imagined her from her emails and blog comments.
I walked around all three days like a pregnant woman. When the modern dancers, Annette and Ceci, took the stage for the opening of the symposium I almost started crying. It was all too beautiful. I've carried this thing inside me for eight years. Here finally it was happening--with real, live people who had paid mountains of money to come and I thought to myself "I can't do this. I don't think I can carry this thing. I'm not big enough, old enough, experienced enough, resourced enough, strong enough. Just don't blow it, David, just don't blow it."
Eerie and weird and astonishing and happy and sad (that now that it had started it would come to an end before I was ready for it to end) and cranky and surprised and overwhelmed and thoroughly spent and marveling at the goodness of God and frightened for all the things that might go wrong and happy, happy, happy and anxious, anxious, anxious for all the things I knew we hadn't prepared or anticipated or that people would miss--and I would want to say, "I know, I know, trust me, I know and we tried, I promise," but to say those things on day one would be lame and disingenuous, so I kept my mouth shut and let the "art" speak for itself and let pleasure and disappointment happen of their own will and under Jesus' sovereign shepherding.
I also wore a polyester shirt my first day and stank like a pig by 2 o'clock.

Many speakings. I was thrilled with the way Andy Crouch and Jeremy Begbie began and ended the plenary talks. They so surpassed my hopes for the kind of framing I wanted to take place. Eugene Peterson was quintessentially Eugene, elliptically narrating his way to the truth. John Witvliet is one of the kindest and most broadly seeing scholars I know. The stuff they do at the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship is fabulous. I felt bad for Barbara who had her talked eaten up by her Mac computer. But I was so glad she was there with all her spicyness and burlesque sense of humor. She's a Catholic Christian woman who feels the sting of artistic want and ache every day.

I was also glad to see people meeting each other, yucking it up in the hallways and the courtyard and the bathroom. I wanted so badly to be the Holy Spirit. Then I could be everywhere at once and eavesdrop on everyone's conversation--without being creepy.
I'm tired. I've got several hundred evaluations to read. The budget needs to be reconciled. I oversee communion tomorrow morning at church. Ed Tschoepe's having his goodbye picnic after church. Phaedra's weeding the garden right now. It's 7:52 pm in Austin, Texas. The house is darkening around me. And the symposium feels like a strange dream, a very strange dream.
I'm not sure what it means--what it means--but I'm glad I did it, with an incalculably blessed army of helpers.


EllisFurst said…
Dear David,
Thank you for a wonderful experience. My husband and I came from North Carolina, exhibited in the show and enjoyed every minute of the conference. It was our twentieth anniversary trip. Congratulations on a hugely successful conference. You have laid the groundwork for renewed worship through the arts. Andy's lecture set the tone, but I was left in hushed gratitude by your talk. It was years in the making and every word rang true. You reminded me of a burning bush up there, on fire but not consumed.

I showed you my series on the Fruit of the Spirit.( Burning daisies.) Another series was conceived at the conference on my sketchbook, a Visual Creed. I was surprised... like Rip Van Winkle coming out of a long creative sleep. Thank you and all your team for preparing fertile soil, holy rain and strong encouragement for artists like us. We hope to see you again. My personal thanks to Phaedra for holding the end of the rope.
In Christ,
Ellis Furst and Don Furst
erin said…
I was there... and I loved it. Filled my heart with fullness and joy and questions and mostly just expectancy... Andy and Jeremy so beautifully gave a picture of the gospel that I cannot wait to see what happens.
a phenomenal experience...
i am still processing and chewing (and tasting -- don't know if 'aftertaste' is what you were hoping for??)
from the moment we arrived in funky Austin (even your airport is funky) to singing "Oh the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus" together the first night to sniffling through most of Luci Shaw's breakout (sitting about 3 feet in front of her as she read poetry was more than my tear ducts could handle) to outright sob shaking during the cello recording in Jeremy Begbie's talk to outright fun guffaw moments during Barbara's talks and the awed sense of "wow, i think i was just sitting under a master" in every single one of the plenary talks and just the opportunity to see Eugene Peterson (or EuePete as we are now affectionately calling him around these parts, as in, "wasn't it awesome when EuePete cursed on stage at the Transforming Culture Symposium!?!" and "did you see that...WISDOM just came right out of EuePete's mouth!") and on and on and on...
Thank you, sir (and all of that blessed army) for spending yourself on the behalf of those you will never meet or know about. May God multiply great rest and peace and strength to you and your home. (my only beef is that Phaedra got no recognition for investing in guess is she's done her share) : )
Thank you, thank you, thank you.

ps. what exactly DID you picture me to look like?
finding you thru a link of a link of a blog i read regularly... i wish i had known about the symposium! balancing parish ministry & discerning whether to complete an MFA...

well this event i'm sure would have totally inspired me and given me hope that the two are anything but mutually exclusive.
Unknown said…
It was an amazing three days and I am thankful for your persistence, wisdom, and vision in pulling it off. The aftermath is still playing itself out in my own life and I have great hope for the future. Peace.
Ellis, thank you for your kind encouragement and for sharing your work with me/us. Great to have you and Don down. Till next time!

Erin, ditto, and glad your heart was filled with expectancy. That's good, hearty stuff.

Tamara, my one regret is that I didn't sit down with you and actually talk. You're like this friend I never got to really know, and now we're back to electronic communication. Sigh. But love the EuePete moniker. I can't believe he cussed. That dude. And Phaedra was fabulous. The shared experience forged an intimacy between us that will bear fruit into this new season that awaits us.

My e-image of you? Pretty fuzzy abstract. Needless to say, what you actually look like is perfect.

Hot cup lutheran: Hang in there, we're not far from putting the audio files online. There is hope!

Brian: stellar meeting you. Love your beard too. I sensed in talking to you the possibility of a kindred spirit. Steven speaks very highly of you. Anyhoo, one of these days I hope to see you in action.
sam said…

reading this made me even more sad to have missed the symposium. it would have been really great to visit with everyone and meet some of the people i've only spoken with on the phone.

thanks also for the opportunity to help and create images for the conference. it was really fun and although i think i stressed you and larry out sometimes, i enjoyed getting to play a long-distance part in the grand dance.

when are you guys leaving texas? i am hoping russ and i will come through in june and we would love to go out with you guys sometime.

Samantha, I did comment to Phaedra during the whole hullabaloo that I was sorry you weren't there, knowing how much you would have loved the discussion going on. We'll certainly send you a copy of the CDs as a slight consolation.

Phaedra and I plan, God-willing, to travel across the Great Pond by the end of the year. We'll be around in June and would love to catch a coffee with you and Russ.
So...I attended this great feast, that was only a scant 3 days yet felt like an eternity (in the best sense possible). The only thing I can figure is I WAS experiencing a glimmer of eternity where my soul was fed with the richest of eternal food...and it was very good. I'm just so LUCKY to have been a part!
shimmeringdawn said…
Thank you for EVERYTHING you and every one of the many did to "pull this off." I've never been so excited, touched, humbled, blessed, fed, and inspired by any event, in my whole life, the end. =)

Honestly, God was in our midst, and I felt consistently that rivers of life-giving water were pouring over us, that the Spirit was admonishing, refreshing and visioning us, over and over again.

My personal calling in the field of arts and theology in the church has become clearer than ever it was, and I'm more excited to chase after it with reckless abandon, knowing that God can do a greater work than ever we might imagine.

Thanks for following the vision he instilled in you 8 years ago, we have reaped the benefits and are sooo blessed.
Todd said…
David, we never got to meet--you were always surrounded by people--but I wanted to say thank you and tell you what a wonderful experience I had!

I pastor a church within an arts center in Virginia, my co-pastor and I were both at TCS and were blown away!

We realized that we are not alone in the vision God has given us--it was so confirming to see that God is doing the same thing among many.

Your vision for an arts center is very much what we are trying to do--we would love to get some conversation going with you and encourage each other! You can see who we are at

Thank you again for putting all this together!

Have a great day!


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