That is what I crave, I’m hungry to understand my purpose, to believe that human finiteness is okay, and to know and believe when God made us to live in dailyness He said, “It is good.” I’d like to live with a certain clarity that though the day inevitably comes with suffering, it’s still good, and I would like to gratefully receive that day with all its shuffling and waiting as a gift.
We seldom see each other’s things left undone, and we sure don’t want others to see ours. We pretend we’re finished works in public, our seams finished, our loose threads neatly trimmed. Exposing the messy undersides is one of the vulnerabilities of living with others — and one of the graces of being intimately known.
You may have little boys in your life who love to sit and draw, paint and create, and I’ve known many of these delightful boys over the years. But I find great joy in the scrambling bursts of energy and emotion that wild boys bring to my life and to the art room. Finding an art project that engages the heart and mind of a child, and especially a little boy, is like glimpsing a perfect moment of how God intended for us to live.
There has never been a better moment to be a middle-class or an independently thinking artist making and performing music than right now. The costs and complications of creating, recording, manufacturing, and distributing music are at an all-time low, enabling more music to be made and more artists to make a living than ever before. If your ego can bear not being rich and famous, you can make a respectable and sustainable living as a blue-collar musician. The problem used to be access; now it’s obscurity. And this brings with it a completely new set of problems and opportunities.
If, however, you are a person who needs to gear up to visit an art museum, if you feel anxious about the way these hallowed halls of priceless history and beauty leave you feeling — how should I say it? — a little dumb, read on. I’m going to tell you how to walk into an art museum like you own the place. I’m going to liberate your conscience, affirm your intelligence, give you focus, and teach you how to develop a lifelong love of not only art but of the museums that house it.
I wash them by hand,
soap and rinse and wring
until the skin lifts from my fingers,
swirls like slip lace into a pair
of barely there stockings, which cover,
however flimsily, blue veins
like drainpipes, like boxes that line old cellars.

Celebrating 20 Years of Art House America

In late October and early November 2011 we celebrated Art House America’s twentieth anniversary. With three events — two in our home, the Art House, and one at The Village Chapel near downtown Nashville — we looked back over twenty years of Art House history; enjoyed amazing music, beautiful food, and the company of people from all eras of the Art House America story. Twenty years still seems quite extraordinary when we look back on our beginnings.

Creative living seeps into the everyday with a flourish of expectancy in the ordinary and has long-lasting impact resulting in legacy, stored in the strata of generational living like fossils in the earth. Impact travels through the freshly plowed path of creative thinking, choosing the less trafficked road instead of the rut of routine and mediocrity.

It integrates personhood, from doing the laundry to painting a masterpiece, on stage or at the stove, over coffee or under the rare showers of life-giving inspiration.
Because my life is filled with ordinary moments, ordinary things are often the subjects of my photos. A table setting, the unmade bed, flowers in the garden, my little one scooting across the floor: these were the things that filled my life and comprised my days. This was the stuff my photography was made of. It was a challenge to find beauty in my daily life, but I searched continually. It multiplied my gratitude. I recorded my days and gave thanks.
We learned after a few days how to keep moving and enjoy the scene at the same time, how to discern which pictures we needed to take and which we could do without, and how to tell stories from home while enjoying alien country. But why did we feel the need amid all that natural beauty to request personal anecdotes or stories about family members back home? Were we merely searching for distraction from blisters, muscle aches, and wheezing lungs? 
Reading was an escape, but not an unhealthy one. It didn’t enable me to deny my grief or the strain our family was under. It didn’t distract me from my children or make me wish for another life.

In fact, the simple act of allowing myself the luxury of literature served to inspire my days with my children. I was a better thinker — more happy, more energized, and more full. Reading served as a wholly reparative act, something that offered renewal at a time when everything felt out of sorts.
The liturgy suits people like me and Johnny, and many in the congregation — the artful-minded, craving visuals and symbols. We walk in the door to dip our fingertips in cold, holy water; trace a cross from our forehead to our chest; light a candle cupped in red glass to symbolize prayers weighing heavy on our hearts. I take a wooden pew under the St. Catherine of Alexandria stained glass. There is a still, sweet reverence under the wooden nave which looks like an upturned ark, drying out from a tragic flood. As we do “the people’s work” in peaceful repetition — kneeling, bowing, crossing — we embed Scripture and worship into our souls and movements.

Being booed is a recognition of ability and value. To whom much is given, much will be required.

And what is required? In baseball, only four things — hitting, throwing, running, and catching. That’s it. Pretty simple. But it is in the combinations of these four things and in the accuracy with which you do them where the problems are born. You must catch what someone else hits or throws. You must run faster than the opposition’s combination of a catch, a throw, and another catch. You must hit what is thrown, and most of the time it’s coming at you fast — sometimes at your head. Simple? Yes. Nerve-wracking? You bet.

Small things. Sweet tea and warm cookies. An Americano, fresh and local. Simple gifts with a profoundly Eucharistic quality. They are the work of another person’s hands; acts of attentiveness in the creation of a personal and communal experience. Simple gifts, but rich and nourishing.
I’m wearing autumn on my heart this year. I empathize with the trees. I walk the neighborhood as I walk my life, looking for clues. I am uncertain. I notice the leaves that are still emerald, and others whose tips are already dipped in warm and bright colors. I witness a slow fade of vermilion and nod yes, me too. Change is coming, but what will the end resemble?
The arrival of a new idea or image for a poem propels me into such a fervor that my body feels exalted along with my mind. So much is wrong with the world, but so much of it is right, particularly the parts that seem to have spilled directly from the Creator’s hand! What are the chances that when I was born I would turn out to be me, to have the astonishing chances and choices I’ve had? Beauty, in any form or color, makes me sing and have hope. Can I ever be thankful enough?
I had wanted a cast iron skillet for a while, partly because I’d tried several recipes lately calling for a heavy skillet, and partly out of an atavistic longing, perhaps to return to or recreate some home-and-hearth security from the past. I also wanted one for the ability to make a breakfast specialty of the cook I used to share a kitchen with, a puffed wonder of eggs, milk, and flour that our cookbook called a German pancake.
When we moved away from Franklin, I said we’d never be able to return to such a small town with its small thoughts, but that was before I was so tired. I still wrestle with feeling like I sold out. I still don't know exactly how to live out the Isaiah 55 call in a small-town context. It's not as clear. The real dramatic, tension-filled moments of triumph or defeat are not as visible. Here, the beauty and affluence shadow the brokenness.
Wait — a book? All this — the tears, the sure-to-come-lecture from my mom, the imagined corpses — over a book? I was so relieved I laughed out loud.

But I shouldn’t have. Because in less than a week, I’d find myself up even later, again in my bedroom, having finished the book myself. And I’d be crying too, and I’d be holding the phone, though unable to bring myself to place a call, because I felt, as teenagers often do, interminably alone.

A good teacher is creative. A good computer programmer is creative. A good mom is creative. A good lawyer looks creatively beyond the contingencies of injustice and works to bring a more virtuous existence into being.

In fact, the argument could be made that a human being is most God-like when she is most creative, ingeniously crafting the true and the beautiful out of the confines of the present tense. Remixing tomorrow out of the raw materials of today. Re-appropriating a dream into reality.