Collaboration

There's the Gold

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Last week I sat in the middle of the auditorium while the first Easter rehearsal was getting underway. It was a music run-through. In some ways it was just a following-through kind of rehearsal, beginning to do all the things they've been planning for the last couple months. No performance, really. Just practice. The vocalists and band were all situated on the stage to face one another, ignoring the rest of the room, focused on each other and the work ahead. Underneath work-lights, and sometimes even in the dark, they tuned and tested and chatted, readying themselves to cement harmonies and plan transitions. 

In some ways, it was the farthest cry from the celebration it will become in just a few days. 

But then they started the first song, and I started getting emotional. In the midst of the first verse of the very first song I was reminded of how good it is to do this work. I thought, “There’s the gold.”

I once walked into a working mine, into the dark of the cave and the cold. I watched as the men loaded onto an elevator, the lights affixed to their helmets shining back at me. I watched as the elevator descended into the earth and swallowed them whole. 

Making things feels like that sometimes because the things we’re most called to make means excavating our souls. With a sense of purpose we descend and begin to dig, and it often feels like all we have is a hard hat affixed with a light that’s begun to dim and flicker. We dig in the dark until we find what we came for. Then begins the even harder work of bringing it back to the surface, and once that’s done whatever we’ve found still needs to be fired and refined and finally made to shine. 

Making things is hard work.

But along the way we catch these glimmers, these flashes of light, these flickers that remind us why we started digging to begin with. When we’ve been digging in the dark for awhile those flashes sometimes seem even brighter. 

Or maybe we’re seeing them for what they really are. 

As I sat in that bare-bones rehearsal and the first song began to swell, I caught a glimmer of what will come to be. I felt for a moment just a little bit of what God is going to do. Every time that happens I am reminded again that any amount of digging is worth it.

Shadows: A Spoken Word

We all have questions, dangling thoughts that are unanswered, things we wonder but sometimes only in whispers. One of the tasks and responsibilities of artists is to poke at these kinds of questions and raise the decibels of those whispers. The team and I recently had the opportunity to develop a new piece that asks the questions and dives headfirst into the misconceptions many of us have about who God is… who he really is. This is that.

Editing and motion graphics: Andrew Schuurmann Additional motion graphics: Charles Booth Producer: Sherri Meyer Executive Producer: Paul Johnson

Solidarity

Have you ever watched pole vaulters? Terrifying. What are they thinking using a flexible and (by all appearances) flimsy stick to propel themselves into the air at ridiculous heights? I'm sure a pole vaulter would assure me it's safe, detailing the technique, and the precautions, and the NASA-designed material the poles are made of, and I would smile and nod my head politely, internally dismissing all of it as nonsense. But it does look exhilarating, the thrill of being catapulted like that. For a few moments your feet leave the domain of mere mortals and you fly through the air, thrown into weightless euphoria. Food is my pole. The right food can lift me right up and out of whatever funk I'm in.

Depressed? Ice cream. Frustrated? M&M's. Stressed? Snickers. Just funky? Nearly a whole bag of tortilla chips. No salsa. Salsa just impedes the rapid progress from the bag to my mouth.

This is not healthy by the standard of any physician (nor therapist, I imagine).

In the home-stretch of the Easter season I ate a lot of... well... everything. Everything in sight. I used that pole again and again, but it sure didn't throw me into weightlessness. After Easter I decided to try to get this area of my life on track.

(This is a bit of a theme for me right now. A lot of things have been off track lately.)

I started cycling again. I started doing some cheesy workout videos where they kept referring to me as "ladies." As in, "Come on ladies, you can do this!" And I started running, something I've always hated but somehow don't this time around.

And I noticed something strange: Exercise makes people nice. Almost without fail, every person I pass gives me a smile, a wave, a breathless "good morning," or at the very least a nod of the head in acknowledgment.

In contrast, through the course of the rest of the day I might pass people in parking lots, at the grocery store, or even at work and not be guaranteed a single indication that I exist. I used to ride the bus to work and was always struck by the ability everyone had, myself included, to pretend we weren't all pressed together like pork in a sausage, joined as we were at the hips, shoulders, and everywhere else during the rush hour commute. It was like an hour-long masterclass in avoiding eye contact. We are experts at ignoring one another.

But not when we're exercising. Young and old, thick and thin, sprinting smoothly or huffing and puffing, people are nice out there. Each time I pass someone going the other way and we politely nod to one another, I feel like there are silent conversations passing between us:

"Home stretch." "Yeah."

"We can do it." "Yes we can."

"This is good for us, right?" "That's what they say."

"What were we thinking?" "Are we in hell?"

There's amazing power in solidarity, especially in the solidarity that comes from doing the things we know we should be doing and doing them with other people. I've experienced deep and meaningful connections with people in the midst of  collaborative ministry and art-making. Some of these have been mere moments, and some of them are stretched out over seasons and even decades as we've criss-crossed paths in the process of doing what we're each put here to do. Some of the joys along the way are the people we find and the ways we get to partner.

The tiniest bits of unity form community, even if only for the moment it takes to pass one another on a misty forest trail in the cool of the morning. I enjoy my quiet and solitary runs and rides, but I also love the moment when I notice a distant figure advancing, anticipating a fleeting friendship forged in solidarity.

Hi friend. Bye friend.

God Is Good: A Spoken Word

Sometimes the only way we get things done is because we have to; not because we're told we have to, we just have to. We put it off—whatever the it may be—for as long as we can until we can no longer. The pressure is too much, and the dam bursts. Even then, though, I don't always find that the water rushes. I have this vision of the dam crumbling and the water gushing into every bit of the low lying land. It doesn't happen that way very often. Usually, the dam bursts as a little chunk here and a little crack there. The water spurts out in comical sprays, like when you put your thumb over the end of a garden hose.

And these are the hardest kinds of ideas to wrangle. You're running half-crazed trying to make sense of why things are leaking here and spraying over there without the percipience to grasp that there is a titanic body of water waiting to break through what you once dismissed as a lovely little retaining wall.

This is the work we have to do because we're about to be swallowed up in it anyway.

This spoken word was one that had been writing itself in my circumstances and weaving itself in my deepest places for quite some time, but directing all that water into the neat rivers and ravines of sentences and rhymes was hard. Hard in a lot of ways.

But good too.

Note: It's in a couple pieces mixed in with the song.

Created alongside Jenny Potter & Andrew Schuurmann Song "Good To Me" by Audrey Assad Performed by Becky Ykema