projects

Process

Books.jpg

I got a package in the mail today. From Amazon. And while that's always exciting, it is particularly so this time around. This fresh stack of paper and ink represents the wisdom I'm about to mine for the next big project on my mind. This is my Christmas research. I may be further ahead than I've ever been before.

If I'm being perfectly honest, I usually have to skip this phase altogether. The time to soak in an idea, to absorb it and see how it eventually flows out of me is a luxury I'm just not used to. Usually I have a moment (many moments) of panic in mid-fall, and when the feeble light of an idea suddenly peeks over the horizon I simply run—and I do mean run—toward it fast as I can.

No time to think. Just act.

But finding this idea was like tripping over something on a path in that same feeble morning light. And you look back and see a gnarled root snaking it's way across the dirt. Your eyes follow the root to the base of a trunk. Follow the trunk as it leans its way into the air. And as the light grows you see the immensity of the tree with it's canopy now glowing green above you, silent, powerful and beautiful. Bit by bit you get the full picture.

I first tripped over the root a week before Christmas last year when a friend mentioned the word...

Wonder.

And like a match lighting—a familiar scrape and hiss, a tiny crackle and the smell of sulfur—I felt the first sparks of inspiration. Wonder. The word alone lifts our eyes from our shuffling feet and causes us to scan the skies for something bigger.

But in the midst of planning and rehearsals for the story we were already telling, I didn't have the time to think about wonder.

But then it came up again just before Easter. I tried this research thing back then. I got all of a chapter and a half into one book. Not great. But that chapter and a half was a good seed.

I was reading Living the Resurrection by Eugene Peterson; in it he makes the case that without wonder we cannot truly comprehend Christ's death and resurrection. He says that without wonder we cannot be enough in awe of Jesus to compel us to become like Jesus saying that, "Without wonder, we approach spiritual formation as a self-help project."

How true. How very, very true.

He goes on to say:

Wonder is natural and spontaneous to all of us. When we were children, we were in a constant state of wonder. The world was new, tumbling in on us in profusion. We staggered through each day fondling, looking, tasting. Words were wondrous. Running was wondrous. Touch, taste, sound were all wonders. We lived in a world of wonders.

But gradually the sense of wonder gets squeezed out of us.

I'm sure this feels familiar. I know it does to me. Peterson actually begins the passage with this:

We do not live in a world that promotes and encourages wonder.

This is where the Church comes in. No matter how wise, or learned, or versed we become, we cannot help but be filled with wonder every time we truly engage with the God we serve. We serve a wonder-ful God. We should, nay, must promote and encourage wonder.

And there is no better vehicle for this, in my mind, than the arts.

And there is no better time. Christmas—when men and women are already inclined to reverse into boys and girls—is the perfect time for the Church to aspire to inspiring wonder.

But first, I know that I need to be filled with wonder. I must experience the slack-jawed, wide-eyed sense of awe. I need to expand my mind and my heart and find myself in wonder of God. That's where this stack of books comes in.

The Owls

Before Finnden was born I knew I wanted to create something for his room. Something special. Something no other kid in the world would have. Something that, years from now, he could look back on and say, “My dad made that for me. He loved me before he knew me.”

For Finn I created two prints that hang in his room, geometric ABC’s and 123’s. Many nights before he goes to bed he insists on stopping at the framed ABC’s on his wall and hearing us sing the tune as he points to each letter. There’s nothing so gratifying in the world as that.

Since we’re expecting another little one in February, I wanted to create something equally as personal and special for her space as well.

(As a second child, I can attest to the fact that most second-born children generally get considerably less…um…excitement surrounding them. Now understand, I know it didn’t mean that I was less wanted or loved, but…well…the newness wears off. The second one isn’t the first. First birthdays. First steps. First teeth. It’s all been seen before. Snapshots alone are proof of that. For every one picture of me ages birth through about six there are fifteen of my older brother before the age of one, drooling, sleeping, and generally being a bump on a log. But it was all so new.)

All that to say, I wanted to create something for the new baby.

I’ve had a very cool, gnarled branch I’d happened upon (for free) that’s been sitting in my garage awaiting inspiration for a few months. Add to that the fact that Karen and I are a bit enamored with owls lately, and I had the impetus for a project.

(Yes, I know owls are trendy right now. I don’t care.)

I’m not the best at hand-sewing, but with a little patience and the determination not to quit, I came up with something I hope she will treasure for a long time. And something that will remind her that she was loved long before we laid eyes on her.

(Her arrival will be sometime this week. Pretty excited about that.)

The Lord's Prayer

As a church, ROCKHARBOR just finished what we call Seek Week—a week of prayer, worship and fasting in pursuit of God as we step into new vision for the coming ministry year. The Lord’s Prayer served as a backbone for the week as we learned about and offered up prayers through the various facets of the Matthew passage. I wrote this piece and performed it as part of worship on our last night of studying the prayer.

Here are the lyrics:

Our Father
Who art in heaven
Hallowed be thy name.
That name,
The name we cannot tame,
And would not aim to try.

For your name’s above all names,
Relentlessly shows its fame,
And effortlessly holds its claim.

Your name it is holy.
Your name is the only One that can
Be known as the I Am.
And so we stay In that presence,

And we pray Here in deference
And we ask

May Thy kingdom come
Thy will be done.
It can be done;
It will be done;
The work’s begun
On earth As it is in heaven

In you and me,
Friends, can you see
The we that we would be
If he’d not set us free
To be the we
That he
Can make us be?

Our lives are exchanged.
Our hearts have been changed.
Our passions rearranged.

And he has beseeched us,
Unleashed us,
Bequeathed us

The keys to his kingdom,
The work that must be done.
Here and now
We can plant and plow
He will show us how.

So don’t wait.
Don’t hesitate.
Don’t let it percolate,
Or let time confiscate
The power
We have in this day and hour.
We aren’t meant to cower,
For he has empowered.

My brothers and sisters,
We cannot resist this;
It is our existence
To become his assistants,
To make exchange,
To enact change,
To rearrange,
All in his name.

So that when we say,
“Give us this day Our daily bread,”
We mean instead:

Please, God, give un-to us
The things that you have for us
That will make us vic-tor-i-ous.

For our old lives are gone,
And we sing a new song;
Our hearts burn with fires
That do turn our desires
To you
To do
That which you
Would have us do.

But first we must attend
To the things we must amend,
And the ways we still pretend
To be something other
Than the life you’ve uncovered.

So search our hearts and know us,
And show us
The brokenness in us.

Bring to mind our lapses,
And forgive us our trespasses.
Let the light of your face
Erase
My disgrace.
Replace
he trappings of this place
By the power of your grace.

For it’s by you we live
And give
As we forgive.
And choose not to pass judgments
On those who affront us
Who trespass against us.

Perfection forgave us
And gives us
The means for forgiveness
Of others.

So that we might gain
The claim to your name
Remove all our stains,
And precede us,
And lead us not into temptation
But towards your redemption
And exemption
By your preemption of death.

Father, please deliver us
From evil that may hinder us.

For we find ourselves connected
To the power that resurrected.
That power It has seized us,
It frees us,
Sin flees us
Because we have seen Jesus.

My mind cannot fathom
The wonder that can come,
That has come
For thine is the kingdom,
And the power,
And the glory.
For ever and ever Amen.

Coy Koy

Several months ago I was inspired by the origami work of Sipho Mabona. At the time I was in a bit of a creative funk (read: self-pitying cesspool), and seeing his work was one of many things that slowly drew me out. Karen and I moved into our place a little over a year and a half ago, but save fresh colored paint on the walls we had done very little to express ourselves in our new space. Here I was, being professionally-creative every day, but my home showed no flickers of that creative flame. 

In order to force myself to get to work I stopped by Art Supply Warehouse and bought myself a canvas, paints, brushes and some beautiful origami papers.

Origami—especially the repetitive kind—has always had a bit of a calming effect on me, so for a few nights in a row I spent a thirty minutes or so folding origami koi fish following a pattern I’d found online.

Then, like so many projects, it fell by the wayside. The few fish I’d finished, perhaps fifteen or so, sat in a plastic Target bag in my garage for at least two months.

But unlike many of my past exploits, a few weeks ago, I went looking for my bag of paper koi and began folding again. I had recently been learning the art of discipline in my work, and somehow in my mind this project had become the symbol for my newfound lifestyle.

If I could finish the koi, I could finish anything.

And so I folded. And folded. And folded. And finally I ran out of paper. The finish line was in sight.

On Thursday and Friday Karen and I completely re-arranged our living room. Perhaps it was a nesting thing. (Did I mention we’re expecting in February?)

Since we were moving all the furniture and re-thinking our wall spaces and what might hang on them, I figured it was as good a time as any. I picked up some super glue and floral needles and began the second tedious phase of the project: gluing the needles into the paper fish.

With that finished I began to arrange them on the wall, pushing the tips of the needles into the drywall using a pair of needle-nosed pliers.

And suddenly, it was finished.

I’m quite pleased with the final product.

I am a Finisher.