A Big Day of Small Things

Last Friday night, we held our first Foundling House brick-and-mortar event—a dinner and concert called Echo Hill, featuring the talents of Eric Peters, Janna Barber, Palmer Gregg, Ben Bannister, Bill Wolf, and Lorraine Furtner, plus an excellent feast by Sullivan’s.

This project had been more than six months in the making. The idea always seemed to be floating around in the back of my mind that we shouldn’t limit ourselves to virtual reception of art, to interaction by proxy. That kind of distance relationship, at least where art is concerned, suffers from a fan-based mentality. Good poems, stories, and songs drift into the territory of hagiography—that glowing writing full of miracles and merit that surrounds the saints of old. If we add the personal context of presence, our work takes on different and perhaps more holistic meaning*. I had mentioned the possibility of an event to our writers’ group multiple times, trying to gauge interest and, on a more subliminal level, hoping that if I talked about it enough, I would figure out how to pull it off.

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Peace

Like a river rushing furiously forth
Chasing the scarlet leaf that has just turned loose from its love
I chase you, my love.

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The Subtle Extravagance of Nature

I was woefully unprepared to become a father. The youngest of four boys, nurturing didn’t come natural to me. My daughter’s entrance into the world five years ago was dramatic and powerfully enduring. She was a fussy baby. My wife and I were always jealous of parents who could leave their child in the car seat for hours on end. Our nightly routine included three hours of bouncing and singing in a tireless rotation until the crescendo of crying finally dropped off and we all fell in the bed exhausted.  Everyday we’d try new methods of soothing our little one, but nothing seemed to work consistently. As I became less embarrassed about my lack of parenting skills and my daughter’s screaming, I began to strap her in the baby carrier and stroll to a park in the neighborhood, baby sirens blaring. It was then that I noticed a pattern. Almost always, soon after we stepped outside, the crying would stop.

She was mesmerized.

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God in the Process

St. Augustine once wrote that he carried a “question” with him at all times: “My question was the attention I gave to the world, and its reply was its beauty.”

Beauty—no matter our taste—demands our attention.

This past summer I began looking again at my new surroundings: the city of Nashville. In hopes of recording some beautiful “answers” with my paintbrush, I’d get up early and catch the morning light as it woke up the world. One such morning I sat down on a curb across the street from a hilariously pink Mexican grocery, and began to paint. That hot pink screamed for my attention!

Following my habit I started working quickly to capture the essence of the scene, when steadily—one by one—construction workers began setting up on the street not five feet in front of me. Workers. Cones. A truck. Another truck. Boom! Construction blocked!

“I can’t go anywhere in this town without running into construction,” I huffed, packing up my supplies. That’s when the lightning bolt struck:

Construction is everywhere.

From roads to skyscrapers and traffic cones to tower cranes, the multicolored landscape of construction had one thing in common: my attention.

But could it be beautiful?

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The Ministry of Reminder

“All I ever get for Christmas is blue.”

—Over the Rhine

This past year, my dear wife and a number of my friends spent extended time away from social media due to the surplus of vitriol surrounding the election. It simply grew to be too much for some folks. Alas, for business reasons, I could not leave Facebook. I wanted to. I found myself desiring social media abstinence even more leading up to Christmas.

I confess, I abhor the onslaught of all those picture-perfect, iPhone-filtered snapshots of families doing Christmas-y things: sitting down to a feast, having a party, opening gifts, ice skating, decorating trees, decorating houses, decorating pets. You might call me a Scrooge, but I promise, it’s not that. My daughter asked me what I wanted for Christmas this year. Amongst a couple ideas of things I could actually use (a new keyboard rig would be nice, but it’s not going to happen yet), I realized what I really wanted was to be able to spend the time focusing on Christ and his coming. I wanted Advent at the forefront of our thoughts. If we as a family arrived at Christmas Day and found ourselves regretting ill-spent time pondering things other than the miraculous, time-shattering coming of Jesus, then I would be faced only with the relative vapidity of everything without Christ. Gifts, decorations, food—all things pale in light of the mystery of what C. S. Lewis called the One True Myth, the great mystery of Jesus’ coming.

Now, before you flush this little confession from your mind like so much kitsch, hear me out.

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