Charging the Congregation

I sat in the passenger seat of my friends’ car as Indiana beamed under a rare mild July day outside. Cornfields sped by and washed into an impressionist blur. Stephen was driving, and Rachel sat behind me. The Greatest Showman played in the background for the kids.

“When you’re careless with other people, you bring ruin upon yourself,” said an actress.

The adult dialogue up front felt similar. We talked about divorce among our friends. In my short marriage thus far—thirteen years—being close to divorced young people has been not only an emerging theme, but a cup of great frustration. I wrote a song about the relative pain of it years ago; it’s emotionally nauseating merely to hover near the situation. Looking in, I can’t imagine the soul-wounds sustained on the inside of the upheaval. Once you’re so close to a person—intimately, emotionally, dependently—there’s no way to completely extricate that person from your heart. Divorced people know this, and the rest of us can guess. My most pressing complaint during our Indiana drive was different, however, because I remember my cousin’s wedding.

My uncle was officiating, and he took the opportunity to lay out the reason for an old tradition.

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The WordPlayers Present: Jane Eyre

Charlotte Brontë’s masterwork Jane Eyre is something most of us read in grade school. We remember the gilded Victorian prose laid over absolute reams of paper. We remember, perhaps, vaguely liking parts of it—the curious figure flitting about Thornfield Hall, the fire, the mystique of the rolling moors—but having rather a difficult time with the pacing and the oppressive atmosphere. I may have to revisit the novel, though. Firstly, of course, I’m older. Secondly, I spent a delightful afternoon viewing the WordPlayers’ rendition of Paul Gordon’s and John Caird’s musical stage adaptation, playing this coming weekend at the Bijou Theatre in downtown Knoxville.

The cast gives life to the characters in such a way that I wish they had been there for me in high school Senior English. After leading last year’s Little Women to great effect, Casey Maxwell returns now to play the steadfast, stoic Brontë heroine with evocative depth. Coke Morgan’s Mr. Rochester is the perfect cynic, giving you just enough reason to dislike him even while drawing on your sympathies.

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When Your Words Disappear

“Vulnerable” by Kate Hinson

I write. Or I should say, I used to write, and I loved figuring out what I thought and felt through the process of typing out words. Then life got messy. The words got stuck behind the blinking cursor and the tears.

In the middle of the messiness, a friend recommended Wayne Brezinka’s Brezinka for Beginners Mixed Media Workshop. Wayne lives in Nashville, Tennessee. Back then, I lived 7 hours away in Lake Wylie, South Carolina. But I drove to the weekend painting class, not quite sure what to expect.

I was nervous and felt like I was going to fail the test. There were no tests, but I still felt that way due to the perfectionist in me.

Wayne Brezinka is a gentle, brilliant man who varies his classes, from technique exercises to collage history to talks on fear. Wayne creates collages made of cardboard, fabric, vintage newspapers, and various found objects that often have tie-ins to his subject matter. His subjects range from birds to landscapes to famous individuals to trucks to … you get the picture. He can do anything.

But I got stuck on the first exercise.

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Burwell Gardens

 

On the west corner of Burwell Avenue and McMillan Street in Knoxville, Tennessee, sat a vacant lot. To the north, Sharp’s Ridge rose in a sudden spine of hardwoods and undergrowth, brokering the notions of neighborhood loyalty between Oakwood-Lincoln Park and Inskip. A block away, running southeast, Central Avenue hummed with a calico array of colorful shops and businesses where North Knoxville’s varied yet distinct cadre of denizens spent it days. Yet for all this, the one lot stayed vacant. It once appeared to have been bushwhacked with some regularity, either by the city or by neighbors who had tired of the mosquitoes, but nobody bought it until the city acquired it and put it up for auction.

It was then that Colton and Tiffany Kirby, Benjamin and Molly Conaway, and John Human bought it and started Burwell Gardens. The idea was to kill two birds with one stone—pardoning the expression—and address both the issue of vacant lots (historically a potential attraction for crime, drug use, or a massive kudzu incursion) and the problem of fresh food shortages in the area. As of now, Burwell Gardens is officially part of the non-profit Cultivate Wholeness and is in the midst of raising funds for things like water lines and gardening materials.

Colton was kind enough to sit down and tell us a bit about the nature of what the Burwell folks are doing, the larger implications of community-oriented urban gardening, and the needs of the neighborhood.

FH: What’s the process your team underwent to get the land and work with the City of Knoxville?

Colton Kirby: We bought the property on auction, it was surplus real estate owned by the city. Acquiring it was pretty straightforward. We got a later start with it than what we wanted since we were at the mercy of the city regarding the closing date. However, once we closed, it was fairly smooth sailing. Since it is privately owned property, we can basically do whatever we want on there and since there are several laws in place that encourage gardening and small-scale urban farming, we’ve not hit any major snags yet.

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Every Morning Coffee: a review of Every Moment Holy

The holiday season passed with a flurry of shredded wrapping paper, sugar comas, and age-old family traditions. A shiny new year with infinite possibilities and opportunities is spread before us like a banquet. A whole new year, when we can finally do all those things we promise ourselves we are going to do each and every new year, for which we never manage to find the time, of course.

I’m not one of those folks who puts together yearly resolutions I intend to follow through with. It’s simply not my nature. There are times that I do envy those who think that way, but those moments are rare. I enjoy the days as they come, knowing that each day is similar to the last. I have my morning ritual: start the kettle, grind the coffee, fill the French press, wait four minutes then call out “Plunger Boy!” My five-year-old son’s morning is thrown completely out of whack if he doesn’t push the plunger on the French press. Then I go to my office and read the news. All of us have similar rituals, even if they aren’t coffee related.

At the core of what it means to be human is an inherent desire to have order and intentionality in our lives. 

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Thank You, Thank You!

We’re excited to give you another episode in our film series. This time, we’ve partnered with Robert Allen at The War Room to bring you a song by Glen Phillips, front man of Toad the Wet Sprocket and an excellent writer. We hope you had a happy Thanksgiving!

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