As in Art, So in Life

Once a painting professor assigned me a project in which I could only use two colors for the piece. He told me, "Constraints are good. They teach you to use your imagination." As in art, so in life. Today is one of those days where from the blare of the alarm until this present second I feel the demand of living. It's nothing unusual, it's just life and the pressing of it. Demands, needs, hopes, tears, fears—some mine, most not, but belonging to those I love and therefore still mine. I don't know how to use my imagination when what's in front of me just seems to be so mundane and monochromatic, constraining and constricting. I feel kept and caught, and I'm questioning the great Artist for giving me this palette with which to paint my canvas of life.

David knew what I feel, and maybe what you feel too,

“Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest; yes, I would wander far away; I would lodge in the wilderness; I would hurry to find a shelter from the raging wind and tempest.”

David felt a very real constraint—the threat of death on his life—and maybe my constraints today aren't of equal kind, but I think they're similar.

Living within constraints means dying to myself and my desires, my demands and my mood. It means the temptation to run away, to live outside the boundaries God has given me and put me in, will be pressing and constant. Psalm 16 says the boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places. That means God has designed this day perfectly within His bounds and it is a delight—I only need to trust the artist who made it so.

Where are you finding yourself stretching at the boundary lines today? Where are you frustrated with the lot you've been given? The lack of finances? The lack of marriage prospects? The lack of children? The presence of children? The office building? Instead of running away or standing on the edge, stretching for more, why not live within today's constraints and trust the Maker of heaven and earth?

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All Theology is Rooted in Geography

Now is the time to rediscover the meaning of the local, and in terms of church, the parish. All churches are local. All pastoral work takes place geographically. ‘If you would do good,’ wrote William Blake, ‘you must do it in Minute Particulars.’ When Jonah began his proper work, he went a day’s journey into Nineveh. He didn’t stand at the edge and preach at them; he entered into the midst of their living – heard what they were saying, smelled the cooking, picked up the colloquialisms, lived ‘on the economy,’ not aloof from it, not superior to it. The gospel is emphatically geographical. Place names – Sinai, Hebron, Machpelah, Shiloh, Nazareth, Jezreel, Samaria, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Bethsaida – these are embedded in the gospel. All theology is rooted in geography.

Pilgrims to biblical lands find that the towns in which David camped and Jesus lived are no better or more beautiful or more exciting than their hometowns.

The reason we get restless with where we are and want, as we say, ‘more of a challenge’ or ‘a larger field of opportunity’ has nothing to do with prophetic zeal or priestly devotion; it is the product of spiritual sin. The sin is generated by the virus of gnosticism.

Gnosticism is the ancient but persistently contemporary perversion of the gospel that is contemptuous of place and matter. It holds forth that salvation consists in having the right ideas, and the fancier the better. It is impatient with restrictions of place and time and embarrassed by the garbage and disorder of everyday living. It constructs a gospel that majors in fine feelings embellished by sayings of Jesus. Gnosticism is also impatient with slow-witted people and plodding companions and so always ends up being highly selective, appealing to an elite group of people who are ‘spiritually deep,’ attuned to each other, and quoting a cabal of experts.

The gospel, on the other hand, is local intelligence, locally applied, and plunges with a great deal of zest into the flesh, into matter, into place – and accepts whoever happens to be on the premises as the people of God. One of the pastor’s continuous tasks is to make sure that these conditions are honored: this place just as it is, these people in their everyday clothes, ‘a particularizing love for local thing, rising out of local knowledge and local allegiance.

From Eugene Peterson, Under the Unpredictable Plant: An Exploration in Vocational Holiness, p. 128-130.

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Eat the Words

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset I cut my teeth on L'Engle and Dillard, mulled over O'Connor and Greene, struggled though four semesters of Shakespeare, found myself in the pages of Berry and Kingsolver. Good writing has carried me along. Good writing taught me more theology than six semesters ever did.

In the attention deficit world of the blogosphere, it can be easy to subsist on the crumbs. Comments back and forth, public discussion and debate, he saids/she saids, commentary on every public event that happens and quickly dissipates. This is the oil that keeps the machine running, greasy stories and grimy bits that catch our fancy for a moment and flee just as quickly.

I want the slow meal. The feast prepared with wooden cutting boards and whole foods, the juices of meats flavoring the whole. The spice. The wine. The tablecloth and the candles. Shoulder to shoulder, leaving the dishes for later, much later. The slow food.

Spotlights, whether by association or viral fame, do not a good writer make. Good writing is made in the kitchen, with the dashes and pinches, the taste-testing and stirring, ruminating and storing, aging and serving. Good writing sits and satisfies from the first bite to the last. It is a chocolate cake with a dollop of homemade ice-cream, from which only one bite is needed—because it satisfies.

When I lived in Central America the close of the meal was signaled by the head of the home saying, "Satisfecho." It was a statement. I am satisfied. He would lean back in his chair, push back his plate, and we would sit there still, until all were satisfecho.

This is the writing I want to read. The kind that satisfies, that isn't clamoring for more attention, for commenting, for debate, for the spotlight. It simply is. And is beautiful.

Next: part II

Three years ago I interviewed for this job because my roommate worked here and said I oughta. I don't know if it was because she worked here and liked me, or whether they liked the fact that I was brutally honest about my mistrust of ministries and God at that point in my life, but they hired me. Today is my last day. 

I boxed up all my personal items, filed away all the projects I've worked on for three years, cleaned off my desktop, and in a few minutes all traces of me on this computer will be gone. It's a closing of a chapter, yes, but it also feels like a death of sorts. I love this place. I love these people. I love my iMac. I love my external hard-drive who I named Beaker (and I hope he'll always be called that). Three-quarters of our staff is in India right now and half of who's left is gone already for Thanksgiving. It's a quiet day here. I won't miss being in an office, but I will miss this office. It's been a healing, redemptive, creative, and fun ride.

What will I be doing?

Good question.

I told my man yesterday that I have a loop running through my head: You're so stupid. Millions of people are looking for jobs and you just quit yours with no real plan.

That doesn't sound like Jesus, he said, and he's right.

Here's what I'll be doing:

Writing. Big surprise, right? But it's true! It's true! I have a few projects up my sleeve and I'm just trying to figure out the right time to tell you all about them. Should I tell you now and get you excited and expectant and then let you down if it doesn't work out like I'm dreaming it will? Or do I just whistle while I work, pretend there's nothing to see here, and tell you to move along? I don't know. What does one do in these situations?

Speaking. Yup. I know I'm an introvert and crowds make me claustrophobic, but for some reason speaking doesn't. I really enjoy talking about the goodness of God. It's not about me at that point, it's about extolling Him—and I love that. I'm available to speak at women's retreats, college groups, conferences—if you're interested in booking me, fill out this form and I'll be in touch. I'll also be teaming up with Lauren Chandler and Tara-Leigh Cobble (two of my faves) to speak. Here's our brand-spankin' new website if you'd like to book us!

Designing. I love graphic design and I'm grateful I can make a living doing something creative and fun like this. My print portfolio is available here. Let me know if you need wedding invites, book covers, business branding, etc. I'm fairly versatile and I like the challenge of new projects.

On my knees. I'm serious about this one. I've been self-employed before and I love it. But this go-round feels a little more risky than it's felt before. I'm not sure why, but I'm praying, asking for faith and confidence in His ability (and joy) to take care of me.

Today I'll sling my bag over my shoulder, heft a box of things I collected at my time at Sower of Seeds International Ministries, and I'll leave my office for the last time. I'm sad about it, really sad. But I'm grateful for what God did in and through me here.

Goodbye sweet place.

Next

One thing I have never wanted to do on Sayable is be gimmicky. I don't want to sell things (those ads to the right were a long time in coming and I debate whether I'll keep them or not). I don't want you to feel pressure to comment, contact me, follow me, subscribe to me, or have anything to do with me. I want Sayable to be about the gospel and Jesus. Because it is written by me there's going to be a lot about me here. But I like to keep it as deflective as possible. I hope you know that. Because of that personal preference, I have hesitated to write much about something near and dear to my heart. My day job.

I love my job. If you had asked me in college to craft my dream job, this is it. If you had asked me four years ago what I wanted to be doing in four years, this is it. If you had asked me what demographic of people I felt burdened most for, it's the people we get to help every day. If you had asked me what kind of co-workers and employers I'd want to spend the most of my time with, these are the people.

I love my job.

So it was with much hesitation this year when I felt the Lord nudging me toward other things. I balked, I meandered, I argued, I asked again and again and again: Are you sure, Lord? Because this? This I love. But again and again the answer was yes. The opportunities to do things out of my comfort zone, but within my gift-set were rising and I was having to say no or not yet to so many of them.

Proverbs 18:10 has been a verse I've set before me as my trust barometer: A man's gift makes room for him and brings him before kings. God has been faithful to make room for me and bring opportunities into my life, I needed to trust the room and kings were good and of Him.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

In the next month I will be phasing out of my position in the creative department at Sower of Seeds International Ministries. I will leave knowing I have been faithful to work hard, work deep, rebrand, set a standard for the design department here. I will also leave with so many unfinished projects and unseen dreams done. I love this place. Not just because it's my job, but because in my time here I have seen many other ministries doing what we're doing in the world, and I honestly haven't seen the kind of integrity and faithfulness to the local church and gospel I see here.

SOS is not about gimmicks and the social gospel. The men and women who work here are not out for fame, fortune, or their own futures. They do not sell a product or raise money for personal gain. We love the gospel and seeing dead bones come to life.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The purpose of this post is two-fold.

One, I wanted to let you know what the next phase of life looks like for me. I'll be working on some large writing projects, speaking to women with some women I love (more on both of those things soon), preparing for marriage, picking up graphic design jobs (hire me if you need book covers, branding, invitations, etc. I'm game for anything.), blogging more regularly, and just generally making a go of it as a freelancer again. You are my network, so if you think of something you think I'd be perfect for, let me know! Sky's the limit.

But second, I wanted to just point you to an amazing non-profit doing on-the-ground work in a local church context. Every well we dig, every girl who is rescued from the red light district, every child who is fed—all this happens in connection to the local church in India and north Texas. We believe the gospel is the hope of every person and the most effective way to give the gospel to someone is to meet their felt need and connect them with people who will walk with them. If you're looking for a place to invest your time, finances, or resources, consider Sower of Seeds International Ministries. There's nothing in that for me. Just want to leave this place commending them and recommending them to you.

Here's a short sample of one thing we get to do:

Thanks for indulging in this little post about me.