Saturday, July 21, 2007

A Church Called Graffiti by Taylor Field

An editor friend of mine gave me a copy of this book. We had been sharing stories and recommending all kinds of favorite books to each other, like the graphic novel Blankets and Blue Like Jazz. He told me about Taylor Field's A Church Called Graffiti and I was so taken by the book's concept that I asked my friend if he would get me a copy. It's a memoir-in-progress of a midwestern Pastor and his family who moved to Manhattan's Lower East Side to serve at a mission for the poor and homeless in Alphabet City. (Yes, "Alphabet City" is completely Old School. I still like that name though the area likes to call itself "The East Village" now. LOL)

Gosh, I've read this book three times already. It still makes me cry.

You have to understand why it does; I was born and raised in NYC. It brings up memories. I was one of the VERY few kids in the neighborhood that went to church after we had celebrated our Confirmation. I was one of even fewer that went to church during Junior High and High School. Going to church was just the thing we did as a family. This book and these people are just so vivid to me.

Back in NYC, whenever I had the chance to talk about God and church with co-workers or freelancers -- which I always enjoyed doing and we generally always kept light -- I met many who used to go to church when they were younger, but who had stopped attending. Usually they stopped because they had experienced some incredibly stupid incident at their church (or in their own family because of church) that turned them off to the whole concept of going. This always made me sad to find out, because then attending church was not about their personal relationship with God and about developing their spiritual life and soul. Church instead was just a social place where some idiot could impose erroneous behavior upon the others and chase them all away. It just didn't seem fair to me mean people could do this to nice people. These were all people we'd all consider "good" people. They are all smart, hardworking, kind-hearted. Friendly. Family-oriented. They help out. They just chose not to go to church.

Because I had lived through a similar incident (ie., dealing with stupid church people making stupid impositions where they then chased the congregation away. And that church building actually closed down eventually, btw). I understood where they were all coming from.

After going through that same kind of thing myself I finally found my way to places I truly considered my home churches. Though I have to admit it took something like 10 years before that happened, and that includes a very long period of not attending any church. When I finally knew I had to go find a church, it took praying and visiting many to find "home". In my heart also KNEW church HAD to be more than "sit stand kneel/sit stand kneel" for one hour every week like it was in one denomination. Church HAD to be more than just "women can't wear pants, men can't wear beards" and etc,. like was imposed in another denomination. But even with that I stayed at those, because that's where I belonged to just then.

Church for me went beyond the mere annoying people sometimes around me. (I mean, you have to put up with annoying people at work, right? You don't quit work just because someone pissed you off one day. There are recourses for that when you're an employee. Avoiding the annoying as much as possible can work.)

Church to me, really, is the prayer groups. Church is the singing. Church is the focusing in on God and figuring out where we are going spiritually this week. Church is hearing the Word of God. Church is the meetings to encourage each other and hang out and discuss stuff. Church is feeding the homeless. Church is helping with or teaching at Sunday school. Church is getting clothes to the needy and helping them get jobs and giving them haircuts and seeing them get out of the hole they had fallen into. Church is uplifting. Church is people. And church is so much more bigger than just the annoying people. A Church Called Graffiti so exactly shows you what I think church really is like, it's hard not to cry when I read it.

When I read A Church Called Graffiti, I felt like how I did when I read Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller or The Body Broken by Robert Benson: Church to me IS all this like Field writes about in his book. It's about the people and the journey. How God loves the details of our lives. It's not about who wore the cutest dress or seeing whether what's-his-name could make it to service after their unfortunate Saturday night binge. It's not about being bored in the pew and hoping you can beat church traffic and get back in time for the game.

Church is about people and going forward together to make this life a little more bearable for all of us.

I love this book. This book makes me cry.

What is True Freedom?

It seems like certain people love the ability to indulge themselves to excesses ... and this is what "our society at large" seems to gives the impression of. That Americans indulge themselves too much ... and somehow true freedom has morphed into the freedom to hurt yourself (and others as it ripples out from there).

For all the spirituality chasing-after we also seem to do as a society at large, we somehow still manage to stop seeing the spiritual connections in our own day-to-day minutiae after a certain point. As if it were all just too much work to really consider your own spirit moments and connection to God just as you walk down the street.

The overindulgence - and - freedom to hurt oneself attitude is such a painful way to do things, not to mention the results of some of these behaviors are costly on so many levels -- literally, physically and financially, then on the whole emotional/mental scar anguish that takes so much time to heal.

I think true freedom means acknowledging certain things definitely have the capacity of hurting us. When we know that of ourselves and of certain things, then we now have the freedom to say 'no' to those things, and not indulge in and practice them. Yes, that actually means telling some of our friends "no". Sadly this is also sometimes when you figure out who your real friends are, too.When we move into that place of seeing what hurts us and saying 'no' to them, we get to a whole new level of character and maturity.

I think this is what some people usually TRY to call "growing up"; only I also think some people have mistaken "growing up" with becoming dry and boring, which is not the case at all!

I barely knew my grandparents. I know I am missing a bit of continuity in my life from that lack of knowledge --- from that unfamiliarity with the continuance and treasuring of the family line and etc., I know in some homes some people use 'family' as a stranglehold to dominate the futures of some in their line; but I am not talking about families gone wrong. I am talking about the simplicity of knowing that we get born, we grow up, we go through life-phases and each phase has a preciousness to it that we are not even treasuring for what enjoyment they are. People get so caught up and so busy chasing after what they DON'T have, they don't ever get to enjoy the phase they're IN to the fullest. It's nutty. (I've done it myself. I know.)

I wonder what it would like if we can be honest and share with each other what happens as we get older .. how our points of view can expand from what we've learned from what we've done in the past, and if we help each other to just expectantly enjoy the process of maturing and growing up. How growing up, maturing and -- gasp! -- aging can be such an amazing growth of character and an incredible journey of becoming and being a person.

People age. It happens. Why can't we appreciate all the ages we as people live through? Why can't we treasure that in each other, or at least respect that in each other?

This is where character comes from. Strength of character to know oneself and to know what is a kinder, gentler approach to doing things.

I think this is what I like about many of our Nashville leaders. They are men and women of character. And when any fail for any reason, they even have had character enough to step down. And those who can stay strong, know that the leadership position they hold is for the greater good of the city.

Gosh, we have a mayor to vote for next month, you know.

Yes, I'm being optimistic and hopeful and encouraging and dreaming and looking for a better and even brighter future for Nashville; a city filled with men and women of great character and love for their neighbor. Of course I look for this. I am an artist. It's part of my job. :)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Oh Yeah. Art!

Not having a car at my disposal makes me less inclined to go visiting my usual favorite galleries (read "favorites" as those easy to get to by bus and get picked up by hubby in car afterwards: like Gallery One, LeQuire (they have new classes!), The Palette Gallery and Cafe (they open at noon for the summer!), Zeitgeist, Richland, Midtown, TAG, and Arts Company) But frankly, Nashville is really so very sprawling, it's exhausting. Walking and taking the bus to visit even one location can take a good chunk of the day. And in this heat ...! Oh boy.

So I didn't get to mention, the one show I did get to see on one of very few (only?) jaunts this past Spring (last April!) was the Mook & Fudge show over at TAG. This was fun and featured pen and ink works by Mel Kadel and Travis Millard. Kadel's work had very fine detail that reminded me of childrens' book art. Millard had a odd comics quality I really enjoyed (HEY! he DOES have a comics website!), my favorite piece actually appeared on the postcard for the show; the face of "Double Dude" a man/bat fella looking out at us, complete with word balloon. Creepy and fascinating! They even sold what looked just like mini-comics (others also call these chap books or small books) featuring their work. I liked this show very much.

I do regret missing Sarah La's show at Zeitgeist, (I was in the neighborhood two days late!! ARGH.) since I was interested in seeing her paintings live. The work on her website is already gorgeous, and saw she would also sometimes feature her works in progress on her LiveJournal blog. I wanted to see whether one particular painting she had showed us in progress had made the show ...

I also -- regrettably -- missed Lori Putnam's show over at the Belle Meade Plantation Gallery. Lori is another one of my favorite local painters. I was hoping to take the opportunity to visit and FIND the gallery in the first place but did not get there in time (have visited since and it looks like the gallery is a section within their excellent shop) . Lori just recently taught a Plein-Air painting class over in Italy (tell me that doesn't sound heavenly!)

Happily, I just got info that Lori is having a show at Centennial Park in August, so I have another chance to see her new work and soon. She will be featured along with Brenda Stein's fine woodturning and Gayle Levee's classic realism paintings. So let me share this info with you --

The will be an Opening Reception for them on Friday, August 10 from 5 -7 pm. The show runs August 10 -30, 2007. The Centennial Art Center is located on 25th Avenue North and Park Plaza corner, just inside Centennial Park. The center is usually open from 10 to 5 from Tuesday through Saturdays.

Abstract painter Edie Maney has a new website. YAY! (I can't stress enough how important it is in this day and age to maintain even just the simpest of websites if you're working in art professionally.)

Metalsmith Ben Caldwell is holding a lecture at the LeQuire gallery (tomorrow) Thursday night, July 19th. He was recently featured on Tennessee Crossroads. He makes incredible works in metal -- and many items are also practical home things.

When my best friends to visited us last month, we were able to drive over and see the Ruthie Cherry Fine Art Gallery over at the Loveless Cafe complex. (Make sure you stop by and check out the lovely pottery and jewelry there at Shimai.)

There is so much more to do ...