Heading home [sharing at Art House America this week]

read the whole article at Art House America

“When you arrive at a fork in the road, take it.” 
—Yogi Berra

My dad loves baseball. From as far back as I can remember, he’s been a Yankees fan. He tells me he was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan until they broke his heart and moved to the West Coast. That was the 1950s and long before I knew him. His grandfather was a Yankees fan, and his parents are Yankees fans. Naturally, the man I chose to marry is a Yankees fan. But I don’t really remember anything about the Yankees before their comeback year of 1996. With a new manager, Joe Torre, who had never won a championship in his thirty-two-year career as both a player and a manager, the Bronx bombers began to live up to their pinstripe glory once again, winning their first world series since 1978. We followed every single game.

We didn’t own a television in 1996. When our third child was born in March, a few weeks before baseball spring training and a couple months before my husband completed his bachelor's degree in education, we were paying our bills with his substitute teacher income. We had no health insurance, no vacation time or sick pay, and made ends meet by picking up extra work cleaning houses. We’d put all our hopes in a college degree landing him a teaching job in the fall. Evenings in our second-floor apartment, after we put our two sons to bed, we’d tune into the game on our radio. While I sat on our hand-me-down sofa to nurse my daughter, Brian sat across the room writing résumés on our clunky IBM personal computer. It doesn’t take a therapist to figure out that we’d associated our own underdog story to the scrappy team fighting for a win, night after night, a couple hours south of us in the Bronx. 

The 1996 season introduced Yankees fans to Joe Girardi (catcher), Derek Jeter (shortstop), and Mariano Rivera (relief pitcher), among others. It’s the season we rooted for Darryl Strawberry to rise above his drug history, and he did. We worried about pitcher David Cone’s surgery to remove an aneurysm and rallied behind him when he promised to come back by the end of the season. And he did—in time to pitch a winning game in the World Series. It’s the year I discovered the joy of befriending radio announcers John Sterling and Michael Kay. Even though I’d never meet them in person, they felt like guests sitting in our living room, passing the time with warm conversation for hours each evening. We began to relish the ritual of sportscasting, loving each Yankee home run not only for the score, but also for John Sterling’s patent call: “It is high! It is far! It is gone!” Over time, he would embellish his trademark home-run call with wordplay for each player’s name. Center fielder Bernie Williams hits a run, it’s “Bern, baby, Bern!” from the announcer’s booth; first baseman Tino Martinez cracks one over the fence, “It’s the BamTino!” and so forth.  

After a long, uncertain summer, we celebrated our team’s October World Series win almost as raucously as we’d celebrated the teaching job Brian received in September. We earned a salary, and the Yankees earned a championship.

Fast forward nearly twenty years, most of our circumstances had changed. ...

read the whole article at Art House America


BONUS FEATURES: 2 extra deleted "chapters" that include my own very humbling unsportsmanlike behavior + a whole bunch of cute photos of my kids repping the Yankees over the years

“Little League baseball is a very good thing because it keeps the parents off the streets.” -- Yogi Berra

My Dad played baseball through high school and college. By all accounts - mostly his and a couple of yellowed news blurbs clipped from the paper - he was a pretty good player. Naturally, he’s never given up hope that one of his 6 kids and 18 grandchildren might take up the sport with the same fervor. As the oldest child, I did my part in disappointing this fatherly wish with a couple of seasons of town softball. I recall these years in snatches of terror and embarrassment. Somehow, I never quite understood what was expected of me as an outfielder (wayyyy out in the field) my few times off the bench. As far as my stats at the plate, I ask you: Is there anything more humiliating than swinging a big stick at the air? The answer is no, no there isn’t. I fared slightly better on the school soccer team, not because I was any more talented, but because I could at least run around a lot between the goal and half field, and make it appear I had what my Dad called “hustle”. Although, I have a clear memory of a burly coach yelling in my direction while our team ran laps, “Hill! Can’t you make your stride any longer?!?” By that time, I’d already reached my adult height of 5’2”, and felt my stride was doing its part adequately.

During the springtime of the town league softball games, a kind, older cousin showed mercy on me, teaching me how to V my thumb, fore, and middle fingers along the leather stitching of a baseball, cupping the ball just so, and then releasing it in the generally correct direction. As far as I can remember, no one even attempted to address my incompetence with a glove.

When our own four kids were of the age for town sports, they each took a turn at T-ball, softball, or Pony League. One son got as far as relief pitching, but he quickly realized it felt like stress instead of fun, and he took up the guitar instead. All my kids leaned toward artistic, rather than athletic, pursuits. While our neighbors were schlepping their kids to the ball field, ours were making a holy rock’n roll raucous in the basement, instead. This was a development that rather pleased me - even if it was noisy.

Still, we kept up with the Yankees. Not playing baseball in the spring actually gave us more time to enjoy watching and listening to each game. We began a family tradition of giving each of our kids their own first trip to see a live game in the house that (Babe) Ruth built. We took our oldest son when he was only 5 years old, and it’s one of our happiest memories. We spent the day sightseeing the city as far as his little legs would carry him, stopping only to crane his neck upward to take in the skyscrapers. One photograph captured the image of of Brian and Andrew staring up at the Twin Towers. In the evening we sat through all nine-innings of the 1996 Yankees. Andrew’s inagural stadium trip coincided with Derek Jeter’s rookie year.

The photo I’ve kept of our second son is a close up from nosebleed seats. He’s smiling at the camera, waiting for the game to start, miniature Yankees cap shoved down on his head so far his ears are jutting out either side of his face. A little over a decade later, he and Brian would attend the final game of the 2009 World Series in the Yankees new stadium. They’d watch the home team beat the Philadelphia Phillies 7-3, and win one last title for the "core four" of Pettitte, Posada, Rivera and Derek Jeter. Alex would cheer as gently as possible because he was suffering a tooth infection, and was scheduled for a root canal the following morning. If you asked him, he’d still say it was totally worth it.

On one of our daughter Kendra’s first trips to the stadium she’d get the thrill of a player, Ramiro Mendoza, handing her a baseball after batting practice. She’d lisp “thank you” through her missing teeth, and later give the ball to her Dad as a Father’s Day gift. It now enjoys a treasured spot on the bookshelf in his office.

Natalie, as sometimes happens with a youngest child, would wait until she was a bit older to visit the stadium, and she wouldn’t be by herself. Our whole family would be with her, because a kind church friend gave us free tickets. But we managed to get a photo of her, cheering from the railing of our upper deck seats, taking in Brett Gardner’s first hit and first RBI in the seventh inning. Gardner went on to steal second and eventually score in that inning.

This year, the 2017 season that Natalie is living back home with us, Brett Gardner is a much-needed veteran on a team of new kids, known affectionately as the Baby Bombers. Now that we live about an hour north of the Bronx, Natalie and Brian have been to the stadium three times together this season. Thanks to generous church friends, again, she’s enjoyed great seats - most notably along the right field line within shouting distance of #99, right-fielder Aaron Judge. At that game she made it to the jumbotron, with her giant, hand-letter sign, “I’ve got 99 problems, but A. Judge isn’t one!” The home-run-derby king’s gathered a huge fan club this  year, but I’m positive none more earnest than my daughter. He should be so lucky.

“It ain't the heat, it's the humility.” -- Yogi Berra

I’m a fairweather stadium attender, myself. I mean that literally. The older I get, the more comfortable I am insisting on my own comfort, and, in my book, that includes forgoing the experience of sitting thigh-bone to sweaty thigh-bone with over 50,000 people stewing in stale beer underneath the blazing sun. I no longer feel the need to physically suffer for the love of the game.

I’d like to blame the physical discomfort of a hot, crowded stadium for one of the most epic moments of my own humility, but the truth is the weather was decent that night, and we were only sitting in our town’s double-A minor league stadium, which at capacity seats only 6,000 people. And that night we were not even close to capacity, but I was feeling clausterphobic anyway.

Here, let my son tell you in his own words (the ones he wrote for a senior-year Public Speaking class. Lord, have mercy.)

"Baseball game are rarely fun when you're sitting near drunks. That was the situation I was put in about five years ago at a Binghamton Mets game. Behind us where the drunks; in front of us were the smokers.

The drunks were mad at the smokers for smoking. They said their kids -- John, Ashley, and you know, what's-her-face (they couldn't remember because they were so drunk) -- were crying and scared because the smoke from their cigarettes were drifting upwards towards their row.

This was obnoxious to me because the drunks were obviously looking for controversy for controversy's sake. It was also obnoxious that the smokers were fighting back. They weren't drunk, and they should've had the common sense to just move up to the dozens of empty rows in front of them. It's a B-Mets game, after all. There are going to be empty seats.

The person who broke up the tiring feud was my mother. She looked back, and I swear the second before her mouth opened I could see lightning strike behind her profile. She screamed 'Shut Up!' at the drunk parents, whose little kids were now crying only because the adults were so angry at each other. She was so scary that the two rows ceased their arguments.

A couple of fighters on each side ended up speaking to each other, just stubbornly apologizing for their pointless fight. My brother and I actually spoke to each other because we could finally hear each other without all the shouting. And no one, absolutely NO ONE, spoke to my mother. And I have a feeling she was okay with that."

Brian helps Natalie ready for her catcher position in town softball.

Brian helps Natalie ready for her catcher position in town softball.

A Yankees game in 2008, Natlie's watching Brett Gardner's first hit for the Yankees.

A Yankees game in 2008, Natlie's watching Brett Gardner's first hit for the Yankees.

Brian & Alex catch the Yankees in Houston (where Alex was in college). It was Mariano Rivera's last game, 2015.

Brian & Alex catch the Yankees in Houston (where Alex was in college). It was Mariano Rivera's last game, 2015.

Alex, age 4, sporting his first Yankees cap, Christmas 1997. (That's Kendra, 21 months old, and Grandma Meacham - Brian's mom, reading the book.)

Alex, age 4, sporting his first Yankees cap, Christmas 1997. (That's Kendra, 21 months old, and Grandma Meacham - Brian's mom, reading the book.)

Alex's (age 4) first Yankees game, summer 1998.

Alex's (age 4) first Yankees game, summer 1998.

Andrew's first trip to NYC and his first Yankees game (summer 1996)

Andrew's first trip to NYC and his first Yankees game (summer 1996)

Kendra!

Kendra!

Brian and Natalie (age 19) at Yankees Stadium, June 2017.

Brian and Natalie (age 19) at Yankees Stadium, June 2017.

Heading home [sharing at Art House America this week]

read the whole article at Art House America

“When you arrive at a fork in the road, take it.” 
—Yogi Berra

My dad loves baseball. From as far back as I can remember, he’s been a Yankees fan. He tells me he was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan until they broke his heart and moved to the West Coast. That was the 1950s and long before I knew him. His grandfather was a Yankees fan, and his parents are Yankees fans. Naturally, the man I chose to marry is a Yankees fan. But I don’t really remember anything about the Yankees before their comeback year of 1996. With a new manager, Joe Torre, who had never won a championship in his thirty-two-year career as both a player and a manager, the Bronx bombers began to live up to their pinstripe glory once again, winning their first world series since 1978. We followed every single game.

We didn’t own a television in 1996. When our third child was born in March, a few weeks before baseball spring training and a couple months before my husband completed his bachelor's degree in education, we were paying our bills with his substitute teacher income. We had no health insurance, no vacation time or sick pay, and made ends meet by picking up extra work cleaning houses. We’d put all our hopes in a college degree landing him a teaching job in the fall. Evenings in our second-floor apartment, after we put our two sons to bed, we’d tune into the game on our radio. While I sat on our hand-me-down sofa to nurse my daughter, Brian sat across the room writing résumés on our clunky IBM personal computer. It doesn’t take a therapist to figure out that we’d associated our own underdog story to the scrappy team fighting for a win, night after night, a couple hours south of us in the Bronx. 

The 1996 season introduced Yankees fans to Joe Girardi (catcher), Derek Jeter (shortstop), and Mariano Rivera (relief pitcher), among others. It’s the season we rooted for Darryl Strawberry to rise above his drug history, and he did. We worried about pitcher David Cone’s surgery to remove an aneurysm and rallied behind him when he promised to come back by the end of the season. And he did—in time to pitch a winning game in the World Series. It’s the year I discovered the joy of befriending radio announcers John Sterling and Michael Kay. Even though I’d never meet them in person, they felt like guests sitting in our living room, passing the time with warm conversation for hours each evening. We began to relish the ritual of sportscasting, loving each Yankee home run not only for the score, but also for John Sterling’s patent call: “It is high! It is far! It is gone!” Over time, he would embellish his trademark home-run call with wordplay for each player’s name. Center fielder Bernie Williams hits a run, it’s “Bern, baby, Bern!” from the announcer’s booth; first baseman Tino Martinez cracks one over the fence, “It’s the BamTino!” and so forth.  

After a long, uncertain summer, we celebrated our team’s October World Series win almost as raucously as we’d celebrated the teaching job Brian received in September. We earned a salary, and the Yankees earned a championship.

Fast forward nearly twenty years, most of our circumstances had changed. ...

read the whole article at Art House America


BONUS FEATURES: 2 extra deleted "chapters" that include my own very humbling unsportsmanlike behavior + a whole bunch of cute photos of my kids repping the Yankees over the years

“Little League baseball is a very good thing because it keeps the parents off the streets.” -- Yogi Berra

My Dad played baseball through high school and college. By all accounts - mostly his and a couple of yellowed news blurbs clipped from the paper - he was a pretty good player. Naturally, he’s never given up hope that one of his 6 kids and 18 grandchildren might take up the sport with the same fervor. As the oldest child, I did my part in disappointing this fatherly wish with a couple of seasons of town softball. I recall these years in snatches of terror and embarrassment. Somehow, I never quite understood what was expected of me as an outfielder (wayyyy out in the field) my few times off the bench. As far as my stats at the plate, I ask you: Is there anything more humiliating than swinging a big stick at the air? The answer is no, no there isn’t. I fared slightly better on the school soccer team, not because I was any more talented, but because I could at least run around a lot between the goal and half field, and make it appear I had what my Dad called “hustle”. Although, I have a clear memory of a burly coach yelling in my direction while our team ran laps, “Hill! Can’t you make your stride any longer?!?” By that time, I’d already reached my adult height of 5’2”, and felt my stride was doing its part adequately.

During the springtime of the town league softball games, a kind, older cousin showed mercy on me, teaching me how to V my thumb, fore, and middle fingers along the leather stitching of a baseball, cupping the ball just so, and then releasing it in the generally correct direction. As far as I can remember, no one even attempted to address my incompetence with a glove.

When our own four kids were of the age for town sports, they each took a turn at T-ball, softball, or Pony League. One son got as far as relief pitching, but he quickly realized it felt like stress instead of fun, and he took up the guitar instead. All my kids leaned toward artistic, rather than athletic, pursuits. While our neighbors were schlepping their kids to the ball field, ours were making a holy rock’n roll raucous in the basement, instead. This was a development that rather pleased me - even if it was noisy.

Still, we kept up with the Yankees. Not playing baseball in the spring actually gave us more time to enjoy watching and listening to each game. We began a family tradition of giving each of our kids their own first trip to see a live game in the house that (Babe) Ruth built. We took our oldest son when he was only 5 years old, and it’s one of our happiest memories. We spent the day sightseeing the city as far as his little legs would carry him, stopping only to crane his neck upward to take in the skyscrapers. One photograph captured the image of of Brian and Andrew staring up at the Twin Towers. In the evening we sat through all nine-innings of the 1996 Yankees. Andrew’s inagural stadium trip coincided with Derek Jeter’s rookie year. The photo I’ve kept of our second son is a close up from nosebleed seats. He’s smiling at the camera, waiting for the game to start, miniature Yankees cap shoved down on his head so far his ears are jutting out either side of his face. A little over a decade later, he and Brian would attend the final game of the 2009 World Series in the Yankees new stadium. They’d watch the home team beat the Philadelphia Phillies 7-3, and win one last title for the "core four" of Pettitte, Posada, Rivera and Derek Jeter. Alex would cheer as gently as possible because he was suffering a tooth infection, and was scheduled for a root canal the following morning. If you asked him, he’d still say it was totally worth it.

On one of our daughter Kendra’s first trips to the stadium she’d get the thrill of a player, Ramiro Mendoza, handing her a baseball after batting practice. She’d lisp “thank you” through her missing teeth, and later give the ball to her Dad as a Father’s Day gift. It now enjoys a treasured spot on the bookshelf in his office.

Natalie, as sometimes happens with a youngest child, would wait until she was a bit older to visit the stadium, and she wouldn’t be by herself. Our whole family would be with her, because a kind church friend gave us free tickets. But we managed to get a photo of her, cheering from the railing of our upper deck seats, taking in Brett Gardner’s first hit and first RBI in the seventh inning. Gardner went on to steal second and eventually score in that inning.

This year, the 2017 season that Natalie is living back home with us, Brett Gardner is a much-needed veteran on a team of new kids, known affectionately as the Baby Bombers. Now that we live about an hour north of the Bronx, Natalie and Brian have been to the stadium three times together this season. Thanks to generous church friends, again, she’s enjoyed great seats - most notably along the right field line within shouting distance of #99, right-fielder Aaron Judge. At that game she made it to the jumbotron, with her giant, hand-letter sign, “I’ve got 99 problems, but A. Judge isn’t one!” The home-run-derby king’s gathered a huge fan club this  year, but I’m positive none more earnest than my daughter. He should be so lucky.

“It ain't the heat, it's the humility.” -- Yogi Berra

I’m a fairweather stadium attender, myself. I mean that literally. The older I get, the more comfortable I am insisting on my own comfort, and, in my book, that includes forgoing the experience of sitting thigh-bone to sweaty thigh-bone with over 50,000 people stewing in stale beer underneath the blazing sun. I no longer feel the need to physically suffer for the love of the game.

I’d like to blame the physical discomfort of a hot, crowded stadium for one of the most epic moments of my own humility, but the truth is the weather was decent that night, and we were only sitting in our town’s double-A minor league stadium, which at capacity seats only 6,000 people. And that night we were not even close to capacity, but I was feeling clausterphobic anyway.

Here, let my son tell you in his own words (the ones he wrote for a senior-year Public Speaking class. Lord, have mercy.)

"Baseball game are rarely fun when you're sitting near drunks. That was the situation I was put in about five years ago at a Binghamton Mets game. Behind us where the drunks; in front of us were the smokers.

The drunks were mad at the smokers for smoking. They said their kids -- John, Ashley, and you know, what's-her-face (they couldn't remember because they were so drunk) -- were crying and scared because the smoke from their cigarettes were drifting upwards towards their row.

This was obnoxious to me because the drunks were obviously looking for controversy for controversy's sake. It was also obnoxious that the smokers were fighting back. They weren't drunk, and they should've had the common sense to just move up to the dozens of empty rows in front of them. It's a B-Mets game, after all. There are going to be empty seats.

The person who broke up the tiring feud was my mother. She looked back, and I swear the second before her mouth opened I could see lightning strike behind her profile. She screamed 'Shut Up!' at the drunk parents, whose little kids were now crying only because the adults were so angry at each other. She was so scary that the two rows ceased their arguments.

A couple of fighters on each side ended up speaking to each other, just stubbornly apologizing for their pointless fight. My brother and I actually spoke to each other because we could finally hear each other without all the shouting. And no one, absolutely NO ONE, spoke to my mother. And I have a feeling she was okay with that."

Brian helps Natalie ready for her catcher position in town softball.

Brian helps Natalie ready for her catcher position in town softball.

A Yankees game in 2008, Natlie's watching Brett Gardner's first hit for the Yankees.

A Yankees game in 2008, Natlie's watching Brett Gardner's first hit for the Yankees.

Brian & Alex catch the Yankees in Houston (where Alex was in college). It was Mariano Rivera's last game, 2015.

Brian & Alex catch the Yankees in Houston (where Alex was in college). It was Mariano Rivera's last game, 2015.

Alex, age 4, sporting his first Yankees cap, Christmas 1997. (That's Kendra, 21 months old, and Grandma Meacham - Brian's mom, reading the book.)

Alex, age 4, sporting his first Yankees cap, Christmas 1997. (That's Kendra, 21 months old, and Grandma Meacham - Brian's mom, reading the book.)

Alex's (age 4) first Yankees game, summer 1998.

Alex's (age 4) first Yankees game, summer 1998.

Andrew's first trip to NYC and his first Yankees game (summer 1996)

Andrew's first trip to NYC and his first Yankees game (summer 1996)

Kendra!

Kendra!

Brian and Natalie (age 19) at Yankees Stadium, June 2017.

Brian and Natalie (age 19) at Yankees Stadium, June 2017.

7 quick & cozy takes

What I've been up to lately: places, people, books, podcasts, music, links & more for your weekend downtime.

(1) new album I'm listening to on repeat (It's that good!)

Work Songs: The Porter's Gate Worship Project Vol. 1

In June of 2017, musicians, pastors, writers, and scholars from around the country gathered together in NYC to collaborate on a series of worship songs for a new worship record themed around faith and vocation.  

The live worship album features over a dozen artists, including Audrey Assad, Josh Garrels, David Gungor, Liz Vice and Urban Doxology.


(2) music videos I can't stop watching

You can watch music videos for several of the tracks on the Work Songs album. (See them all here.)

1. This one, featuring Josh Garrells, is by far one of my favorite. Everything about it is beautiful.

 

2. This video of Baltimore’s Cardinal Shehan School’s choir singing Andra Day’s song “Rise Up” went viral. You’ll want to turn the sound up on this one. (Thanks to my friend, Carol, for sharing this on FB.)


(3) podcasts I enjoyed this week

I promise that I listen to witty, lighthearted, and trivial podcasts, also. (Like this one, for instance, in which I hope one of my kids will get the same idea and feature me on their own podcast someday.) The weightier ones just happen to catch my attention at a more meaningful level.

  1. On Being with Krista Tippett: Tech's Moral Reckoning - Anil Dash
  2. Cultivated Podcast: Andy Crouch - part 1, part 2
  3. Q Podcast: Refugee Children - Rich Stearns and Khalil Sleiman

(4) books blog readers recommended to me in response to my post about my favorite art & faith reads

Here's the original post: My top 14 favorite art & faith books

I haven't read any of the following, and a couple I haven't even heard of before now. Adding these to my TBR list.

  1. Echoes of Eden: Reflections on Christianity, Literature, and the Arts by Jerram Barrs
  2. Gray Matters by Brett McCracken
  3. Saving Leonardo: A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals, and Meaning by Nancy Pearcey
  4. The Stories We Tell: How TV and Movies Long For and Echo the Truth by Mike Cosper (which reminds me I've been meaning to read Movies Are Prayers: How Films Voice Our Deepest Longings by Josh Larsen)

(5) fall-type movies we love

Apparently you either need to be about sports or Meg Ryan to make it into this category. Best watched with popcorn.

  1. When Harry Met Sally
  2. Remember the Titans
  3. You've Got Mail
  4. Dead Poets Society
  5. Hoosiers

What would you add to this list?


(6) Photos from our new home

Every once in a while I participate in one of those photo-a-day challenges. Sometimes the challenge is of my own making, like the #WhatISeeWhenIPray series of photos I've posted on Instagram as @a_sacramental_life . This month I'm following a challenge someone else made, #MyCozyFallHome with @thenester.

These photos are probably not very interesting to many of you, but just in case you love snooping in on other people's houses like I do, here's a few snapshots of how the Loft is shaping up. 


(7) blog posts from the archives

2016 - You Are Here to Kneel [for Art House America blog] (That time I got in trouble with a monk - more than once!)

2013 - Road Rage [a mini story] (That time I embarrassed myself in Austin traffic.)

2012 - How to Keep Your Kids From Reading Too Many Bible Verses [Parenting Unrehearsed] - (Including that time I really messed up when listening to my son's music.)

2011 - Bookish Rebellion (The time(s) I got in trouble because of the library.)

2010 - Top 10 Movies to Watch On a Rainy Day (One of my favorite guest posts from my son Andrew.)

2009 - Art-making For the Children's Sake (From my other life as a worship and arts director.)

2008 - Art Show on Main (Sometimes it's hard to believe this part of my life ever happened. It was a lot of work, and so rewarding!)


May your weekend include something as lovely as a bowl of soup, a bonfire, and a good laugh, friends. Peace...

p.s. This post may contain affiliate links because I'm trying to be a good steward, and when you buy something through one of these links you don't pay more money, but in some magical twist of capitalism we get a little pocket change. Thanks!

Seven-Quick-Takes-300x300.jpg

My top 14 favorite art & faith books

A few weeks ago, a friend and I were talking about one of my favorite subjects. Sitting on her back deck, bundled in blankets against some especially cool September breezes, sipping herbal tea, we stumbled into the conversation about writing. The conversation quickly shifted - as tends to happen - to what it means to make time for writing even without sensing inspiration. And how it sometimes is guilt-inducing to put time into something that's not "productive" in the technical sense. 

It's hard to believe how long I've gone without this kind of conversation since it represents some of the most life-changing learnings of my whole life.

This is a list of books that I've either read or referenced, and have found important to the overall conversation about the role of art in our walk of faith, particularly for those who make art or minister to artists.

 

Breath for the Bones: Art, Imagination, and Spirit: A Reflection on Creativity and Faith by Luci Shaw || I wrote a short review here.

Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling by Andy Crouch || This book is on my top 15 from the past 15 years list. I wrote about hearing Andy Crouch talk about the subject here

Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles and Ted Orland || Another game changer. You can read the review here.

For the Beauty of the Church: Casting a Vision for the Arts by W. David O. Taylor || Another book that changed my life. You can read a bit about that here. If you scroll through these posts, you'll also find that I wrote a blog post for each chapter here.

Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art by Madeleine L'Engle || I read this book shortly before I started blogging, and am surprised to discover I've never written a review. You can kind of view the last 11 years of blogging as a response.

The Christian Imagination: The Practice of Faith in Literature and Writing edited by Leland Ryken || This might be the first book I read with the intention of learning how to be an artist of faith, a couple of years before I started this blog. As such I don't have an archived review, but this post has an excerpt.

Imagine: A Vision for Christians in the Arts by Steve Turner || This post includes an excerpt.

Scribbling in the Sand: Christ and Creativity by Michael Card || You can read a reflection and a couple of excerpts from this book here.

Refractions: A Journey of Faith, Art, and Culture by Makoto Fujimura

Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer's Life by Kathleen Norris || I've reflected on this book in several posts, but here's the mini-review I wrote just after reading it.

Art and the Bible by Francis Schaeffer

The Mind of the Maker by Dorothy L. Sayers

The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron

The Habit of Being: The Letters of Flannery O'Connor | This is more about the way Ms. O'Connor integrated her own faith with her work as a writer, but I think what she has to say is important for all artists of faith to consider. I wrote a review here.

 

What books about art and faith would you recommend? 

p.s. This post contains affiliate links because I'm trying to be a good steward, and when you buy something through one of these links you don't pay more money, but in some magical twist of capitalism we get a little pocket change. Thanks!

5 things I learned in September

Consider this a sort of "examen" for what I'm learning month-by-month - both the weighty lessons and the daily hilarities. 

September is, was, and always has been a somewhat stressful month. I assumed that would change when we no longer marked our lives by the school calendar. Nope. Granted, we moved in August which precipitated a ripple effect of undealt-with stressors, and included the most painful back experience of my life (including labor with four children). Still, there were plenty of milder moments of reflection, listening, and insight. 

Here's five discoveries from September:

Our Fort Worth kids sent a photo to let us know the cookies had arrived.

Our Fort Worth kids sent a photo to let us know the cookies had arrived.

1. Kids never outgrow first day of school cookies

My kids still want - no, expect - homemade cookies at the beginning of the school year. And some of them are no longer even in school (although, one of our sons is a school teacher, so that's kind of the same thing.)  If you've known me long enough, you know that only means one thing. What's round, and orangey, with chocolate dots all over?

Pumpkin chip cookies on the first day of school! 

Only now, the preparations include finding suitable shipping packages, racing to the post office asap after removing from the oven, and paying a small fortune in shipping. If it helps prop up my false claims at being a cookie-baking mother, it's totally worth it.


The original location of Stew Leonard's (in Norwalk). which is a chain of 5 supermarkets in Connecticut and New York State. Ripley's Believe It or Not! deemed "The World's Largest Dairy".

The original location of Stew Leonard's (in Norwalk). which is a chain of 5 supermarkets in Connecticut and New York State. Ripley's Believe It or Not! deemed "The World's Largest Dairy".

2. Stew Leonard's is worth the occasional drive for groceries

I've been hearing about this store since we moved to Connecticut 14 months ago. In September I happened to be driving nearby - close enough to stop in for a few minutes. What an experience! I need to go back when I'm not on a time-crunch (and, maybe, not during rush hour). I didn't even make it to the world-famous dairy section!


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3. Eleanor Roosevelt is a social and political hero, which is way better than being a first lady-lifestyle maven

In July some friends from Austin visited us, and on their way, stopped in Hyde Park to visit Eleanor and FDR's homes (now preserved as a part of our national park system.) Prompted by their description (maybe even, especially, by their elementary-aged kiddos' descriptions), I borrowed from the library Doris Kearns Goodwin's book, No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front During World War II. In September, my parents visited us, and we were looking for a couple of "touristy" things to do together. I was delighted when my mother suggested we travel to Hyde Park (approximately an hour and a half away from us). She and I enjoyed every moment touring both Eleanor's Val-Kill cottage (bonus: We learned that "Val-Kill" is a Dutch abbreviation for Valley Stream, which sounds so much lovelier than "Val-Kill", doesn't it?) as well as the main home, the Springwood mansion, technically owned by FDR's mother, Sara. So much of what I'd just read took on more meaning as we walked through the rooms still displaying the furniture (including a homemade wheelchair used by FDR after his tragic bout with polio). One aspect that was especially meaningful was the difference in formality between Sara's (the mother) mansion and Eleanor's (the wife) taste. The King and Queen of England and Senator JFK, among many other global political and civic leaders, were guests in Eleanor's simple, even somewhat plain, home and she managed to out-royalty most them, anyway. 


4. #BlackOut is another way to boycott the NFL

When I wrote a personal response to the controversy over NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem, I titled the post "Is boycotting the NFL another example of white flight? and 18 other questions I'm asking myself about the response to the #TakeAKnee protest"

For more perspective on the various responses, my daughter recommended I watch this clip of commentator Shannon Sharpe's critique of what he feels is a hypocritical response of the NFL to the President's comments about the #TakeAKnee protest in Alabama last week. 

This is what Natalie said about the clip:

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I also hadn't realized that there was already a boycotting movement to protest the way the NFL responded to Colin Kaepernick in the original protest. My friend Glorya told me about #BlackOut, a growing number of African Americans that are boycotting the NFL because of the organization's treatment of Colin Kaepernick and their implicit system of racism.

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Here is the video introducing the #BlackOut protest produced by several African-American pastors in Alabama. Here's a boycott I could get behind. (I love that there are 4 tiers to the protest which addresses so many layers of need.)


Bridgeport, CT area pastors in prayer for each other and their city.

Bridgeport, CT area pastors in prayer for each other and their city.

5. It is a good and beautiful gift to worship with churches of other denominations and cultures

In the 14 months we've lived in Fairfield County, Connecticut we could probably count on one hand the number of times anyone's had anything good to say about the city of Bridgeport. It's one of the state's largest cities with one of the nation's highest crime rates. When I'm talking to out-of-state friends about Bridgeport, I say "People talk about the city like the biblical question about Jesus' hometown, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" There's unemployment, poverty, and blight. In the way of all God's gifts, He led us (without our even realizing it) to move into a loft apartment inside a renovated factory in the south end of Bridgeport. Without our realizing it, God placed us directly across the street from a church whose pastor we'd had the privilege to meet on couple of different, important settings in our first year in CT.

During the last 10 days of September, this church, New Vision International Ministries, hosted a city-wide event, 10 Days of Prayer for Bridgeport. For 24-hours a day, for ten days straight, the sanctuary was open for prayer and worship with three concentrated services scheduled for each day. I attended a couple different evenings (literally walking out my door, across the street, into their door), unsure of what to expect in a church setting unfamiliar to my own experience in several ways. The discomfort didn't even last to the front door, as several greeters met me along the walk way and into the sanctuary with hugs and "God bless yous". I slipped into the center of room, without knowing anyone around me, and was swept into the fervency of the prayer and worship going on around me.  One time, on the day that Brian was scheduled for a 3-hour time slot as a pastoral prayer, I walked across the parking lot to meet him. A car drove in past me, and a little girl (like, maybe 5?) stuck her head out the window, a headful of braids blowing behind her, and called back toward me, "Peace!!"

Another time, during an evening service, the Holy Spirit impressed on my heart more deeply than ever God's commitment to make His name and truth known in power - with or without the help of the White American church. I responded with both lament (for all the ways White American Christians have let our brothers and sisters down) and with a substantial hope that caused me to intercede deeply for that congregation: "Lord, let the congregations of color in our country lead us closer to Your purposes." I was quite caught up in prayer and worship and, suddenly, felt someone's arms come around me. I opened my eyes and saw a teenage girl who'd earlier been sitting at the end of the row, hugging me and resting her head on my shoulder. I was so surprised I only thought to hug her back and say "Thank you, honey." A moment later she was gone from our row.  I don't know what any of that meant (maybe just that the congregation at New Visions is incredibly hospitable). But as I think back on it, in light of what the Holy Spirit was impressing on me in prayer, the story takes on an even deeper layer of meaning for me.

We're grateful for the beautiful welcome we received, and for the vibrant hope for healing and transformation within the church community of Bridgeport. Each night for those ten days, we headed into our apartment with the sounds of full-scale song from inside the church across the street blowing across the sea breeze of our neighborhood. It felt like we lived under a canopy of worship each day. Like the angels who are bowing and worshipping in God's presence night and day, whether we realize it or not.

We are hopeful for all the good to come out of Bridgeport and Fairfield County. Let it be so, dear God. 


Did you learn any lessons - lighthearted or weighty - during September? I'd love to hear about them in the comments!

(here's what some other folks are sharing)