Making Soup

I was part of an interesting discussion recently with staff members from various churches and denominational backgrounds on the subject of worship. Ultimately, we found ourselves discussing instrumental configurations, styles, song choices, form, and tradition all encapsulated by the topic, “what makes great worship?”

It soon occurred to me that what I was hearing sounded akin to a couple who when asked to describe true love responded with talking about their terrific sex life.

Not much about chasing one another around the kitchen requires truly loving devotion and not much about our “great worship” makes us true worshippers.

Back to the discussion with my friends, after I challenged the conversation with my somewhat base analogy they asked me in what context I viewed true worship.

After taking a moment I said, “Until we view things like making soup as an act of worship then we will never have a proper view of what it means to truly give God his worth with the daily parts of our lives and we will always feel as if we have to abdicate to the experts on Sunday to do it for us. We will have a very codependent relationship with experience if we lose site of the ordinary miracles in the moment. What the church needs to know is that when we lead worship it is we, the ‘worship leaders’ making our soup. We just happen to make our soup in front of a lot of people. My soup happens to include art, story, and music. You’re soup may be literally making a meal for a friend who is on her second round of chemo. The Sunday Soup was never meant to be THE soup.”

If the main thing that comes up when we talk about worship is how we do it then we are very much like the people mistaking love for how often they swing from the chandeliers together. If our view of worship is one that understands sacrifice and living a life that matters we are less likely to be satisfied with simply slurping down the soup that someone else serves up to us once a week hoping they season it to suit our own persnickety taste buds. Trust me, my Sunday Soup will never be so good that it will quench our need to glorify God in the unseen moments of our daily lives.

I understand that when a bunch of consumers come together and decide to call themselves a church, expressions of art, music, and story in worship will be a matter of specific taste (and even propriety in the opinions of some). However, the more we can see ourselves as part of a body of past, present, and future soup makers we can begin to embrace their various expressions and place less focus on our need to brand the soup.

Maybe it would be a good thing for our perspectives of worship and intimate relationships alike to step back from the hooha and just make soup together.

Story

As an artistic person I have often felt like I was going through life getting to sit at the grownup table at Thanksgiving, but not really belonging there.

Last week I had the privilege of being a part of a conference in Chicago called, STORY 2012. It is a group that celebrates people who are expressing their faith through a variety of creative pursuits. Film, music, authors, entertainment, design, and media were all represented in some form.

Anne Lamott passed along tidbits as basic as, “If you want to be a writer, you have to carry a pen. Get a pen. Steal a pen. But have a pen.” Erwin McManus shared his crisis of faith that led him out of vocational ministry and into filmmaking, fashion, and art. Phil Vischer, one of the main creators and voices of Veggie Tales recounted how his company tanking resulted in him seeking new ventures from a completely new vantage point spiritually. Others spoke about being a recovering person and how surrender changed the way they experience creativity.

Nearly every speaker shared how adversity, being thrust from their comfort zones, and simply feeling ill equipped to face the challenges that were put in front of them resulted in their greatest growth opportunities creatively, personally, and spiritually.

I could go on about how they completely repurposed the space or the art being produced in every nook and cranny of the building. They even had a breakout session entitled The Theology of Space (using space to communicate what you want people to experience together). Beyond all that was a prevailing message of hope, why we as artists need hope, what it means to create from a place of hope, and communicating what life looks like from where we sit as artists.

I came away with some clear applications.

1. Don’t wait for everyone to throw you a parade and give you permission to be who God uniquely created you to be. Embrace it. Celebrate it – and then live it!
2. If you are investing yourself in things that are killing you, stop it! Life is too unpredictably short to engage in things that are not bringing you life and allowing you to breathe life into those around you.
3. Ask! When you have an idea that needs to move to the next phase, ask! It never hurts to reach out to those with whom you might like to partner that you might otherwise assume to be unreachable. Someone somewhere knows how to accomplish the next thing. Find them.
4. Don’t try to make “Christian” art. Make art that reflects what God has done in your reality. Reflect the times you’ve experienced hope and the times you experienced complete doubt and despair, even if it is in the present tense.
5. Don’t try to write as if you are the Holy Spirit. He already has a book. Write from your reality!

Sometimes we creative types just need a good dose of one another to grease the wheels of our crafts. This was such a week.

Mercy Me

“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” ~Scott Adams (Creator – Dilbert Comic strip)

I’m told that a batting average of .300 (which in baseball is considered extremely high) means that a guy only gets a base hit about thirty percent of the times he’s at bat.

A medical professional recently told me that the reason medicine was called a “practice” is because it is comprised of “guesses based in scientific facts”. This revealed the medical arts to be much more inexact than I might like to think.

Richard Rohr, a Catholic mystic says that we come to God much more by doing it wrong than by doing it right.

The more maturely we look at failure the more we realize that we need it. Failure is the context in which we are reminded of our humanity and leads us to proper understandings of our need for mercy.

I have learned a great deal from those proverbial strikeouts – that seventy percent of the time (or more) that I swing and never hit anything. I’ve had to recalculate many times in the course of my life when my guesses based on what I thought were facts didn’t yield the expected result. Allowing myself to accept my mistakes, not to mention trying to determine which mistakes to keep and call it art, is a recent hurdle for me.

Coming to God more from doing it wrong than doing it right can be the most confounding of all. Our pride tells us that our doing it right makes relationship with God something that can be achieved. The upside down concept of being driven into the arms of perfection through failure is something that only mercy can deliver.

As I begin to accept the reality that on my best days I only hit the ball thirty percent of the time and that my greatest art is the sum of my best chosen mistakes then I am in a very different place than if I see myself as a baseball hall of fame candidate or the next Picasso.

Our brokenness is where mercy finds us but it isn’t where mercy leaves us.

Mercy flows much more freely from me when I live in a reality that constantly reminds me of my need for it.

Mercy allows me to reclaim myself and reclaim those that I’ve held as hostages in the prison of my resentments.

Mercy is about walking through the wounded world with wounded people and watching what we thought were mistakes become beautiful pieces of art in the hands of God.