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Tuesday, June 11, 2019

A special kind of art

Our godsons, now 15 and 12, are visiting us for a few weeks.  We hadn't seen them in almost 3 years (because we were in the Philippines for 2 years).  We've missed them.  It's been a lot of fun having kids in the house again, big kids who are funny, chaty, have opinions of their own, and are on the cusp of manhood and can move furniture for you and reach the high things.  The 15 y.o. is not that much taller than me, but he is taller, and young enough to stretch more without back spasms.

We are playing a lot of remember when.  One of the first memories the 15 year old shared was that in the fourth grade he had a project on George Washington Carver to do for school, and we helped him collect different products from the woods to make ink and he wrote his poster using ink from pokeberries, walnut husks, and I don't know what all else.

They are on a walk in the woods with my husband right now- it's early morning for them and they are kind of grumpy about it in a sleep eyed way, although the 12 year old got excited when he saw the power tools they were bringing for cutting back the overgrown trail. 

We've been part of their lives for 12 years. I was at the younger boy's birth and was the first person to hold him.  They've spent holidays and long summers and weekends here for most of their lives up until a few months before we left for the Philippines.  Their lives have not been easy, and that is part of the reason The Connected Child is on my reading list this last month, and that's all I am going to say about that.

The book I am reading for devotionals right now has this passage I read this morning while watching the menfolk head into the woods:

"The painter Caravaggio used a technique called "chiaroscuro" for the interplay of light and dark which makes up every life. We might notice the same thing on a path through a forest where the dappling of shade makes fierce sunlight less relentless and the leaves' colors more brilliant.  Just as the painter blended the luminous and the shadowy into something beautiful, so Jesus created an artful human life and invites us to do the same."

I hope they see something of this beauty and contrast in the woods this morning and that it touches their hearts in the deep and most wounded places.

The book continues:

"When we see the beauty and meaning, the artistry in our lives, we do two things. First, we pause in awe to praise.  Then we may start to re-order everything around this amazing vision: we are co-creating our lives, with God, as works of art."*

While they are out, I am going to making peach cobbler for them for breakfast, because its summer and I missed them, and peach cobbler has fruit, eggs, and milk in it so it's practically a health food, right?  That is my small act of co-creation this morning, feeding hungry teens and pre-teens home-cooked food, loving them, praying for them, praying for myself that I might have eyes wide open to opportunities to help and demonstrate love and build them up from within, and wisdom from Above to know when and how.

Your art today may be the act of knowing when to hold your tongue and when to speak, when to say yes and when to be firm in your no, when to sweep the floor and make the beds and when to chuck it all and go into the woods, or how to help a teen with a knotty math problem or toilet train a toddler or counsel a friend on the phone.  It may be painting a picture or writing a poem.  For many of us, it will be at least half a dozen of these things in a day.

You are God's workmanship, His art, his creation. You do none of those things alone.

*The Art of Faith, by Kathy Coffey

Monday, June 3, 2019

Church Singings

If you read and liked Jayber Crow, I think you'll like an author from my grandmother's generation. Janice Holt Giles was one of my grandmother's favorite authors, and I have several of my grandmother's copies of her books. My favorites are those set in the Kentucky Hill country. She describes a life much like that depicted in Cynthia Rylant's picture book "When I Was Young in the Mountains, which my Arkansas-bred and born father gave us years ago, saying, "this is how I grew up." It's not how I grew up, but I have been to singings like these, singings where, by the time it's over, you can hardly talk because you've sung your voice right out of your body:

On a Sunday in midsummer Hod went to an all-day singing over on the next ridge. He felt listless about the walk over there, but he liked to sing, and maybe he'd feel better if he went.

The singing began about ten o'clock, the leader starting with some of the familiar songs. Everyone sang. The volume of sound that rose to the rafters of the little whitewashed chapel would have amazed a city preacher, accustomed only to the halfhearted efforts of his congregation. This was a noisy, joyous, hearty, lifting of voices.

On and on the singing went, alternating between the old and the familiar and the new and untried. When one leader grew tired, another took his place.... The people seemed never to tire. An all-day singing on the ridge was really an all-day singing! 
The men take turns leading at our singings- whichever of them knows the song best volunteers to take it. Some of them will have a pitch-pipe and they'll blow the right pitch when asked, but won't push it on another song leader who feels comfortable just starting without it. After a while they tire and it's no longer whoever knows it best, but who can make a tolerable effort. Mostly at our house we go around the circle picking out songs from the book, other places you just have to shout out the number you want in between songs. You have to time this just right, because you want to be sure to get your number out there quick, before we're off and on to another song, but not to call it out too soon, before the last note has died out. You don't want to be too abrupt, stepping on the last note of the previous song- that looks pushing, and shows your heart wasn't in the singing.

We've recorded many of them, and they don't really sound very pretty second hand like that. But from within, when you are singing your heart out, too- ah... it is very heaven.

The Enduring Hills, by Janice Holt Giles