Post NYC. Walking on Water.

I just returned from an invigorating weekend in New York with drop in visits with many friends like Sharon Frisco and Eric and Susanne Metaxas. We stopped by the IAM conference and got quick-catch-up conversations with artist Mako Fujimura and global strategist Gordon Pennington. I then enjoyed lunch with friends new and old followed by a brisk walk from Cooper Square to Macy’s with Nigel Goodwin. My daughter Jess and I joined the worship at the historic St. George’s church on Stuyvesant Square where we chatted with Rector Tom Pike. (She was in town taking the NY Education Certification test so she can teach in NYC through Teach For America starting this summer).

Upon our return I discovered my used copy of “Walking on Water” by Madeleine L’Engle had arrived. (My copy had been misplaced and it is quite simply the best thing written on the subject of faith and art.) I was inspired with a number of the quotes in the book and share some with you today.

¢â‚¬¢ A book comes and says, “Write me.” My job is to try to serve it to the best of my ability, which is never good enough, but all I can do is listen to it, do what it tells me and collaborate.

¢â‚¬¢ I believe that each work of art, whether it is a work of great genius, or something very small, comes to the artist and says, ‘Here I am. Enflesh me. Give birth to me.’ And the artist either says, ƒ«My soul doth magnify the Lord,’ and willingly becomes the bearer of the work, or refuses.

¢â‚¬¢ Many atheists deny God because they care so passionately about a caring and personal God and the world around them is inconsistent with a God of love, they feel, and so they say, “There is no God.” But even denying God, to serve music, or painting, or words is a religious activity, whether or not the conscious mind is willing to accept that fact. Basically there can be no categories such as “religious” art and “secular” art because all true art is incarnational, and therefore “religious.”

¢â‚¬¢ If it can be verified, we don’t need faith… Faith is for that which lies on the other side of reason. Faith is what makes life bearable, with all its tragedies and ambiguities and sudden, startling joys.

¢â‚¬¢ You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.

¢â‚¬¢ The artist, if he is not to forget how to listen, must retain the vision which includes angels and dragons and unicorns, and all the lovely creatures which our world would put in a box marked “Children Only.”

¢â‚¬¢ That’s the way things come clear. All of a sudden. And then you realize how obvious they’ve been all along.

¢â‚¬¢ In the act of creativity, the artist lets go the self control which he normally clings to, and is open to riding the wind. Something almost always happens to startle us during the act of creating, but not unless we let go our adult intellectual control and become as open as little children. This does not mean to set aside or discard the intellect, but to understand that it is not to become a dictator, for when it does we are closed off from revelation.

¢â‚¬¢ To try to talk about art and about Christianity is for me one and the same thing, and it means attempting to share the meaning of my life, what gives it, for me, its tragedy and its glory. It is what makes me respond to the death of an apple tree, the birth of a puppy, northern lights shaking the sky, by writing stories.

¢â‚¬¢ Because I am a struggling Christian, it’s inevitable that I superimpose my awareness of all that happened in the life of Jesus upon what I’m reading, upon Buber, upon Plato, upon the Book of Daniel. But I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. To be truly Christian means to see Christ everywhere, to know him as all in all.

Listen to me. All of writing is a huge lake. There are rivers that feed the lake, like Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. And there are mere trickles, like Jean Rhys. All that matters is feeding the lake. I don’t matter. The lake matters. You must keep feeding the lake.” Feeding the lake is, in a sense, the mountain seat itself: rivers and mountains realized as one great body, solid and steadfast as a mountain, yet as alive and bright as water finding its own peculiar way. Let’s give it our lives, in gratitude.
Jean Rhys. Paris Review.

You should utter words as though heaven were opened within them and as though you did not put the word in your mouth, but as though you had entered the word.
Martin Buber.

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

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