Saturday, February 1, 2014

It started with a portrait.

There once lived a lady whose home was a treasure to see. She had lived a long life and her home was her scrapbook, her testament to its fullness. On every table, on every wall, were scores upon scores of elegant picture frames filled with the most amazing images; a thrilling display of black and white, sepia, and color.

Most who walk into her home for the first time feel crowded and overwhelmed and think her a hoarder, and in a way they are right. She was a hoarder, a hoarder of experiences- which anyone who spends two seconds in her home can see. Each carefully selected frame holds a moment in time, a memory, an experience.

If you could still visit her now you would find her the kindest and most gracious of hostesses. She would not be offended by your distraction nor your dumbfoundedness over the mass array of photographs, rather she was always most welcoming to any sign of curiousity and freely offered her walls for your viewing pleasure.

"Please, take a look around if you wish. Pictures are made to be looked at." she would say.

And as you began to peruse her home, scanning the walls up and down, pointing every now and again, she'd be waiting where you left her, smiling as she listened to your every reaction, anticipating the photographs you would see next.

"Oh my gosh! Is that you?!" you would ask. And she would giggle and say, "At one time, yes."

"Wait...you really did that?!" you might exclaim without thinking. "Oh yes." she'd say and she'd probably share a little about it depending on how fast you're moving.

All in all, you would be in awe. You would leave inspired. You would ever go on about your life remembering that woman and how she lived her life with extravagance and recklessness. You'd remember her as someone who dared to take on new things and never let fear or pressure or doubt stop her. If you could meet her, you'd admire her for all your days. I guarentee those pictures would have changed your life as much as they shaped hers.

The thing of it is that we would all admire her. We would all aspire to be like her whether or not our actions would ever affirm our desire. But for all her pictures you saw, not one depicts the questions and the grappling she faced in between the frames. And that's where most of us, who met her, faltered along the way. We left her home so ready to take on our desires and ambitions, but along our road to new life we began accumulating doubts, criticism, social pressures and challenges. Always remembering the images in her home, we press on until something somewhere breaks us and we give in. I suppose we all imagined her as never having faced those complications. I suppose we all convinced ourselves that she was different, her life was different, her time was different; not so like ours with all its restrictions and conditions. At least, that's what I told myself.

When I heard that she was dying I knew I had to go to her one last time. I went to her home where she called me back to her bedroom where she lay adorned in a stunning white lace gown, something I didn't notice upon entering because I had actually never been in this room. There was not a single frame, but there were a thousand pictures and not a single one of them was of her. Every wall, even the ceiling, was covered with portraits serving like her own wallpaper. She noticed my distraction, as she always had done. I was so overwhelmed by this room that I completely forgot my reason for being there, but somehow she knew. How, I'll never know.

"These are all my friends and family," she began, "people I've adopted through the years and people who adopted me. People come in my home and they see all the things I've done, all the places I've been, and all the adventures I've taken, but they never ask me how I did it, how I kept going all these years. If they had, I would have shown them this room. These people remind me of who I am and some remind me of who I am not. Oh life was not all a fairy tale for me as so many of my visitors assume. I faced questions I never found answers for, even now I go on asking some of the same old questions never forgotten, never answered. But questions are not as strong as revelations. These people were witnesses to my life. Some brought out the best in me, some brought out the worst in me, but every one helped me become who I am. What you see in my home are just things I did, but who I am is in this room. Determination will never last as long as relationships my dear."

She went on to tell me encounter after encounter as I went around the room pointing to portrait after portrait putting the depth and breadth of her memory on display. I learned more about her that day, about her life and how she got from frame to frame...I don't think I truly knew her before then. She was right. Who she was was in that room. She had answered a thousand unsung questions in my heart with every picture in her room. But before I left, I had one more question that needed answering and it wasn't the one I had come to ask her, "May I take your picture?" She just smiled and without words I understood her answer. I took out my phone and captured her portrait. Her face ever to remind me of the revelation she gave me. I thanked her, hugged her, and turned to leave.

"Before you go. Pick out a frame from one of my walls and take it with you, only leave the picture on the kitchen table. Make sure you fill it. Fill all the frames you can." Those were her last words to me.

When she died I went to her grave to leave her a token of thanks for her life, a portrait- my portrait. And in proper fashion I was once again dumbfounded, in awe, and overwhelmed by the piles of portraits surrounding her headstone; people forever standing witness to the woman she was; a ceremony to forever imprint how we would go about filling our frames. For me, it started with a portrait.

"Fill all the frames you can."

 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Be You

"Vocation does not mean a goal that I pursue. It means a calling that I hear. Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it I must listen to my life telling me who I am. I must listen for the truths and values at the heart of my own identity not the standards by which I must live, but the standards by which I cannot help but live..."- Parker Palmer (taken from The Identity Project by Patrick Dodson.)

"After years of training to become a professional ballet dancer, artist Kylli Sparre realized it wasn’t the path for her and instead channeled passion for dance into photography and image manipulation. The influence of her past career is immediately apparent when viewing her conceptual photographs that depict posed figures, taunt with energy, at the peak of choreographed motion (taken from www.thisiscolossal.com)."

A common theme I hear when I talk to people is the struggle of having to choose a passion to focus on, whether they are just starting college and having to choose a major or whether they are out of school and now struggling with their choice and/or battling to find a career. Growing up we constantly have observers highlighting certain skills and advising a career path that expounds on those skills they've witnessed. For instance, in school I was really good at geometry and loved drawing buildings- I had multiple people tell me that I should be an architect, but I'm not an architect, that's not who I am; being good at geometry and loving old buildings are simply expressions of a very intricate identity, they are tells of deeper truths not direct lines to a future. Like I heard Patrick Dodson once say, "Who you are is not one thing, who you are is like fifty things." See it's not about finding that one thing that fits you, it's about listening to your life and bringing that uniqueness of you to the table and revolutionizing the status quo you face or have quite possibly erected yourself. "Letting your identity inform and reignite your passion grows clarity inside of you, which leads to ideas, dreams, plans and then choices that become a daily reality."- The Identity Project by Patrick Dodson

That's what I love about this photographer Kylli Sparre, she tried being one thing and that didn't work out (I'm sure we all can relate), but she didn't toss the one thing- she joined it with a melody of other passions creating something that is original, breathtakingly stunning, and uniquely her.

Don't just be another photographer. Don't just be another dancer. Be you.

*all photos were taken from www.thisiscolossal.com

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The 5 Senses

If I were blind, I would rely on touch and sound, smells and tastes to guide me; I would be totally dependent on my other senses to communicate the atmospheric circumstances back to me. The sea would not be known by the picturesque scenery, but by the smell of the salty air, the sound of the waves crashing and the gulls cawing, the feel of the sand and the water, and the taste of sea's spray on my lips.

If I were deaf, the gap of sound would be filled with sights, sensations, smells, and tastes; true I would never know what wind would sound like, but I would see it and feel it in more ways than could be heard, perhaps I could smell the wind coming before it came and perhaps I could feel the birds sing when the sun rises because of the sensory song that it composes in me.

If I were stripped of my ability to feel, my eyes and my ears would be my hands, and my nose and my tongue my means of engaging and experiencing. True, I would never know texture or temperature, but I would know the fragrance of the grass and the taste of winter far more intimately than the simple touch of snow.

....

We say we serve an invisible God, yet we are made in His image. We say that God's voice is discerned and not heard, yet He speaks. We say that God is Spirit and cannot be touched, yet He touches us. We say that God is a heavenly being and is therefore not something to be tasted, yet He invites us to eat of His flesh and drink of His blood. We say that God is a mystery and therefore incomprehensible to even think of smelling a Deity, yet He says that "we are the aroma of Christ" to Him.

If God is not to be experienced through the senses, then why give us eyes with which we cannot see Him, ears with which we will never hear Him, hands with which we cannot touch Him, tongues with which we cannot taste Him, and noses with which it is inconceivable to smell Him?

And if He is not to be seen in full glory, then oughtn't He be known to us as the sea is known to the blind? And if He is not to be audibly heard, then oughtn't the gap be filled with sights, encounters, tastes and smells? And if He is not one that can be touched, oughtn't we be looking and listening- knowing His fragrance and His taste far more intimately?

Yet it remains that eyes are for seeing, ears for hearing, hands for touching, tongues for tasting and noses for smelling; these are the tools given to us to perceive, connect, and engage with all that is around us. He is Emmanuel. He is God with us. Do you know what He smells like? Do you know what He tastes like? Do you know what He feels like? Can you call out His voice from a thousand others? Can you pick out His face in a crowd?

I think He's waiting to be discovered.

I think He's waiting for you.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

If our personality was embodied in a mode of transportation; what would you be?

Would you be a bicycle? Laid back, relaxed. Old school. More concerned with enjoying the journey rather than arriving at any certain point.

Would you be a racecar? Competitive, driven. Always on the fast track. Wants to be the best and to be recognized.

A bus? (Double-decker if you're English) Supportive, carrying. Main purpose is to serve others and help them get to where they need to be. A Behind the scenes type.

A sedan? A truck? An airplane? A train? Rollerskates?

The point I wish to raise is this; if you can assess what/who you are, are you in the right place?

If you are a bicycle and have found yourself on a fast track surrounded by people zooming past you; are you in the right place? Even if it's a fast track you seek, there's still something better suited to who you are than the Indy 500. And if you are a bus, but you're forcing yourself to serve as a watermelon truck (you've seen them, you know what I'm talking about); are you serving as you were made to serve?

Just a thought for the day. You decide.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Our Own Story by Frederick Buechner

"THE WORDS INSCRIBED on the Statue of Liberty where it stands on Bedloe's Island in New York harbor are familiar to all of us:

Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to be free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me;

I lift my torch beside the golden door.

It is not great poetry, perhaps, and many a cynical word could be spoken about how the golden door that the goddess of liberty lights with her torch turned out for many to be the door to a wretchedness greater than any they had left behind on the teeming shores of their homelands. But nevertheless I think the old words have power in them still, if we let them, to move us, to touch us close to where we live. And the reason they have such power, I believe, is that one way or another they are words about us. Whether we're rich or poor, whether our forebears came to this country on the Mayflower or a New England slave ship or a nineteenth-century clipper or in a twentieth-century jet, those huddled masses are part of who all of us are, both as individuals and as a people. They are our fathers and mothers. They are our common past. Yet it goes farther and deeper than that. They are our past, and yet they are also ourselves. In countless ways, both hidden and not so hidden, it is you and I who are the homeless and tempest-tossed, waiting on our own Ellis Islands for the great promise to be kept of a new world, a new life, which we haven't yet found. We are the ones who yearn to breathe free. We stand not merely like them but in a sense with them beside the golden door. To read the story of our immigrant forebears as it is summarized on the base of the old statue is to read our own story, and maybe it is only when we see that it is our own story that we can really understand either it or ourselves."

-Originally published in A Room Called Remember

Click Here to read more by Frederick Buechner

 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Song 4 Thought: "All I Want" by Kodaline

I love it when song's lyrics are left open to interpretation, leaving room for the listener's creativity and soul to make their own story. One such song is "All I Want" by Kodaline. When I heard this song for the first time...well I'll let you listen to it first and then I'll share with you what I heard.

All I want is nothing more, to hear you knocking at my door. Cause if I could see your face once more, I could die a happy man I'm sure. When you said your last goodbye I died a little bit inside. I lay in tears in bed all night. Alone without you by my side.

But if you loved me, why'd you leave me? Take my body. Take my body. All I want is. And all I need is. To find somebody. I'll find somebody.

Like you oh...you...Like you. See you brought out the best of me. A part of me I've never seen. You took my soul and wiped it clean. Our love was made for movie screens.

...Like you are all


From the first verse, for whatever reason, all I could hear was the cry of a disciple that walked with Jesus (be it Peter, John, Thomas, etc) during those days before Jesus rose from the grave. For all they knew, He had left them and this song, for me, spoke of their pain, dissappointment and longing. Tear soaked bellows begging for answers, "Why'd you leave me?" and the heavy reminiscent reply of their Last Supper with Him, "Take my body..." In Him laid all their hopes and for 3 days they grieved over a tomb that held both the Trusted and all entrusted. For 3 days they endured the most painful dissappointment none of us now need never fear, a dead Messiah...

Such treasures of insight- priceless.

What did you first hear? What do you hear now? What else do you hear? Because I'd love to hear it.

Monday, April 8, 2013

A Song for Eastertide

For many Christians Easter is the celebrated Resurrection Sunday, the day Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Most churches honor significant days leading up to His resurrection, namely Palm Sunday and Good Friday, but for the most part Easter ends on Resurrection Sunday.
Easter, I have learned, is a season of fifty days from Easter Sunday to the day of Pentecost in the liturgical calendar/Advent year. This time is known as Eastertide. Lent was a season preparing hearts to receive, recognizing our need for Him, as we led up to Easter; but now that Eastertide is upon us, it is time to receive.

There is a song out right now called Stay by Rihanna featuring Mikky Ekko. It's a conversation between a man and a woman, but in its lyrics and steady hammering drone I hear another conversation -a confession meeting an invitation; the sweet raw conflict that exists before the final bolt cut letting Him in. In this song I hear the crossing over from Lent into Eastertide; from recognizing our need to receiving.

Stay by Rihanna ft. Mikky Ekko

All along it was a fever
A cold sweat hot-headed believer
I threw my hands in the air, "Said show me something."
He said, "If you dare come a little closer."

Round and around and around and around we go
Oh now tell me now, tell me now, tell me now you know

Not really sure how to feel about it
Something in the way you move
Makes me feel like I can't live without you
Oh it takes me all the way
I want you to stay

It's not much of a life you're living
It's not just something you take, it's given

Round and around and around and around we go
Oh now tell me now, tell me now, tell me now you know

Not really sure how to feel about it
Something in the way you move
Makes me feel like I can't live without you
Oh it takes me all the way
I want you to stay

Ooh the reason I hold on
Ooh cause I need this hole gone
Funny you're the broken one but I'm the only one who needed saving
Cause when you've never seen the light it's hard to know which one of us is caving

Not really sure how to feel about it
Something in the way you move
Makes me feel like I can't live without you
Oh it takes me all the way
I want you to stay


May we let Him stay. May we stay. It reminds me of the last line in "Come Thou Fount" saying, "Prone to wander Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love. Here's my heart Lord take and seal it, seal it for Thy courts above."