Monday, September 24, 2012

Art After Dark: Join us this Saturday!

When I looked The Strand Theater on Google, I quickly learned these are all over the country - the first result was in Louisiana - including New Jersey, Massachusetts and Ohio. How have I never heard of these? I'm familiar with the Orpheum, also all over the country; and I feel there are others slipping my mind.

But never have I know The Strand.

That's all changing now that we are a part of the fundraising event for the historic Strand Theater in Louisville, Miss., where we'll join other artists this Saturday, September 29 from 6-9pm, showcasing the fruit of our art-making.

Susan Clark, the amazing-and-artistic mom of our housemate Matthew Clark, is one of the primary organizers of this event, to raise money to support the Strand, which according to Wikipedia is now an art and music venue in this small, southern town of well under 10,000 people. She, along with her son Sam, will be two of the artists displaying their work, which includes a pottery demonstration.

I love Mississippi, the arts and Susan Clark, so come on out this Saturday! There is an admission fee of $20, but if you eat dinner in The Market Cafe, host of the event, your admission is included with your dinner receipt.

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

One Memory Leads to Another

"I remember every name and every face
and every roadtrip that we ever made..."
("Who I Am" by Abbye West Pates)

There's a small town somewhere in Louisiana with a church named Bedico - Bedico Baptist Church. And in my memory, I see this church, the guitars we pulled out of our cases, the brownies we ate, the face of the friends who graciously brought me along on the journey.

I was 18, a freshman in college. Though I played guitar and had a full collection of youth group worship songs, I didn't call myself a worship leader. But I did tag along, guitar in tow. It was the blue one, the guitar my parents bought as my Christmas present just a year before.

And they let me sing; I loved to sing.

Jeremy was the worship leader. I sang some harmonies and strummed along, unimpressively I'm sure. It was a good weekend, this I remember. I was so young, too inexperienced to have contributed in any significant way, I think.

Why is the memory so vivid tonight?


I threw this baseball tee on tonight: "Follow Jesus," it says, Bedico Baptist Student Ministry on the back. A church fellowship hall (or "family life center," if you're Baptist) came to mind, pieces of memory.

But wait - this church isn't Bedico; I know this one. I hopped in a different car, ready for another adventure. This time with friends more familiar, those summer friends who ushered me out of high school, into adulthood.

Yes, on that trip I didn't pull out my guitar; I just watched, sang along. And I  knew why I tagged along this time: a boy. There's a picture to prove it, on the stage, practicing before the show. I'm standing with him, leaning into him.

It's so obvious I liked him; maybe I loved him. In the picture, I'm wearing his sweatshirt. Swooning, I'm sure.

Funny, this one shirt I'm wearing, tucked away for the Summer, reappearing for Autumn, has swept me back there, back to 18 years old. The memories - they're all smashing together. But they remind me of life; indeed, of life well lived.


On the other side of the neighborhood, that blue guitar is sitting in the corner of my best friend's house. It was time for a new one, time to grow up into one that could carry me strong from the stage.

I'm secretly glad that I still get to see that guitar, reminder of every person, every living room, every song that came from it.

This shirt, that guitar - I'm reminded of one reason why I write: to remember.

"I remember every name and every face
and every roadtrip that we ever made.
And I count every single one as my blessing
'cause I know my life never went unlived."
("Who I Am" by Abbye West Pates)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Church: my story.

Today: freshly cut grass. Gardens that struggle to grow. Hollywood and girl's return to the Deep South. Recovery of cursive handwriting. Grief and loss. Anger at "the Church" and what that means for how we look at "it" - an organization - or how we view humans, people, individuals that make up this Church.

I remember my own story.

It only seemed logical to me that every church [of this certain denomination] must look exactly like mine. We don't really like to change things. We never let the service go longer than one hour. We don't use guitars (unless a very special "youth occasion"). And we chew up our pastors and spit them out.

So, I left for college and set out to find any church - of any denomination besides my own, please - that was exactly NOT the church I grew up in. (It's important to mention here that my faith journey was largely shaped by the faithfulness of certain people in this Church, but there's more to come on that later.)

fellow youth group-ers, of growing up years
The youth of Heritage UMC, Hattiesburg
I did find other churches. They had great college programs, cool music, small groups and fun outings. Oh, and really cute guys (one who I went on to marry). They were so good, in fact, that I couldn't decide at which one I should stay, so I visited them all! I hopped around, sticking one for about a year, but moving on after that.

Then during my senior year, I found one that seemed to call me home. We sang the hymns of my growing up; received the bread and grape juice on our knees or in processional; and kept close to the Church calendar, the seasons of Advent and Lent that help us remember our place a great Story. Our pastors were vibrant, quirky and loved deeply by us.

And the sign out front bore the same last name as the church from which I'd run so far.

Bruce, pastor of the Church that called me home.

Toris (aka T-love)

This new church home of mine had a tough history; they almost closed their doors for good. They were located in a part of this Mississippi college town where realtors didn't regularly take potential residents: "Haven't you heard of our newest development out west, where the schools are so good?" So, people moved away, money ran out and what follows many in our denomination almost followed us.

Then one sweet, yet resilient lady got in her van and picked up kids to come to Wednesday night dinner. And we built a Habitat home for one of our own. And we gathered in the little chapel after dinner to read the Scriptures together.

Later in years, thing got tough again for the Church I loved. But those other ones I was so non-committal with in college had their own tough times - disagreements that split the Church, new visions for ministry (and desire for bigger buildings) that caused sharp conflict, and leaving behind the city for the suburbs, breaking hearts with their move.

And so it goes. 

What I know now is that people are unfaithful; and people are what make up the Church.

Isn't this why we need a faithful God? Isn't this why we come together anyway, to try to live together and sing songs that [at least most of us] like? And if we don't like them, we sing them anyway, because we need to sing together, to believe together, to look outward at this mess of a world and see God's work in it - together?

Running from the Church won't save us from unfaithful people. And I confess - I have not been faithful. But we keep seeking to be faithful; we help each other be faithful; and we stay

We stay because otherwise we are among the masses who leave because working it out is too difficult and frustrating; singing unfamiliar songs is too uncomfortable; sitting next to someone at dinner who can't pay his way isn't what we signed up for.


The church of my growing up years taught me a lot about faithfulness. I saw many people - my own parents, included - stay, no matter the circumstances. When the same group of people complained about the new pastor, only to see him out and send us into another transition... they stayed. When the proposed changes to music in worship were shot down again... they stayed. 

And without even realizing it, I learned how to live with imperfect, unfaithful people - and they learned to live with me.


"Loving a person just the way they are, that's no small thing;
that's the whole thing... it takes some time."
(Sara Groves)