Yes is a world. Love is a place.

Reflections on Saturday’s Poetry Workshop with Joanne Diaz.

love is a place
& through this place of
love move
(with brightness of peace)
all places

yes is a world
& in this world of
yes live…

–from love is a place by ee comings

Yes.  Why not say yes? The whole world says no. So the morning began in Joanne Diaz’s own words, as the poet and professor responded simply to a poem shared by a GCC writer.

Of course we all know love is more than a feeling, as the song goes.  Saturday it was a place.  A place I scarcely wanted to leave.  A place for which I have a key, both literally and figuratively.  (But more on that in another post.)

It was also a person.  Waiting for us in an unfamiliar space.  It was a new friend, for some of us a new favorite poet; it was poetry and promise and adjective and action.

It was thick and alive and it is still speaking, still singing, still dreaming.  I know this because I have been writing, others have been writing (and sharing with me) for days.  And even though its been a week where I don’t have the time or the quiet or the right pen at the right moment, it still amazes me what Love can do, what it can change, how it can change me in less than two hours.   Sometimes in less than two minutes.   Funny how a full heart makes way for a full page.

Gathering in a studio loft in the city around a poet with people I respect and admire was simply divine.  We related, revealed more of the creativity deep within us, and resourced desire (in this case to write) in a practical way.   Who knew scraps of paper with uninspiring places written on them could be so, well…INSPIRING.  You wouldn’t believe what came out of us.   (We didn’t.)

The two hours are still a bit of a mystery to me—how fast they fled and yet how deeply they affected me and others around me.  We ended the morning with poems declaring, “Give me back…” giving voice to desires to reclaim, restore, and in some cases revive dreams that have been hidden, silenced or stolen.

We saw with new eyes, spoke with new tongues (I can really put those adjectives together???) and wrote our hearts out in response to the freedom focus brings.

We uncovered underlying tensions that surprised us, even in the most familiar of places—junkyards, museum gift shops, and the like. We found the courage to believe—that we belonged there, that we have something to say, to write, that we have a voice with which to share it, and an audience cheering us on with yes, yes, yes!

If, as Ian said last week, faith needs a word to respond to, well, faith is pretty busy at the minute with the hopes, dreams and declarations of our writers.  And faith’s  reply might shock you, because despite the varying sizes of the dreamer’s dreams, faith seemed undaunted on Saturday, seemed always eager to answer with Y-E-S…  and looks to us for even the slightest nod in response.  Live a life of yes.  Why not?

You’ll come and play with us next time, yes?

——

A brief sampling of thoughts from those who joined us:

It was really impactful to be in a room of (our) writers.  It created a safe but forward moving place of pushing into the process while knowing there wasn’t ego or judgment, only support and encouragement.  There were moments, because of the joyful atmosphere with the Holy Spirit, that fear was broken off concerning getting words on paper. There were a few moments when we all felt it… something once palpable just breaking off.  Tears came with that, quickly and simply, a clean break.

Ms. Diaz is a powerful encourager and cultivator of words.  My favorite thing she said after sighing, “yes” to someone’s shared poem, was “Why not say yes? The whole world says no.” It was like God was giving me an allusion, in this meeting with him, to one of my favorite e.e. cummings poems, “yes is a world.” –Megan P.

…she proved you don’t need 6 hours of uninterrupted silence in order to write.  

–John F.

I was impressed with what came out of me. Feeling tired and uninspired, I somehow found myself intrigued by the concept of a junkyard….who knew this could be possible! –Dana C.

Give me back the lofty ideals of painterly whims
Abstract in thought expressionless swims
Through an avant garde decade
Full of expatriates and movements well laid.
After war.             
–Bam 

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More MEETS the eye

untitled ink | josh t.

Not all truth is equal. –Ian C., Sunday morning, 1/29

One of my newest guilty pleasures is a British genre drama on PBS. There’s a mysterious butler, whose past begins to manifest more fully with the progression of each episode. We’ve gotten to know the character over the past six weeks and he’s hard not to like. To not respect. He’s gracious, he’s good, a hard worker despite significant physical infirmity, and he’s kind.

Yet as each episode progresses, we begin to get a “fuller” picture of him, not through his actions, but rather through mysterious innuendo, circumstantial evidence, accusations from faceless, nameless sources, letters from London, rumors, and much speculation. We don’t know much, but the “more” that begins to be revealed is not good. Pretty bad, in fact. It’s shrouded in secrecy, and smells of scandal. The kind of “information” that will bring complete ruin of name and shame beyond repair.

And he won’t deny the truth of the accusations. He affirms them with no explanation. It is true, he says.

But there’s a problem. We have experience that must co-exist with this new information. We know HIM, and he seems incapable of even the least of offenses he won’t disprove.

As a loyal viewer, we believe there has to be more to the story, and despite the mounting “evidence” to the contrary, we keep sifting, keep waiting, keep hoping the MORE that will be revealed will affirm a higher truth.  We need MORE to affirm our experience, validate our intimate knowledge of him, and enable us to simultaneously take him at his shocking word.  How can two seemingly disparate truths co-exist in one man?

In fact, those who know him best—whether the senior patriarch Lordship of the Estate or the lowest housemaid—all have the same response when hearing the increasingly damning accusations: there must be MORE.  There HAS to be MORE to this.

As the hope of scandal escalates to seemingly irredeemable proportions, one of the meekest housemaids turns the tables with a courageous hope of her own. She begins a search for MORE good, MORE truth, the HIGHER truth, the whole picture, believing she’ll find the MORE that is yet unseen that will trump the MORE that seems obvious.

The MORE THAN that will bring light into the darkness masquerading as THE truth. (Sure the empty tomb was dark, but good thing someone ran inside, deeper, finding the less that was more.)

Does her long-held faith in her friend become the evidence of things hoped for, the substance of things not yet known?

You’d have to watch for yourself. Or download’s Ian podcast.
—-
Sunday marked Josh T.’s first time up front painting.  I was incredibly excited, and not just because he was using one of my favorite worship instruments…the pen.

I watched for a moment with curious anticipation as his pen began to reveal first the letter M, than O, than R, then I knew what was coming next.

Although I always know that there are MORE things happening on Sunday than I see, more than I understand (more THAN meets the eye, if you will), here MORE was presenting itself to me as literal, as solid as it could get. Like a banner in the sky (did you notice he painted a banner, too) announcing MORE HERE, MORE there, MORE to come, MORE now, MORE in every heart, MORE truth in every situation, in every hurt, every hope, keep looking for the MORE.

MORE IS REVEALED! it seemed to proclaim like a banner over us, declaring love and unity and truth. Experience the MORE, see the MORE in every person, run in search of it in every situation, in every thought, every word, every deed. After all, He’s the MORE we are looking for in the heart of every man and woman.

What you seek, you find. I, for one, want the higher truth.

Thanks for that, Josh. Looking forward to more.

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Spin daughter

untitled sculpture | Melanie P.

by Heather Treadway

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.  I John 1:5

…in the same way, let your light shine before men…that others will glorify your father.  Matthew 5:16

…in the Father of Lights, there is no shadow of turning.  from James 1:17

This week as I prepped for the “Prophetic Identity” class Jamie and I taught on Saturday, a story I heard years ago on NPR came to mind.  It went something like this:

A five-year old girl is playing blind man’s bluff in Maywood, IL.

Her friends spin her around a few turns, remove the blindfold, and suddenly, she recognizes nothing.  Everything is unfamiliar.  She has no idea where she is.  It is as if she was transported to a street, a neighborhood, a community filled with homes and yards and cars, familiar in their composition, but completely unfamiliar in their characteristics.   She recognizes nothing.  No street, no tree, no car or house.

She runs blindly, just to run, because she is so scared.  She ends up in the backyard of a strange house.  She sees her mother and cries out.

What are you doing here?  Why are you in this yard?

Her mother gives her a puzzled look, because it is her own yard, the house where she’s grown up.  She never left her street.

Turns out, no pun intended, that there is a rational, physiological explanation for the girl’s experience.  Location Blindness.

In the act of spinning, her brain cells responsible for locating place were unable to make the simple quarter turn that would resolve the incongruity in her understanding and recognition of her surroundings.  When she saw her mother’s face, she knew she was home, regardless of the external “reality” which told her, convincingly, that she was somewhere else.   But she was right where she needed to be.

Years later, her doctors discovered that if she simply spun herself around the other way, on the second turn, her disorientation eradicated.  It was as if she had a binary on-off switch.   She could employ it whenever she began to feel lost, or had inadvertently triggered her location blindness.  A secret spin, so to speak, that set everything right again.

I couldn’t help but wonder if “location blindness” has been affecting me lately.  Sometimes the slightest turn of events can leave us off balance, searching for the center, the meaning, the reason, wondering where we are, what we did wrong, or just how we ended up here?  And where is here?   Certainly it’s not always bad (or good), sometimes it’s just different.

Doors closing so others can open.  Buildings selling.  Or not.  Roles changing, people moving.  New dreams awakening from nowhere.  Old dreams knocking on your front door, unannounced, wondering where you’ve been.  And when I feel a little lost, what’s my “secret spin?”  Is it prayer?  Poetry?  How do I fix my eyes on a familiar face as a reference point?

Made me think of Moses all week, who in the simple act of turning to light, to fire, discovered not only where he was (holy ground) but also who he was, what he was called to do, and, most importantly, who God is.

I wasn’t at church this Sunday, but when Melanie showed me a photo of her sculpture, I was delightfully surprised.  And not.  I didn’t have to be there to know he was lighting up the morning.  His words illuminating our paths in more ways than one.

Some days, those words are like a lighthouse beacon, igniting a path across the seas of disbelief, confusion, past the day, the month, the year.  So bright, everyone around us sees the way, too.  Other times, they are more like my father’s old oil lamp, held in our own hands, low to the ground, lighting the way one step at a time.

And on those days, I remind myself that there is nothing lurking in the shadows that can or will overwhelm the light.  The light shines in the darkness and is not overcome.  When I don’t recognize where I am (or maybe who I am in the moment) I remember that there is nothing that lies beyond what I can see that is not glistening with hope.

It’s not some sort of panglossian “spin” a spin doctor propagandist would use to attempt to bury bad news  or rally oneself through a tough moment.  Rather, it’s the “secret spin” born of my real-life experience with him over the years.  The small turns made toward his light, his promises, his words that he has always made good on, that leave me secure amidst all life’s twists and turns.

Despite my whereabouts or the circumstances around me, I know that there is no turning in Him, no confusion, nothing deceptive or manipulative.

What’s your spin?

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Womb with a view (you had to be there)

creative musings in process | Jamie C.

Reflecting on Sunday,
14 November 2011

by Heather Treadway

Gravity is working against me
And gravity wants to bring me down
Oh, I’ll never know what makes this man
With all the love that his heart can stand
Dream of ways to throw it all away
…Oh, keep me where the light is…

–John Mayer, “Gravity”

“Defying gravity” seems so weighty, so contentious. The “gravity of a situation” so dire. Yet imagine this: gravity is a weak force. Consider the fact that a small magnet can hold up a paper clip, even though the entire earth is pulling down on it. When Lisa Randall, a theoretical physicist from Harvard University, shared the paper clip analogy at a reading I attended a few weeks ago, she switched a light on for me. For an instant I thought I must be in church or back on the Isle of Iona, because her words stirred my spirit in a way usually reserved for the most intimate and holy of moments.

gravity: The natural force of attraction exerted by a celestial body, such as Earth, upon objects at or near its surface, tending to draw them toward the center of the body…
–thefreedictionary.com

Fast forward to this Sunday. Did anyone feel drawn toward the center of something? Someone? Hear or see any metaphorical lights switching on? During the teaching, the worship, or a moment in the ether? Personally, I wanted to charge the front and write these words on the white board: “Gravity is a weak force. Love is not.” But Jamie C. was already there, writing his (more than) 95 theses (spontaneously, nonetheless), so I didn’t dare upset the awe-inspiring creative flow at stage left. (Besides, I had no idea what my thoughts had to do with anything, as they seemed so, well, random…)

What exactly was happening with the dance, the sculpture, the melodies, the message, the business consultant on the whiteboard, the poetry scrawled on scraps of paper before the music even began? Where was all this energy, this inspiration coming from? It seemed exceptional, even for those of us who are used to such creative excess during the hours of 10am-12pm on Sundays.

It felt a bit like (thank you, Rachel C.) a womb with a view. And we were all seeing more, making more, receiving more, and (dare I say it) even being more than usual.

untitled | unfinished | sculpture | Melanie P.

Did you notice Melanie P. sculpting a figure writing on the ground with a finger? If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone… I couldn’t help but be inspired to think we were all in active dialogue with the man who made that motion. Yes, I thought, as I watched her hands, I feel it too…the New Covenant’s force of attraction meeting the Old Covenant’s letter of the law.

Which force was greater? Love or law? Was Radical Love actually Eradicating Law, at least as it was formerly known? Becoming a legally binding attraction – passionate justice – that defied judgment?

Had the force of a celestially human body drawn a line in the sand that day, upsetting the gravity of a situation that should have resulted in the literal grave? And how was that affecting what He was doing this day, thousands of years later?

I’m not a physicist, so I can, in good conscience, gallantly escort a theoretical metaphor out of scientific context and introduce it glibly to a moment in this dimension, this day.  Sunday, it felt as if we had warped into a brief moment with another dimension. Become more aware. The orderly place and space in the universe where we all live seemed actively invaded by an elegant, beautiful, chaotic designer interrupting gravity’s hold on many of us.

Rachel P. was too sick to dance, but persevered beautifully anyway. Jamie C. is not a painter, but he crafted a masterpiece nonetheless. John F. plays the pubs yet owns the sanctified stage.  Possibly, in every seat, prayers, dreams, and desires drew lines in the sand with fears, frustrations and “grave” circumstances.

Faith conspired, hearts desired, heads aligned, and hope contended in spite of, changing the atmosphere. There was a delicious air of defiance, of creative contending where words, pens and prayers were razor sharp. Itching, singing, dancing, dreaming for a fight where love wins. Every time.

After Sunday, trying to make sense of it all for myself, I journaled: There is surely a mass greater than Earth that is drawing me, attracting me. One that is so near the surface, so deliciously deep below and yet high above. When I dare to respond, even by the slightest, simplest of turnings, or pauses, or gestures, the results are radically transformative.

Gravity, weak. Love, strong. Who knew?

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heart of worship

untitled | mixed media | paint with yarn naomi p.

This painting from Sunday expresses my heart of worship. I wanted it to be generational, so I included a man’s hand and one of a child. I wanted the red and yellow to represent his glory and the yarn swirls to be his breath reaching down to us as we reach for him. I was so relaxed and full of joy as I painted. I know it was an expression of his heart. He pours out on us as we reach for him. We experience his glory and we are surrounded by his presence. | Naomi P.

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inspiring lives: the woman with the issue of blood

untitled | unfinished sculpture | melanie p.

I think there is something so dear in both of them. The risk of trying. The act of turning, stopping.

My back was in such pain the day I sculpted this piece. I was reaching for Jesus’s sweet relief. So sweet.

He offers a total turning. I have experienced it…and I continue to seek it…

–Melanie P., sculptor
——————-

What’s my issue?
This sculpture was created during the first session of the “imagining the city greater” conference in October 2011. As our primary speaker, Graham Cooke, began to share over the course of two days, it was as if every point he made directed me back to this piece. If he spoke of “majesty,” I saw the woman with the issue of blood, daring to reach out in risky faith towards majesty in the flesh, then be completely freed from the pain of her past.

If he spoke of destiny, I saw many of us, reaching for dreams that are not eluding us; but rather, turning, turning, turning, coming for us, waiting for us, beckoning us. The same morning Melanie sculpted this, Sharon L. was walking around the sanctuary tossing a piece of red cloth down and stepping into it during worship. Although I had no idea what she was doing, she stopped directly in front of me and spoke these simple words: TAKE THE STEP.  My love is ahead.  My blood is ahead.  My authority is ahead.  I’m waiting (lovingly, not impatiently) for you.  And my heart was suddenly free to wonder why I have “issues of blood” myself as I follow my dreams…and Him. (If I believe I am a daughter of Majesty, a co-heir, legitimate, why the hesitation?)

Thank you, Melanie. Thank you, Sharon. He is always speaking and dreaming, and you helped me to see and hear.

–Heather T.

p.s.  If you were inspired by this piece, please feel free to comment.

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