Out of Control

by John Pollard

This wind is cold. Chilling. It is subtle. Almost unnoticeable. In fact, most of us won’t notice it. Slowly, the effects build – again, almost unnoticed – and build. There are layers. There is no perceptible pattern and the rising din creates a sort of vertigo in our minds. Confusion sets in. We feel trapped. As if there is no option, but to. . .

And, we often do.

Many of us, myself included, look on disdainfully from a distance thinking, “How could someone do that? I cannot believe anyone would be so stupid!”

Sometimes, suddenly, we realize that we too have done that. That we are equally as wrong.

This can be shocking to us.

When Barry explained the concept of the show, I was pretty excited. I loved the idea of a response to art. I loved the idea of collaborating to create an emotional response from the viewer/listener.

Barry asked about Judas’ betrayal and said, “Do you hear some sort of percussive response?”

I said, “Well, I suppose you could.” But what really came to mind was a long huge groan. (In fact, I didn’t hear any percussion!)

I looked at all the passages that discussed Judas’ betrayal. I reflected some and let it swirl around a bit in my mind. Nothing fresh really came to me.

Then Barry sent me his visual representation of the Station. He had explained the vibe a bit in our original meeting, but I had no idea what he would finally do.

I wanted the music to reflect the subtle nature of sin. How it builds slowly, almost without notice, until things feel almost out of control. A snippet mixed in from a standing mavis jam session helped create a nice sense of confusion. I think we’ve all been there.

Barry had explained how he wanted us to see ourselves in Judas. I thought that this would be somewhat shocking to many of us. So I wanted to represent that shock, that sudden realization.

I’ll love to learn how you felt after experiencing this Station – and the rest!

Narrow the Focus

by Mary Strait

Mary StraitI guess I’m unsophisticated. I find I absorb & retain simple things best. Not quite down to a sound bite or the click of a shutter, but something like that. Searching the Bible for that small phrase that reveals itself to be God’s word to me for that day. Having a simple melody from Sunday worship take up residence in my head during the week.

Musical composition is new to me. As I’m casting about for ideas, my project-management-trained mind keeps trying to draft some all-encompassing picture, a comprehensive outline. But I’m learning the creativity develops through significant chunks of time focused on one small idea.

Focusing in on one spot, one minute, one feeling. One simple melody, variations on one or two chords.

Then I don’t have to be profound, I can just be—me.

It’s at that point that I begin to find the meaning, as I go deeper. For the Stations compositions: What was it like in Peter’s head right after the rooster crowed? The sense of failure, the what-have-I-done- ness. What did the Sanhedrin’s voices sound like as they were questioning Jesus? Repetitive, rhythmic, jarring—contrasted to Jesus’ pure true tones.

I hope it’s received by the listener in a similar way. I’ve been doing this music thing long enough to know that not always, but sometimes—the listener will hear God’s word to her/him through a few lyrics, a chord progression, a mournfulness in the voice.

The Resurrection Was the Hardest

by Eugenia Sherman Brown

The Resurrection (detail) by Eugenia Brown

In February, I left our artists’ meeting with an assignment. Three mosaics as part of a group art and music presentation on the Stations of the Cross during Holy Week. I chose Peter’s denial of Jesus; I wound up with the Sanhedrin’s condemnation of Jesus, and we all agreed to do a piece for The Resurrection.

From the outset, I knew that my finished pieces had to be small. Just between you, God and me, I’ve asked God why S/He did not give me a medium whose materials were lightweight, easily portable, cheap and quick to fabricate. On that list, mosaics strike out without even swinging. For some reason, God did not reply. Must have gotten lost in the post.

For years, I have sat, prayed, studied and even dramatized Peter’s denial. The heartbreak of my own denials. That image came easily. I piggy-backed the Sanhedrin representation on the Peter one.

And then I came to the Resurrection. How could I create a simple mosaic-able image for the axis-shift of the world? How might I connect the garden scene to the little resurrections that dot our lives? How could I express the feeling of coming back to life. Of finally forgiving. Of breathing deep again. Of recovering health. And of the hovering presence of the Holy Spirit even in the times when such Presence is sheer faith without a shred of comfort.

I did not achieve these things. But I hope that this piece might trigger a memory in the viewer… of what it feels like to be in dark despair, and then see a glimmer of light. The hope. Life may return after all.

Considering the Stations

by Melody Harrison Hanson

Considering the StationsThe origin of the “Stations of the Cross” grew out of an ancient liturgy and describes fourteen experiences of Jesus, along the way to Golgotha where he was crucified. These follow Jesus from the minute he is condemned to death until his entombment and on to his resurrection. Traditionally, the faithful prayed the liturgy alongside visual depictions of each station, an opportunity to contemplate each experience of Jesus slowly and thoughtfully.

The Christian life is often described as a road walked with Jesus, ever cognizant of the suffering that surrounds us every day.  If we were able to walk with him through those days and hours, two thousand years ago, even the moments before his death, how might that change us?

Someone once said that much of the spiritual journey is being stripped of all that we tend to put our trust in. Life is found in losing it for Christ’s sake; life itself and that which God has prepared for each of us, if received fully, deeply, viscerally, into our dna, will teach us what it mean to walk with Jesus today.

The object of the Stations historically is to help the faithful to make a spiritual pilgrimage of prayer, through meditating on the chief scenes of Christ’s sufferings and death.  You are invited to walk the stations which lead to Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday.

The Bible says that there is no human pain or joy that Jesus has not taken on to himself when he lived and died two thousand years ago in Palestine.  From the Garden of Gethsemane to the Cross he died on.  Because of his sacrifice, we are able to see the world differently and experience the highs of love and joy, as well as the lows of suffering and sorrow.  This is in and through Jesus.

As Henri Nouwen said: “Jesus died and rose for all people with all their differences, so that all could be lifted up with him into the splendor of God.  There is immense pain in the wide world around us and there is immense pain in the small world within us.  But all pain belongs to Jesus.

Walking these stations is an opportunity to pause, set aside the distractions of life, in order to listen and remember Jesus of Nazareth.  What we suffer, he suffered.  Experience the redemption and good news.

God whispers to us in our pleasures, 
speaks to us in our conscience, 
but shouts in our pains; 
it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world. 

-C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

Read more about the Stations on Wikipedia.

Melody Harrison Hanson is a poet, essayist and photographer, who writes regularly at logic and imagination.


by Cynthia Reynolds

art (detail) by Cynthia ReynoldsWhen my younger sister’s husband died suddenly, I stayed with her. Stayed right by her side 24/7. I slept by her side and even held her hand until she fell asleep. If I could have, I would have crawled inside her skin and absorbed as much of the pain as I could. But though I never left her and I spoke every word of comfort I knew into her ears and sighed deep sighs when she could barely breathe to bring her back to the moment, she walked that path alone. I tried every night to stay awake until I heard the even breathing of her stricken self. But after a few days of trying so hard to be there every second for her, I grew tired in spite of myself and then exhausted and faded earlier and earlier as the days went by. She walked that path alone even with me right there, right there. Eventually I had to get on a plane and go home to my family and other commitments. I knew that she had to be alone with it all and find some other source for her strength; some other resolve besides the one I was willing into her; some way through to the rim of the cup that was her suffering. And slowly I saw the gift in that, as I have slowly seen the gift of that in my own life. The enfolding embracing gift of alone.

The disciples slept while Jesus grappled with the night in Gethsemane. Maybe they tried to stay awake and pray. Maybe they used all their words of comfort. They had no idea what was coming, but they must have realized this was a different night. They probably wanted to stay awake for it. Be there for their teacher. But he walked the path alone. He found a resolve and a source of strength outside of them. Surrounded by his own creation that pulsed with his own divinity he  drew comfort in the continuum of eternity and came to rim of his own cup.

On Painting the Crucifixion

by Betsy Delzer

detail of a painting by Betsy Delzer

There is a vacancy within each of us, an aching emptiness that we long to fill. Ronald Rohlheiser describes it as an unquenchable yearning and desire, a holy longing.

Where do we paint from, write from, sing from—move, and breathe from, but the groaning of these very pockets of the soul? Caverns of longing that we turn toward someone, something; if only—with him, if only—a child, if only—my home, bank account, parents, job. . . .The desires are bountiful in number and we fixate our minds on the imagined outcome.

…And then what? With sought-after man sleeping soundly alongside, with child swaddled in the arms, with bank accounts full, fat, ripe—we hear the groaning, we turn to the pockets, we indulge in despair.

It has been said each of us is fighting a battle. I wonder if the battle is not against the void within, but a battle that fuels the barren heart. Perhaps the battle is the very recognition of my want, of my ache, evermore and always present. We are living in the constant quest– then reminder, of knowing there is nothing here, nothing that can create the whole.

This is precisely when my soul takes flight with the moon, hears the birds’ chatter; when sunlight wraps me up tightly and some part of our day cracking over the horizon reminds me that there must be more.

In a discussion on faith and soul ties someone once asked me, “So, you think you have it figured out then?” And if by that he meant neat and tidy answers to all the loose ends, the response will always be ‘no.’ I have figured out I’ll be asking the questions. I have figured I’ll be digging, discovering, recovering with a whole lot more meandering, wandering. Prone to wander…prone to leave the God I love. I love the way blogger Glennon of  http://momastery.com/blog/about-glennon/ sums it up:

“When it comes to God and faith and religion, I have some hunches…but I only know two things to be true-

1.      I am God’s beloved child.
2.      So is everyone else.”

I too have some hunches. And I know some truth: what I carry to the cross are my empty pockets and envelopes waving in the wind.