Living Outloud ...Advent and Beyond

"I am an artist. I am here to live out loud." Emile Zola, 1840-1902

Amen! It took me a long time to have the courage to utter that first sentence, and even longer toproclaim the other--but now, look out sister! I have been placed here very deliberately by my God, and my living out loud is meant to serve and glorify him. Some people may look at me and not understand me, but I need only be acceptable to God. And I revel in him.

" 'Consider the lilies of the field' is the only commandment I ever obeyed." Emily Dickinson 1830-1866

The beauty of aging is being able to recognize righteousness and to choose to follow down its path. We think more critically and oft times carve out our own path. Should we be self-righteous and decide on our own set of rules for living? No, but 'Consider the lilies of the field' does actually encapsulate all the commandments if you think about it. So we aging persons, especially artists, can reshape our worldview. We see God's hand in all areas of our lives, even if we reframe our doctrine.

"For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made." Psalm 139:13-14 NRSV

Getting older, expressing myself more vocally and artistically, and losing much through life crises, I am re-examining, once again, my origins. Thinking about my dad who died last year. Wondering about my effect on the world. Marvelling at the 'me' that was created. The knitting motif (I think about a Kaffe Fassett piece) is so a propos. And strangely, I don't see the second half of my life as a garment unravelling. Matting in places, perhaps. Developing moth holes in others. But definitely reflecting my original creation and the purpose for which God made me. I take comfort in the fact that he knew me before my birth. I am not lost.

"Mary didn't write a theological treatise. She had a baby." Kathleen Norris

I heard Kathleen Norris speak at her book launch recently (see recommendation in endnote), and her astute and dry wit filled me with the fuel I need to get through this Christmas--I will fill up during Advent. I need artistic fuel too; it's the only way I will survive the season. I need to channel my energy into something creative. Even if it's my secret bad poetry or collage projects. I need the basics to create the basics. I need to repeat Bruce Cockburn's carol refrain 'Mary had a baby, My Lord' over the 36 days of Advent and Christmas. It's all very well to say, Oh, I won't get caught up in all that commercialism. But even beyond that, I need an incarnational frame of reference for the season and my life. Mary had a baby. I reflect back on the pain of childbirth but quickly dismiss the memory--that is too bodily present! I need to go through some new birth pangs myself, not wax and wane on things religious because it's a season of waiting. As Norris said, artists are always waiting. And we can't wait for more money, more time, more inspiration. We need to create now. I cut pictures out of reject magazines in the laundry room. I carry a notebook always and jot down random thoughts and phrases. It must be done when it must be done.

"Christ must increase in me and I must diminish." Kathleen Norris

I have come along as far as knowing I have nothing but Christ. But these words really burned a hole in my heart. This active relationship requires me to facilitate his increase in me and to diminish myself. Not my selfhood, which God has created, and which needs much care and nurturing at the moment. But my self-ness, the spiritual equivalent to fat cells sludging up my arteries. I need an angiogram! My advent cannot come unless I clear a path for it. I need the coming to enable the emmanuel; hopefully the epiphany will be directive.

Are you an artist? Are you living out loud? It is our duty. Creativity is our product and our raison d'etre. Honour God's gift to you by reflecting his own joy in Creation. Be loud. Be incarnational. It is the best Christmas gift we can bring him, poor as we are.

here to learn more about the above-mentioned new book, co-authored my Kathleen Norris, author of the classics The Cloister Walk, Amazing Grace, and Dakota.

Image and words by Vanessa Wells, ©2008

Christian Graffiti

"According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it." 1 Corinthians 3:10

Art is not created in a vacuum. Each of us builds on the work of those who have gone before us, adding our own unique vision to a larger body.

This photograph was taken in the Temple of Dendera. North of Luxor, in Egypt, this temple looks like many ancient Egyptian temples, but all is not as it seems. Just as a neo-gothic church was built to harken back to the mystery of gothic churches built centuries earlier, this temple was built by the Ptolemies who ruled Egypt from 305 BCE to 30 BC. They were a Greek family who came to rule Egypt following Alexander the Great's conquest. The Ptolemies built new buildings in the style of the ancient Egyptians of 2,000 years earlier. This picture is of the hypostyle hall with its 18-Hathor Columns supporting a roof decorated with astrological scenes. This Ptolemaic temple was built on the foundations of a temple that probably dated to Khufu from around 2570 BCE. The temple was begun by the Ptolemies and completed by the Roman Emperor Tiberius who reigned during Jesus' lifetime.

It is neither purely Egyptian nor Greek, but a Greek interpretation of the glory of Egypt. Then graffitied on this column is a cross from a time when the hall was used for Christian worship. The cross is carved so that a Egyptian God is holding it aloft giving the old column yet a new interpretation. Then adding its own layer of meaning, I photographed the hall with light slanting through the old temple thinking of how each of us builds on what has gone before.

Like every work of art, the photograph is as much my autobiography as anything. Each work is another page in the diary of the artist as the choices made in creating a piece all reflect the creator. Each layer from Khufu, to Ptolemies, to Tiberius, to Christian graffiti, to a contemporary photograph leaves meaning hidden within the finished print. Each layer the diary entry of an artist contributing to a much larger work.

See more photos from this

Image and words by The Rev. Frank Logue, Vicar, ©2008
King of Peace Episcopal Church
Kingsland, Georgia

This Time Tomorrow

Today we discover beauty. This time tomorrow we will remember that beauty, and ever after braid its truth with our own prayers and persistence.

Gregory Wolfe, editor and publisher of Image Journal writes in his Editorial Statement for Issue # 56: "Beauty allows us to penetrate reality through the imagination, through the capacity of the imagination to perceive the world intuitively." He continues: "Beauty also has the capacity to help us to value the good, especially the goodness of the most ordinary things. The greatest epics, the most terrible tragedies, all have one goal: to bring us back to the ordinary and help us to love and to cherish it. Odysseus encounters Circe, Cyclops, the sirens, Scylla and Charybdis, but his real destination is home and the marital bed that makes it his place in the world."

As seen above: "This Time Tomorrow" by C. Robin Janning


there is still
that star in the sky
leading us

and still we carry
a dream of gifts
and arrival

while wrapped around
we are held with wings
made to uplift

then flying
we reach out
for you

Words and Image by C. Robin Janning. All Rights Reserved.