These are three images I made during the Advent season in 2016. Here’s what I wrote about the images….
I love Christmas. I love the lights. The music (non-stop til the 25th!). I love any reason to party.
But this year it just feels empty. The world has always been chaotic…. but after a divisive and exhausting election, images of innocent carnage in Aleppo, the overwhelming stream of information that mostly tells us that we’re all doomed…. lights, tinsel, and Starbucks cups just don’t seem to matter. The aesthetics of safe shepherds, safe stables, safe and secure stars, angels, wise men, etc…. just don’t make sense.
They don’t make sense in this world on the brink of fear and despair.
Vulnerability is scary. It’s a risk and it costs.
Everything about the coming of Yahweh in the form of a fragile baby is vulnerable. The powerlessness. The chaos of not having a sanitized place to birth. The shocking biology of it all. I’ve witnessed two births and both brought me to tears. It’s a beautiful experience… but not in any safe way. The water, the blood, the body fluids.
So much comes out when a baby is born. Sometimes the mother poops when a baby is born. Nobody puts that in their baby books.
Jesus was born just like us. In all of goopy humanity. There is something overwhelming sacred this year for me to meditate on that. That he was born of blood… like we are. That he partook in the powerless vulnerability of coming into the world… like we feel. That he was born into the shit…. which we never seem to get out of.
Go Santa. Go presents. Go eggnog. Go all of it.
But for me the magic of Christmas this year is knowing that He’s always been in the shit with us. And still is. And always will be. .
Many of you have asked for the opportunity to purchase these prints. You can click the photo and you will be directed the place where that can happen!!!
Honestly. I went to this horrible church service recently. It was awful. It was awful because it was churchy for church sake. Layers and layers upon activities and statements that didn’t sound like they had anything to with life outside of this building. They only made sense in this particular practice. And my biggest beef is that the word worship has been taken and defined to mean a very particular activity. So I decided to and my two cents in this video…..
And as always…. I made some art about it.
You should get one of these. : )
I was invited recently to sit on the back porch with a bunch of men and give “man” wisdom to my friend’s son who had just turned 18. It was a rite of passage of sorts… a safer substitution for killing a wild lion or going on a grail journey in an unknown land. We smoked cigars and shared stories one by one hoping to impart wisdom from being farther down the road… as if we were scouts returning to tell the new travelers where the robbers lie waiting and where to watch out for quicksand.
Such wonderful things were shared by the men in that circle. Some wrapped in humor. Some soaked in tears. All personal treasures that only come from our deepest scars.
I am a dad of young children. My son is four. My daughter is two. I have not quite reached the place where I need to speak to the wisdom of living well in the world as a whole hearted adult. Most of my advice comes in the form of hygiene and safety rules.
“Cover your mouth when you cough.”
“Look out for cars when we are going to cross the street.”
“Don’t carry the cat around by hind legs or he’s going to scratch you.”
Things like that.
The guy before me, a long time friend of the “new man”, spoke of many adventures together. But being a few years older, he did share that at 25 he still didn’t have it all figured out. But that was okay…. and then he said some other things but they were lost to me… because his words sparked a deeper conversation in myself.
Didn’t have it all figured out? I’m 37 and still don’t have it figured out. And what are you supposed to have figured out by now? I guess a sense of security. A way of being in the world. A way of making it all work. But these are the great tensions of adulthood. The mystery of continuing forward in this existence. The meeting of plans and providence that bring you to your knees in humility and gratitude. How does one figure it all out? I’m not sure. I’m not so sure you’re supposed too.
So when it came to me… to give advice to this young man who was going to walk forward in this wonderful and painful world…. I said this:
I’m 37… and I still don’t have it figured out.
I still don’t know what I want to be sometimes.
But I know I want to be brave.
And here’s the thing about courage.
You don’t get the courage to do difficult things beforehand.
You have to enter those situations with all your inadequacies and deficiencies.
But then on the other side… you get that courage. You get that courage for the next obstacle.
So in whatever comes your way… creatively… relationally…. situationally….
When you don’t have it figured out…
And you don’t know what to do….
And you don’t know what to be….
You can always be brave.
And to quote my sources… I saw this clip years ago and always wondered if it was true.
Well it is.
There’s a lot to be said about #GoodFriday… and I don’t claim to speak to all of that in this video… but I put together some thoughts that I’ve had about GF that constantly give me joy. It’s a song that truly saves people.
Since I posted Why The Church Needs Art – Part Four… which speaks to the stations of the cross tattoo show I did years ago… I’ve had a few people contact me about a biblical basis for tattoos. Back then we were getting the same questions… and one of our elders, David Capes, a biblical scholar, wrote this letter to those who asked. I think it’s great… and I share it with you now.
We’ve had many questions concerning Leviticus 19:28: “Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD.” Although the verse before says “Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard” and most everyone no longer thinks that command applies to our modern cultural context, many believe that verse 28 is still something we our bound by. Our good friend, church elder, and biblical scholar Dr. David Capes wrote a letter to such a question and we think it’s a good response if you had such a query:
“For the record I won’t be getting a tattoo—for lots of reasons—but I understand how some want to and others find it strange. People over 45 often associate tattoos with bad behavior. When they were growing up the only people to get tattoos were those who went off, got drunk and came back all inked up. Even Scott last week in his sermon talked about being afraid of a rough fellow who was “all tatted up”. Today though I imagine most Ecclesians under 35 have at least one tattoo. It is understood like a rite of passage into adulthood, a way of expressing their individuality and yet ironically going along with the crowd (since most their age have them). It is an interesting cultural phenomenon.
Now specifically to your question about the Old Testament Scripture. It is true and undeniable that Leviticus instructs the people of God not to cut their bodies or get tattoos. But we must ask what function those laws had. There are 613 laws in the Old Testament that make up—and this is key—God’s covenant-agreement with the people known as Israel. Some laws are universal (no murder, no stealing, no adultery), but the majority are specific to that people. Christians today, for example, don’t remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy by doing no work on the Sabbath. The Sabbath is the 7th day of the week, Saturday, not Sunday. Christian women today don’t follow the laws of what to do during their menstrual cycles. The majority of Christians eat pork, shrimp and catfish despite God’s clear instruction to Israel not to eat these things (Leviticus 11). Christians today don’t celebrate Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. Now why don’t Christians follow these laws? They are part of the Bible. True, they are, but these are laws God gave to establish the people we know today as Israel. These laws set them apart from their pagan neighbors. They are written, according to Paul, for our instruction but they do not apply to us. Paul, you remember, did not insist that Gentile men be circumcised in order to follow Christ even though circumcision was central to the Abrahamic covenant. Circumcision is the mark/cutting of the body that set the men of Israel apart from their pagan neighbors. Today many Jews still follow these laws and practices.
Informed by the Old Testament, Christians are to be formed by a different set of teachings (the Sermon on the Mount, law of Christ—Galatians 6), practices (Sunday worship, Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, hospitality), and beliefs (incarnation, trinity, resurrection, etc).
Now to the question of our bodies as the temple of God. This is true and a central part of the church’s teaching. However, temples were not blank buildings. If you read the description of the tabernacle in Exodus and Leviticus you will see that the temple was an ornate, decorated, beautiful place. It was probably the most ornate building they would ever see. The walls were covered with tapestries that had images of angels on them. The columns were covered with images and designs. The furnishings were of gold and silver. This was, after all, God’s house and it was meant to be grand. You could not look in any direction in the temple and not see some image crafted by an artist on the walls and columns.
For centuries, the church has struggled to tell the story of the Gospel well. They mined culture around them to do so. The halo around the heads of saints on paintings and icons is an image of the sun drawn from pagan culture and stories of Apollo. The catacomb paintings are not unlike paintings in pagan burial chambers (they just tell part of the Christian story). When Martin Luther wrote hymns, his hymn tunes were inspired by folk songs he heard in his day. Contemporary Christian music is drawn on the various art forms you can hear on the radio. The stations of the cross tattoos are probably most like the stain glass windows of churches. For most of Christian history, the majority of Christians could not read. So church leaders put art work in their churches to tell the story. Stained glass windows are a celebrated art form which depict key moments in the drama of redemption. Even today we are fascinated and instructed by their images. I suspect that this tattoo project is a moment when we have the opportunity to tell the story again to a different group of people. For these people tattoos are a manner of self-impression mixed with a bit of social conformity.
I hope this helps. I suspect it will for some, not for others. People often have a visceral response to tattoo culture. If I can help in any way, please let me know.”
David B. Capes
Thomas Nelson Research Professor
School of Theology
Houston Baptist University
I’m 37 and I don’t have a plan for my life.
It seems to me like you should at this age. At least… that’s the standard perception amongst my peers.
I was talking about this with a fellow late thirties friend. She’s recently divorced and her life feels like the rubble of a city after an air raid reminiscent of WWII. She too doesn’t know where to go next… and finds herself lamenting the lack of a plan… a lack of having her shit together… a lack of feeling like there is a successful way forward.
I can whole-heartedly relate.
Our words ended and we took a few beats together in silence to sit in the solidarity of “failed” plans. “Failed” thirties. “Failed” success stories.
Then these words emerged from somewhere deep.
Let’s accept our failure. And then, standing in the ashes of our failed plans, let’s ask ourselves this: What does this now free me to do? Read More»
I’m finally getting up to the town I grew up in to put on a performance of my one man show “We Are Not Troubled Guests.” I’m sending in invite to all of you in that area to come for a couple reasons…..
1. I want to show you what I’m up too.
In my evolving as an artist, I’ve come to a place where I’ve realized that most of what I want to be working on is multi-medium storytelling. I will always be a visual artist…. but I know I want what I create to end at a place where I’m sharing stories with an audience. “Troubled Guests” is my first foray into this format….. and I’d love for my friends and family who’ve supported me so long to see what I’m up to.
2. I’m filming this one and need an audience!
I’m filming this show for documentation and promotional use and it would be a huge help to have a great audience there!
Venue: The Fremont Abbey , 4272 Fremont Ave. N., Seattle, WA 98103
Date/Time: Tuesday July 29 – doors at 730pm, show starts at 8pm.
Support: suggested donation of $5-$10….. tickets sold at door.
Thx for your support. Hope to see you there!