Making Space- Stories from the Salt Farm
After over 25 years of living on both coasts and working alongside some of the most wonderful and well known folks in our Vineyard family, my family and I now live on the side of a mountain no one has ever heard of, overlooking what is commonly referred to as the "armpit of NH". That in itself could be a recipe for disaster except for the strong sense that G-d is on the move.My heart is both broken and hopeful for the people of this area. My husband, Eric, and I are deeply involved in the school system and community revitalization projects in our region. We regularly have people over for meals, mayhem, and music. I once said if there were a theme hymn/bar tune for our gathering the first line would be something like: "I'm not looking for the perfect body, I'm just looking for some company" because we are fumbling our way towards Kingdom one end-of-the-workday-bonfire at a time. Maybe you'll join us some time. If you do: Wear your mudboots. You're guaranteed to step in something...
Few things will get a person to weigh what they value more than the threat of losing it all…
When the conversation began about me writing for the Campfire, the pitch went something like this: “We have a lot of articles on Community ‘how to’s’ and Cause ‘how to’s’, but next to nothing on Creativity how to’s. The irony in that statement made me chuckle a little bit, and it elicited some pushback. Why would a group of people who tend to be creative want (or even need) ‘how to’s’ on creativity? But whether by necessity or the creative fire in our bellies, Eric and I live our lives in ways that require a great deal of creativity, and in doing so, we have seen G-d fill in some enormous gaps. So in this series, I will share with you some things we have learned and - perhaps more importantly - things we have unlearned along our way.
It might be beautifully appropriate, especially coming out of this season of Lent, to start with “What Creativity is Not” by breaking down the concept of “Making Space”...
Have you read Psalm 51 recently?
I think it's a perfect Psalm for worship leaders - even those of us who don't commit adultery and murder innocent men...
Psalm 51 is the “Create in Me” psalm. The word create, “bara”, that David uses in the sentence “Create in me a clean heart” is the same word, bara, used to describe the creation of the earth. I always pictured that “clean” part as clean like an empty canvas or clean slate --- but it's more aptly the image of a garment scrubbed clean. Picture having been “run through the ringer.” Isn't it interesting that David doesn't ask G-d to remove the chaos from his life in all of this though? David is asking G-d to create a genesis week from within the scrubbed clean state of his heart. The end result being that David’s true heart is given a clean bill of health. With the understanding that G-d does “not focus too much on the blemishes”, David is filled with Holy Breath and given Fresh Wind in his sails. This frees him to lead in the joyful dance, and to proclaim God's life-giving ways to those lost or rebellious or dying.
Seeking the great song or the fun dance was not the goal for David. Restoring union with God, reflecting G-Ds’s heart and being in step with G-D’s Truth and life were the goal. Those were the things David knew would set his life into alignment with G-d. The foot-tapping tunes and anthems were the byproduct of that properly-aligned life, a life in step with his Creator.
Like David - all human beings are created in the image of G-d. We are created to reflect the omni-faceted image of G-d. There is no limit to ways we might do this. Why is there, then, more of a tendency towards imitation of each other than co-creation with the Creator of All?
For starters, perhaps it's because it's easier to see and hear each other ---
Not long ago I was at a worship leader’s planning meeting where one of the lead guys was pushing for a group trip out to Bethel. When I asked why all the way to Bethel, he articulated his desire to “learn their sound” and bring it back to New Hampshire. He felt his denomination didn't have “a sound”, and having been deeply moved by Bethel’s sound, he wanted the same action and reaction back here. I highly support investigating other types of creative endeavors. I also know this guy loves his people. Yet in this case, it became clear his was a quest aimed at a “successful sound”. Although that stuff is cool, and somewhat pacifying - was imitating that sound going to get him what he and his people truly needed?
What’s interesting about this scenario is that many worship leaders in the area share a sense that G-d is on the move here. There is a shared, cross-denominational feeling that G-d is hovering, and wants to engage us ALL more deeply in worship. But there is also a tendency to go chasing after and/or imitating the ‘successful’ sound, from elsewhere. The process resembles the eternal chase for happiness that's fueled by an innate longing for joy - understandable, and somewhat temporarily pacifying- but also never truly satisfying the need. Was it possible that G-d might already have a sound brewing here in the Northeast and that we might need to clear our notions and perceptions of what the “ideal” might sound like and/or look like and be open to whatever and however G-d was wanting to draw that out from our hearts, for His own purposes and the good of those around us. The conversation is still happening, but we’re all moving forward...
In terms of a song or a sound - sometimes that G-d breathed sound is completely the opposite of what we are expecting - or even wanting. Sometimes that sound or song is not our version of ‘cool’ or beautiful at all. Sometimes we need to sit inside those vulnerable, ego-naked places and listen to the big, gaping emptiness.
I had to sit inside that kind of emptiness in a deeply personal, publicly visible way last summer.
More to come….