Tuesday, February 22, 2011

I will bring back your captives before your very eyes...

Needless to say, this season of pregnancy has not been my favorite season of life thus far.  Much of the reason has been extreme busyness trying to get classwork done before Eli arrives plus working full time, coupled with a very snowy and cold winter here in Boston.

Throughout this time I have also been working with Laura Cootsona on planning a women's gathering for CIVA (Christians in the Visual Arts), called Doing Good Well.  The purpose and goal of the retreat was to equip young, female, Christian artists to embrace their vocational callings and family lives in a way that is supported by wholeness in Christ, Sabbath rest, and the fellowship of Christian community.  The irony of the situation has been that I do not believe, that I, myself, have been able to do much of anything, good or bad, very well during the last 8 months because of the pace of my life here. 

I've been meditating on two passages of scripture, both of which use the particular phrase, "I will bring back your captives..."  I sensed the Lord singling out this line in both Psalm 126:4 and Zephaniah 3:20 (the words can also be translated "I will restore your fortunes").  Sounds great, I thought, but what the heck does it mean?  I began to ask the Lord to reveal to me what my captives were.

I approached this past weekend, where I traveled to Leakey, TX, for the culmination of all of the work on Doing Good Well, with restlessness and admittedly neutral expectations at best.  My eyes could only focus on "what might go wrong."  I had prayed and offered everything to the Lord, but I couldn't seem to get my mind and emotions to follow and trust.  I was just too tired.

Upon arrival, I was greeted with hugs from women I had only gotten to know over the phone and online, but it immediately felt normal and good.  I was given a huge room to myself that overlooked a gorgeous limestone-bottom river, flowing through cedar-speckled Texas cliffs.  I had my own bathroom, my own window seat, my own balcony, my own thermostat.  Did I also mention that it was nearly 70 degrees outside?  My cup was filling up quite quickly. 

The weekend unfolded gently and exactly as it should have.  We shared meals together, worshiped, worked on each of our "hard places" with the abundant help of the Holy Spirit, and of, course, shared and created art together.  We talked about spiritual and personal wholeness, leadership, vocational and spiritual giftings, and how to balance our multiple callings in the arts, the church, and to our families.  Two other women there were also pregnant, and many had young or grown children.  The question that had been heavy on me for the past eight months was cracked open and poured out like an offering to the Lord: "How can I be a good artist, pastor to artists, arts administrator, wife and a good mother?"  The return from Jesus was not a concrete answer, but a joy-filled fellowship with other women with the same question, followed by an abundant peace.  My captives were returning...my fortunes beginning to be restored. 

Did I mention that not a thing went wrong?  Nothing.

I went into the weekend with an intense burden of responsibility that slowly melted away in the presence of 34 women, each with inexpressible gifts from the Lord, and a corporate creative vision like I have never experienced.  In the introduction to his book, God in the Gallery, modern art historian Dan Siedell talks about "the economy of the icon"--how the arts help us to see with the eyes of faith.  He talks about this sanctified vision "which opens up the world in order...to see the world the way it truly is, full of Jacob's ladders, with commerce from the angelic realms.  The distance between the immanent and the transcendent, between the material and spiritual, is wafer thin.  A Christian, then...has a transformed vision, one that sees the world as it truly is, as Christ's footstool, as the sanctuary of God, that is, the world that icons depict.  Ultimately, this is the lesson of the economy of the icon.  In the words of the Psalmist, with all the sacramental echoes of the Eucharistic liturgy, "taste and see that the Lord is good." (Siedell, 18-19).

I saw this weekend, again, that the Lord is good.  The women that surrounded me helped me to regain my eyes of faith.  They have helped my captives to be returned, and they have helped the Lord to "restore my fortunes before my very eyes."  Thank you, to all of you beautiful, creative and insightful 34 who trusted the Lord enough to gather together and see what happened.

In our continued pursuit of sanctified vision, check out the websites of a few of these women.  I wish I could post links to everyone!  Look at Alison Stigora, Phaedra Jean Taylor, Lin Preiss, Karen Brummund, and Kari Dunham to start...