Tuesday, November 26, 2013

From One Artist to Another

They never told me about the music.

Oh, they told me about passing the butter. And I heard stories about the road less traveled that leads straight into the river. When I stepped off the airplane and onto that soft Texas sod, I knew to expect the waters named Frio (Spanish for "cold") to ironically bring both warmth and healing to all places cracked and dried. There would be time for rest and refreshment, time for play and talk, time to hike trails and brush tender fingertips across shoulders and time to just BE.

But the chimes came as a surprise. That first stuffy day when I whined about the humidity and laced up my walking shoes and stripped down to my tank top, I found them. They were nestled between the art studios, hanging surreptitiously from a blushing oak. It was quiet there. And still. But the slightest tickle of my fingers sent them singing. And my heart grew two sizes. I knew what I would be doing on this weekend retreat.



I would be listening.





And listen, I did. I heard the sighing of those cypress trees when the cold front moved in. Oh, how passionate their voice. I was mesmerized by the song of the the raindrops as they danced their little jig and slid down the windows. There was music in the tears I saw shed over passed butter and there were napkins that dabbed a drumbeat at the corners of wet eyes. Symphonies of laughter pealed from everywhere and nowhere, the same - from the sidewalks to the bathrooms to the dining tables to the great hall. It was laughter, perhaps, that stood watch over the score. Laughter that drew our hearts to slowly open with its surge and pulse, a rhythmic leading into safe pasture. Laughter which unified just like wine and bread at the remembrance table.

And there was fire. Fire, whose crackling song coaxed us to sit a spell and whispered what it means to love well. That love is first and foremost an exercise in listening. In making room for the story of another, in holding space for the tellings and the memories and the honesty. I watched as that fire gathered us. From the drama queens to the addicted. From the wise and ambitious to the serene and refreshingly simple. From the farthest corners of the earth and from the frayed edges of our hearts. Fire called forth our words. They fell like the rain. Like the holy, humble, melodious rain whose promise to sustain never returns void.

It was a homecoming of sorts.




Because I learned something about myself, surrounded by all the music. By all the listening. I learned that I am an artist, not a mathematician. I learned that if it's true that sermons are for those with answers and songs are for those with questions, then please pass the guitar. I learned that good art and holy music never take you farther away from the physicality of life on this sod, but deeper into it. These are not a means of escape from the muck and the mire, the misery and the marvel of this world, in which we find ourselves up to the knees, but a way to imbibe it. To drink it to the dregs. Because I've spent too long - FAR TOO LONG, y'all - wondering about who's right and who's wrong, who's in and who's out. But what if it's not about these things at all? What if He's working in ALL of it to weave together our ups and downs, our highs and lows, our melodies and harmonies to form a masterpiece of redemption? For the truth is that Jesus Himself is one who walks around in this grit. And courageously facing the offensiveness of that truth is perhaps how we keep the earth below our feet in a way that Mumford & Sons might never be able to even so much as whistle. A way that teaches us remove our shoes and declare the sacred.

I felt the dirt in every story shared around the fire and around the butter. Cracks lay exposed and raw places throbbed, still bleeding. Even our laughter sometimes faded as the night set in. But imperfection's bass notes find their sweetest accompaniment in the soprano's redemptive anthem. And I know and will declare that I heard Jesus in those stories. Even the unfinished ones. I heard Him in the laughter and the rain and all the "me toos" uttered through broken lips. In the ugly cries from those who have only untidy conclusions in that messy middle place. I heard Him in the gathering of the least likely and the most honest. He was as present with the tragedy of hot tears as He was in the fragrant laughter of those who know they are extravagantly loved.

I heard Him in the music that is life in community.

At the end of the weekend, I boarded another plane. This one headed back into the patchwork of fields that signals my homecoming to the midwestern farmlands. Back to the noise and the bustle of my daily life with children and dishes and overdue bills. But as I settled into seat 19B, and then dug around on the floor for the camera that had fallen out of my bag, I felt my hand brush against something. I brought it up slowly, curious, only to find it streaked with that soft Texas dirt which still clung to my boots.

The smile that spread over my face, then, was as big as the San Antonio sky.



*This post describes my experience at Laity Lodge, where I attended The High Calling's annual retreat. Ask me more if you're curious. I love to talk about it.


Linking with friends: 
MichelleHeatherand Laura.

30 comments:

  1. Mmmmm.....I should have stopped laughing and listened more closely. Thank you for drawing my attention to the music and I'm so very happy to find myself in this reflective piece as part of your symphony described here. I can't sing, but I can laugh. And you have acknowledged, even celebrated, the laughter that spilled into the music you heard, adding another layer of beauty.

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  2. Just beauty, Kelly. Yes, yes, and yes. It's all music, right? Dance. Let's dance.

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  3. Tara_pohlkottepressNovember 26, 2013 at 9:13 AM

    mmhh. so rich. this type of music fills me. finds me too and reminds me to look everywhere and find home.

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  4. So glad I got to share it with you, Kelli. Hope you come back!

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  5. Something about this post, especially these words - "Because I've spent too long - FAR TOO LONG, y'all - wondering about who's right and who's wrong, who's in and who's out. But what if it's not about these things at all? What if He's working in ALL of it to weave together our ups and downs, our highs and lows, our melodies and harmonies to form a masterpiece of redemption?" -- sent me back to Colossians (Message version), remembering this, that I read way back this past spring:

    "I want you woven into a tapestry of love, in touch with everything there is to know of God. Then you will have minds confident and at rest, focused on Christ, God's great mystery." (Colossians 2:2)

    I'm kind of tired of the who's right, who's wrong, who's in, who's out, too - I'm focusing on the tapestry of love - the weaving of all the ups and downs, the highs and lows, the melodies and harmonies into a masterpiece of redemption, God's great mystery. Yes. Amen. Yes.

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  6. What a song you've composed here, Kelli. Thanks. It was nice to meet you. My best to your family.

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  7. Thanks so much, Sam, for being among the musicians. Here's hoping to cross paths with you again someday ... on the AT, or otherwise. ;)

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  8. You listen with your eyes as well as your ears. So good to finally meet you.

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  9. And you, Laura. Thanks for reading and for leaving me a note so I know you did. You bless.

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  10. It was a homecoming of sorts. Yes, this. A holy homecoming, a taste of heaven on earth... with a side of butter. Loved sharing in community with you, my friend.

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  11. That place does this to everyone I think. Each visit as unique as the person God creates but they all, we all, speak of knowing Jesus more intimately there in the hope of community. I feel more myself in the company of the kindred, those who weave words, think deeply and wrestle with the same circumstances in different places. I'm so glad you had this experience. I wouldn't have expected anything less than what you have captured here. I'm thankful.

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  12. Gorgeous... and now we all want to go (all the more!) Lovely, poetic, and stirring - as usual! <3

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  13. Beautiful reflection, Kelli. SO GLAD you got to experience Laity. There is no place quite like it.

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  14. Oh, I love this! So glad you captured all of these beautiful memories in words. What sacred ground we all shared, and the music was Heavenly.

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  15. A "Masterpiece of Redemption" - how beautiful - and it all woven together. So glad you listened - and shared! Beautiful. heartfelt. so full of hope!

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  16. Yes. Please pass the guitar.
    You don't know how richly it blessed me to be at Laity Lodge with you. Not enough time, that's for sure. But, to have stood on that ground and to have carried home the same heavy, clinging clay...yes. We carry each other, don't we? Right up to that gate called Beautiful.

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  17. As always, your words transport me to another place, Kelli. This time, it's a place that both of us recently visited! Thanks for the reminder that our journey is like music to our ears, and in our hearts. Grateful that as we shared our junk, jazz emerged, Kelli! Hugs, Ali

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  18. Dear Kelly
    Your words tells the story of how our Lord Jesus wants us live and love. There where we laugh together and cry together; there where we bleed together and heel together; there where we shift our backpacks to shoulder those of another who is to weak to carry it themselves! You are even bringing the memories of the weekend back for us to savor!
    Blessings XX
    Mia

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  19. Beautiful poetic piece as always, Kelli. How my heart yearned to sit beside you and imbibe the atmosphere, drink in music, words and grace seasoned and made sweet by His love. You describe this so evocatively that I actually DO feel a part of it all, even as fragile leaf blowing in the wind. It all speaks a symphony to me, and this, "What if He's working in ALL of it to weave together our ups and downs, our highs and lows, our melodies and harmonies to form a masterpiece of redemption?" ~ my soul cries "Yes, oh, yes, He is!" And your exquisite word-weaving is a large part of it. I'm really pleased you had this experience and could relate it so vividly for us to enjoy vicariously too. Blessings :) xx

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  20. "The company of the kindred" - yes, Shelly. I feel this into my bones.

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  21. I'm so glad you could feel it through the words, Joy, even if they are only a weak substitute for the experience itself. Thank you for coming 'with' me - vicariously or not. Love to you.

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  22. Wow, yes and amen, Mia. This is where I sense Him, too. Thanks, friend.

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  23. You are a treasure, Alison. I count the time spent with you over "please pass the butter" to be among some of my favorite memories. Jazz, indeed.

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  24. I loved watching you love, Sandy. In the quiet ways or in the uproarious laughter. This time spent near you reaffirmed to me how blessed I am to call you "friend."

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  25. Thank you for these gracious words, Karrilee. And if you ever get a chance to go ... well, I'd highly recommend it.

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  26. It's pretty hard to improve on, but YOU might have made it just a teensy bit closer to perfect, Diana, had you been there. Maybe next year ...

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  27. Having a dear friend to share it with made it all the sweeter, Paula. So glad for your companionship. Love you.

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  28. Thank you for these kind words. All the weavings are laced with hope, yes?

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  29. What can I say to such words, Deidra? You have taken all the good ones ... and I'm left with only these:


    Thank you. For inviting me. For loving me. For being a friend in countless ways.
    Hugs.

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  30. Oh, I want the guitar, too, friend. So glad you had such a wonderful time on your retreat!

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