Sunday, July 6, 2008

A Prairie Home Companion

I'm sure I was the only girl in my Jr. High and High School to own a Garrison Keillor book. I don't remember how I discovered him, but I'm pretty sure it was not by listening to his radio show. I doubt I could tune that show in on my radio in my small Ohio hometown. All I know is that I got his humor and his sense of humanity...even though at that age I could never have articulated that deep of a connection. And it was reading his stories of Lake Wobegon that I probably had my first real thoughts of being a writer. Truman Capote had a similar effect on me. At any rate, whenever it was that I did first encounter "A Prairie Home Companion" it was instant love.

I confess that I don't remember to tune into it all that often. I suffer from that horrible affliction of "too busy" sickness. Although these days I can download the podcasts...and I still don't remember to do THAT even. And when I do catch the local broadcast of the show or download a podcast, it fills my heart with such joy and inspiration. The words genius, hilarious, and beautiful are commonly repeated aloud while listening. I do love the long-running favorites of Guy Noir, The News from Lake Wobegon (which has brought me to tears in every way possible), and The Catchup Advisory Board promos (a personal favorite). Recently I have heard him do a skit a few times involving a guy in his 40's named Duane and the phone calls he has with his parents. That skit is in the show this week. Way too funny! And the characters are stereotypical perfection.

Before I started writing this post, I visited the show's website for a little inspiration. There is a section called "Post to the Host" that features comments people have posted for Garrison and his responses to their questions or comments. I'm so glad I took a few minutes to read through those because it was an AHA! moment for me and how I'm wired. I will probably expand on that in a future post... but I might keep it to myself. There were a couple where Garrison responds by describing the rest of the picture as prompted by the initial post. His responses seem less about merely acknowledging the fan's post and more about enhancing the experience the fan mentions. I think that it's beautiful how he does that. Because that is so much like life. If we focus too much on one specific thing we noticed in the midst of a larger event we limit the fullness of the experience. My AHA! moment came while reading the follow-up comments made by other fans- too much to share here.

A few years ago I had the chance to see Garrison perform live here in Cincinnati. It was not a broadcast of "A Prairie Home Companion." He was performing with the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra and he brought Robin & Linda Williams with him. I enjoyed it very much. AND, my favorite part of the experience was sitting next to an incarnation of my maternal grandparents. This couple I sat next to looked a lot like Naomi & Russ and behaved like them, too. Naomi had hearing aids she never wore so Russ had to repeat things to her regularly when she loudly complained she hadn't heard what was just said. This little old lady did exactly that! She opened her purse before the show started and looked at her hearing aids declaring "I don't want to fool with these tonight." Then had to ask her husband to repeat half of what Garrison was saying. I think they were lucky to be sitting next to me because most people would have been annoyed by this, but it tickled me pink! Furthermore, while speaking to them during intermission I found out the husband was a Methodist minister. Naomi's father was a Methodist minister. The show featured a couple of gospel songs and during the break the "Naomi clone" speculated loudly about whether the Jewish people in the audience were offended by the gospel music. It was all I could do to keep from laughing out loud because that is EXACTLY what Naomi would have said!

The way Garrison tells a story makes me notice how the most seemingly trivial (some annoying) thing about a person's character can be the center of a climactic moment in a scene, whether it is joyful, beautiful, or heartbreaking. By portraying his characters with their complete truth he can create moments of solace in the midst of chaos. His stories set my thoughts about the people in my life, past (like Naomi & Russ) and present, in the context of grace.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Faith and Art: The Blog

My friend Stacie has a calling. It's a calling that I can relate to with every ounce of my being. Stacie has a relationship with God that inspires her to create art and to worship Him through art. Stacie and I share the belief that God is the ultimate Creator and that by being created by Him in His image that means we should delight in our own creativity. We are not, by any means, the only people who believe this. However, we are both saddened by the amount of people who love God yet shy away from their own creativity. And, it is not about whether you can only draw stick people or your entire house (and everything in it) is beige. To this end, Stacie was given a prompting by God to start the Faith and Art Blog. And I think, for Stacie, it was a bit like Noah building the ark. She launched the blog and then spent a good chunk of time on her own spiritual journey as to how it should look and WHY.

Recently, Stacie was asked to share her view on the connection of faith and art at a Sunday service of a new church in a Cincinnati suburb. She shared her favorite quote from her favorite book "Walking on Water" by Madeline L'Engle. I am copying it below as it is on the Faith and Art blog, embedded in an insightful paragraph written by Stacie:

"Let's be honest, the arts haven't always been compatible with Christianity. Sometimes it's because bad art gives all artists a bad name. Sometimes it's because art is inspired and therefore powerful and sometimes powerful can translate as dangerous. I think sometimes as Christians we are afraid to feel anything powerfully unless we feel it in church (or on a retreat, or small group or whatever.) And for a Christian to feel something so strong about something that is not blatently Christian? Can seem like we're somehow betraying God or our beliefs.

"And as I listen to the silence, I learn that my feelings about art and my feelings about the Creator of the Universe are inseparable. To try to talk about art and about Christianity is for me one and the same thing, and it means attempting to share the meaning of my life, what gives it, for me, its tragedy and its glory."

For L'Engle, finding "cosmos in chaos" is basically what determines "Christian" art from "Non-Christian" art. If you can look at a piece of artwork, read a book, sing a song that, while not necessarily being blatently Christian, makes you see some sort of divine meaning - cosmos, creation, life - in the chaos of a fallen world? Then it is good art. And it is Christian art. Because life, cosmos, creation? Are God. "

SO well said, Stacie! I am THRILLED that Stacie has found a new groove with her Faith and Art Blog and I invite you to explore new levels of your creativity by visiting it:

Stacie's new groove comes in the form of weekly lessons/challenges that people of all ages can tackle. And in each lesson she encourages a fresh perspective on how we see God's truth and grace in everyday things.