Baffled and Befuddled

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God smote me with the following phrase, plain as day, the other morning as I emerged from the VineArts studio:

“IT’S NOT A HAT.”

Just prior to this moment I had been murmuring to myself, befuddled, after two amazing encounters with artists. I was shaking my head and smiling, stammering something like: “Okay, God… I’m supposed to be this school teacher now, but it seems like today I’m back to wearing my Art Minister’s hat? What’s going on here?”

Which is when God broke into my thoughts with his booming, no-fooling-around correction. It’s.. NOT… a… HAT.

Surprised, I laughed out loud at his timing and his choice of phrase. Then I delighted in its personal meaning for me: Yes, okay. Art Ministry is not a hat. Art Minister is who I am. Thanks for the reminder.

You see, a few months ago I accepted a teaching position in a private art school, Fresco Arts Academy, which is why this blog hasn’t seen a post from me for a while! Not because I’m busy (although I am), but because my world has been shaken, stretched, and turned upside down. At least that’s what my heart experienced in the transition. And yes, it hurt.

All I’ve ever wanted to be is a little art monk, serving my church through art, ministering to artists. But I wasn’t making a realistic income to match the hours I was putting in. My church didn’t have the resources to hire me full time, so they gave me their blessing to remain on part-time staff and also look for additional part-time employment.

(This is no fault of Vineyard Boise; we’re purposely situated in the lowest-income part of town, and we’re experiencing the recession along with the rest of Idaho… Still,I very much long for the day when churches everywhere assume the need for hiring visual arts ministers to serve congregations visually while leading their artists spiritually, the same way churches automatically hire music directors to arrange congregational music and care for the spiritual health of their musicians. But that’s a topic for another day.)

Anyway. Still needing the above-mentioned income, back in June I casually stopped at Fresco Arts where my daughters attend to pick up their school yearbook. But instead of asking for the yearbook, these words unexpectedly flew from my mouth: “So, will you be hiring any art teachers next year?” I thought: What in the world? Did I just say that?

The director’s mouth dropped open. He yelled, “Holy cow! We were all just talking about you not 45 minutes ago, wishing we could hire you for a teaching position!” I was hired on the spot. And I remembered to pick up the yearbook, too.

Many times I’ve looked back on this moment, secure in the knowledge that this is all God’s doing, knowing he has me where he wants me and he’s weaving an amazing tapestry using seemingly random events. Sure, I wonder what the heck God is doing in the big picture. However, being mystified is okay. It’s merely a lack of information that’s not meant for me to grasp. Being baffled is different from confusion or chaos. There is still peace.

So yeah, welcome to my winter. Swamped in curriculum-writing, learning a jillion new art things, teaching photography/drawing/painting, and working with artistically gifted teenagers coming from a variety of faiths to no faith whatsoever. The kids inspire me, I love them, and I think they’re starting to love me.

What about arts ministry? The talented leaders of VineArts have stepped up to help me run this local arts ministry, and I thank God for each one of them. Meanwhile my national work continues in tiny bits and pieces (when I have time). It’s funny. I remember saying a few months ago that I was so busy DOING arts ministry that I never had time to write about it. Now that I’m kept busy teaching, every chance I get to do art ministry blows me away and I realize what a precious gift it is. Stunningly precious.

Which brings me to my muttering and musing scene, above.

Two people had come into the church art studio that morning, an hour apart. I stopped my administrative work to greet each one at the door. One was an architect visiting from Arizona. He leads a group of artists at his home church, where they’re starting to discuss God’s role in creativity.  I gave him a copy of J. Scott McElroy’s Finding Divine Inspiration and we talked about ways God inhabits worship through the visual arts. He’s excited about showing the book to his artists and setting off on this new journey to connect their faith and art together.

My second visitor stood quietly in the studio entrance in tears. After a raw morning, she wanted to spend time with God, and she felt led to seek his presence in the art studio. I invited her to relax on our beat-up paint-encrusted couch where I prayed a gentle blessing over her. Then I quietly left her to grapple with God’s Spirit while I slipped out the studio door, pondering these strange developments in this season of my life.

Marveling at God and his brilliance, stricken with a crooked grin on my face. I find serving at God’s side absolutely… Effortless. Stunning. Overwhelming. Beautiful.

So… I also find myself working with kids as an art teacher in a secular school. Why? I don’t know, but I love both of my jobs.

Where will my story go? Lord only knows. I’ve learned to say Yes and to trust the Author of my life. I’ve learned that God is perfectly okay with my being baffled, so I guess I can be fine with it too.

But I do find it refreshing that the God of the universe would interject little unasked-for observations along the way.

Okay, thanks for the input. I’ll take it.

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