That night in Nashville I desperately needed a hug from my wife but she was a three hour drive away visiting her friends in Chattanooga. I leaned against a tree in the darkened parking lot of Redeemer Church and watched people move inside the bright, clean interior of the church’s attached house. Most of them smiled and laughed as they exchanged brief touches and hugs. Somewhere in that brightness my son spoke with peers his own age. I, an aging gray haired fossil, made up only a small minority at the 2012 Hutchmoot.
I called my wife and listened to her joyful voice as she answered her cell phone. She was having the time of her life playing bridge with her friend Barbara. I was more depressed than I had been in months thanks to an email I had received that afternoon from my publisher “releasing” me from a five book contract after the second book would be released in less than a month. She tried to console me and offered her practical and sensible advice. Always practical and sensible. I, on the other hand, found myself living half the time in a dream world of hopes and aspirations that could never be totally realized. She reminded me that by October, I would have two fiction books in the marketplace released by a major publisher. And, I had just landed a contract for an update to a depression book my co-author and I wrote in 2001. I should have been able to throw all of that on the scales and realistically see that in spite of the release from one contract, another had taken its place and, in the balance of things, I was actually ahead of the game. With the offer to update our depression book had come the offer of writing an entire book series.
But, as much as I loved the idea of updating our depression book, I did not want to say goodbye to Jonathan Steel and his spiritual warfare against the forces of evil. I told my wife I loved her and wiped the tears from my face and tried to man up. I had to go back into the church and face that crowd of giddy millennials. I did and here is the beauty of this thing called Hutchmoot.
The people surrounding me totally understood my situation. Many of them had been in similar circumstances, their art rejected or their idea laughed at. Attendees at Hutchmoot are much, much more than artistic wannabes. I’ve met artistic wannabes.
Once, I attended a local “writer’s club” and was met at the door by an aging 1950’s glamour girl. She was obviously in her 70s but dressed like Kitty Carlisle (whose grandfather was once mayor of Shreveport!) with a flowing gauzy dress and matching long, wavy hair dyed a hideous blue black. Her face was caked in powder and her eyes were limpid. She greeted me with a dried lipstick smile and a cold, narrow handshake.
“Are you a published writer?” her first words.
I shook my head. “Trying to be.”
“I’ve been published.” She smiled again and I watched bits of lipstick fall to the ground like dying flower petals. She held out to me a fading copy of LIFE magazine tucked into a cellophane wrapping — November, 1957 I think. Impressive. Most impressive. She tapped the magazine.
“Right here in this magazine I was published, my dear.”
I took the magazine and nodded looking beyond her willowy figure to the open door. I had to get passed her. Or did I really want to? Were all of the club members like her? “You wrote an article?” I smiled back at her.
“Letter to the Editor!” She clasped her hands and beamed at me.
I never met anyone like her at Hutchmoot. Everyone in attendance either created art or loved Christian art. No pretenses. Just a simple concept — community. Here at this gathering of like minded Christian artists spanning the range from music to writing to painting to catering, yes catering! Even the “celebrities” hosting this event exhibited humility and frank honesty and friendliness. Andrew Peterson, author of four fantasy books and countless wondrous albums would sit at the table with me and my son and just talk. No pretense. No celebrity snobbiness. No LIFE magazines!
Outside, beneath a tent, Eric Peters tried his best to hold an acoustic concert for about a dozen of us. However, his battle with depression, still being waged, would get the best of him and his face would darken with the shadows of that beast and he would halt — pause — emotion in his voice as he tried to explain that THIS song came out of his pain and agony.
You see, nowhere on the face of the planet would a total stranger get up from his seat, walk across the grass to a celebrity and reach out and hug him. Nowhere but Hutchmoot. I told Eric I understood. I have battled depression and most times won; I battle it still. So does he. But, there are times when the VOICES speak loud enough to command our attention and we turn away from the smiling, loving face of our Savior and gaze into the abyss. What keeps us from falling into that crafty chasm of the enemy are many but one saving grace is our community of family and friends who love Christ and each other no matter how many “releases” from contracts fill our lives.
Recently, God began working again around me. In spite of my many weaknesses and faults, God placed certain people in the line of my movement. And now, I may see the birth of something like Hutchmoot. I tried to get the Inkwell going in 2011 and only had one meeting with one person before it faded away. But, there is a growing community of Christian artists here in our area and perhaps it is time for us to meet. It is time for a community to form to encourage, to lift up, to hold accountable our creative acts inspired by Christ, to be there when we are reflected by tradition and to offer a simple hug.
If you are interested, let me know. Here is how you can get involved. First, there is a “meetup” called InkwellSBC (Inkwell Shreveport/Bossier City). You can go to that page and sign up and get involved. Or, you can check out my Facebook page here. Or, you can drop me an email through the contact tab on this website, but if you are interested, we need to KNOW soon. I have to schedule a night in the Well, the coffee shop, at Brookwood Baptist Church.
And, to entice you, I will offer something very special. At our first meeting, soon to be determined, I will review Andrew Peterson’s latest book, “The Warden and The Wolf King” and we will have a drawing to give away four copies of the book SIGNED by Andrew Peterson! Interested? Then, I gotta know. And, soon.
So, if you would like to be a part of a local Christian artistic community that meets on a regular basis, contact me. If we get enough interest, we’ll meet and four of you will walk away with signed copies of Andrew Peterson’s book!
In my recent interviews, I talked about five things that we can do to avoid being sucked in to the digital world. For parents, number one applies. For EVERYONE, all five apply.
1 — Parents get involved in your kids’ lives. We are afraid of technology and, frankly, we don’t understand our kids’ fascination with all kinds of social media. So, we tend to pull back and nag. Instead, parents need to realize this digital world is NECESSARY for our kids in today’s world. They cannot separate from it completely. Once we get that, then we understand that we must help our kids learn how to control the digital world without letting the digital world control them. More on this later. Parents need to sit down and talk face to face with kids about WHY they want to play video games; WHAT is in the video games; WHEN it is inappropriate to play games hours on end; and HOW to walk away from it. Don’t use technology as a babysitter!!!! Remember, garbage in, garbage out. What kids put into their minds STAYS there and IDEAS have consequences! This is where the other four points come in!
2 — TURN IT OFF! Tech rules the world. Digital devices scream from all around us for our attention. We know they’re there, waiting with a very important message for us. So, take a technology fast. Start slowly. Break away for a few minutes a day and try to work up to an hour or so. Turn off the cell phone once you get home and be AT HOME! Leave the work at work! I love music, but take time to just think, meditate, and pray without music. For instance try driving to work with NOTHING turned on. Take your run, walk, or workout with no IPOD! You might hear something; see something; experience something brand new and life changing! I know! It make us nervous just thinking about it! And, that nervousness tells us something very important. We are controlled by our tech! Anything that controls our lives is our idol; our god. Become a tech atheist! Control the tech or it will control you! Check out this link: http://www.qideas.org/blog/do-you-need-a-technology-fast.aspx
3 — Be creative. Find a creative outlet. Do something creative. Art. Music. Photography. Write. Poetry. Crayons. Paint. Draw. Blog. Rearrange your office. Redecorate. Being creative utilizes different parts of your brain other than the parts utilizing tech. Immersion in our technical world burns out part of our brains and, let’s face it, in today’s culture the one thing that replenishes these chemicals, sleep is sadly lacking!
4 — Trade virtual community for REAL community. Imagine you are broken down on the side of the road in the middle of a raging storm. Who are you going to call to come help? Can your “friends” on Facebook living three states away be there within 30 minutes to give you a lift? I don’t think so. I don’t want to diminish virtual friends. My wife plays bridge online and she has made dozens of friends. But, there is no substitute for face time. And, I don’t mean the Apple program. The power of human interaction face to face is so important. We are seeing an entire generation of people who no longer have the important interpersonal social skills to communicate in person. They cannot handle contact. They lack the skills needed to build intimate, loving relationships. Men are waiting into their 30’s to get married because they can’t handle a relationship that demands more than a bright screen with pornography playing on it.
So, find real people in a real location. Go to a coffee shop. Go to the, yes I will say it, mall! Go to church. My wife made certain that the people she cared about online became part of our lives. There are a dozen women my wife met playing bridge and now they get together once a year for a week and play bridge. Two of those friends have become my wife’s best friends. We have visited one of her friends here in the states more than once and we have gotten to know her family and friends. Our REAL world is much larger and richer now. Another friend living in New Zealand came to the states this past spring to meet with some of the bridge ladies and she and my wife have become fast friends. We are visiting her and her family in New Zealand in the fall. Imagine this. I have always wanted to visit New Zealand. Now that my wife has made friends with someone in New Zealand, we not only get to visit, we get to see our friend’s world from her perspective and I cannot wait!!!! See the benefits of transferring your virtual world to your real world?
5 — Invest your time and energy in something that will last beyond your lifetime. In other words, take an eternal perspective. You don’t have to belong to a particular religion to use this tool. All it takes is for us to turn our attention away from ourselves for a season and on those around us in need. Charities. Homeless. Missions. Children. Mentoring. Take that creative process I mentioned earlier and use it for someone or something else. Years ago, a friend of mine was down and depressed. We wandered around that morning as I just simply spent some time with him. We ended up at a local art fair and a group of people were involved in completing an outside mosaic with broken tiles. We joined in. Now, my friend’s life is back on track and he is actively involved in his church, his community, and in local theater touching hundreds of lives every week. And, that mural? It’s still there for anyone to see, cheering people up every time they see it. And, our story? We’re making a book and a movie about that mural!
Take a cue from Walt Disney. When he built Disneyland he had one purpose: to create a “magical” world where families could spend time together. And Disney had a simple philosophy: “it will never be complete”. It will keep growing and changing and improving to touch families for generations to come. He looked far beyond his lifetime and that vision touches millions of families around the world every day!