Sunday, June 27, 2010

i went to church last Sunday--but wait--it gets even better!

Two days ago, I went to Macedonia Baptist Church with my friend Keion Jackson. As I remember it, when I asked to go with him a few months ago, I also asked "Will I be the only white person there?" He answered "No, there might be four or five of you."

Last week, when I reminded him of that conversation, he said "Really? Did I say that? There might actually be two." He paused, "Including you."

But I was still up for it because the mystery behind a gospel church has always intrigued me. Now that I've been to Keion's church, I can tell you honestly I have never enjoyed a church service so much in my life.

Anyway, I tried to be inconspicuous which is challenging when you're the only white person. I sat all hunched down, thinking no one would notice me. Then Pastor Brooks asked the visitors to stand. Reading my panic-stricken look, Keion apologized, "I didn't know they were going to do that." After a slow-motiony minute of standing up in all my Caucasianess, the pastor asked the members of the church to share their hospitality with those of us visiting. I can't tell you how many people came up to me, shook my hand, smiled and made me feel as "right at home" as someone like me can feel at a church.

In case you forgot, I was raised Missouri Synod Lutheran. If you've heard Garrison Keillor make fun of Lutherans, you know why we are such an easy target. But sitting in Keion's church, I kept thinking "This is fantastic!" There I was, in the middle of people expressing joy in their relationship with God through testifying, clapping, "amen-ing" and singing like I've never heard. Lutherans just don't do that.

Here, when the congregation sang, they sang with their whole hearts and voices and bodies. Early in the service, the Men's Choir sang a song so moving, tears rolled down my cheeks. Even members of the Men's Choir had their hankies out. As a matter of fact, so many of us were weepy, a woman was handing out Kleenex. The lyrics were something like "When I think of all the things I've done that I should not have done . . . something something . . . I'm so graceful for His mercy." (Sorry for the bad paraphrasing.)

Watching those men sing and sway and sing some more like they really meant every word, and thinking about my own missteps and moments I wished I could undo, well, everything just came together. Or, more accurately, came apart. It was as if my heart broke open.

After the song, Pastor Brooks said "Something just happened in here. Either some of you all have done some things you feel bad about or you just like good music." Everyone laughed. He went on, "I have a feeling, it was a little bit of both, wasn't it." And before long, he had us laughing all through his sermon.

I'll never forget that church service.

I feel like I should have a point, but I'm not sure what it is. Maybe it's this--if you ever want to go to a church service that will stay with you in all the right ways, I'll put you in touch with my friend Keion. And I'll go with you too. I'll even bring Kleenex, just in case.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Guess who's learning how to draw?

I KNOW, can you even believe it? I can't remember the last time I've been so eager about learning something new.

Here's the deal--completely out of character, I signed up for a class called "Visual Essay" at the KCAI Northland Campus which, by the way, smells squeaky brand-new and made me want to paint my living room just so it could smell new too. Anyway, I was so excited to discover this class, I told my friends Pam K. and Keion J. about it, and they signed up too.

Necessary backstory--I have never, ever been able to draw. I don't remember a single time my artwork made it to the refrigerator for display. Did parents do that in the 60's? Had refrigerator magnets been invented? Hang on, let me check. Just as I suspected, refrigerator magnets have been around since 1924. So much for that excuse. I just wasn't any good at art. What kid is not good at art, you might wonder?

Well, this kid.

And what made matters worse is that my mom was really good at it. In fact, after she graduated from Paseo High School in the early 50's, she wanted to go to art school. Unfortunately, my German grandmother told her, "You vill not go to zee art school. You vill be a nurse." I wasn't there so I don't know if that's the exact dialog, but I knew Grandma well enough to guess that's probably pretty close. My poor mom. The house she grew up in was like Stalag 13 only without the Hogan's Heroes comedic relief. No wonder she died when she was only 48. Fortunately, I have a lot of her sketchbooks and a few paintings, but it still breaks my heart to think of her spending her life getting thrown up on and giving people enemas when she could have been doing something she really loved. But that's a whole nother story.

Back to my class--so on Wednesday, we met for the first time, and I have to say my teacher is great. I'd say that even if she wasn't a friend. Denise C. brought us all kinds of published journals to look at, and she even shared her very own sketch books with us. She talked about her semester in New York, and what she learned about drawing people and buildings. She talked about different ways we could keep our journals and that we could use "ephemera." (Is that not one of the floatiest words a mouth can say? It sounds like fluttery, fairywings and how can you not love that?)

Anyhoo, I was getting all jazzed about this class, even though at break there was no vending machine and all I could think about was that the only thing this perfect evening was missing was a diet Coke. So there I was, feeling 4-year old happy. It was heavenly. But then, after break, she made us DRAW! Right there, in front of each other! I was so scared, I kept making these little puppy-whimper sounds like I did back when I was in hip-hop class and kept running into the other dancers during my turns. (Ask my friend Meghan C. for details. It was a personal low point, but apparently very funny, if you weren't me.)

Anyway, we did this thing called "contour drawing" where we had to look at someone in the class and then draw them. We were supposed to glance down at our paper only briefly and keep our pencils moving. I drew my friend Pam who is about as pretty as a girl can get even when she isn't smiling beatifically but my drawing made her look like a T-Rex. I was mortified because, guess what? WE HAD TO SHARE OUR DRAWINGS WITH EVERYONE. Fortunately, Pam graciously giggled, and I think she may have even said "I LOVE this." Plus, she didn't strangle me, so yay for that.

Our journals are supposed to be 75% visual and 25% words which makes sense, but of course, freaked me out further so I asked could we just draw one giant thing, like a refrigerator on a page, as long as it took up 75% of the space? And Denise said, "Sure, I'd LOVE it if you drew a refrigerator." Which brings me to my point. (I know, finally, right?) She was so accepting and encouraging that the next day, on the bus, I brought my sketchbook and drew all the way to work. It was about the most fun thing I've done in a long, long time and that includes enjoying my Friday night Flirtinis. Plus now, my art won't have to go on the fridge because it will BE the fridge.

Anyway, sorry about all the rambling. And sorry I haven't renamed my blog. I think it's an unconscious problem admitting my age. Plus, I'm lazy. I hope you guys are still out there since I haven't posted in forev. I just didn't have anything very interesting to say until now. OK,
gotta go. I got me some sketching to do. Wish me luck!